A battle of the book lovers has broken out on model-turned-crime author Tara Moss’s blog. After attending a female crime writers convention, Moss penned a post on the hot topic of female authors, the lack of women winning awards like the Miles Franklin and the recent establishment of The Stella Prize. Moss quoted statistics on publishing, noting how men are more likely to earn more in publishing and male authors are more likely to get their books reviewed although similar numbers of male and females are writing books.
Cameron Woodhead, a theatre critic and literary columnist at The Age, voiced his complaint about the post in the comments thread underneath: “I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but this is the kind of privileged whining that annoys the crap out of me. According to latest ABS data, women are 4% more likely than men to have sufficient prose literacy to cope with life in a knowledge-based economy. Don’t hear the sisterhood getting outraged about that one.” Responded Aussie author Lindy Cameron: “I’d rather like Cameron to explain what he means by ‘privileged whining’.”
“If you’re educated enough to understand and in a position to care about this subject, you’re privileged by definition … As for the whining, the complaint strikes me as petty compared to, say, areas where the treatment of women has drastic impacts — domestic violence, for example. Feminism used to be a radical political movement concerned with fundamental social equity. Unconscious bias in literary awards? Worth knowing about and discussing, sure, but pretty small potatoes in the scheme of things.”
Author P.M. Newton jumped into the comments thread too: “Maybe I’m a bit slow but I didn’t think that discussion of one form of bias precluded concern about other issues?” Woodhead replied: “Yes you’re a bit slow. No one is precluding anything.”
Author Kathryn Fox: “Cameron, many female authors, me included, use our writing to highlight vital issues such as domestic violence, sexual assault and give voice to those who are voiceless. The problem comes when reviewers and awards ignore us. So the issue is not the ‘privileged’ complaining, we are raising a societal issue.”
Woodhead continued his trolling antics, sniping back to further comments made by Moss, claiming she had invented things he’d said like a child: “And you seem to be inventing things I didn’t say just so you can argue with them. That is the habit of a child. Arguing with children is beneath my dignity, and it’s beneath yours to imitate one.” Moss replied: “Cameron, this blog post may not add much that is new to the discussion of s-xism in the literary world, but I think I speak for most of us when I say that your comments have given us something to think about.”
Then it just became bookish one-up-manship. Woodhead: “Really? I was actually closely paraphrasing David Foster Wallace’sInfinite Jest — from the transvestite triple-agent wheelchair-bound Quebecois separatist terrorist, Marathe: ‘And you seem to be inventing things I didn’t say just so you can argue with them. That is the habit of a child.’ But I’m sure you picked up the reference.”
Several well-known Australian authors — including Kerryn Goldsworthy — weighed in in support of Moss and her comments. But final comment goes to author and publisher Lindy Cameron: “Cameron’s first responses: ‘don’t want to rain on your parade’; ‘privileged whinging’; some nonsense about why aren’t we talking about domestic violence instead (because, you know that’s WAY more important than OUR livelihoods as authors in this country). And why did Tara not mention, and then get equally up-in-arms, about the 4% more Aussie blokes who can’t read at all? Why not indeed Tara. Good question. Seriously — in a post about gender bias in book reviews, let’s talk about domestic violence, because it’s SO relevant to the topic after all.”