Do interviewers treat male and female authors differently? Eleanor Catton thinks so.
I have observed that male writers tend to get asked what they think and women what they feel. In my experience, and that of a lot of other women writers, all of the questions coming at them from interviewers tend to be about how lucky they are to be where they are -- about luck and identity and how the idea struck them. The interviews much more seldom engage with the woman as a serious thinker, a philosopher, as a person with preoccupations that are going to sustain them for their lifetime.
Catton is certainly not the only female author who has been treated differently by the media because of her gender. In November 2012, NPR's Terry Gross interviewed two-time Man Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel about her writing -- but the interview took an extremely personal turn when she brought up Mantel's experiences with endometriosis (a disease where cells usually found in the womb develop in other parts of the body).
GROSS: So correct me if I’m wrong here. But because of the steroids that you are on to help with your condition…
GROSS: …and I think because of a thyroid condition as well, your weight just about doubled.
GROSS: And you ended up with a completely different body…
MANTEL: That’s right. Yes.
GROSS: …than the one you used to have. How did that change the sense of who you are?
Gross went on to describe Mantel's body as “this alien thing that you ended up in." We can't imagine that a male author's weight would ever be the focus of an interview -- so here's hoping that Catton and her contemporaries continue to speak out about this double standard.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Terry Gross as a "he." We regret the error.