This is the second in a series of blog posts looking at gender and literary awards. In particular, these posts look at the gender of the authors of award-winning books, and the gender of the main or viewpoint character/s of those books.
I’ve found this research quite exciting and interesting, because it reveals another face of gender bias in literary awards. There’s been a lot of attention and discussion on the bias towards male authors in handing out literary awards, but it’s far more difficult, generally, to talk about the contents of the books that win awards. Though looking at the gender of the main or viewpoint characters can’t tell you everything about a book, obviously, when considered en masse, some interesting patterns emerge.
This post provides statistics relating to:
- [1999 – 2014] Queensland Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction (now the Queensland Literary Award: Fiction Book Award);
- [1985 – 2014] Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction (known as the Vance Palmer Award between 1985 and 2010)
- [1979 – 2014] NSW Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction (aka the Christina Stead Award)
- 6 female authors
- 10 male authors
- 4 books about female characters (2 by male authors, 2 by female authors)
- 6 books about male characters (5 by male authors, 1 by a female author)
- 6 books about both male and female characters (3 by male authors, 3 by female authors)
- 9 female authors
- 20 male authors
- 5 books about female characters (all by female authors)
- 20 books about male characters (16 by male authors, 4 by female authors)
- 4 books about both male and female characters (all by male authors)
- 14 female authors
- 21 male authors
- 9 books about female characters (7 by female authors, 2 by male authors)
- 20 books about male characters (3 by female authors, 17 by male authors)
- 6 books about both male and female characters (4 by female authors, 2 by male authors)
Finally, the combined statistics collected so far:
- 36 female authors
- 66 male authors
- 22 books about female characters
- 56 books about male characters
- 24 books about both male and female characters
The statistics collected so far relate to just over 100 winning books (102 books, to be precise).
Authors of the winning titles are overwhelmingly male, with 66 of 102 winning books written by men (c. 65%).
Winning books are also overwhelmingly more likely to be about male characters, or have male viewpoint characters: 56 of the 102 titles were about male characters (55%).
Winning books were more likely to be about male characters than about female characters (c. 21%), both genders (c. 23%), or about both female characters or both genders combined (c. 44%).
NOTE: Where the winners are collections of short fiction, and I don’t have access to the text/s, I have counted the books as having both male and female viewpoint/main characters.
Next … the rest of the state literary awards for fiction.
- The first post in this series looked at the Miles Franklin Literary Award.
- This series of posts was inspired by Nicola Griffith’s analysis of some of the big international awards, including the Pulitzer, the Man Booker, the National Book Award, the Hugos, and more …
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