Under the category of “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished,” I was attacked in a blog for defending Doris Lessing and her 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature against people who denigrated her work.
I don’t want to publicize this blog, but you can search for “T.K. Kenyon + sexism” on Google and find it.
The person who wrote the blog emailed me … twice … through an email widgit to ensure that I knew about this particular Google search, linking my name to “sexism.”
That’s a singularly cruel thing to do. Think about how you would feel if a Google search of your name + “racism” turned up a blog accusing you of that, let alone that the author made sure you knew what she was calling you behind your back.
I was attacked as a “sexist,” because I noted that Doris Lessing wrote seminal feminist works, and her critics, mostly men, thought that she, a feminist writer, didn’t deserve the Nobel Prize.
That’s right, I stood up for a person being slammed by sexists, and that makes me a sexist. The woman writing the blog obviously thinks that sexism no longer exists, but it does.
Anecdotes about sexism abound. I have several. One creative writing professor that I studied with critiqued women’s stories with female characters thusly: if the character was weak, they were “weepy;” if the character was strong and yelled or did anything proactive, they were “strident.”
Men in this class did not cross-write female characters, it must be noted.
“Strident” is a term often used to defame Doris Lessing’s protagonists. The term is also used to bash women who are perceived as too strong. In Carolyn G. Heilbrun’s Writing A Woman’s Life, she said that when women tell the truth, we are called strident.
I am more trained as a scientist than as a writer, at least in number of years in graduate school, so I tend to use statistics more than anecdotes to support opinions.
Male and female authors publish books in roughly equal numbers. However:
Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for 2006 in major review publications: 56%:44%
Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for Jan-June 2007 in major review publications: 63%:37%
Percentage of book reviews for male authors vs. female authors for at the New York Times Review of Books (very influential): 72%:28%
Ratio of male book reviewers to female reviewers at the New York Times Review of Books: 2:1
Percentage of articles written by men to those written by women in the five “thought leader” magazines: 3:1
Worse yet, as I read most of those magazines, I can tell you with a quick glace at my stock, that the few women writers write about women, home life, babies, diapers, poems, and very light culture. The heavy stuff like economics is reserved for the boys.
Women constitute only 17 percent of opinion writers at The New York Times, 10 percent at The Washington Post, 28 percent at U.S. News & World Report, 23 percent at Newsweek and 13 percent at Time. Overall, only 24 percent of nationally syndicated columnists are women.
No matter what the flailing Uncle Tom-asina thinks about sexism, it’s alive and well in the publishing and book critiquing businesses. Doris Lessing got bashed. I got bashed for defending her from the sexists who denigrated her work because it was too “strident.”
I’m not surprised.
TK Kenyon is the author of RABID: A Novel and CALLOUS: A Novel,  both well-reviewed by various media outlets.
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