How To Get Women Interested In Books Again?

Sad times, guys. Sad times. It turns out that the book world – an industry I had always presumed to be dominated by women writers, women readers and women workers – has fallen victim to gender prejudices and sexism. Women hardly ever seem to be shortlisted for book awards anymore, they rarely write book reviews and the books that are reviewed are usually books by men. This leads me to only one conclusion: women have abandoned books. At some point, they must have stopped writing them, stopped reading them, sold their Ikea shelving and left the literary community.

It is disheartening to think about bookshops full of fellas perusing the bookshelves without being able to peruse female perusers. Or to think of all the male employees left in publishing houses, condemned to work only with colleagues of their own gender (if only women knew how that felt). Or to think of all the historical fiction that will now need to be ghostwritten.

When I think back to the times my own mother used to sit on the edge of my bed and read to me, I find I can no longer recall my mother actually being there. No doubt this too is a sign of the times and is in no way related to what my therapist calls ‘abandonment issues’.

But men (and women, if you’re reading this, although I’m lead to believe you don’t do that anymore) we must not delay. It’s a known fact that women make up some of the world’s population and I propose that women could be a key reading demographic for booksellers and publishers again.

But how to bring them back into the fold? There is little doubt that having given up on books, women have now been seduced by the other distractions of the modern world. Distractions such as the internet, video games, social networking, The Social Network, other movies, playing ball on a string and playing ball on a string on the internet. It is becoming tougher and tougher to get people reading in general (let alone women). Rival mediums such as movies, television and ebooks dominate in a world where reading has become old-fashioned.

So how do we get women off these distractions and into books? Now that we know women, like teenagers, are addicted to any type of entertainment except for books, we simply need to make books less like books and more like all of the above. That way, we’ll trick women back into books. We’ll put books on iPads, include some illustrations, animate page corners and add a few ready-to-play sounds to different parts of the touchscreen tablet. We’ll just have to be careful that any text we include doesn’t distract the reader from the fact that they’re reading a book.

Or we could organise some kind of formal collective of women, which joins together and connects socially through the prism of one interchangeable book on, say, a monthly basis. We could even give it a snazzy name like Formal Book Collective. Or any other name that we come up with.

The book industry itself will need an injection of women at grassroots levels. So let’s try talking to some women we know to see if they’d be interested in publishing books, staffing libraries, teaching at primary schools or editing literary journals. Now I can hear you saying already, Andrew, I just can’t imagine women dominating so many thankless positions in the community. But I believe we can do. Because if there’s something men know how to do, it’s try to get a woman to come back even when she really, truly doesn’t want to. We’ll try and try until the restraining order comes and then we’ll start calling her friends. And that’s exactly the kind of dedication we’ll need.

Finally, there are the women writers. How to get them writing books again, so that we might again see women nominated for book awards and reviewed in our newspapers? This is possibly the hardest question to answer. After all, you cannot easily coax a woman into having an idea of her own that she slaves over for eight years and finally submits to a publishing house, before being under-compensated, over-hyped, published, not reviewed in favour of a review by a man for a man’s book and ignored by a panel of book award judges who…

Oh. I get it. Women are still writing books. They’re just not being recognised by the gatekeepers. They’re probably still reading and working in books too. Oh, I’m sorry, literary ladies. My bad. It’s just that I hadn’t heard about you for a while, and then I stopped thinking about you and I didn’t see you pop up on Facebook and…well, anyway, I apologise. I will pay better attention from now on. As soon as I finish playing this crazy Alice in Wonderland book on my iPad.

Comments

  1. I even forgot that I knew how to read let alone write!

    Great post to wake up to.

  2. I’m a woman and I read. Like crazy. And I know a lot of women who do too.. Just saying :)

  3. Very clever, Andrew! You angling for votes? ;-P

  4. An article on how men are being alienated by the publishing industry.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jason-pinter/why-men-dont-read-how-pub_b_549491.html

  5. Chris Gordon

    On you Andrew, on you. I’ll be sending the link around.
    Anyway you should have come to this event that was held at Readings for International Women’s Day where a panel of women publishers, editors and authors all spoke on this topic. Women are talking and doing to change the situation.

  6. It’s weird because in your bachelor thing post you said “You don’t under­stand why women …
    …read so many more books than men. As soon as you leave pri­mary school the read­ing gen­der scales tip dra­mat­i­cally towards women. I find it some­what inex­plic­a­ble. C’mon guys! Don’t you know books are cool and ‘nerd’ is the new ‘buff’.”

  7. @Karen, there’s the possibility that I’m being heavily sarcastic in this post.

  8. I was just about to say the same thing! And I beg to differ if anything (at least here in the states) women read WAY MORE than men. However if we were measuring the quality of the kinds of literature each gender reads then I’d agree. I’ve gotten better book recommendations by guys than some of my girl friends.

  9. Why hello there.

    I’m looking down and I’m pretty sure I’ve got boobs so I’m pretty sure that I count as female and I’m pretty sure I like books. In fact, I LOVE books. Books are everything. As is writing. Just sayin’…

    I can’t believe you have a blog!! YOU! Andrew McDonald! Yay! I just posted your “A Pictorial Guide to Avoiding Camera Loss” on one of my recent posts. And dang, there were so many comments about you! Everyone was going CRAZY about you!

    http://idontskinnydipichunkydunk.blogspot.com/2011/04/when-i-was-eight-i-proudly-declared.html

    Hey, whaddya know? That’s the link to the post with you in it! You should visit my blog. I want you to. Hence the link I’ve just given you. Go. Go now. Visit my blog. Make my day by following it. Look at it. Smell it. Feed it grapes.

    (If you do go on my blog to see your pictures, you may have to scroll down a bit to find it.)

    So…can I buy your book?

    Peas out. :P

  10. Hi Eeshie! Thanks for your comment. And please don’t take this blog post too seriously. Maybe I needed sarcasm font.

    Anyway, you can buy my book on Kindle, which is probably the cheapest option if you’re in the US – http://www.amazon.com/Greatest-Blogger-World-ebook/dp/B004D38886/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&m=A24IB90LPZJ0BS&s=books&qid=1304036008&sr=8-1

    Thanks for commenting! Ax

  11. Ok, so maybe not holding a Y chromosome made it hard to read, and it wasn’t until the very end that I FINALLY ‘got’ the sarcastic tone of this but rather than being frustrated, this actually made me think. Scary but true!

    Anyway, a great post! I laughed at the end, and coudn’t believe how confused and conflicted you made me feel initially!

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