Why we need to celebrate women authors with our wallets


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More than a century has passed since the celebration of the first International Women’s Day in 1911. Since then, women in the United States have gained the right to vote, fought for basic healthcare on multiple fronts, and bravely declared #MeToo. However, I think we can all agree that the equality we seek is still out of reach 365 days of the year.

Let’s not sugarcoat it: The task of remedying a gender imbalance as old as time is daunting. It’s natural to forget that every time we open our wallets, we have the power to move the needle every-so-slowly in the right direction with a mighty force called purchasing power. Since women contribute $29 trillion to global consumer spending, using the disposable part of your paycheck to support women-owned businesses is basically the equivalent of saying “I want more of that.” If you ask me, one of the easiest places to spend cash is at the bookstore.

Recently, the Women’s Prize for Fiction announced its long list nominees, including Oyinkan Braithwaite for My Sister, the Serial KillerAnna Burns for The Milkman, Pat Barker for The Silence of the Girls, and Tayari Jones for An American Marriage, among others. These nominees are all female, but it’s important to remember that’s simply not the norm for this kind of award. Women represent fewer than 13 percent of the Nobel Prize laureates in literature (and that’s the category with the highest representation!) since 1901. Only 16 percent of Pulitzer Prize winners in the past 100 years have been women authors. An even smaller fraction of the recognition goes to people of color.

Since women contribute $29 trillion to global consumer spending, using the disposable part of your paycheck to support women-owned businesses is basically the equivalent of saying “I want more of that.”

Sadly, we can’t take the power away from those who vote for the public adulation of mostly white men time and time again. What we can do is tell publishers, through our literary purchases, that we’re interested in hearing the stories told by women of all backgrounds, sexualities, races, and creeds. A swipe of a credit card says: “No, it’s not okay that women’s books are priced 45 percent cheaper, on average, than those written by men.” It says: “Women should be recognized with the Pulitzer!” And it says: “I believe women’s stories need to be told.”

When asked, women report reading more often than men. Blowing your book budget on books written by women authors ensures that the narratives within future publications will reflect a greater equality than we now know. Reading can be a radical act. On International Women’s Day and every damn day.

Speaking of cozying up with a good book, here’s why doing so is a good tactic for navigating a party as an introvert. Plus, SJP’s flawless reading list

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