Sexism Watch: Publishers Weekly Top Ten Books of 2009

by Melissa Silverstein on November 6, 2009

in Books,Sexism

The editors of Publishers Weekly have thrown down the gauntlet picking the top 10 books of the year and SURPRISE they are all by guys.

Here’s what Louisa Ermelino said about how they chose the books:

From more than 50,000 volumes, we valiantly set out to choose 100, and this year we’ve upped the ante with a top 10 list. A usually cooperative, agreeable bunch, we gave ourselves a reason to fight. We wanted the list to reflect what we thought were the top 10 books of the year with no other consideration. We expect you’ll be surprised: there’s a graphic novel, an adventure story, possibly the next Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a delicious biography that could bring Cheever back into the literary firmament. We ignored gender and genre and who had the buzz. We gave fair chance to the “big” books of the year, but made them stand on their own two feet. It disturbed us when we were done that our list was all male.

I guess it didn’t disturb them enough.  But it has caused quite a stir and again points out the issue of why these lists matter and why women just never seem to make the grade.

Cate Marvin who started a new organization WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts) said to the Guardian:

It continues to surprise me that literary editors are so comfortable with their bias toward male writing, despite the great and obvious contributions that women authors make to our contemporary literary culture.

Co-Founder of Willa Erin Belieu said:

when PW’s editors tell us they’re not worried about ‘political correctness’, that’s code for ‘your concerns as a feminist aren’t legitimate'”. “They know they’re being blatantly sexist, but it looks like they feel good about that,” said Belieu. “I, on the other hand, have heard from a whole lot of people – writers and readers – who don’t feel good about it at all.

I personally believe that it is bullshit that the top 10 books of the year are all by men (and by the way 9 out of the 10 are by white men.)  People who make these lists need to look at their own inherent and internalized biases.  Wonder how those women who didn’t give a crap about political correctness yesterday are feeling this morning.

Fury after women writers excluded from ‘books of the year
‘ (The Guardian)

Best Books of 2009 (Publishers Weekly)


{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Caroline Picard November 6, 2009 at 9:44 AM

This is where my little rant neends to be:

What Year Is This?

What I wanted to title this is “Are You New Here”? and yet I changed my mind because I am starting to realize that yeah, some people are new to this whole “sexism” thing. I had a weekend off, so I spent time catching up on some TV time, not the news channels, actually looking for shows. That was interesting, nothing, and I mean nothing was on, until I hit the biography channel. Two shows caught my eye, “Hippies” and “Sex In 69”, now that might hold my attention, since I lived it. Hippies is great and I recommend to anyone that has teenagers that think they are changing the world, to sit them down and watch this. But the show that really caught me was “Sex In 69”, I had no idea just how much the year 1969 changed the world. You see I graduated from high school in ’69, so I was busy living it, never thinking that history was in the making. This show was a huge reminder of what our generation “the baby boomers” were doing back then. All the major revolutions in culture were happening, and watching it, instead of living it was eye opening. It was the beginning of the sexual revolution, gay liberation, the civil rights, music, art, everything changed in this country in that year. We not only went to the moon, we changed this planet.

I’ve always known that I came from a very special time. Just our music alone tells me that. I think anyone that is my age deep down inside realizes that. Even though today most would think that we a very open minded people, it’s quite evident to some of us, that isn’t quite true. In a lot of ways we have gone backward, especially when it comes to all the “isms”. Sexism, racism, genderism, chauvinism, all those lovely “isms” are back stronger than ever. And does it confuse the hell out of me.

All the talk about what happen on Letterman and the sexism, only proves it. It proves that somewhere along the way from 1969 to 2009, the ball got dropped. Women have regressed 40 years, from sisterhood to “hey, I got mine, you get yours”. Especially in the comedy industry. Watching all these shows for women from The View to Joy Behar’s new show and their shock about this is truly laughable. Like I said earlier “Are you new here?”. More men writing for Leno and Letterman than women, really? Please whatever sisterhood we had has totally gone out and has been replaced by, well it hasn’t been replaced, it’s just plain gone. It doesn’t exist anymore, especially in the world of comedy, and especially in stand-up. Take some time and count the female headliners in clubs this week. If you get five, you’ll be counting in “comedy math”. You cannot and will not find five female headliners. Now, count the male headliners.

To quote one club owner “I already have four women headliners, that’s enough”. Are you serious? Four women, four weeks out of the year, the other 48, men, normally, three men, talking about the same thing men talk about—-mostly us.

If men are uncomfortable with women, especially in comedy, it’s because we know your show and we know your mind, you are idiots, nasty, stinky, arrogant idiots. And screw you, women are funny, and I have had enough of this bullshit.

And the fact that women that are in positions to help other women in comedy are sitting around in their happy hosting chairs even promoting this stupid line of questioning, makes them idiots too. I’m sorry ladies, I know just how much “sisterhood” we have in this business, none, nada, neit, uhuh, there is none. So stop, take a deep breathe and think about all this. Start asking the questions that we care about. Some of you were ready to hang Clarence Thomas, while some of us were saying “this woman is an idiot”, but then again I came from a different time period. I was a secretary back then, yes we had these problems, but we also had the phone number of the wife and the mistress, game over.

So to answer the question “Why is this still happening?” Answer: Because you let it, that’s why, and the ones of us that trying to stop it, well I think you know what we are called. Sisterhood is a memory, a good memory, but a memory still. It’s a shame that the young women of today never got to understand what that truly meant.

Thank you,

Caroline Picard

Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist November 6, 2009 at 11:40 AM

There was a good article on SocioImages (you can google it) about how many people, including males and females, white and colored, view white males as “neutral” while vieweing everyone else in a different light, which is just a huge f–king shame.

This, my friends, is a great example.

sally November 6, 2009 at 6:12 PM

This should get the Saturday Night Live “Really?” treatment. Really, women are more than half the world and not one wrote a book on the best list? Really? In the best book short list, I can sorta buy that there are not all nationalities or religions or races or regions represented every year in the top 5 or 10. If you did that you’d have to have slots. But women? Come on.

Thomai in L.A. (it rhymes) November 7, 2009 at 1:07 AM

Were they all males?

I’ve learned not to listen to all male critique and not read all male contributor lists.

They turn me off. They are simply sexist and they either don’t know t or don’t care. Not just biased, sexist, because if the group is all male and not one of them said, “hey, lets get someone from the 51% in here” that is sexist and ….idiotic.

That list, isn’t even worthy of my comment.

Eileen November 8, 2009 at 9:11 AM

I’m developing a real animus for Caroline Picard on this site.

But to stay on topic… I also like the next sentence after the one about “no women, so sorry,” and that was the acknowledgment that some genres were ignored. You would think that they would have the grace to admit that it isn’t the best 100 of the year, but the best 100 that they bothered to pay attention to or read. And yes, that does mean that superior work by women and people working in despised genres will be ignored.

Kate November 8, 2009 at 4:43 PM

I resent that they seem to think having women on their list is merely “political correctness”– that quality work from women would only be noticed as a sort of literary affirmative action instead of its merits. I’m embarrassed for the people making this list.

Melissa Silverstein November 8, 2009 at 9:39 PM

I don’t know how women became a pc issue. so annoying.

Melissa Silverstein November 8, 2009 at 9:41 PM

Did you see they gave the “really” treatment last night to the Goldman Sachs bonuses?

John December 2, 2009 at 10:51 AM

Instead of generalities, please be specific in your criticism of the list. Please write a defense of one or two books written by women that certainly should be included in the top 10. Could it just be that these are the ten best books because they are in fact the best? Do they lack in merit somehow? Is it so obviously sexism is at play here? And if so, how do you know that? A little critical thinking, instead of lazy-minded judgments, would go a long way here.

David December 4, 2009 at 9:16 PM

Hurray for tokenism! It must be miserable being angry all the time.

pandora uk December 1, 2011 at 3:33 AM

You had some nice points here. I done a research on the topic and got most peoples will agree with you

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