Reuters reported Kirsten Dunst's new star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame by referring to the actress as "Spiderman's girlfriend." Twitter said no, thanks.
You seem so nice.
This is something people often say to bestselling thriller writer Lisa Unger upon meeting her. It seems strange that people should be surprised, considering her books are no more violent than the usual psychological thriller. They’re not gory, they’re not showy. So why do some feel so baffled that she is writing violence that is none too different to that of her male counterparts?
You already know the answer, as does Lisa Unger. In fact, when asked about why she writes about violence against women in her books, she responded, “I’ll stop writing about it when it stops happening.”
Lisa Unger has made a name for herself as a prolific author, with her most famous novel being In the Blood, a book which Kirkus Reviews called a “scary winner from an accomplished pro”, and which went on to be a Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee for Best Mystery & Thriller 2014, and winner of the Silver Falchion Award for Best Novel in the Crime Thriller category.
Despite this, Ms. Unger has had her own encounters with sexism constantly.
At ThrillerFest XIV, Unger shared a personal story with moderator Karin Slaughter and the audience, regarding an incident that took place while Unger worked an event with author James Hall.
A little background: James Hall is an American author and professor from Florida. Author of eighteen novels, four books of poetry, a collection of short stories, and a collection of essays, James Hall is not only a successful writer, but a good man. The same could not be said about a particular fan of his, however.
At a book signing with James Hall, Ms. Unger was working as a moderator when a male member of the audience dismissed her, saying “I don’t read books by women”.
A year later, Ms. Unger was at her own signing at the same bookstore when she spied a man in the audience staring her down. They made eye contact, and he seemed to look right through her.
Image Via Quora
Ms. Unger noticed that the man had a large bag at his side…
Image Via Amtrack
When the show was over, the man was still there, still staring at her. His eyes were fixed on her.
Creepy much? Ms. Unger, who was understandably disturbed by the man’s presence, said she felt particularly uncomfortable because “women feel vulnerable in a way men do not”.
As the event came to an end, the man’s eyes stayed fixed on her. While everyone else shuffled out, he remained.
You can image the fear when Unger felt when she found herself alone with this man. The man rose, picking up his bag and approached her.
It was then that the man revealed that he was the audience member from the year before and, since then, had read all her books. The bag was full of each and every book she had every written.
Now a fan of hers, he asked her to sign them.
Image Via Wallpaper Flare
Featured Image Via Crimereads
If picture books are meant to give voice to the experiences of young children, then why aren’t girls and racial minorities speaking? Using data from the top 100 bestselling children’s picture books, researchers have noted a growing gender and racial disparity in terms of which characters speak in children’s books.
Over half of children’s books feature a predominantly male cast; comparably, less than a fifth such books feature a predominantly female cast. It’s evident that male characters are literally dominating the conversation: not only does the gender gap exist in picture books, but it’s also growing. The Guardian reports that “speaking roles for male characters rose by 19%,” and at the same time, “one in five bestsellers did not feature any females at all.”
Only five of the top 100 books feature a BAME (Black, Asian, & Minority Ethnic) character in a prominent role. Of those five, three titles’ spots rely on the same character: Lanky Len, a mixed-race “nasty burglar” who hardly represents the sort of relatable character that nonwhite children can connect to. Statistics regarding BAME characters in less central roles are just as grim: 70% of such characters never speak at all. Across all 100 titles, only eleven BAME characters have speaking roles. And among these eleven, only seven have names. Of course, we’re discussing the umbrella of ethnic minority identities—on this list, there’s only one black male protagonist. Off the list, the disparity isn’t any better. Of all the 9,000+ children’s books published in 2017, only 1% featured a BAME protagonist… while 96% featured no BAME characters, speaking or silent.
When it comes to picture books featuring LGBT+ families and disabled characters, it’s the same story. None of the 100 bestsellers featured same-sex parents. Only one title included a disabled character—but that character doesn’t speak or play any major role in the plot. We may be talking about fiction, but these statistics are unrealistic. Predominantly white, male stories for children deny the experiences of many readers, but they also don’t reflect the mathematic facts concerning the gender and racial breakdown of English children. Around 33% of English schoolchildren are from minority backgrounds; 48% are female. Our stories should reflect the varied experiences of the children they aim to depict.
What causes this disparity? Among the 100 books studied, not one author or illustrator is BAME. This lack of diversity extends beyond the list: only 2% of all children’s book illustrators in the UK, not just the bestsellers, are people of color. The lack of diversity in publishing is a capitalistic Ouroboros: because few children’s picture books feature diverse characters, publishers come to believe these books won’t earn large sums of money. At the same time, these books rarely earn money for their publishers because they are rarely published. But while the exact cause of this phenomenon may be unclear, the results aren’t—girls, minorities, and disabled children don’t see themselves in stories that are supposed to be for them. It’s also possible that these sorts of disparities in children’s media could reinforce disparity and bias as the children grow into adulthood.
Featured Image Via Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Purging libraries of books considered harmful to children isn’t anything new. It can be for violent content, sexual themes or even due to being written by a controversial author. One group in Barcelona is considering purging books for another big reason: sexism.
The Guardian reported that the Associació Espai i Lleure has reviewed close to 600 books in The Taber School in Barcelona as part of their Library and Gender project, which aims to highlight the hidden sexist content found in most children’s books.
The group found that around 200 of the books at the school’s library contained hidden sexist themes. As a result, the books is considering removing from the library. Some of the removed books include Little Red Riding Hood and Sleeping Beauty.
The group said that the purpose of this review was not to target specific books, but to address the larger issue of sexism in children’s books. There have been studies conducted about gender bias in children’s books, in which males are more likely to be the protagonist of a children’s story and get more speaking roles than female characters. Espai i Lleure hopes to shine a light on the casual sexism in certain stories in order for children to learn these earlier in life in order to counter sexism when they are older.
You can read for about the group’s efforts here.
Do you agree with what Espai i Lleure is doing?
Featured Image Via Pacific Standard
Everyone has their own preferences in terms of romantic partners. If you work out and are a busy bee, you might be looking for someone who can keep up with your active lifestyle. If you’re a big reader, you might want someone who can talk books with you, unless you’re someone who goes for the ‘opposites attract approach.’ Everybody is different, and all of this is pretty fair and understandable for the most part.
But then there’s popular French novelist and television writer Yann Moix, who has a preference toward younger women. About twenty-five years younger to be exact!
While speaking to French magazine Marie Claire, Moix expressed that he is “‘incapable’ of loving a woman over [the age of fifty]”, and that women over this age are “invisible” to him. Yikes.
Image via Kanada Versicherung
The French novelist went on to justify his preferences:
I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of. The body of a twenty-five-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of fifty is not extraordinary at all.
Since making these comments, Moix has come under fire from online critics, who have branded his comments sexist. Here is a selection of such tweets:
Pictures of beautiful celebrities over the age of 50 have also been posted in retaliation.
Even news stations are joining in on criticizing Yann Moix!
Yann Moix tried to make light of his comments, stating:
I like who I like and I don’t have to answer to the court of taste… 50-year-old women do not see me either! They have something else to do than to get around a neurotic who writes and reads all day long. It’s not easy to be with me.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, this publicity comes at a bad time and only time will tell if women of any age are going to be sending roses to Yann Moix!
Featured Image via Evening Standard