It’s time for more female heroes in literature

Last week the biggest German book fair took place in Frankfurt am Main and as always it was a very inspiring and fun event. Highlights were some events focusing on feminism, discussing among other how far along today’s feminism is and what it should have achieved by now. Aside from these events however women empowerment was often absent from the book fair. Of course, there were books and booths dedicated to topics like women empowerment and feminism but in the year of #metoo and #timesup I would have expected the fair to be plastered with feminist events and presentations. This was not the case.

Though feminist topics were discussed by women, women were less present discussing other topics. In other words: Women were invited to talk about women but not to talk about anything else – for example their literary work which might not be feminist per se but still be fabulous and worth attention. This brings me to a huge problem of German literature: The majority of successful authors are still male. Katy Derbyshire counted male and female authors of big German publishing houses. All in all, 43 percent of the authors were female but most of them write love literature or crime literature. The big hardcover releases were mostly by men, with f.e. only two female authors out of 13 or 11 out of 31. [1] Amongst the 16 most earning authors in 2013 six are female, most of them writing genre literature. [2]

However not all genre literature offers so many books by women. A study in 2009 showed that while 36% of fantasy authors were female, actually presented in bookstores were only six female authors out of 26. In science fiction literature there were only nine percent female authors. [2] This was very obvious during a sci fi lounge I attended on one book fair evening. From the nine invited authors only three were female. Which makes me wonder: Is this the reason female characters are still often portrayed as victims in science fiction literature? This has been an issue for a while now, ever since the term “women in refrigerators” was first established which describes a trope “where a woman’s intense suffering is used to kickstart or progress the male protagonist’s storyline” [3]. In general, the weak princess who has to be rescued by the strong male is a trope that can still be found in many sci fi books. I want to read stories, in which the woman rescues the man – not just as an exception but as the rule. Is this too much to ask for?

Written by Sunita Sukhana

Featured image: German science fiction authors