Feminist Fridays: “The Representation of Female Writers in Modern Literature and Media”

 “Release” by Emma Faith Hill (The Adroit Journal, Issue 8)

Being a woman/non male identifying writer makes it incredibly hard to get work accepted, taken seriously, considered by literary agents, or recognized by awards. The ever present tokenizing and suppressing environment on the part of the majority of the heterosexual or unaware or otherwise biased members of the literary world is also a large factor in the stifling of LGBTQPIA+ and female voices, voices that are already stifled by the publishing industry and the world in general. The work of such individuals often faces the complete eclipsing of female protagonists or voices, much less female or queer sexuality.

Take for example Catherine Nichols, who submitted her novel (which had a female main protagonist) to fifty agents each under a male name and under her real name. The queries that she submitted under a male name received seventeen requests, while the queries she submitted under her actual name were only requested twice. She also noticed a varying degree of interest in the responses (when her male alias received rejections they were far more warmer and detailed).

Navigating the literary world is difficult enough, but add being a woman (not to mention if you identify as on the LGBTQPIA+ spectrum or are a person of color) and it’s difficult just to receive responses about your work due to either conscious or unconscious biases, much less win the same awards or publish the same amount as the straight white cis men (like Jonathan Franzen, to name only one) who are more often than not dominating the media coverage of literary awards. And, often, when you do win the same awards as straight white cis men your work is written off by the same privileged writers as only picked for tokenizing political reasons and not for its actual merit, because in terms of literary success or endeavors their identity erases everything else about their work.

Brynne Rebele-Henry

Brynne Rebele-Henry’s fiction, and poetry have appeared in such journals as The Volta, So to Speak, Denver Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, and Fiction International, among other publications. In 2015, she was named the runner-up for the 2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry by judge Tarfia Faizullah. Her debut book Fleshgraphs is forthcoming from Nightboat Books later this year. She was born in 1999 and currently lives in Richmond, Virginia.

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