4.25.2004

The rationale for Cupcake has always been very clear to me--from my point of view as a woman writer, the lack of critical consideration for serious books by women is a daily problem of household finances: critical attention leads to a career, to awards, to teaching jobs. We wanted to put whatever focus we could, in a pleasurable way, on literary women writers whose books get so much less attention and press than similar books by men or than chick lit, which is for the most part a version of women's consumer magazines (although at this point some more substantive work by women--work that doesn't share the plot and the cadences of a standard Hollywood romantic comedy--seems to get published only by being coded with the standard chick lit pink cover, with shoes, legs, and a purse on it to indicate its narrative proximity to Glamour.)

I have a friend who is a decade older than I am, fabulous, juicy, married with two children, and the sort of feminist that Fox News dreams about in that she feels insulted when men open doors for her. (When she told me this it was a shocker to me--I would never think that anything other than gracious, and can't think of another friend who would disagree with me.) Anyway, my friend is also a big, big reader of women's fiction, yet she had never noticed the serious imbalance in the New York Times Book Review: 72% of their reviews are of books by men, according to a study by Brown University.

Over lunch one day, I explained the situation to her. She was like: oh, of course, god, why is that? The gender discrepancy is invisible to most people, even very literary, liberal-minded people. I guess the tricky state of affairs for serious women writers isn't so obvious unless you are one or live with one.

SO, to make it clear to the world, we wrote this little manifesta, originally posted on our main website, just for you:

Perhaps you have noticed a big pink pile of books in your local Barnes & Noble about women, shoes, wanting to lose fifteen pounds, snagging a husband, and working for bitchy New York ladies with harsh haircuts. Perhaps you are familiar with the term "chick lit" for this super-lucrative trend in publishing that has provided such unlimited opportunity (and large advances) for white women to write knock-offs of Bridget Jones's Diary so that they can ditch the pink-collar temp-job ghetto and finally put their liberal arts education to work. Perhaps you're a writer yourself, and you've noticed with slowly growing alarm that the guys you went to school with are publishing books that don't have anything to do with wanting to lose fifteen pounds or landing a rich spouse. (Although, actually, that's possibly pretty close to what is going through their minds, at least the ones who aren't Jonathan Safran Foer.) Perhaps you're feeling a little frustrated because you love these men, you love these guy writers as people and as citizens and as wordsmiths, but you're noticing that their careers seem to be moving at a much faster pace than those of the young women writers you know: the guy writers are getting NEA grants, they're getting published in the small, prestigious literary journals that are mostly edited by men and that lead to tenure-track teaching gigs, and they're getting those good teaching gigs.

Perhaps, week after week, you've counted up the 1-3 (exceedingly well-established) women published in the
New Yorker, counted up the 9-13 men, come to depressing conclusions, and wished someone had told you the deck was stacked against you this badly when you decided to become a writer and take out all those student loans. Perhaps you've done the same sort of count, week after week, for the New York Times Book Review as well. The New York Times Magazine. Perhaps the only thing you could think to do about this was to start a literary chapter of the Guerrilla Girls, but you had to check in with your temp agency first.

Perhaps you're a guy who wants to be around New York's most passionate and brilliant literary goddesses. Perhaps you simply want to hear some talented, serious, thoughtful, punk rock, accomplished, experienced, hilarious women writers read work that will inspire you and give you little tingles everywhere. Perhaps you have been wondering: where are the literary versions of PJ Harvey and Sleater-Kinney?

Perhaps you'd like a Cupcake:

Because you've had enough chick lit and it's time for dessert.


-Elizabeth

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