My problem’s not with the shortlist, there are some really wonderful writers on there. My problem isn’t with James Dawson, a – gasp! – man being included on the shortlist, though I do imagine that the organisers originally intended this to be an award for women writers, hence the name, but it may just be that they never considered that books “for girls” are ever written by men. No, my problem is with how the inclusion of James Dawson has been presented in the press.
The Guardian’s article about the shortlist was headlined “James Dawson shortlisted for Queen of Teen crown” and subtitled “Hollow Pike author is first man shortlisted for a prize which celebrates the ‘feistiest, frothiest and most fantastic’ writers in teen fiction.” Under that is a link to ‘Read James Dawson’s top 10 books to get you through high school.’ The article is mainly about James – how he feels to be nominated, the fact that there’s a crown, what his book’s about – all illustrated with a big picture of James.
The Guardian Teen Books account tweeted “Male author is shortlisted for Queen of Teen crown.”
The Telegraph’s article is entitled “Queen of Teen… could be a man”. Again, it’s illustrated with a photo of James and the article ends “If Dawson wins he will, of course, have to wear the victor’s ‘Queen of Teen tiara’. Well, it is an age of equality.”
Is it really? There are nine women on the shortlist. Nine women and one man. So why do the newspapers think the only thing worth reporting – the most interesting thing about the award – is that there’s a man in the running?
(Yes, I know it’s called Queen of Teen, so there’s the ‘LOL, a man could be Queen’ aspect, but that alone doesn’t explain the extent of the coverage.)
I’ve been faffing with this post for a while now because this leads to so much more I want to say, about how apparently it’s embarrassing for a man to possibly have to wear a crown and a sash, but all the women on the shortlist would no doubt be totally cool with it. How so-called boys’ books are taken much more seriously than so-called girls’ books. How this “feisty” and “frothy” discourse plays right into this, leading to reviews like this one (would a book by a male writer be reviewed so dismissively? I doubt it). But I’m just going round in circles and getting more and more annoyed. So I’ll stop now.