Found: a New Year’s resolution

For four years I’ve been attending writing classes, workshops and programs. Without exception the majority of people attending these creative hothouses have been women – by a large margin too. I’d say the ratio would be 80:20 in women’s favour, and that could be being generous.

Women obviously love to write. And many of them are extremely good at it. Yet the statistics show that success in the literary world in terms of the big prizes and publication (other than the romance genre where woman absolutely dominate) remains the dominion of men.


Complex question. The announcement the 2011 Miles Franklin shortlist (all written by men) brought about a storm of comment and number crunching to ascertain the extent of gender bias in the literary world. The results were undeniable. Women writers are grossly underrepresented when it comes to being published or winning prizes. The fact is it’s a common trend within the arts in general. Blokes are apparently more creative than women.

What a load of bollocks!
Women are creative by their very nature. We are the ones who incubate and give birth to life itself – the most creative act of all. Wouldn’t you think a creature capable of this incredible feat of creativity would be able to translate that creative capacity into art? And wouldn’t you think that they’d be capable of it in a way their counterparts (men) could never imagine? Of course they are.

We tend to forget how deep the roots of patriarchy go. Our institutions, our values, our aspirations, our beliefs, our rules, the way we live have all developed over centuries through a masculine lens. Inherently masculine values underpin our very notions of a literary competition. That it is possible to value one creative work more highly than all others is, in its very essence, a masculine concept.

In a feminine construct we simply wouldn’t think like that. Feminine thinking tends toward the circular, the embracing of many to create a whole. It works on the basis of collaboration and connection, being able to see the differing value in a number of like things (for example our children – they are all different and we value each of them equally. Would we dream of awarding a prize to the ‘Best Child’ every year?)

The fact that our world has been shaped by masculine principles automatically makes artistic success for women more difficult. The subjective values that are imposed by judges when reviewing competition entries (both consciously and unconsciously) have already been tainted by the patriarchal view – regardless of the gender of the judge.

Nonetheless, women continue to advocate for a shift toward a more balanced representation of women in the literary world. As a result Sophie Cunningham has gathered a group of women to form a new major literary prize for women – (The Stella) – and I’m joining a challenge to promote the movement toward valuing female Australian writers.

The challenge is to commit to reading and reviewing Australian women writers in 2012. It’s primarily set up for people who are involved with social media, however I think if you are a reader rather a writer, it’s a worthy challenge to join for next year.

I’m going for the Miles challenge – read 6 books, review 3. I’m not a big fan of genre, but I might dip my toe in for the sake of the challenge. I’m thinking that the previous Miles Franklin lists might be a good place to start – although my over flowing bookshelves have plenty of delicious fodder for me to choose from. Nikki Gemmel, Paddy O’Reilly and Tobsha Learner are all on the list already. Happy to take suggestions from anyone who can suggest an Australian woman writer they loved. Add their name to the comments string on this post and I will add her to my list.

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kath
    Dec 19, 2011 @ 16:01:54

    Favel Parrett, of course! Kate, fabulous blog. I have subscribed.


  2. Lynn Hofmann
    Dec 18, 2011 @ 10:27:01

    OMG kate, this blog is fantastic, your writing is something to be inspired and in awe of……your life time dream is truly evolving into brilliance (maybe I’m biased) but the quiet chipping away over the last several years after a lifetime of watching you journaling since we were kids, is finally paying off….I’m so incredibly proud of you….I have a strong feeling your novel will be published in 2012…..which is also a huge accomplishment to be inspired and in awe of……especially in our patriachal society. I will be so excited to see that day and to finally read my signed copy of Kate Rizzetti’s first published novel. xxx


    • Kate Rizzetti
      Dec 19, 2011 @ 21:57:58

      Thanks Buddy! I’m glad you like the blog. It’s fun to do and I hope to do some improvements to the look and feel of it in the New Year. The main aim is to be interesting. And keep the readers reading! xxx


  3. broadsideblog
    Dec 17, 2011 @ 23:10:16

    It may also be women’s reluctance to self-promote, which no male writer I’ve ever met has a problem with. My new book has been nominated here in the US for a prize (by a man who liked it) and I was bold enough to call him a few weeks ago to remind him of the Jan. 13 deadline for the award. It felt a little pushy to do so, but even being nominated (it’s called the Hillman) is an honor and one I’d like to add to my CV.


    • Kate Rizzetti
      Dec 19, 2011 @ 08:26:20

      I think you’re right. Self promotion tends to require a more masculine than feminine approach, so it doesn’t necessarily come naturally to creative women (I am generalising here). Because the world we live in is defined by patriarchal values, in order to promote our own success we must learn to behave in ways that are recognisable as ‘successful’ in our broader culture. That means putting ourselves forward, over and above others, in order to appear to be at the top, so to speak.


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