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On Society, Inequality, And (My)Self

A photograph from 1970s Washington of a women's liberation march

Following on from my post on the gender of authors and their characters, I’m wondering if the change from childhood to adulthood has impacted the way I select books. If you haven’t read that post, you may want to first.

As a child I read a lot more books by male authors and had no qualms about reading books filled with male characters. I wonder if the change in my selection process has something to do with the way I’m now an adult and recognise the way women have been treated in general, and treated by men, throughout history. In simple terms, I now see all the inequality in the world, as people are ripe to do as adults.

So has the change from reading mostly male authored books to female been influenced by my adult knowledge of inequality? I know, for example, that I was absolutely over the moon when I read Jodie’s post on the influence of the Olympics and Paralympics on British sport – the Women’s Euro 2013 Football qualifiers were being shown on the BBC; I wanted to text everyone I knew, it felt a triumph for women and any sport that isn’t your bog standard Wayne Rooney football. And it’s good to hear of women in male-centric careers and of the hopeful beginnings of equality in pay.

In regards to my reading as a child, when I was younger I didn’t know about inequality, but once out of school and it’s protective environment I started to become aware of everything bad, and of course only as I got older and started taking an interest in the world in general that I learned of inequality of the sexes. But it wasn’t just this, indeed as a very young child I had preferred the company of my male cousins over females, finding girls and their dolls boring. Growing up saw a change in the gender of friends I made and so changed the ideas that were given to me.

Through this story it is evident that there was a change in my relationship to gender, both naturally through the influence of society, and in the way I responded to girls myself (though that could be said to be down to society too). And there is further change now that I have become particularly interested in women’s issues as an academic subject as well as ongoing interests in sexuality, equality in general, the rise of female education, and any country that isn’t my own.

I would say that I have been influenced by my adult knowledge of inequality as well as my first hand experience as a woman. Where choosing books is concerned I believe that it is a subconscious effort, but it is an effort nonetheless.

Has your place in society and your upbringing been responsible for what you read today?


Tanya Patrice

October 19, 2012, 1:42 am

I don’t so much focus on women’s issues, although I noticed that I read much more books by female authors than by male authors. For me – diversity (or the lack thereof) in the authors that I’ve read in the past, and in the characters of the books I read has been a problem – one that I’m trying to remedy.


October 19, 2012, 11:59 am

Interesting! I’m not sure my upbringing has made much influence (that I am aware of) as I didn’t read much as a child. Although, from what I remember reading (Little Women, Eight Cousins, Blyton etc..) it was very female and author dominant.

Since your last post, where I admitted I am drawn more toward the male author, I have been thinking about my reading patterns. My avoidance of female authors tends to be more in the realm of chick flicks as I do enjoy many good books written by women. Kate Morton and JK Rowling being modern examples. I’ve also begun reading How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, so I need to alter my thinking pattern, get female friendly and support a shared cause.


October 19, 2012, 3:37 pm

This is such a thought provoking post. I was raised in a small town and my sister and I were quite sheltered for a long, long time. I always feel that that led me to my wide range of tastes when it comes to books. I want to learn MORE, I want to know it ALL. I don’t know if I’m more drawn to female or male authors though. I *think* I read more females? I’ll have to pay attention now :)


October 20, 2012, 9:49 pm

I had the traditional girl upbringing – I did like Barbies and dolls and playing house, however, I did start to feel the sting of inequality as a young teen and read most of the feminist classics while in my teens and early twenties.

I do consciously choose to read a majority of books by women because I so often find that when I read books written by men I am not satisfied with or sometimes downright offended by their portrayal of women.

Novel Insights

October 21, 2012, 12:01 am

I think you pose some interesting questions. I don’t personally think my attitude to reading male / female authors has changed as I’ve grown older although to be fair, I was brought up on a diet of “the paper bag princess” so I guess my induction into strong female characters started early. It would be fair to say that I’ve never therefore been very attracted by ‘traditional’ male heroes (James Bond, Biggles etc) but in my teens I actively sought to read books by men perhaps because it gave me an interesting insight into that world! I haven’t done a recent survey of my gender reading habits but I probably am drawn to strong female characters though personally think it’s useful to try to read out of my comfort zone so that is helped by being in a book group with a few blokes!


October 21, 2012, 10:19 am

This is a pretty deep question. I grew up as a girly girl to be honest but I was fine with that. However my family does have a lot of strong educated women in it. But did this effect what I read now? I’m not sure it does. I do know that I was always free to read pretty much whatever I wanted to growing up, and so today I still have a very eclectic taste in books.


October 21, 2012, 1:15 pm

Well said, Charlie, your post makes me sit back and think about why I read the books I read now.

My family is not big on reading, even though my mom occasionally pulls out a fantasy novel and my sister digs into manga once in a while.

I’ve always been attracted to Chinese literature (and Asian lit in general) because of my background and I grew up reading way too many fantasy novels like Robert Jordan’s. I believe this is because I was looking for a way to escape to a world more exciting than my own.

As for male vs female authors and topics, I’ve not really paid attention to that.


October 22, 2012, 4:36 pm

Tanya: I can see where you’re coming from there, it was only when I stopped to think about it that I realised what I was reading. In that way I’m envious of those who’ve always made a concious effort.

Alice: Chick flicks and lit are a very understandable reason for avoiding, it’s a pity in a way that they are so prevalent as books for women because it does sour the outlook somewhat. It’d be interesting to see what’s on your list for combating the pattern.

Jennifer: Oh yes, that want to learn more, here too. It’s weird because in a way I look at my childhood and think wow, it was really sheltered, and yet I suppose it allowed me to miss the stereotypes that can be ingrained in childhood.

Anbolyn: Your saying that, it is kind of the traditional upbringing now, that girls start with dolls and then learn more as they get older. Interesting to read about your book choice. Isn’t it said that we can be put-off by poor portrayals? Not bad, because it’s entirely understandable, but sad that it has to happen.

Novel insights: Different insights, I hadn’t thought of that. A learning curve in itself. Traditional male heroes are a difficult one, because they can often be very attractive in the romantic way, but otherwise so stereotypical that you can’t relate to them at all. A book group with a few men sounds a good one, more diversity in opinions and so on.

Jessica: That makes sense, your upbringing combined with your family as a whole sounds as though you could be who you wanted without limits there. Interesting to hear that it hasn’t affected you, good to have the other side of the story!

Tze-Wen: I like that you brought the question of culture into this discussion. There is a comfort in reading books that align with your background, even if you don’t learn from them because you already know about it. Good point about fantasies, it’s surely a big draw for reading them, and it’s nice in that sense to read books set in the real world but with magic added, for example, because it makes our world seem better.



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