We live in a meritocracy – a merits-based world untainted by biases and personal prejudices.

To celebrate the shift to a new website, AWW revisits the question of gender bias with Tara Moss, the author whose original stoush with literary reviewer Cameron Woodhead inspired the creation of the challenge this time last year.

Earlier this week, Moss wrote a satirical blog post sending up the opinions of those who have criticised the creation of a women’s only literary prize – and, by implication, efforts like the AWW challenge. In her post, she adopts the posture of someone who believes a “meritocracy” of literary writing exists, and that this meritocracy explains the low number of reviews in literary journals of books by women which the VIDA count has identified. Her adopted persona is baffled by damning evidence from a recent study on gender bias, a study which gives weight to the view that positive discrimination for women is still necessary. Surely such a study must be biased?

Tara has kindly given permission for AWW to post an excerpt of her article here. (It has been taken from the middle section which discusses the gender bias study; you can read the article from the beginning here.)

Moss writes:

…Those who argue that inequality still exists are ‘drama queens’ (Nicolle Flint, The Age, June 2012). Their claims are ‘playing the ‘woman’ card…hypocritical and unsubstantiated’, even downright ‘damaging to merit-based success’ (Flint again, The Age, Nov 2012). Those who bring up the issue of sexism are ‘playing the gender card.

Frankly, it’s privileged whining

It should be – and further more it always is – about the best person for the job. Conscious or unconscious biases about gender, race, political leanings, religious beliefs and personal friendships and histories don’t enter into it.

Strangely, a paper was published recently in PNAS, examining the results of a randomised double-blind study where half of a group of scientists were given applications with a male name attached, and half were given the exact same application with a female name attached. ‘Results found that the “female” applicants were rated significantly lower than the “males” in competence, hireability, and whether the scientist would be willing to mentor the student. The scientists also offered lower starting salaries to the female-named applicants. Apparently the scientists who judged the applications were both male and female, showing – the authors of the study claimed – that a bias against women exists in both genders.

This study was obviously biased. Examining gender bias is an insult to our flawless meritocracy.

I for one wish these so-called scientists and philosophers and politicians and women’s groups would stop all their whinging about equal pay and the ‘sexist’ status quo. Organisations like The Stella Prize should wake up to all this whining they are doing and realise that they are threatening the harmony of our beautiful meritocracy with their questions about bias and their insistence on promoting the writings of women…

Read Tara Moss’s full article, “Our Beautiful Meritocracy”, here.


Tara Moss is a novelist, TV presenter and journalist. Since 1999 she has written and published eight bestselling novels –  Fetish, Split, Covet, Hit, Siren, Assassin, The Blood Countess and The Spider Goddess, and been published in 18 countries in 12 languages. Her 9th novel, The Skeleton Key, publishes in December.