This Is Why We Still Need Women-Only Book Prizes

Books about women are much less likely to win prizes than books about men.

Ali Smith
Ali Smith
(Image credit: Rex)

Books about women are much less likely to win prizes than books about men.

As Ali Smith wins the Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction for How to be Both, a gender-bending novel which explores sexual identity from the Renaissance times to now, a new study shows that books about women are much less likely to win prizes than books about men.

Research conducted by author Nicola Griffith shows that books about women and girls are less likely to be honoured with the major literary prizes like the Pulitzer, Man Booker, National Book award, National Book Critics’ Circle award, Hugo and Newbery.

After analysing the last 15 year's worth of the six main literary prizes, Griffith found that when it comes to the Pulitzer, zero out of the fifteen winners were books written by women from the point of view of a woman.

The Man Booker has been won by nine books by men about men, three by women about men, two by women about women, and one by a woman about both.

And the US National Book award over the same period, was won by eight novels by men about men, two books by women about men, one book by a man about both, three books by a woman about both, and two books by women about women.

'It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, when it comes to literary prizes, the more prestigious, influential and financially remunerative the award, the less likely the winner is to write about grown women,' Griffith wrote alongside her findings.

'Either this means that women writers are self-censoring, or those who judge literary worthiness find women frightening, distasteful, or boring. Certainly the results argue for women’s perspectives being considered uninteresting or unworthy. Women seem to have literary cooties.

She added: 'The literary establishment doesn’t like books about women. Why? The answer matters. Women’s voices are not being heard. Women are more than half our culture. If half the adults in our culture have no voice, half the world’s experience is not being attended to, learnt from or built upon. Humanity is only half what we could be.'