A Pea under the Mattress


Us poor women are yet again making headlines. We are rarely sighted in the big wide public world. Only 12.5% of blue chip board posts arepea held by women. And on the book market it ain’t looking any better: male writers and reviewers still dominate.  


Apparently – according to some research –  lack of ambition and self-confidence is holding women back. Frankly, I don’t buy it. Women are just as ambitious as men and a healthy portion of self-doubt is no bad thing and leads to self-improvement.


 In the last three months Peirene employed her first intern. One day a week Will helped Maddy and I with the marketing. Thanks to him we now have a Novella web-page and are running the “Two-Hour Book”  Facebook page. When Will applied, he was “trying to get into publishing, especially the editorial side of it.” I liked his CV and said I can offer him work experience on the marketing side. He took the opportunity.  


A couple of weeks ago, just as Will’s time ran out, I was approached by a young, well-qualified, woman. Again, she wanted editorial, I offered marketing. I explained that this is the most challenging part of publishing nowadays and an insight into that area will help her with any number of different career tracks. She turned the offer down.


Fair enough, one could of course argue that this young woman knows what she wants and has decided to go for it. Or has she? Has she taken responsibility for her ambition? I’d say, if she really wants to be in at the changing world of publishing, she’d better know the business insight out – and that includes gaining experience in areas she finds more difficult.


One more example: When I published Beside the Sea by Véronique Olmi a year ago, it was predominantly reviewed by men. Since I believe that this book needs to be discussed by women, I approached female reviewers directly. To no avail.  Over the last few days I followed discussions on Facebook about why men dominate our book review pages. To my surprise a number of female reviewers stressed that they only review books they like. Why? How do you know if you like a book when you haven’t even read it? And if you read it, you might as well review it. And why should only praise help enhance the name and status of the reviewer? A well written controversial article might shine an even brighter light on the reviewer than a regurgitated eulogy.


Us women are ambitious all right. Ça n’est pas le problème. Le problème c’est our self-image. We like to be little Princesses who only say nice things and everybody loves us and we  like to lie comfortably and hate feeling the pea under the mattress.

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