On Saturday I’m going to the xx minifest of women’s writing in Chapter Arts Centre, Cardiff. It promises to be a celebration of women’s writing in Wales, and might just give me the impetus to get my own neglected creative efforts back on track. But should I even be going?

 

This week, xx minifest co-organiser Susie Wild wrote a guest column in the Western Mail defending the all-women event. And it really struck a chord. A few months ago, you see, I blogged (below) about my discomfort with women-only events. In this instance it was in relation to networking, but the principle could apply in many scenarios. If we’re trying so hard to combat inequality (and we still are, despite it being almost a century since Emily Davison threw herself under King George V’s horse), then shouldn’t minifests include writers whatever their gender?

 

Women read more than men, and buy more books than men. Yet fiction by women doesn’t dominate the awards shortlists (unless you’re a certain H. Mantel) and genres such as ‘chick-lit’ are often referred to with a slight sneer. Some critics seem to have been waiting for JK Rowling’s ‘grown up’ book to fall flat on its face, whilst the literary merit of EL James’ work is constantly picked over, despite her phenomenal sales.

 

My own published short stories have been in anthologies by Honno, which publishes the work of women in Wales and which is involved in the xx minifest. I like to think that my submissions would have been equally as successful had the calls for stories also been open to men – but I haven’t lost sleep over it. I’m grateful for the opportunity to get into print and be part of two well-received and successful anthologies by a reputable organisation.

 

The good news is that men are very welcome to attend the xx minifest (and might do so in great numbers, as it just happens to clash with the Oktoberfest Beer Festival at the same venue). If they were banned altogether, I don’t think I’d be able to hand over my £15 entrance fee and take it seriously. But as long as ‘women’s fiction’ is still ever-so-slightly second-best to ‘fiction’, full stop, – and as long as guest editors need a whole column to explain the raison d’etre of an event like the minifest, then I’ll be in the front row.