We’ve been doing this for three years now, and it’s been an incredible experience. Our original mission statement was all about giving women writers a platform and a voice; to promote and celebrate their talent and provide an alternative to the established system in which women are systematically and systemically marginalised and excluded.
And although at times that’s been a battle, it’s mostly been a blast. We’ve published two groundbreaking anthologies and collaborated with amazing, awe-inducing organisations, from Womankind Worldwide, World Book Night and the Lesbian and Gay Foundation to Lumb Bank and the London Rollergirls.
The Story So Far…
We’ve been featured on the bill at festivals, conferences and other events across the UK, in print, online and on TV and radio. We’ve come face-to-face with our idols (hi, Margaret Atwood!) and been recognised and cheered on by our heroines; iconic, award-winning authors like Bidisha and Sarah Dunant.
We’ve had the honour and privilege of championing brilliant début authors like Peggy Riley, Claire King, Jenni Fagan, Kerry Hudson and Beatrice Hitchman (to name only a few) who in the last year alone have gone on to win critical acclaim, numerous awards and a long list of other accomplishments.
Women make up half the latest Dylan Thomas Prize longlist, the majority of this year’s Booker, Guardian First Book Award and Desmond Elliot longlists, and of Granta’s latest Best Young British Novelists.
So is it about time we hung up our righteous feminist hats? Why is a platform like For Books’ Sake still necessary when women are already the lifeblood of the publishing industry; reading, writing, buying and selling more than their male counterparts?
The list of reasons below is by no means definitive. But hopefully it goes some way to showing why we still believe in what we do.
So why is For Books’ Sake still necessary?
Because women account for an average of only one in four book reviews in the mainstream media. Because independent audits like the VIDA Count keep verifying that, whichever way you crunch the numbers, in the fight for column inches, men will almost always win.
Because prestigious, respected institutions like the London Review of Books can be called out for their gender disparity in the media and across the blogosphere, but refuse to commit to address the issue, answer questions about it or even engage in a dialogue. Because they’re arrogant enough to assume that ignoring us will make us go away.
Because other mainstream media apparently have no problem in almost entirely excluding women from their list of literature’s fifty key moments, then paying patronising, tokenistic lip service with an ill-informed follow-up when their first cock-centric effort went down like a lead balloon.
Because magazines like Vice believe exploiting the tragic suicides of women writers who died as a direct result of extreme mental illness is an appropriate and in no way offensive theme for a commercial fashion photoshoot.
Because influential and authoritative industry leaders in the world of comics see no problem in publicly dismissing accusations of sexism and denying any need, responsibility or interest in increasing accessibility and diversity.
Because the prospect of a woman writer being featured on our banknotes resulted in a sustained and unprecedented campaign of violence, rape and death threats against the women involved.
Because it’s almost a century since we won the vote, and we’re a still a long way from equality. Because we’re exhausted from fighting, campaigning and arguing but we’ll do it anyway, because we owe it to our suffragette sisters and other predecessors; women who fought and died to win us the freedoms we have today.
Because we are fucking furious. And we won’t be quiet until we get what we’re due. Even if it takes another hundred years.
So please pass the birthday cake…
For Books’ Sake may be another year older, but we’ve got no plans to retire yet. Not when there’s still so much work to be done, and so many incredible women writers still to shine our spotlight on.
Thanks for helping us make it to our third birthday. Without the support of readers, authors and publishers, we’d be long gone by now. We love and appreciate every last one of you more than you’ll ever know, and we couldn’t do this without you.
This year though, you can keep your congratulations. What we want is change. The most perfect present we could ask for is for more people to understand what we’re doing and why. So pass it on, tell your friends, and share the reasons above with anyone who’ll listen.
The more of us there are joining up in chorus; calling for accountability from the media and publishing industries, pushing these issues back onto the agenda and into the public eye; the louder our collective voices will be. And the louder you are, the more likely that you’ll be heard.
Between us, we might even make enough of a difference that by our next birthday the numbers tell a different tale. But no matter how long it takes, until they do, we’re not going anywhere. And we’ll definitely drink to that.
Still want to buy us a birthday present? Donate here to help us continue our work. Or use the share buttons in the sidebar to pass the parcel to your followers, family and friends.
(Image via Aih)