A good example of the oppressed promoting the principle of oppression appears in The Observer New Review, in an article entitled “Where are All the Young Male Novelists?” (16/05/21) It seems that fiction publishing is dominated by women, at the moment. This seems unsurprising, given that women read far more fiction than men. There is a focus on subjects and writers that women identify with.
There may be some active discrimination against male writers in a publishing industry that is 64% female, most of whom will have been born into a far less equal society than we now experience. The article mentions Lucy Popescu saying “It’s lovely to see women dominating the shortlist [of the Authors’ Club’s Best First Novel Award]”, and one (woman) publisher reports that some people in the industry say “I don’t read men.”
However, the article also quotes Darran Anderson saying “Working class male writers, largely kept out of writing for decades by a middle class male literary establishment, are now expected to answer for a past that isn’t ours.”
Outraged at the injustice of discrimination by gender, Mr Anderson hasn’t come to the conclusion that discrimination is wrong, but just that the wrong people are being targeted, which is a bit like saying the holocaust was wrong because “the Jews are good people”: he has no problem with people being dismissed and denied opportunities, just as long as he has decided they are part of a group that he dislikes.
Yet the people he defines as “middle class male” writers haven’t inherited the publishing contracts of the previous generations. In fact, their similarities to the literary giants of the 90s makes their point of view and concerns more stale and hackneyed and thus less likely to be read. The past, and its advantages, isn’t theirs either, but it’s ok for them to answer for it, apparently.
Discrimination is an offence against individuals: denying them the rights allowed to others, denying them their own identities, by attributing to them the characteristics and the behaviours, and thus the crimes, of a type defined by others. If you condemn prejudice and discrimination, you must, by definition, protect all individuals from them, regardless of their background. If you claim it is your group’s turn to receive the benefits of privilege, you are accepting the principle of inequality and thus justifying your previous disadvantage. You are accepting system- and society-wide hypocrisy and nepotistic corruption.
And while we’re on the subject, Why “Young Male Writers”? Why not “New”? Are older aspirant writers, like me, so beneath contempt, that our very absence isn’t even noted? Why do you need to be under 35 to be eligible for the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award? Isn’t that discrimination? Again, Why not “Sunday Times New Writer of the Year award?”
Ah well! The odds are so stacked up against new writers that there’s no point in grumbling about any one aspect of that disadvantage. Even if you are a member of a feted elite, you still need to compete with 7 billion+ other voices AND have something worth saying AND learn to say it well. Fat Chance!