It’s International Women’s Day and to celebrate we are asking who is your favourite female author and what women writers recently rocked your socks?
I may write about non-fiction these days, but my early years were filled with fiction written by women. This is not because I felt strongly about reading female authors but because once someone placed a copy of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty in my tiny hands I became utterly obsessed with books about ponies. Between pestering my folk’s to buy me anything by Christine Pullein-Thompson and rampaging through the library looking for all things equine, if it had a horse in it, I tracked it down and read it with a dedication that was sadly missing from my devotion to schoolwork.
My first favourite writer was an Australian woman who wrote poetry and passion about horses and the Australian bush – Elyne Mitchell of the Silver Brumby series fame. Long before I could pronounce it, I yearned to see the slopes of Mount Kosciusko and its silver gums and herds of brumbies. (In fact, I’m not sure I can pronounce it. Cos-kus-zio? Cosk-usque-yo? Can I just call it the Big K?)
In college, I learned to love a bit of Jane Austen, Margaret Atwood and Ruth Park and spent more time digesting non-fiction – Naomi Klein take on consumerism and the media in her book’s No Logo and Shock Doctrine, Susan Faludi on feminism and how gender expectations affect both sexes. It wasn’t all heavy reading and high literature – I frequently sought some light relief with Robin Hobb who I’ve been reading for over a decade now and I still think writes some of the best character-driven fantasy out there.
Recent releases by women hogging the best spots on my bookshelf include Mira’s Grants Feed, a tale of politics and media in the post-zombie apocalypse world with a suitably savvy and complex female protagonist, and Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender, a study of neurosexism – the idea that hard-wired differences in the brains of the sexes accounts for the gender status quo – which is particularly appropriate for the day that is in it.
Not that the day was conceived as a recent idea in the battle against sexist pseudo-science – originally called International Working Women’s Day, it has Eastern European and socialist origins and was first observed in 1911 in Germany. Demonstrations for International Women’s Day in Russia were the first stage of the Russian Revolution of 1917. While the day has changed since its inception, the original political and human rights theme still runs strong, and political and social awareness of the struggles of women worldwide are highlighted, with reasons for cheer celebrated. In 1977 the United Nations General Assembly invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women’s Rights and International Peace.
And for those of you wondering, there is also an International Men’s Day on November 19, with a focus on men’s and boy’s health, improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models. On the internet there is also an unofficial consensus that March 14th is Steak and Other Nice Thing we won’t name here Day, but I have never seen why both genders can’t enjoy that. I can even put on a great vegan chilli for the non-steak eaters out there.
Happy International Women’s Day, and happy reading!