Why has one guy given up reading novels by men in favour of chick lit and romance? Steven Watson reveals all…
Why women’s books?
Before I explain why I have given up men’s books, I should describe what that looks like. For the whole year of 2012, I will not read any full-length books by male authors. The only exceptions are assigned readings for school or work. I am a student teacher and I work part-time as a language arts tutor. I can’t always be picky about what texts I use.
Most of us do more reading than just whole books. I am a reading junkie – I will pick up magazines, newspapers, old album liner notes. And there’s the web, where sometimes I don’t even know who writes what I read, much less her or his gender. So I decided not to try and do this perfectly. I have gotten in the habit of scanning bylines, usually bypassing articles from men. I also visit women’s news sites, blogs and book review sites. It says something about the web that, out of billions of pages, I can almost always find quality women’s journalism or op-ed writing, even about very narrow topics.
Reading women exclusively, though? That would logically mean not even reading my own writing. It’s an ideal, not a goal. But I am sure that, as the year goes on, I will come closer to that ideal.
I know it because I like women’s books. After Steph asked me to write this piece, I spent weeks racking my brain, trying to put into words how I feel about women’s lit, what I want to learn from women and what I want to teach others. But my greatest revelation was that I prefer books by women. I didn’t always. After reading mostly women in 2010 and 2011, I found I preferred their works over those of men. The best way I can explain is that men tell us to watch their characters solve problems, while women invite us to help their characters work through their problems.
Maybe it’s conditioning. Maybe, after 2012, I won’t want to go back to men’s books. Maybe I will work out a percentage or ratio – one man’s books for every four women. Maybe I will be part of an online community where I have to ask permission to read a man’s book. I already formed a book club around the idea of someone else assigning me books. That’s the other element of this project. I am asking women to take the lead. You are, after all, the experts on women’s books.
What about me? Will I ever become an expert? Is that even possible for a man? Will this change the way I treat the women in my life – my wife, my professors, my co-workers?
That is how I will approach this project, and how I hope to spend my year (or longer) of reading women – by asking questions. Before I am anything else, I am a teacher, and education consists of realising how much you have yet to learn. I hope you will join the conversation and share this learning experience with me.
Steven Watson lives with his wife and family in the United States. He writes feminist-friendly book reviews, op-eds and research papers. For more information, visit his blog http://reviewsbystevie.blogspot.com/ or follow him on twitter at http://twitter.com/#!/womensbooksonly