I’ve just read the most strangely ill-informed post: Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog – books: Women authors must drop domestic themes, by Muriel Gray. She’s a judge of the all-women Orange prize, and writes that if the books selected for this prize are indicative of "women’s literary health then we would have little to worry about", which I take to mean that they are not, on the whole, centred on domestic themes. The rest of the piece is a vague attack on the "increasing lack of inventiveness and imagination" by women authors, urging them to "break free of their gender constraints". There are plenty of sweeping statements like this one: "But while these wonderful authors are representative of the very best women writers they are not, sadly, representative of the majority of women authors currently being published." No examples given.
So according to Muriel Grey, if you are an author and a woman, you should write (or rather, not write) a certain type of book? I think this is to misunderstand the point in the most basic way. People who write, write about what inspires them. They may write about "domestic themes" and be called Jane Austen or Gustave Flaubert. They may write outside the domestic theatre and be called J. K. Rowling or Philip Pullman. Who cares? A book speaks to the reader. Whether it is written by a man or a woman, or provides insights via focusing on domestic themes or through a broader canvas is irrelevant. Tollope, Dickens, Eliot, the Brontes — pigeonholing is just silly. The idea that women authors are a set of people writing about the ironing, and who will change their ways via a Muriel Grey lecture, is in itself rather a strange world-view.