Singapore Literature Prize Judges Accused of Gender Bias

grace chia

Grace Chia, a poet whose book Cordelia was a finalist for the Singapore Literature Prize, has reportedly accused the prize’s judges of gender bias after they named two male poets co-winners.

Chia voiced her disapproval on the Facebook page of Junoesq Literary Journal. Chia founded the quarterly journal of women’s writing, and its about page states:

The aim is to expand readership of quality women’s writing, which in turn, generates quality women’s writing, for it is a reciprocal relationship that discerning readers often create discerning writers, and vice versa. Through this, Junoesq hopes to be a collective of works, readers and writers that inform each other, not merely on things literary but cultural and artistic, for it is only through awareness, empathy, education and a sense of the aesthetic that moulds a junoesque woman.

Regarding the judges’ decision, Chia wrote, “The fact that the prize has been given to two co-winners who are both male poets is deeply informing of choice, taste and affirmation. A prize so coveted that it has been apportioned to two male narratives of poetic discourse, instead of one outstanding poet – reeks of an engendered privilege that continues to plague this nation’s literary community.”

Gwee Li Sui, one of the judges as well as a poet and critic, refutes Chia’s claim that gender bias played a role in the decision. The Straits Times reports that Sui insists all submissions were evaluated equally and “on the strengths of the collections.” He also notes that all three judges “read blind to race, gender, sexual orientation, politics, and beliefs.”

Established female poet Leong Liew Geok, also a judge, agreed with Sui, emphasizing that the contest was about “quality, quality, quality.”

Read more at The Straits Times.