In Monday’s WDD, we look at the (depressing) results of a study into female representation in fiction. Plus, London Mayor Sadiq Khan pays tribute to an Indian suffragette princess; a new hormone-free contraceptive is set to launch in the UK; and a women’s TV channel is shut down in Gaza.
Women better represented in Victorian novels than modern, study finds
A new study has identified a huge drop in the number of female authors being published from the mid-19th to the mid-20th century – a decline that was accompanied by a parallel nosedive in the number of female characters in novels.
Academics at the University of Illinois and the University of California at Berkeley used an algorithm to analyse more than 100,000 works of fiction published between 1780 and 2007. While they expected to see female characters increase in prominence over the two centuries, they found instead “a story of steady decline” from the 19th century to the early Sixties.
They also saw “a fairly stunning decline” in the number of books written by women in the first half of the 20th century, something that they link to the reduction in female characters.
“Women go from representing almost half the authors of fiction to barely a quarter,” write Ted Underwood, David Bamman and Sabrina Lee in their paper in the Journal of Cultural Analytics.
“If this trend is real, it is an important fact about literary history that ought to be foregrounded even, say, in anthology introductions. But the story has not been widely publicised.”
The Guardian has more on this story; you can read it here.
Sadiq Khan pays tribute to radical Indian princess
Indian suffragette Princess Sophia Duleep Singh has been honoured by London Mayor Sadiq Khan. On Monday, Khan said that Singh’s name will be one of those engraved into the plinth of the soon-to-be-unveiled Millicent Fawcett statue.
The Fawcett statue, set to be revealed to the public in April, will be the first statue of a woman to be erected in Parliament Square. The names of 55 women and four men who helped fight for women’s suffrage in the UK will be etched into its base – a nod to the fact that Fawcett, a suffragist, was just one figure in the wider campaign for votes for women.
Writing on Instagram, Khan said: “Princess Sophia was a member of the Women’s Social and Political Union, and campaigned for women’s votes nationally as well as locally in Richmond and Kingston-upon-Thames. She was often seen selling newspaper The Suffragette outside Hampton Court, and led a 400-strong demonstration to Parliament on Black Friday in 1910. A committed campaigner to women’s rights more broadly, Sophia also belonged to the Women’s Tax Resistance League.”
Read more about Princess Sophia’s inspiring story here.
New hormone-free contraceptive to launch in the UK
A new form of contraception set to launch in the UK in April has been hailed as a safe and effective alternative to hormonal contraceptives. The IUB Ballerine is a ball-shaped plastic and copper IUD, and can stay over 99% effective for five to 10 years without removal.
Unlike taking the Pill, the IUB Ballerine doesn’t require daily ‘upkeep’ – and the lack of hormones means that it may be preferable for women who experience unpleasant mood swings and other negative side effects as a result of hormonal contraception. After extensive clinical trials in Europe, Israel and Africa, the IUB was also found to reduce the risk of uterine complications.
It will be available in the UK via private clinics from April, before potentially being rolled out to NHS providers.
Read more about the IUB here.
Women’s TV channel blocked in Gaza
A new television channel for women has been blocked in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, hours before it was due to launch.
Officials from Hamas, the militant Islamist group that dominates control of Gaza, claim that Taif TV – the company behind the channel – had not secured the correct licenses. But representatives for Taif TV said that all legal requirements had been met.
Taif TV said that the channel was intended to “shed light on Palestinian women as an integral part of the social fabric, and the role of women in building society”, and promised to keep fighting for it to be launched.
Read more on this story at BBC News.
Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.
Images: Nguyen Nguyen / Rex Features / Courtesy of OCON