As the year comes to a close, we will soon be pummeled with the year’s Best Of this that and the other thing lists. If you happen to be a woman who writes books, odds are you shouldn’t waste too much time looking for your name on any of them.
VIDA Women in Literary Arts, channeling Tillie Olsen, added up the male/female ratio of book awards and ‘best of’ lists last year, and found that 592 of the entries went to men, 295 went to women. What is HUGELY depressing about their data is that they also went back and looked at the period from 1980-2009 as a whole and came up with almost the same ratio. You can see the data here.
And then there is the news that the Wasserstein Prize, which is given to young female playwrights who have not yet received recognition, will not be awarded this year because in the opinion of the organization that administers the prize, none of the submissions were worthy. Works By Women has this:
It’s often said that we should leave the drama on the stage. But, that edict is hard to live by, given the current state of women’s theatrical work. Under 20% of plays produced on American stages are written or directed by women, and of those most are at the smaller theaters where remuneration is minimal.
And, today, Facebook is ablaze with outrage and disbelief that there will be no Wasserstein Prize given this year because, as the esteemed panelists noted, “none of the plays were truly outstanding in their current incarnation.” The Wasserstein Prize, named after beloved playwright Wendy Wasserstein, is awarded to a young female playwright who has yet to receive national attention. The prize is accompanied with a $25,000 check, which offers the rare financial encouragement to continue writing.
Isak has more good discussion here. It has been suggested that the terms of eligibility are at least part of the culprit, but the bottom line is that there is no doubt that there are young women out there writing good plays and when something like this happens, it deprives them of the opportunity for desperately needed funding to support that work. Is the non-rewarding of the prize necessarily misogynist? No. But denying funding can be tantamount to denying voice and the effect is thus quite chilling.