Why not take it a step further? Why not have a Year of Publishing Women: 2018, the centenary of women over the age of 30 getting the vote in the UK, seems appropriate.
Of course, there will be many details to work out, but the basic premise of my “provocation” is that none of the new titles published in that year should be written by men. I’ve been considering literary fiction so far but other groups within fiction – and non-fiction – publishing could gain from signing up too. The knock-on effect of a Year of Publishing Women would be evident in review pages and blogs, in bookshop windows and front-of-store displays, in literature festival lineups, in prize submissions. We must learn from the suffragettes that it’s not always necessary or helpful to be polite about our campaigns. If some publishing houses refused to sign up, then it would be for the literary pages and booksellers and bloggers and festivals to say they wouldn’t be able to give space to the male writers who were being published that year. Many male writers would, I’m sure, back the campaign and refuse to submit their books for publication in the given year, while also taking an active part by reading, reviewing and recommending the books that were published.
And here I thought the feminist thing to do was to encourage women to enter fields where they actually stand a chance of making a good living. Literary fiction, seriously? That’s like telling your son to pin all his hopes on becoming a rock star. Ahem! I mean, yeah, you go, girl! Once you capture that strategically vital fraction of the already-tiny reading public, the patriarchy’s days are sure to be numbered.