Posts Tagged ‘Women’

This post is related to my trip to the London Book Fair 2014 (see my earlier blog post), and covers my notes and though from when I attended the seminar:

Where are the Women in Translation?

I thought this was a really interesting discussion between a 4 woman panel, watched by a mainly female audience! Important points were made:

  • Gatekeeping seems to be keeping female translators from getting into the market.
  • Only 2 women were on the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year and 1 got to the shortlist.
  • No female authors have won the IFFP but 9 female translators have shared the prize with their male authors.
  • Apparently some women are sexist against women in translation (?)
  • Women are not as assertive as men – female translators have more things to do (day jobs, raising a family, etc) and have less time to pitch books.
  • Some people think it’s OK to not publish women’s books, but if they were gay, black, etc, there would be a riot!
  • There’s a “chicken and egg” situation: women are not being published because they don’t pitch books, and there’s an anecdotal belief that women don’t sell, so they don’t do it.
  • Men only read men’s books, but women will read anything.
  • Women might be of high regard in their home country, but they’re struggling to get into foreign book markets, even though the men have no problem anywhere!
  • Men’s books are still being studied more in universities, and there’s few women’s books on academic booklists.
  • Good books may be coming out but they disappear immediately because there are no reviews of them, whether good or bad!

There was a discussion about the situation in Korea, and Krys Lee pointed out:

  • A few decades ago it was all male translators, and now there are lots of women.
  • More women are winning prizes.
  • The staff in the Korean publishers may be women, but the big decisions are still being made by men.
  • Korean literature is supported by the government, with translators being funded from a young age.

The panel suggested ways to solve the problem with the lack of women in translation:

  • Boycott the London Review of Books because they don’t feature enough books in translation by women.
  • Start a manifesto.
  • Demand diversity.
  • Vote with your feet: people need to read more books by women in translation.
  • Raise awareness.

There was also an interesting bit about covers on books by women, with them being given stereotypical covers with naked women on them and marketed as “chick lit” when they are not that genre. It was felt that people should “let books be books” (like in the recent campaign against gender-biased covers in Children’s books suggests -see the Guardian for more info), and get rid of the naked women on the covers because they are not like lad’s magazines, but maybe such covers should be covered up so people only judge them by their title not their cover! (After all, there have been campaigns to put blank covers over the fronts of lad’s magazines in shops to hide the photos of naked women on them because they are inappropriate.)

I really enjoyed the seminar, and learnt a lot from it! I’m determined to find some of these great female authors and translators and get their books the attention they deserve!

I have recently re-read “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Herland – Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Via Amazon)

I read it, when i was at university, as one of my research texts for my dissertation on Utopia. I’m really fascinated by the ideas created around Utopia and this is one of the more interesting texts exploring the subject.

Herland, as it is dubbed by three male explorers, is a hidden country where a series of unfortunate events rendered the country devoid of men. The women and girls struggled to keep themselves alive and worried about having children without men. However, a miracle occurred which meant a woman could have a baby through a virgin birth.

The male explorers find it difficult to believe that Parthenogenesis exists within this human population but are forced to admit that it must be true after learning more about the country and its history.

The men learn all about the country, and in return try to teach the women of Herland about the world outside. It is interesting to see how each side is challenged in their beliefs and morals and so when confronted with such a different way of life.

The men are fairly different characters: Terry is the typical man’s man, is tough and likes his women feminine and submissive; Jeff is possibly the most accepting of the men and is convinced by the wonderful life the women has created for themselves; and Van is the narrator who seems to have a good connection with the women, being more popular because he seems to understand them more. Terry’s behaviour becomes more unacceptable as time goes on because he believes that all women like to be “mastered” sexually, but the women of Herland are having none of it. The other two men have no problems with the women, only that they feel ashamed to admit how awful their world is in comparison to Herland.

I give this book 9/10 because it is original, fascinating and descriptive. The book is brilliantly written, and the struggles to communicate and teach each other about their worlds is totally believable. The ideas surrounding this utopia are well-explored, yet there are always more questions to ask about this country. It makes you question a lot of things which we take for granted in life. Worth reading!

I’ve just finished reading “How to be a Woman” by Caitlin Moran. This is going against the usual type of book i read because it’s “part memoir, part rant” as it says on the back cover, not something i usually go for. However, i saw Caitlin Moran being interviewed at the London Book Fair and was inspired to go and read her book.

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran

How to be a Woman - Caitlin Moran (via Amazon)

The blurb on the back cover reads:

“It’s a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain… Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?”

Women (in the Western world at least) can hardly complain about equality so much these days, so is there still a need for feminism? Yes, there is, but there is a new kind of feminism now, and that is what Moran is talking about. She ponders the things women all go through as they hit puberty and beyond, from the more intimate and physical changes we go through, to the universal questions every woman has.

We discover how she herself coped through puberty and discovering who she is, and wondering what things mean to her and to others. As she grows older, new problems arise and we see how she coped with them, from first loves to marriage to babies. She rants about all the things which affect women, especially our appearances and the ongoing maintenance needed, while annoyed that men don’t have to worry about it.

Obviously one of the biggest things about being a woman is the baby question: When are you going to have a baby? Moran points out that once you hit a certain age, people start asking you this, and she discusses the pros and cons of having children. She tells us about her experiences of pregnancy and childbirth and how very different they both were for her. It’s refreshing to hear the truth about what really goes through your head while experiencing these things!

Moran is very frank about the things she thinks and feels, and while sometimes it might be a bit too much information, you can’t deny that you yourself have had these thoughts from time to time but won’t admit it to others. I found the section on abortion a little difficult to read, being against abortion myself, but i’m glad that she had the guts to tell the world what it is like, after all it is quite a taboo subject.

I give this book 8/10 because it is funny and honest, and you can totally relate to her experiences and thoughts as a woman, because she is basically describing everything you are thinking and you realise that we are all the same underneath, no matter how much we pretend to the world! I really recommend this book to every woman to read, and i’m sure men should read it too if they want to understand women a bit more! I really enjoyed this book!

A few great quotes from the book:

[On periods] – “At this juncture, it seems there is absolutely nothing to recommend being a woman. Sex hormones are a b**** that have turned me from a blithe child into a bleeding, weeping, fainting washerwoman.”

[On Feminism] – “It is really important that you say these words out loud.  ‘I AM A FEMINIST.’ If you feel you cannot say it – not even standing on the ground – i would be alarmed. It’s probably one of the most important things a woman will ever say: the equal of ‘I love you’, ‘Is it a boy or a girl?’ or ‘No! I’ve changed my mind! Do NOT cut me a fringe!'”

[On strip clubs] – “Are we really saying that strip clubs are just wonderful charities that allow women – well, the pretty, thin ones, anyway: presumably the fatter, plainer ones have to do whatever it is all the male students are doing – to get degrees? I can’t believe women supposedly in further education are that stupid.”

[On motherhood] – “Women are so frequently scared about their biological clocks – ‘YOU’VE ONLY GOT TWO YEARS LEFT TO HAVE A BABY!’ – that they never get the chance to consider if they actually care or not if the damn thing grinds to a halt…. there’s a risk of women panicking and having a baby, ‘just in case’.”

[On celebrity women] - “A ‘sign of weakness’ for a woman…. can be a single, unflattering picture.”