Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Voodoo View: Women's voices in the media and where to find them - or when...

I'm curious about the avalanche of discussion going on suggesting that there are not enough women's voices gaining artistic recognition in the

It seems to me that most of the highly successful writers in the last 15 years have been women, and they continue to proliferate - JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Charlaine Harris, EL James, Sylvia Day, Suzanne Collins, Belle de Jour (aka Dr Brooke Magnanti), and now Sally Green to name a few - consumers' money is doing all the talking that's needed. Whatever artistic integrity and skill is on show here, you can't deny their success. We don't know how many of these successful women writers have been offered interviews, columns, journalistic or presenting jobs. Just because the rest of the exposure that the academics judge isn't there, doesn't mean it hasn't been sought.

Not everyone wants to be a 'media whore' or has the time in between writing their bestsellers to take on yet another job promoting themselves, or consulting on academic-level subjects, even though many of them do. But because a few commentators have pounced on the fact that 'women's voices' have been overlooked in this literary award or that, or this review column or that, apparently somehow we're back in the Middle Ages of a patriarchal Arts world, where women are an invisible minority.

So why is it that 8 out of 10 blogs I visit are written by women? Does the internet not count? So far as I can tell, the virtual world is seething with women's voices, quicker and keener to post their thoughts, responses and opinions than men. Women sharing, telling true-life experiences, penning stories, relating anecdotes, rallying charitable and political support for good causes, and even just trying to relate to the world. But because the few folk that still read a Sunday paper aren't looking in the right place, apparently there's a soapbox out there with my name on, which I should be standing on complaining that I haven't had my 1.5 column inches of fame/validation yet.

What, in tomorrow's chip wrapper or kitty litter tray liner? What's the big deal with that anyway?

Like I said, women writers are already bankable (see the list above). Nobody doubts that. Are these petitioners for equality in media storefront airtime just a tiny bit jealous? Do they want their turn? If they've written something that worthy, shouldn't they try selling it and let the public judge for itself?

Why do the complainers ignore the internet as a valid form of media exposure, and the freedom that women have to speak there? Why are they even wasting time and money on a Sunday paper that doesn't review their taste in writing, or by following and commenting on awards that don't either?

Withdraw the attention (and money) from those who irritate or who don't fulfil your needs, and they'll either be forced to change, or disappear. All the time you're throwing attention their way with your demands, you're keeping their profile high and in the public eye. Which, if you're right about their misogyny, isn't what they deserve.

Unsubscribe from any media that refuses to satisfy your wants, and look up blogs, vlogs and websites that do. If you can't find what you're looking for, nothing is stopping you from writing, filming and publishing your own online. And there you have instant, searchable, public exposure for the subjects and interests that you want covered.

In the first and second world wars, newspapers were full of women journalists and women writers, reviewing books by women on the work being done by women. The reason for this was that the men previously in those jobs were away fighting. Women had a monopoly over the media during those years. Agatha Christie and her contemporaries had little competition to hold them back or suppress their success.

But the women who succeed as authors and in media jobs today don't have that excuse. They've had the right combination of skills and good luck to achieve what they've done, in spite of the fact that men are in the same position and have the same opportunities.

If something isn't out there that you want to read, maybe it's the world telling you to write it. And if you aren't satisfied with the great success that women currently have in the arts and media, how would you improve on it? What areas specifically need attention? What do you want to see women gaining recognition for? Have you approached any of these women, or offered to interview them, and submitted any articles about them and their work to the mainstream Press?

One example - Google the name 'Sophie Neville' and you'll mostly find matches for the actress who played 'Titty' in the movie of Arthur Ransome's 'Swallows & Amazons' in 1974, her artwork, and her career to date.

Three years ago, none of those matches for that particular 'Sophie Neville' were there. She wanted an internet profile and online presence to support her current writing career, and had to make her presence known to the virtual world and the contemporary audience from scratch, which meant blogs, videos, online photo albums and social media - everything. In the last year, she's also appeared in the Telegraph, the Sunday Times, and the Daily Mail - more than once.

A second example: Recently I was invited to appear on two separate writing and arts blogs - one guest post about my sporting hobby, and one interview about my experience of releasing a book under a pen-name for the first time. Both invitations came from men. So I don't believe it's men that are keeping the door 'closed' on women's voices, as current perceptions would have us believe. Maybe it's just the case that women haven't been taking full advantage of the opportunities that are there.

The Writer's and Artists Yearbook lists all newspapers and magazines, literary agents and publishers. If you want your own voice out there in the old-school market, just get submitting. If you know artists and writers who you think should get that sort of recognition, instead of leaving a sour comment on the newspaper's online arts page, send them a glowing article about the object of your passion. If you have a new insight on Jane Austen's motivation, or have cooked up a dinner party menu worthy of one of Agatha Christie's famous murder scenes, find an academic journal or cookery magazine that might showcase your skills as a wordsmith.

Don't let bitterness about success (or lack of it) fester and undermine real opportunities that you could be working with, or encouraging others to work with. And don't blindly join in with the voices of negativity - look at the actual success stories in the real world, and listen to people who have real ideas in their heads - not ancient attention-deprived echoes.