Speaking in a BBC interview recently, Fay Weldon described the current publishing market, emphasizing that it was dominated by women readers, who demanded women protagonists—and, increasingly in the #OwnVoices era, women authors. Ms. Weldon’s advice for male writers: use a feminine pseudonym.
As far as I could tell, this wasn’t a joke. It’s somewhat ironic, surely, after the prejudice against women writers prevalent in the nineteenth century—consider Jane Austen, George Eliot, and Charlotte Bronte, who all published anonymously or with masculine pseudonyms—that the exact same prejudice has returned, apparently, in reverse. (In spite of the much-vaunted inclusivity and diversity that we all value nowadays: maybe it doesn’t include men?) In case you think that Ms. Weldon is exaggerating the difficulty faced by men getting their fiction published, or even read, consider this: one of my male writer friends has told me that he intends to adopt a feminine pseudonym (independently of me bringing up the subject) and another is considering submitting his next novel with a woman as co-author.