SFF Review Gender Balance

I was clued in today to a post on Strange Horizons detailing the gender breakdown of SFF reviews and reviewers. Considering the rabid cesspit of racism and misogyny that is geekdom, it comes as no surprise that everything skews male. The numbers made me wonder about Two Dudes and how we measure up here. I assumed that things would be pretty heavily male here also, considering that that I (Pep) do most of the posting and my core reading is done in Hard SF. Of all the genres and subgenres of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Hard SF is the most traditionally male, except for perhaps right wing military SF. Obviously the posts on here are 100% written by men, but that is mainly because I can’t find any women who will write for free. Neither Dude has any objections to women writing for Two Dudes (despite the name) and would actually love the contrasting views. In terms of review subjects though, we have no such constraints. This is the 151st post on the site, with the following numbers:

Male authors: 105
Female authors: 17
Misc. posts, movies, announcements, etc.: 29

This is a bit of a shock. I knew that I read more books by men, but I thought that women would make up more than 15% of the reviews here. I don’t personally care much who writes my books, but numbers like this imply that I am indeed favoring the masculine side of SFF, however unconscious it may be. I don’t think of myself as part of the problem of misogyny in the SFF community, but I may not be part of the solution either. I try to bring up gender issues in my posts, encourage my daughter to explore science, and fight back against stupidity when I see it, but if I’m not supporting the women writing SFF by reading it and talking about it, I fear I’m not helping enough.

I’m not sure what to do about this. Without looking, I would guess that the majority of my 2013 Must Read List is also male. It may be time for a bit of self-reflection, a second look at my reading plans for the coming months, and some thinking time about how my underlying assumptions of SFF may be helping or hurting the rest of the community.



6 thoughts on “SFF Review Gender Balance

  1. This is really intriguing. I was recommending some books to someone recently in the area of fantasy, so Rothfuss, Lynch, Hulick, Brett, and then realised that all the authors that I was recommending were male! And, yet, when I look through my reviews I’ve read far more female authors. That got me to wondering if some of the books I’ve read by female authors were more for light entertainment and so they’re not up there on my favourite reads. I’ve also checked my list of favourite reads for 2012 and out of 10 – 7 were male. And, out of the 10 books I was most anticipating reading for 2013 – only one was female! Now you’ve really made me think! I’m going to have to go away and give this some serious consideration….I mean, at the end of the day, does it really matter about whether the author is male or female, if you love the book then that’s that. But it certainly is very interesting.
    Lynn 😀

    • I’m going to write another post about this with further thoughts, but it’s certainly been something to make me think. Some of it probably has a lot to do with favored subgenre – ie, I don’t read a lot of fantasy and almost never urban fantasy, so that’s a lot of the women right there. But then I think about Cherryh, Kress, etc. and wonder if women are self selecting out of Hard SF or being blocked…..
      And it doesn’t change what I think of books, but as a creator myself (music, not books) I know that what we consume does ultimately affect who gets let in the door.

  2. Aw, man. Welcome to the club. We got jackets…


    As to what to do about it, well that very much depends on what you want to get out of your reading experience. As my little barny about The Islanders a couple of months back suggests, I don’t do too well with a lack of variety. I’ve not put any hard-and-fast rules on it, but this year for every book I read that was originally written in English by a white man, I’m trying to read at least one that isn’t. Seems like a simple way to ensure a bit of variety.

    I think as a reader you’re under no individual obligation to do anything at all if what you’re currently doing is working for you. But, y’know, ‘be the change you want to see in the world’ and all…

  3. Pingback: SFF Review Gender Balance Part II | Two Dudes in an Attic
  4. Pingback: Bits and Pieces: contemporary cinema and Summer blockbusters, gender and Science Fiction, President Gore and more | The Cedar Lounge Revolution

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