Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, October 29, 2010


This post is preaching to the choir. The choir being Katie, who has heard me talk about such things a number of times in a number of different ways. In fact, I'm kind of embarrassed to be talking about it again, and wish I could come up with some more elegant way of making my point. But I again found myself thinking these thoughts last evening, and on the off chance someone other than Katie reads my blog, thought I'd put them out there.

My roommate said she didn't like the chapter in Michelle Tea's Rent Girl called "How I Hated Men." I too did not appreciate the perpetuation of this stereotype that feminists and lesbians are man-haters (I was also flustered by the perpetuation of the stereotype that vegans waste away from lack of nourishment). At the same time, I appreciated Tea's sentiments and could relate to them.

I read Rent Girl for my Contemporary Memoir class (those of you who don't know me, I'm an MFA at University of Idaho). An upcoming book for the class is We Did Porn by Zak Smith. Today I first associated the name (Zak Smith) with the title and had the gut reaction, "I don't want to read a book about porn written by a man. A man's perspective isn't interesting/worth hearing." Of course, I knew I should give him a chance and that men can have perspectives worth hearing. But I feel like more and more I lose interest in male authors. The male perspective feels like "been there, done that." It's what we've all grown up reading/hearing/seeing. I can't tell you what the qualitative difference between male authors and female authors is, but I feel one. Maybe it's something subtle that only other women are attuned to, some recognition of a certain shared experience.

But think about it. If you're in school, count how many books by female authors your teachers are assigning you in comparison to how many books by male authors. Teachers are getting better and better at assigning women as well as men, but this difference is still large. English, philosophy, biology, anthropology, etc. Any department you are in you will be reading male authors. I can guarantee it. But will you read women? Maybe. If you want to be guaranteed to hear female voices, you have to take women's studies. Ditto with queer voices and queer studies. Women are something to be studied, not valid contributors themselves. You have to go out searching for women, but the male perspective is all up in your face whether or not you want it.

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