I have just finished watching this week’s Great British Bake Off and was struck by something interesting. It is a baking competition and there are three women left and four men. It got me to thinking, not for the first time, about areas of life that are traditionally female orientated but are professionally dominated by men.
Take cooking for example. Sure, there are a lot of women, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson for example, but there are so many men. Horses are seen as a girly thing but the horse world is dominated by men, although I was very pleased to see women winning the gold medals at the Olympics and Paralympics! And what about fashion? All those top fashion designers, something that is seen as a thing for women, and so many of the best fashion designers are men.
|Frankenstein by Mary Shelley|
What about writing? Now writing isn't typically predominated by men or women. There are so many good female writers, and there always have been although not necessarily writing under their true, female names. Some top female fantasy writers include Ursula LeGuin, Mary Shelley and Anne McCaffery. Right now best selling, household author names are female; J K Rowling, E L James and Stephanie Meyer.
Two of the bestsellers are in the fantasy genre. Other fantasy writer names that trip off my tongue without thinking are Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, George R R Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Dan Abnett, Philip Pullman, all of whom are male.
I’m going to confess something now and I can’t express strongly enough how ashamed I am of this; I have not read one fantasy book by a female author that I have loved.
I have done some experimenting with this. I have read non-fantasy fiction by women and loved them. I have read fantasy novels without looking at the author and still I haven’t like those written by women, although I must point out that I also don’t like some books written by men.
I am fully aware that maybe I haven’t read enough fantasy books by female authors and so have tried shopping for purely female fantasy authors but the blurbs never sell the books to me, the covers always put me off and even when I overlook this, I still don’t enjoy the books.
This does not mean that women cannot write good fantasy. I simply will not accept that. Instead, I have either not been reading the right books or I have deep rooted issues.
So why do men prevail in everything?
While watching the Great British Bake Off, I noticed the three women working close to one another and interacting much more than the men. Sarah Jane even passed on the secret of stretching pastry with Katherine, which resulted in Katherine launching her pastry across the marquee (leading to much laughter from our house and me nearly falling off the sofa). The men watched one another, but did not share and did not chatter.
What did this tell me? Men are competitive. Women are as well, but I believe that women will often express their competitiveness differently to men.
Men also seem to have a blind confidence. When first researching self publishing I came across G P Taylor (another fantasy writer) who didn’t even try to submit his work to agents and publishers but was so certain of his own capabilities that he moved immediately into self publishing and was a great success.
Confidence is the key. Everyone suffers from insecurities but women seem to show these insecurities to the world easier than men. Of course, we are the ‘gentler sex’ and men have to be big and strong with no weakness. Unfortunately, this means that while a woman can have the greatest of confidence in herself, those little insecurities that she lets through results in the reader/viewer simply not believing in her.
So what have I learnt from this Tuesday’s Great British Bake Off? Apart from to buy pudding for Tuesday nights, I have learnt that I must have confidence in myself, to strive to be the best and, more importantly, know that I can be the best. And that is a great lesson for everyone, whether they are a writer or not.
On a side note, I am off to the glorious Edinburgh on Thursday so I apologise for the lack of posts for the rest of this week but also, hurray! I’m going back to Scotland!