Literary Prizes Just for Women? Yay or Nay?

As a female author, I do hope that gender equality will happen in my lifetime. But, I don’t know if it will become a reality that soon. Here are my thoughts on having female literary prizes (as reblogged from my other blog Poetic Parfait). Do you agree? Yay or nay?

Poetic Parfait

Do you think there should still be literary prize categories just for women? Is it actually setting back the clock on gender equality or helping the cause?

Sometimes I have wondered about this point and today wanted to put it out to the crowd (aka you wonderful peeps). For example, there is the Baileys Woman’s Prize for Fiction. It has good intentions by celebrating excellence and originality in women writers around the globe. But, is separating out women really doing a disservice to the female gender? After all, doesn’t gender equality in its purest sense mean not differentiating between different prizes for each gender?

Interestingly, the original name for Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction was Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction. Note that there is no mention of the female gender in the previous title.

However, on the other hand (just to play devil’s advocate), maybe women do need to be…

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18 thoughts on “Literary Prizes Just for Women? Yay or Nay?

  1. Hmm. Had you asked last week, I’m not sure how I would have answered–not exactly. I attended a group meeting a few days ago where we discussed how can you tell a male from a female writer. You can’t by reading a passage without knowing the author. Men write as females and vice versa and the reader hasn’t a clue. What does that do to your question now? Now, I’m confused.
    On the other hand, if these are women writing FOR women, that must count for something.
    I’m no help. Need to think some more. Great question, Christy.

  2. Personally I don’t think there should be female literary prizes, rather women should be challenging why they are not fairly represented in any kind of non-gender-specific competitions. Having female-only competitions to me is saying that women can’t compete with males and so need their own competition to feel rewarded, which does nothing for equal rights.

  3. I think women tend to excel in certain fields, such as relationship fiction, whereas, men (generally speaking) exceed in fiction related to espionage, as an example.
    In your original post Colinandray suggested that The Booker Prize awards process is flawed and should be reviewed.
    It would be interesting to know how much content has a role in the Booker Prize criteria and more importantly, why should one type of content be more applauded than another.
    But to answer your question I am with Papatia.

  4. It’s a challenging question Christy. I’m not sure which approach best pursues the goal of equality, but that certainly has to be the objective.

    If I can expand the discussion beyond literature — I read Lean In by Cheryl Sanborn, COO of Facebook, a couple years ago. She said:

    “The blunt truth is that men still run the world. Of the 195 independent countries in the world, only 17 are led by women. Women hold just 20 percent of the seats in parliaments globally. In the United States, where we pride ourselves on liberty and justice for all, the gender division of leadership roles is not much better. Women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States in the early 1980s. Since then, women have slowly and steadily advanced, earning more and more of the college degrees, taking more of the entry-level jobs, and entering more fields previously dominated by men. Despite these gains, the percentage of women at the top of corporate America has barely budged over the past decade. A meager twenty-one of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Women hold about 14 percent of the executive officer positions, 17 percent of board seats, and constitute 18 percent of our elected congressional officials. The gap is even worse for women of color, who hold just 4 percent of top corporate jobs, 3 percent of board seats, and 5 percent of congressional seats. While women continue to outpace men in educational achievement, we have ceased making real progress at the top of any industry. This means that when it comes to making the decisions that most affect our world, women’s voices are not heard equally.” (Sheryl Sandberg: Lean In)

    In one of my posts (in a church context) I added this thought: Gender should never be an obstacle to leadership positions. We should continue our work to remove these barriers inside and outside the church. Not only are these barriers discriminatory and oppressive, they’re counter-productive to the well-being of our churches and the world. As Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said: “It’s not women’s liberation, it’s women and men’s liberation.” She’s correct. If we want a better world and better churches — have more women in leadership.

    Thanks for your pursuit of equality and the thought-provoking post Christy.

  5. I don’t think the writing of women is ever in any way inferior to men. I would not like to see separate categories for prizes. Plow ahead until the level playing field surfaces.

  6. I feel it sets us back. I feel we should compete with men for these literary prizes to show that we are indeed equal. How can we fight for equality if we continue to separate ourselves?

  7. I agree with Carol…. We can see this award as one applied women writers…. And I believe women have their own signature and topics, so to speak….
    Even when certain features, genres and styles could be shared with make writers as well…
    And even if a male writer could challenge himself to write as a woman, or if it is quite the reverse.
    Most literary awards don’t make a difference…. And just for the record, they are the most important recognitions such as the Nobel or the Pullitzer award…
    I think the purpose of this award strictly aims to highlight women, instead of doing otherwise. So… Yes!…
    Very interesting discussion Christy… Hugs to you. Aquileana 🌹

    • Wonderful to read your feedback here, dear Aqui! It certainly has sparked a discussion here and I so love when that happens! I do want women to get the attention and respect they deserve and so I will keep writing about this topic. I still have to finish watching the video of Michelle Obama you kindly sent me. I hope you have a beautiful weekend, shining star ♥

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