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Literature Diversity - Authors and Main Characters

Discussion in 'Media & Entertainment' started by Mikkel, Nov 27, 2018.

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  1. Mikkel

    Mikkel Addicted Poster

    Location:
    Norway
    It's not a secret that the literature is quite dominated by white, heterosexual men. And for most people, it seems like even getting a 50% reading list between male and female authors is quite hard unless you aim for it. If you include things like ethnicity and sexual orientation, you have to even look harder to get them even represented.

    But have you thought of who's behind what your read? Or the main character? On diversity of gender,
    ethnicity, sexual orientaion etc. And found out that the diversity isn't that good, unless you aim for it?

    I counted the authors a little while ago, and I ended on about 60% men and 40% women of what I have listen to in Storytel (Norwegian audiobook app) + my nightstand / backpack. I know I will get a lower percent if I count the gender on the main characters, but I do have a diversety on gender too.
    If I count main characters that is not white, or has an other sexual orientation than heterosexual, it's really poor. To be honest, none is LGBT and one is half Brittish and halft Egyptian. I finnished reading "The 7th Scroll" yesterday, and suddenly thought of that Royan is the the closest I get to a main character that is not white for ages.

    So why are diversity important? It isn't the gender of the author that makes a book good, or the sexual orientaiton of the main character. So why is it important? If you think that, do you happen to be white? Even male? Then you can probably go into every book or film store with your eyes closed, and find something with a white, male main character, portraied postive/ as a hero. You will find a lot if you look after a white, heterosexual woman too. But try to find a main character that is not white. Or even harder, not heterosexual.

    If you belong to a minority, you will struggle to find people to identify yourself with in books. You will often find yourself portaited not always that positive, and with a lot of steriotypes. If you go to horror movies, the black man more or less is always killed. You will find few romantic relationships between an Asian man and white woman.

    Gay men are often very stereotypically (special in films) or as I meet them in books, not very positive portrayed. I do not look for books with LGBT main characters, so I just stumble over side characters. The latest four men I've met in books, only one is positive portrayed (Dumbledore in Harry Potter). Two of them has been violent rapists, and one of them even pedophile. The last one is something in between, but at least not a rapist...

    Transgender are even rarer, and often been either the killer (Scilence of the Lambs example, even though it's a bit discussed if the killer is transgender or just thinks he/she is transgender) or the victim (a couple of CSI episodes have had transgender victimts, but they have a good story behind why they are killed at least). And we know from real life, that both transgender and gay people are in a higher risk of getting killed, just because they are who they are.

    So how is your diversity in litterature? Do you aim for looking for books with authors that isn't white, heterosexual men, or with main characters that is a minority?
     
  2. Jamie in Chile

    Jamie in Chile Veteran Member

    Men represent more than half of the more well-known politicians, business people, leading actors, artists. My point here is that I'm not sure that there is a specific issue in literature in general that's worse than society as a whole.

    I don't think I have been considering the sex of the author when buying until recently. I just look at the topics and reviews. When I tried to figure out what my % male books was (see below) there were some cases where the sex couldn't be inferred from the name and I had read the whole book without ever considering the author's sex and so I had to google it to figure it out.

    I looked on my Kindle a few months ago and I counted 81 male, 21 female, and 1 with joint authors of different sex. So 79% with the same sex as myself.

    I looked in my book cupboard and there were 57 male, 8 female, 2 with joint authors of different sex. That's 87% male.

    This includes non fiction books. Years ago, I read majority novels. Now I read majority non-fiction.

    These results did make me think of buying more female authors in future. I made a mental note to do so and a written note at the top of a long list I have of future books to buy.

    The Kindle books are exclusively books I've bought and read in recent years (8-10 years ago I got the Kindle) whereas my bookshelf was almost all books I have had for longer than that. As a general rule, I don't buy physical books now. So it's clear that the % female has increased over the years.

    I would put that down to a changing of interests. I used to read things like adventure/spy novels, science fiction, and books on football which are still in the book cupboard from years ago.

    And more recently I have read books on topics like veganism, global warming, zero waste and feminism where women writers are a higher %. I think women writers tend to work more in areas like these four that combine intellectual issues with ethical issues.

    I don't think it matters too hugely if you are a man buying mostly books by men, there are differences between men and women that can sometimes mean people of the same sex are likely to have similar interests on average. However I think it's a good idea to think about it and be aware of it, and consider new interests.

    The difference between 65/35 and 50/50 might not be cause for concern, and worrying about the difference between 55/45 and 50/50 might be political correctness gone mad but if you had 90/10 or 100/0 or might be worth making some change. There are plenty of great women writers to learn from.

    I thought about checking the ethnicity of the authors, but I realized that would take too much time to determine what they all are so I didn't bother. But I think there is a good mix in what I read, but with a lot of white Caucasians.

    I haven't thought about the characters much at all, but I imagine if I worked it out there would be a strong representation of women in what I read (I like Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters) but not such a strong representation on ethnicity (I read a lot of Western classics when I do read novels). I'd be more concerned about kids growing up without representation on TV, since everyone watches TV and not as many read books, where I'm not even sure how often the ethnicity of characters is stated.
     
  3. Mischief

    Mischief Stranger in a strange land

    It's something I've thought about from time to time. I read almost exclusively fiction, and a lot of that is mysteries. When was younger, I used to read "happier" mysteries than I do now, so the percentage of women authors I read has actually decreased.

    With respect to mysteries, most of my favorite authors are male. With respect to the non-mystery fiction I read, the majority of my favorite authors are female.

    I would say that there's more racial/ethnic/sexual diversity in the characters than in the authors I read (although often I don't know a lot of details about the authors).

    Mikkel, do you think it would be worthwhile to list some authors and books that provide diversity that we have read and would recommend, and if so,should we do it in this thread or start one just for that purpose?
     
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