“Best Of” what?

Over at PoliticsDaily, Lizzie Skurnick takes on sexism regarding “Best Of” book lists that come out at this time of year. She describes a scene in a boardroom that is pretty appalling, but also entirely imaginable. All of a sudden a top-ten list of books appears and — gasp — there are only men on that list.

Most of my experiences with sexism are passive, down a couple of levels from what Skurnick describes here. I watch people put together panels of speakers on art history — a discipline dominated by women — and, low and behold, those panels are dominated by men. A group of senior staff gather (this could go for pretty much everywhere I have ever worked), and guess who they are, by and large? Not just men, but white men. There are so many reasons that these situations occur: the pay differential between men and women, the unfortunate way maternity and traditional success are mutually exclusive, etc. etc. etc. But there is also just the overarching, nagging feeling that men are more charismatic, more qualified, more whatever it is. Skurnick gets it right here:

But that’s the problem with sexism. It doesn’t happen because people — male or female — think women suck. It happens for the same reason a sommelier always pours a little more in a man’s wine glass (check it!), or that that big, hearty man in the suit seems like he’d be a better manager. It’s not that women shouldn’t be up for the big awards. It’s just that when it comes down to the wire, we just kinda feel like men . . . I don’t know . . . deserve them.

In a world where more women write books than men, and more women read books than men, and female authors are truly kicking ass (see: the Booker Prize, the Nobel Prize, the poet Laureate, and Joyce Carrol Oates), it is certainly woth thinking about why a “Best Of” list would not include any lady authors.

1 Response to ““Best Of” what?”

  1. November 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    yes, she does get it right. It is the patriarchal hegemony that we operate under, generally not even questioning its structure.

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