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The Case of Carmen Mola: Does it represent an attack on the visibility of women?

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Carmen Mola has written three books since 2018, a saga of crime novels starring Inspector Elena Blanco, that have sold more than 400,000 copies around the world. On her website, the author described herself as a university professor from Madrid who wrote for recreational purposes and took refuge in anonymity to protect a settled life that has nothing to do with literature. She received the Planeta Award 2021 for her manuscript ‘The Beast’, her first story not starred by Inspector Blanco. It will not be published by Penguin Random House (the publishing house for her previous books) but by its competitor and organizer of the award, Planeta. When calling Mola to receive the check for the literary award, for 1 million euros (close to 1.16 million dollars), instead of a woman, three men appeared. Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Merceros, writers and screenwriters, were the three people who were hiding under the pseudonym, Carmen Mola.

After revealing the identity behind the pseudonym, several reactions were made known. Some defended the justice of the decision on the winner. Since the author’s name was unknown, the quality of the literary work judgement is supposed to be fairer. However, other people accused the trio that they had taken advantage of the rise of the reputation of women in the detective novels field, seeing the use of the pseudonym as a marketing strategy for their books. The authors have defended themselves. “No one would read a book with three names on the cover. And we look for a pseudonym. Someone said Carmen, like that, simple and Spanish. We liked it“. Mola is a word used in Spain to say that you like something. People like Carmen. They also pointed out that they do not know if a feminine pseudonym sells more than a masculine one. The cases of men using women names to publish books are strange to hear, while the stories of Emily Brontë, Louisa May Alcott or J. K. Rowling using a masculine pseudonym are better known.

Alba Varela Lasheras is the owner of the ‘Mujeres & Co.’ bookstore, whose peculiarity is that it only has female authors in its catalogue. She pointed out that, for a long time, women had to use male pseudonyms to survive in an industry that was not for them. Upon learning that there were three men under the pseudonym of Carmen Mola, the bookstore proceeded to remove their books and return them to the publisher. They showed it on a video on Twitter (https://bit.ly/3C8FPqr). “It’s cooler that men don’t occupy everything“, they wrote. Elle magazine included Carmen Mola on the list of women who “inspire us and change the world” for March 8. The writer Sergio del Molino has criticized the decision of some bookstores such as Mujeres & Co. for their decision to withdraw Carmen Mola books. “If before you knew that they were men, you considered that they were good examples of a gender perspective, you have to keep thinking about it, because they have not altered a single letter of the texts“. It seeks to discredit the authors for attacking the visibility of women and usurping a place in this regard. They have been treated as such and earned praise and admiration for their role as a woman. Opponents of the idea that men cannot also fight for the visibility of women, the defence of their rights and the appreciation of the role they play points out that men can also be on women side in their fight. Equality is not just a women’s issue, but a human one.

The morality of having created the character of Carmen Mola as a pseudonym for three men has opened a debate. Beatriz Gimeno, a feminist and activist, accuses the writers of not only inventing a character but also beginning to give interviews under her name, something that, in her opinion, means committing fraud. Although many people feel cheated after the disclosure, giving interviews under a pseudonym does not imply fraud or identity theft in Spain.

The event continues to generate debate about the decision that three men choose a female pseudonym, that certain bookstores remove books by male authors, about discrimination in both cases, the visibility of women in art, among other things. This case has uncovered many realities present in the literary world. The participation of women in book competitions, the number of their awards, their texts, and their influence in the development of some literary genres are a few examples. It remains to investigate further if this case involved a marketing strategy, as many point out, or if the name was nothing more than chance. It also invites us to reflect on whether there is a place for men in women social fights.

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