On literary fraud: men lying to appropriate women’s resources

As I’ve mostly given up on the only newspaper I used to read regularly, thanks to how it has treated women opposing gender identity ideology (read: the patriarchal Emperor in New Clothes), I nearly missed this story about some Spanish men who scooped a women’s book prize. I’m loathe to give them any further publicity, as they might benefit from it as much as Mr Peters did earlier this year. But it seems remiss not to point out the obvious similarities.

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2021/oct/16/female-spanish-thriller-writer-carmen-mola-revealed-to-be-three-men

Three male authors got together to create a female literary pseudonym, published a story about a serial killer who dismembers girls (go figure), applied for a women’s book prize, and won.

I have questions.

Was it ethical of those men to apply for a prize intended for women, disguising their sex? Of course not. It’s a blatant example of men appropriating women’s resources, leaving less pie to share among the sex that has to overcome multiple hurdles to publish successfully.

I’m sure they are clapping themselves on the back, thinking they are terribly clever. They are certainly richer. I doubt they regret their act of appropriation, which was carefully strategised. Safe to say that they are sexist men, hitting back as what they probably perceive as “feminism having gone too far,” thinking of themselves as victims of women’s progress in public life. Women belong in the kitchen, and must not scribble manuscripts in between cooking and cleaning. I’m just guessing here.

Was it ethical of the awarding body not to demand the return of the prize, and re-award it to a woman, once they knew? No. We know that prizes love and need publicity, but this tarnishes their image as an entity dedicated to creating a level playing field for women in publishing, and celebrating women’s writing (including not-great-but-commercial women’s writing). It presumably defeats the object of their business, or charity, too.

As for the book itself, it sounds like sexist trash, an agglomeration of men’s Cool Girl projections onto women. Superior female authors, like Gillian Flynn, have lampooned those sexist projections while managing to write blockbuster crime thrillers. See Gone Girl, which I consider well-written and reflective, despite outlandish plot twists.

I know nothing about the Spanish book world, but—having watched hundreds of Spanish women protesting the gender laws that obliterated their sex based rights, last month—it is apparent that that national culture remains stiflingly patriarchal. Machismo continues to rule. Little wonder, then, that some men can concoct a crime fiction take on a pitifully unconvincing Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and pass it off as women’s writing.

Publishing tells us that “the market” (women buy the most books) wants deeply unsympathetic female narrators that enable readers to vicariously experience the taboo of being mad, bad and dangerous to know. I think that has its place, and can be somewhat interesting when women do it well. It’s interesting that the prize judges weren’t able to discriminate between sexist trash unironically written by men, and unwittingly sexist trash written by women who have uncritically internalised patriarchal values to be audible in a sexist world.

Also of interest was how the men who perpetrated this literary fraud (yes, it is) invoked Elena Ferrante to justify their actions. They have a nerve—given the low quality of their output—to invoke her name at all. I mean, anyone who has read Ferrante can see the ferocious literary talent there, and I’m yet to read any of her work featuring a narrator who “loves grappa, karaoke, classic cars and sex in SUVs.” Why am I not surprised the publisher is the same as Peters—Penguin Random House?

Little wonder, either, that the soft-headed fools at the captured Women’s Institute (they budge up for AGPs) recommended the book to help women “understand the reality and the experiences of women in different periods of history and contribute to raising awareness about rights and freedoms.” Oh, please! Men have nothing useful to tell us about what it is like to be a woman! All they have is projection and the hope of putting us back in our place. I’m just not interested in them anymore.

This is a fascinating insight into how those male authors’ minds work: some female authors set boundaries around their private life to be able to write freely, and then some men use that as a pretext to violate women’s boundaries by stealing their prize. How terribly male pattern of them.

These men purport to believe (whether they genuinely do is another matter) that a woman joining the centuries-long tradition of publishing pseudonymously to avoid being tossed around the public square and savaged by misogynists, as JK Rowling and Sally Rooney have (among others), is the same as men falsifying their sex to take what’s not theirs. If they really believe that—as opposed to using it as a weak excuse for their bad behaviour—they’re dim as well as sexist and venal.

No, chaps. There is no comparison to be made. One is a literary strategy adopted by women to be able to write freely; the other is fraud and deception to pull the wool over the eyes of the prize committee and the public, and enrich oneself at the expense of the woman who should have won (even if her book was mediocre).

If you speak Spanish and see any commentary on this from sensible women, please do ping me a link in the comments.

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