When I was in middle school, all of the girls in my class were given a book called Jacob Have I Loved to read while the boys were given something called Hatchet. One story was a girls’ story about learning to accept not being as pretty as your sister. The other was a boys’ story about surviving in the wilderness, except, unlike the Boxcar Children, was not at all about learning to decorate a studio on a budget and thus was very boring. I know because I read both.
That’s not unusual, according to MA Sieghart, who used numbers in The Guardian to prove something most people who read already know unaided by statistics: Women read books by men, but men don’t read books by women:
“For the top 10 bestselling female authors (who include Jane Austen and Margaret Atwood, as well as Danielle Steel and Jojo Moyes), only 19% of their readers are men and 81%, women. But for the top 10 bestselling male authors (who include Charles Dickens and JRR Tolkien, as well as Lee Child and Stephen King), the split is much more even: 55% men and 45% women.”
The most common ask, when presented with evidence like this, is for men to simply pick up a tome penned by a woman and move their eyes over all the words. However, as proven for me, definitively, by the fellow grad student who once referred to the English department’s Women in Literature course (which effectively represented that particular department’s sole attempt at deviating from the primarily white, male canon) as our “Ladies Tea Party,” men do not want to read books written by women, even when those men are studying literature in graduate programs.
What I suggest instead, is that the rest of us just leave them to their white dude books and stop reading them. There are only six stories contained in all of them together anyway. Trust me, as a Ph.D. who had to read hundreds of books to win that useless string of letters, and then also just read hundreds more because I like to be holding something while I’m ignoring people, if you’ve read these six, then you have read them all:
My Beautiful Wife is Mentally Fragile, and I Drink Too Much by Men
That War Certainly Contained Elements of the Grimly Absurd by Men
It Was Hot in That Uncivilized Place, and the Weather is a Metaphor by Men
That War Certainly Taught Us Some Absolutely Universal for Everyone Things That Are Heartbreaking by Men
This Class System Is Oppressive Specifically and Only to Me, and I Drink Too Much by Men
I Would Very Much Like to Have Sex With Someone Who Does Not Want to Have Sex With Me, Causing Me, a Character Who Is a Middle-Aged Writer, to Think About Other Reasons I am Unhappy by Men