On Time Magazine, Women Authors and Equality


Trust Time Magazine for Ruining my Day!
Women’s Collectible Books Selling for Pennies on the Dollar from Men’s

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of the
multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

As crappy as Time magazine sometimes makes me feel, I admit I love them for it. I have been subscribing for decades without a single year missed and admit they may have spoiled me by fostering expectations of journalistic excellence.

Still, one of their stories made me wonder. Could this piece published on April 1 be an April’s Fool joke? I am hoping so, but I’m gullible (read that trusting!) enough of their quality to believe an impossible truth.

It seems “American Writer A. N. Devers was at a rare-book fair when she noticed an old Joan Didion title selling for $25.” She also “noticed a Cormac McCarthy novel was selling for $600.” Ahem. McCarthy is a contemporary writer just like Didion. Both are recognizable names by large segments of the population. (Just in case you didn’t notice, McCarthy is a guy and, well, Didion is not!)

I am not pretending this is a scientific comparison, study, treatise, dissertation, or anything else that shouts “intelligent” or “trusted resource.” I don’t need to do that to let you know I was immediately disgusted. Honestly, I was ticked with Time, too. The headline read, “A bookstore that’s turning a page for women in literature.” Good news indeed, but it seemed a tad too mild under the circumstances.  

Of course, I was glad to hear that the experience inspired Devers to open her own bookstore. It’s called the Second Shelf and is “tucked away in a quiet courtyard off the busy streets of London’s Soho.” Another slight? It sounds tired. It sounds lonesome. It sounds anything but high-powered. And the supposition is, women (and the owners) should be satisfied with that. I mean, it isn’t as highly trafficked as any retailer or feminist might like, but it carries women’s work—almost exclusively. I’m trying not to be “hysterical” here. Devers is “trying to correct a historical imbalance that has allowed women’s literary achievements to be eclipsed.” Devers says that, like other artistic and news media, this history of literature is similar—that the men who lead most any industry “focus on themselves.”

What Devers says is true. But it doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t rant a bit—or a lot! Am I the only one who cares? Am I the only one who thinks on new bookstore dedicated to women’s work isn’t enough. Time reports that titles by women published in 2018 are priced 45% lower than books by men.  

To take this one step further, I am a constant consumer of a certain kind of media that should be the most likely to do more on this topic, but I haven’t heard a peep from NBC, National Geographic, Smithsonian…sigh!

That is in spite of the fact the Women’s History Month made March a time to project the idea that greater attention should be paid to women in literature (and other arenas) with the likes of reading lists focused on women, etc.  

Well, yeah!

The lessons here? Never get lax about equality. Discrimination won't just go away on its own. Maybe even, "Keep taking baby steps. They'll eventually add up."  

PS: It is amazing that Time published obituaries on the opposite page from this article on a women’s bookstore. W.S. Merwine, a renowned poet, was featured, and Birch Bayh, a politician I remember from long ago were eulogized on that page (no women!). Time did mention that Bayh called for gender equality even back then. See, that’s one of the reasons that I keep forgiving Time. It’s not much, but it’s a gesture. And…like everyone else, I have been trained to be grateful for even the gentlest nod . . .


Carolyn Howard-Johnson brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor including awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award. The newest in the series, How to Get Great Reviews Frugally and Ethically, was launched as part of a promotional program to more than 20,000 new readers. All are available in print or as e-book. Learn more at https://howtodoitfrugally.com .


deborah lyn said...

Thank you for this post, Carolyn.

Terry Whalin said...


I used to read Time magazine cover to cover for years but stopped several years ago. Decades ago when I lived overseas in Guatemala I devoured the international edition of Time--discounting everything about Guatemala since it was wrong--but believing every other article in the magazine. It's all a matter of perspective. Thanks for your thought-provoking article.


Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, hopefully your article and others will help to bring attention to the uneven playing field. Women authors and business women deserve the same recognition as men. I've become disillusioned with the media, pretty much across the board. Thanks for sharing!

lastpg said...

I agree with my fellow commenters, your article is an excellent reminder that we--that means everyone--need to stay diligent and realize that we need to constantly be on the lookout for slights, in salaries, emotionally, and politically. Have I forgotten anything?

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