So I was pointed to this article on the lack of female protaginists (more specifically in childrens and YA lit) by NeuronDoc.
I was name-checked in the discussion by Shawn, because I read and recommend a lot of books with female protagonists (especially YA).
So I decided to put my own reading habits to the test. I went through the books I’ve read since Jan 2015 (6) and looked at whether the protagonist of the story was male or female.
However, I’ve been reading a not insignificant amount of historical romance, so to be fair, I did not count romance books in this tally. (5)
I divided the books into three categories: books with male protagonists, books with female protagonists, and books where the narrative is split between male and female characters (this also concludes short story anthologies).
In the year and a half, I read 199 books that were not romances and here’s how the main characters fell out.
Male: 43% (86)
Female: 46% (91)
Split: 11% (22)
Now here is where it gets interesting. As you may well know, I track the gender of the authors of the books. So here’s the gender of the authors I’ve read since Jan 2015. (4)
Male: 23% (57)
Female: 70% (173)
But you excluded romance! That must account for it!
Fantasy 34% (114)
Mystery 33% (112)
Romance 18% (59)
YA 7% (25)
Comic 4% (15)
Anthology 3% (9)
Do I purposely choose authors because they are female? Not really. In fact, 6% of those female authors are writing under a male pseudonym or initials. (To be honest, that’s the real reason I started tracking author sex, because I was curious as to the number of women writing under male pseudonyms.)
It just happens that I tend to prefer female characters and the writing of female authors. Not heavily, after all, some years I read more male authors than female (like when I re-read the Spenser mysteries) (3). But in general, I prefer strong female characters, and the male authors I love tend to write strong female characters (See: Charles de Lint)
What does this mean? Not a whole lot, unless you’ve been listening to people who claim there aren’t any good female authors out there. (2)
I suppose my point is that I could–theoretically–subsist solely upon female authors of I so chose and not feel deprived of quality writing.
But why would I want to? I like reading about male AND female protagonists AND books where the narrative is split between the male and female characters. Because I like reading a variety of viewpoints. (1) But a variety is not a 30/70 split in favor of one gender or the other.
(6) I could have gone back further, but I got bored.
(5) Solely because I wanted to head of claims that my numbers are biased, since romance is dominated by female authors.
(4) For those curious, since 2004 (when I started keeping track) I’ve read 42% male to 50% female authors.
(3) I’m a sucker for private detective mysteries, unless the detective is a sexist pig. Then not so much.
(2) This may be a genre issue–at least that’s where I’ve read the complaints.
(1) See also my current love of Daniel Jose Older