21 October 2011

‘The kind of privileged whining that annoys the crap out of me’

Tara Moss wrote a blog post about Sisters in Crime last week which really seemed to set the cat among the pigeons. Or, to use a more original turn of phrase, Cameron Woodhead saw as, ‘the kind of privileged whining that annoys the crap out of me’. Pretty soon everyone had had the crap annoyed out of them and it was on for young and old. There were dozens, if not hundreds, of comments.

Moss’s Afterblog provides a terrific summary of the arguments and the various blog posts and articles that resulted. That post begins: ‘There was very little that amounted to opinion in my most recent post, Are our Sisters In Crime (still) fighting against a male-dominated literary world?, in which I wrote about the origins of Sisters In Crime, an organisation I have been a member of for 13 years and attended a recent convention for, and quoted relevant statistics regarding gender bias in the literary world. Despite this, it earned some heated responses, most memorably that it was a ‘trendy’ cause, self-interested ‘bandwagoneering’ and ‘privileged whining’, by a fiction reviewer and theatre critic for The Age. (Amusingly, writer John Birmingham tweeted ‘I think the irony gland in my head just exploded.’)’

The same day that Moss wrote her first blog, Peter Craven wrote an article for The Drum on the demise of the Australian Literary Review. In the midst of which he misquoted the author of this post, and had a side swipe at the gender bias debate, calling it ‘eighties’. ‘I was dismayed the other day when my friend Sophie Cunningham, novelist publisher and former editor of Meanjin, tweeted to the effect that who cared about the death of the ALR, too many men reviewing too many men’s books. It’s not the 1980s and a lot of us, even Sophie, are not in our 20s anymore.’ Which begs the question – what do you do, or say, if things haven’t changed since the eighties – except, perhaps, for the worse.

A couple of days later Guy Rundle responded to Craven’s piece: ‘Common sense would suggest that you don’t help your case that gender is irrelevant by citing 12 writers, 11 of them male, as evidence of the publication’s worth… Even if they had stumbled on the ALR and saw the roll-call Peter cites above, what would they think? That they’d wandered into the intellectual equivalent of Norman Bates’s sitting room, I suspect. Compare any issue ofThe London Review of Books or The New York Review of Booksand you’ll see what ALR wasn’t doing, that it might have done, and that might have guaranteed continued Group of Eight support.’

In short, the last two weeks have been nothing if not lively and show, I think, that these debates still need to be had.

(Post written by Sophie Cunningham)

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