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.