Friday, February 07, 2014

Where Have You Gone, Joanna Russ?

Our Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Back story: This dude, Chris DeFilippis, who I am assured is a perfectly nice dude, though he is letting his privilege show in the comments here a bit, wrote what seems to be an annual post on his blog, the Best/Worst reads of the year.

His friend, fellow blogger, and SF writer, E. Catherine Tobler, noting that all the writers mentioned were male, emailed him, asking what his favorite reads by women writers were.  (More detail in her post here: The Women We Don't See.)

Alors! Chris realized he had read no books by women in 2013.

Or in 2012.

He did admit to having read Octavia Butler in 2011.

Is this a problem?  Although initially Chris seemed to agree it was, in the comments he seems to have a different opinion.

"...gender doesn’t enter into what I choose to read. At all. I just go into my library and grab the book that speaks to me at that moment. Which is why I took umbrage with one twitter replier who recommended a title to “remedy” the situation. It implies an ailment where none exists."


"Which is frankly why I don’t see the point of breaking down our reading habits into yearly percentages. Great fiction should be a discovery and a journey, not a homework assignment to check off a bunch of PC boxes."

So -- like many who hold a privileged position in society, no, Chris does not see a problem with the fact that he reads mostly only writers from his own gender, now and then (once in three years) reading someone who isn't white and male.

Gender doesn't matter to him!  Color doesn't matter to him!  It's just coincidence, see, that he only happens to read white men.  Every.  Single.  Time.

Update:  See also this, over at the Toast:  What Happens When You Tell People You're Only Reading Women.  (Don't skip the comments.)


tigtog said...

Thanks for this post, delagar. As Jim Hines pointed out on Tobler's post, being unintentional doesn't make it a coincidence - the maths just doesn't hold up on that.

I understand the purist temptation within most of us to think that we "just read the work, don't think about the author's background informing the work" but when what happens when we do that is that we over and over again read books by just one segment of society with only very rare exceptions, then that means we are excluding other voices from our reading.

It's all about conscious self-examination of our choices and deciding to step out of our comfort zone. If we don't even acknowledge that we have that comfort zone, and that we tend to navigate choices only within it unless we consciously counteract our habits, then we're saying we have no intellectual curiosity about what lies outside our comfort zone, which seems an odd stance for those who love books and thinking and writing about what they read.

delagar said...