#readwomen2014

“It’s a truth universally acknowledged that, although women read more than men, and books by female authors are published in roughly the same numbers, they are more easily overlooked.”

I just read this article from the Guardian about gender disparity in the book industry, which reveals itself in surprising ways. Books by women will get flowery, pastel covers even if the covers have nothing to do with the book, and they’ll often feature young women, as if to mark them as “girl books”. (Think about it: How often do you see books by male authors with young men on the cover?) Books by women get reviewed significantly less often, too, and when they do, it’s with adjectives like “delightful” or “warm and sensuous” (words that are rarely used to describe men’s writing).

So Joanna Walsh started the hashtag #readwomen2014, and is making a point of reading more books by women this year as a way of reducing that gap. I was surprised to realize that I have actually been doing that too, without even intending to.

The funny thing is that in 2012, when I did my Year of Feminist Reading, I thought about doing a year of reading only books by women, and I couldn’t bring myself to do it. But lately I have just felt deeply drawn to stories by and about women. It’s extended to my movie-and-television-watching: The Golden Girls, Scandal, Calendar Girls, Erin Brockovich, For Colored Girls, Pride and Prejudice, Buffy, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Banger Sisters, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Heat, Pitch Perfect, A League of Their Own, Black Swan, Thelma & Louise (almost all for the first time, except Thelma & Louise, Pride and Prejudice, and Pitch Perfect, which I’ve now seen approximately one billion times each). Of the seven books I’ve read so far this year, it turns out that only one has been written by a man. And on top of that, the two I’m now in the middle of—one audiobook and one hardcover—are both by women. When I finish these, I’m thinking of getting out Little Women again.

“Consider whether you might have been a victim of inequality, missing out on good writing because of a pink dust jacket. Just for a change, make sure the next book you read is by a woman. While female writers may encounter similar obstacles, their work is diverse as men’s: there is a book by a woman for every kind of reader.” I can certainly attest to this, because I see myself as a fairly obnoxious sell for certain types of books; I will go far out of my way to avoid buying a book with a pink dust jacket. And I have read some truly amazing literature by women.
“Everyone wants change, but is reluctant to make a change. As readers, perhaps we should take a little responsibility: after all, the buck stops with the book buyer.”
How fantastic is it that in order to create this kind of change, I just have to keep doing something I love?
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