At a recent literary prize ceremony, author Carmen Mola’s book, The Beast, won the top prize of $1.2mm – but to the audience’s great surprise, three men stepped on stage to receive it, revealing they were the authors.
Up until that point, no one had reason to suspect Mola was not female. On her authors pages, Mola is described as a writer, university professor, wife, and mother; a photo depicts a woman with her face turned away from the camera. The authors spent years doing interviews as Mola, and created an entire persona that many believed was real.
Some say the male authors are "scammers” – and argue it was disingenuous to position themselves as female – especially when their work was recommended by a Spanish Women's Institute as "feminist reading" designed to "help us understand the reality and experiences of women in history."
Some people point out that female authors have long adopted male or gender-neutral pen names to help them sell books.
However: others argue that an author’s gender matters because women often read books written by women (per @goodreads , new female authors’ readership tends to be ~80% female). And female readers comprise about 80% of the fiction market.
Reading about Mola got us thinking…
? Is there something unethical about a man writing under a female pen name? And is it unethical for a woman to write under a male pen name?
? Can male authors writing female characters portray an authentic female experience? Or is there something about the female experience that male authors will never capture? (and vice versa with female authors/male characters)
? In the 90s, a Japanese poet named Araki Yasusada (who supposedly survived Hiroshima) was found to be a middle-aged white man in Illinois. Is there something unethical about choosing a pen name/persona that does not accurately represent your own ethnic or cultural background (or personal experiences)?
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