Andrew Piper has a new piece out with collaborator Richard Jean So at The New Republic that explores gender bias in book reviews. Looking at a sample of 10,000 book reviews published in The New York Times since 2000, they found a disappointing story about how reviews of women’s books overwhelmingly skew towards family and emotion-centered language.
Although recent work counting bylines has shown that women are gradually becoming better represented within review organs, Piper and So’s work shows that how we talk about women as writers has largely remained unchanged. As they argue in their piece, the real take-away is that quantitative representation isn’t enough. We need to change assumptions about what men and women can be experts on. That starts with publishing decisions but extends through a book’s reception in the media. Things aren’t getting better and need to change.