All hail Loganberry Books, an independent bookstore in Cleveland, US, that has been using its bookshelves to make an important statement about the gender gap in fiction.
Visitors who enter the store throughout March won’t fail to notice that the vast majority of books on the fiction shelves have been turned inwards, showing just their pages rather than their spines.
These inward books are the ones written by men, leaving the colourful spines of the minority of books – the ones written by women – standing out in a sea of white (below).
A sign in front of the display reads, “Illustrating the fiction gender gap… We’ve silenced male authors, leaving works of women in view.”
It’s a bold – but brilliant – move from the store, whose staff wanted to do something a bit different to celebrate Women’s History Month, which falls in March.
“Thanks to staff & volunteers for assisting in our performance art project to demonstrate the lopsided ratio of male to female authors,” read a Facebook post shared by the bookstore, along with images of the reshuffled shelves.
“We shelved all the general fiction works by men backwards, leaving only women's works spine-out (and therefore legible). It’s a powerful statement.”
A powerful statement indeed – and also a necessary one.
There are many more published male authors compared to female authors, and the gender gap in literature doesn’t end there.
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The annual VIDA Count, which examines the gender disparity in major literary publications and reviews, consistently finds that women are underrepresented.
For example, the latest figures (for 2015) revealed The New York Review of Books featured 185 women compared to 702 men, The New Yorker featured 323 women compared to 551 men and The Times Literary Supplement featured 917 women compared to 2,221 men.
“Most people recognise that there is a gender disparity in publishing, as there is in most fields, and although it has improved in recent years, it still exists and the history of disparity is still noteworthy,” Harriet Logan, who works at the Loganberry books, told Metro.
“I wondered what that disparity would look like if we could glance at our bookshelves (30 columns, 9,000 books) and actually see it. We chose turning the books backwards as the least disruptive and most visually alluring method.”
“The ‘white out’ effect is both beautiful and nerve-wracking,” she added.
Here’s to more statements like this, and more women in books in the future.