2014 is officially The Year of Reading Women, thanks to the ReadWomen campaign (you can follow on Twitter here), and the growing disgruntlement among the reading community at the ratio of men to women winning literary awards and being featured in publications like the LRB. Gender has been an ongoing issue in the literary world for years, with both sexes commenting on the fact that more men than women win important awards like the Booker, and books written by men are taken more seriously than ‘chick lit’ and ‘women’s fiction’.
I’ve often thought that the only female writers who are revered as much as their male counterparts are those that are over the age of fifty and have been writing long enough to ‘prove themselves’ – perfect examples being Margaret Atwood and Alice Munro. They are seen as wise older women who, in their grey years, finally have the experience and, I don’t know, authority to write and be truly praised without being slotted into some sort of women’s genre.
That isn’t to say that the world and the literary community do not respect female writers, but for a long time there was/still is a general feeling that men were somehow superior to women (that old chestnut) when it came to writing about the world, whether fictional or real. It’s the way things work in a lot of areas, even if not overtly. Women often come second. But, as much as I hate chick lit, as least we have our own genre. And now that it’s all referred to as women’s fiction is even better, as chick is inherently a demeaning word, used by the type of people who also refer to women as birds. No thanks.
Women’s fiction as a genre is extremely broad, but I like the idea that women write fiction specifically for other women sometimes. The only downside to this is the perception that fiction written by a woman is only for other women, and I think this has caused a lot of fiction by women to be dismissed in some way as either chick lit or women’s interests, i.e. romance, motherhood, and lunch with friends. This just isn’t the case.
My point – got there in the end – is that not enough people, generally, read books by women. And that’s not my fact, it’s one that is generally agreed upon by everyone, otherwise #ReadWomen2014 would not be happening. I think it’s great, and I really support it. But, however, I am not personally making 2014 my year of reading women. And that is because almost everything I read is written by women. Browsing through my reviews from 2012 and 2013, the vast majority of books are written by women; same goes for my bookshelves. Not a bad thing per se, but the appearance of ReadWomen in my timeline made me think about this. Maybe I need to read more books written by men? It’s very easy to fall into habits of reading the same types of books over and over (my boyfriend tells me that every book I read is sad – someone always dies or cries), and I like the idea of breaking some habits for the new year.
So, I am making 2014, for me, the year of continuing to read women, but reading many more books by men. Not exactly a catchy campaign title, but it works for me.
What are your reading habits going to be in 2014? Are you going to ReadWomen?
A great post about ReadWomen2014 can be found on A Life In Books.