Women Count (Miles Franklin Literary Award)

by nike, June 4, 2015

A little over a week ago, the rather fabulous Nicola Griffith posted some interesting statistics about gender and literary awards. In particular, she looked not just at the gender of award-winners, but the gender of the subjects of their books. As she writes:

When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male.

I thought I’d add some Australian data to the pool. So, herewith the first in what I hope will be short series of posts looking at the gender of protagonists/viewpoint characters in literary awards, and the genders of their authors. I’m starting with the Miles Franklin Literary Award, since discussion of the gender of the authors was part of what kicked off the conversation that resulted in the founding of the Stella Prize.


This pie chart shows the breakdown of the gender combination of author + viewpoint character for the winners of the Miles Franklin Literary Award between 1994 and 2014. The numbers are:

By women about women/girls: 2*
By women about men/boys: 0
By women about both: 5

By men about women/girls: 2
By men about men/boys: 10
By men about both: 3

By ‘about’ here I’ve looked at who are the POV characters: obviously all the books here include characters of both genders. I’ve included Astley’s Drylands in ‘women writing about women’, though I’m not sure it shouldn’t rightly be women writing about/from the perspective of both genders.

So, I’m working on which awards to do next. I’m thinking of the Aurealis Awards, or the Queensland (Premier’s) Literary Awards. Which Australian literary awards do you think we should ‘count’?


  • […] The first post in this series looked at the Miles Franklin Literary Award. […]

    • therimrider
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    • May 15, 2016

    'Write what you know'. Who cares who writes about what, as long as it's good? I bet plenty of women would jump up in arms about male authors who 'presume to know' what a woman thinks. Some want their cake and to gorge on it too. Reeks of propaganda.

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      • May 15, 2016

      Hi Anthony, Thanks for dropping by to comment on this post from last year :) The post is simply some data analysis showing that men who write about men are most likely to win the Miles Literary Award (almost half of the Miles Franklin award winning books have been by men, and about men). What you make of that data is up to you. There's no propaganda in the data, only facts. As it happens, men have written books about women, for centuries, without anyone getting up in arms. Some of the earliest English language novels were written by men about women (including Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders (1722), and Samuel Richardson's Pamela (1740)). 'Write what you know' is, I think, a specious bit of writing advice, rarely heeded by writers of fiction, whose stock in trade has always been to write beyond the borders of their own experience. Nobody (including me) is getting upset about men writing about women: men have been writing about us for centuries, perhaps millennia. There is, however, some room for analysis and debate regarding the ways in which women writing (and particularly women writing about women) have been, and continue to be, sidelined.

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