Why do books about women rarely win top literary prizes?

Acclaimed author Nicola Griffith sifted through 15 years of prize-winning books for fiction and found that several of the top literary prizes have rarely awarded anything written from a woman’s point of view.

In her analysis (complete with pie charts), Griffith found that the most prestigious literary awards in the English language, including the Pulitzer Prize, lacked a woman’s perspective, no matter if the books were written by men or women.

From 2000 to 2015, women wrote zero out of the 15 Pulitzer Prize-winning books completely from the point of view of a woman or girl, Griffin said. However, over the same period, eight of the 15 Pulitzers were awarded to male novelists that wrote books about men or boys.

Griffith also scrutinized other literary awards including the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award and the Hugo Award, all of which tended to recognize fiction written by men from the male perspective of their protagonists.

“It’s hard to escape the conclusion that, when it comes to literary prizes, the more prestigious, influential and financially remunerative the aware, the less likely the winner is to write about grown women,” Griffith wrote on her blog.

Among the reasons as to why women are underrepresented in these judging circles, Griffith thinks that women may have “literary cooties.”

“Either this means that women writers are self-censoring, or those who judge literary worthiness find women frightening, distasteful or boring,” Griffith said. “Certainly the results argue for women’s perspectives being considered uninteresting or unworthy.”

Out of the six, big literary prizes researched, there was a lone holdout: The Newbery Medal. Tasked with recognizing the best American literature for children, the award from 2001 to 2015 was given out five times to women who wrote about women or girls and three times to men who wrote from the female perspective.

Griffith told The Guardian that “this shocking disparity” seen with literary prizes has less to do with who’s judging.

“It’s about the culture we’re embedded in and that’s embedded in us all of us, women and men,” she said. “This is the culture that still calls male writers Writers, and female writers Women Writers. The male perspective is still the real one, the standard. Women’s voices are just details.”

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