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Emilia Bassano isn’t the only woman denied her place in the literary canon | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

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This week’s report into the gender gap for authors is a timely reminder of bias in the media against female writers

Have you heard of Emilia Bassano? I hadn’t until this week, when her name was lent to a report on media coverage of male versus female writers. Bassano was England’s first published female poet, in 1611, and a play has been written about her struggle for recognition. It’s good timing – across the arts, people have been dredging the depths to conjure up history’s forgotten women and, in the case of books, reassess the canon.

The Emilia report into the gender gap for authors, commissioned by the play’s producers and written by Danuta Kean, found a “marked bias” towards male writers in the review pages of newspapers. Furthermore, references to women’s ages were ubiquitous, and female writers told Kean how coverage tended to focus on the domestic rather than the academic. The report also highlights cover design as a factor in gender bias – gender stereotypes on covers “undermine the credibility of fiction by women and their ability to be taken seriously”.

Related: Male and female writers’ media coverage reveals ‘marked bias’

Related: How Was It for You? by Virginia Nicholson review – women, sex and power in the 1960s

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