I want you to ask yourself this question: how many books have I read that were written by female authors? And then I want you to think about how that compares to the number of books you’ve read by male authors.
Now, as you think about that I’m going to tell a little story. It’s a good one, I promise.
On what appeared to be a relatively normal Tuesday in October of 2018, my class for Intro to Magazine Publishing was partaking in an assignment where we had to bring in a book to show the class and submit a short review for it. Why we were told to bring in a book for a course about magazines, I’m not sure. As everyone went around and talked about their books, I looked to my friend sitting beside me and noticed that she was taking a tally of who brought a book written by a man versus who brought a book written by a woman, and the final tally was rather telling. It appears that in a class that was more or less 90% females and 10% males, essentially every single male in that class brought in a book that was, you guessed it, written by a man. Honestly, I didn’t see anything wrong with this initially because of course men are going to praise the work of other men, though it would be nice if they praised something written by a woman. But you see, this didn’t sit well with my friend, whom I love with all my heart and is my feminist inspiration for all things. I then witnessed her going to each man in our class and asking the very question I just posed, which is how many books have you read that were written by female authors. And there was one answer that stuck out to all of us and is still burned into my brain to this very day. That person, who shall obviously remain nameless, answered her question by stating that he doesn’t read women authors because he doesn’t want to and he never will.
I can understand being a man and not reading women authors because your genre of choice is male dominated and therefore majority of the books you’ve read are all by men. I can choose to be upset that publishers and audiences aren’t giving women authors the chance to write for the genre but I also feel like that’s a different battle. It’s bad enough that we live in a world where women authors have to change their pen names, much like Victoria (V.E) Schwab had to do, so men wouldn’t pass over their work simply because it’s written by a woman. But what I cannot understand is being a man and deliberately choosing to never read a book simply because it’s written by a woman without rhyme or reason other than being sexist and misogynistic.
Now, have you figured out the answer to my question? I can tell you what my answer is. In the hundreds of books I have read so far in my 25 years of living I can confidently say that almost all of them have been written by women. As for the books I’ve read that were written by men? In the last three or so years, I could probably count on one hand how many there were. And I’m proud of that.
I wouldn’t say that I am against men writing books or that I look down on people who read books by men, but for me, I personally don’t want to read books by men because I don’t trust them to do the female character justice. I really don’t. Especially in YA fiction, which has been female dominated for so long that it was never something I thought about, and might be the reason why I’m such a supporter and advocate for the genre, but I don’t have enough faith in a man to write a female character in such a way that would have a positive effect on the teenage minds that are still being shaped and moulded. I wouldn’t want to be 16 and read about a girl in a story that serves to be nothing more than a sex object for the male hero and is later killed off to serve as the hero’s character development. I don’t want a man to tell me how to live, how to look, how to act, how to speak, or, above all, how to be desirable to other men through a character I might relate to. And that’s what makes my stance different from the stance of my past classmate because while his reason is rooted in pure misogyny, mine is essentially rooted in safety and comfort for my person and lack of trust in men to do women the justice they deserve.
If you don’t believe me, I encourage you to check out this list that Buzzfeed compiled of all the times that male authors have written female characters so poorly that it made me question my stance on being romantically attracted to the gender as a whole. And if those excerpts don’t sway your judgement then maybe the overall prose would because even in the shortest excerpts I could barely get through them.
I should probably say that while I absolutely endorse and support women authors, I don’t mean to say that male authors aren’t valid because I’m sure there are a lot out there that are great at writing concise stories with great worlds, characters, and thematic elements that change your life. I’m also not saying that women authors are absolutely perfect at the craft, either. But what I am saying is that I am wary of reading books by men and having my person and my gender feel respected and validated, and I trust a woman to do the job infinitely better. That’s why I choose not to read books written by men. However, there are times when I hear men say they refuse to read books written by women I, in turn, do the same to them out of spite and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
I can only speak on myself and what I believe but I would rather read the works of a woman and have her words change me, and support her work as much as I can, than give yet another man in this male-dominated world more of my time when I can simply give it to a woman instead.