Monday, 6 January 2014

Our Survey* Says: Men Will Not Admit to Reading Books by Women

So there's this, erm, dating website, which, you know, a friend of mine signed up to. And you set up a profile - I mean, my friend set up a profile - and you can include all kinds of stuff but one of the things is what books, films, music, etc. you like. And what kind of food, which I find a bit odd but maybe it's to prevent cucumber-haters falling for cucumber-lovers, because nobody wants that, do they?

Anyway, I have been thinking about the whole men-not-reading-women thing and the women-not-getting-reviewed thing (which I suspect are related phenomena), especially in the light of Matt Jakubowski's resolution to only read books by women. A cursory Monday-evening web search has not turned up any reliable statistics on the extent to which men don't read women, but I do rather like this piece on the W&N blog looking at what the reasons might be.

So while I my friend was browsing the catalogue of single, straight men in Berlin aged between 35 and 45, I my friend was focusing quite closely on what books the men listed in their profiles. For obvious reasons but also with an eye on the gender of the writers. Now I have no idea how many of the damn things I she went through but one thing became clear very, very quickly: single, straight men in Berlin aged between 35 and 45 are damn well not going to admit to reading books by women.

Here are the women writers listed by the study sample:
Sylvia Plath
Annemarie Schwarzenbach
Toni Morrison
Virginia Woolf
Angela Carter 
Ursula LeGuin (twice)
JK Rowling (twice, although the subjects actually referred to her character, but let's try not to judge)

Here are the male writers listed by the study sample:
Graham Greene 
TC Boyle
Stanislav Lem
Thomas Bernhard
Max Frisch
Philip Roth
Sven Regener
Javier Marias
Henrik Ibsen
Walter Benjamin
JD Salinger
Marcel Proust
Stefan Zweig
George Orwell
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Theodor Adorno
Jack Kerouac
Mikhail Bulgakov
Rainald Goetz
Neil Gaiman
David Foster Wallace
Chuck Palahniuk
Michel Houellebecq
Raymond Carver
Oscar Wilde
Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Albert Camus
Anton Chekhov
Charles Bukowski (twice)
Hermann Hesse (twice)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez (twice)
Miguel de Cervantes (twice)
Haruki Murakami (twice)
Milan Kundera (twice)
Paulo Coelho (twice)
Franz Kafka (three mentions)

Now listen, I'm aware that people don't tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth on online dating profiles. And you wouldn't want to put down some totally obscure writer because  nobody likes a clever dick. And maybe non-single men or men in other cities and other age groups or with other sexualities are all digging into Jane Austen and Judith Butler like crazy. But isn't it fascinating? Only nine out of shitloads of men admit to reading books by women!

I hope the study sample doesn't read this en masse and get upset. I mean, guys, read whatever you like, even Coelho. The solution, it seems to me, is for the women of Berlin to bombard their (straight, single) male friends and acquaintances (in Berlin, between 35 and 45) with books written by women, so that a) they read them in the first place and b) they get a tacit message that women find books by women sexy. Thank you. 

*Not strictly scientific

Update: my friend has left the dating site. She found it troubling to "rate" people out of five, especially based on a very limited self-description that tended to make everyone, herself no doubt included, seem either utterly banal and uninteresting or borderline psychiatric cases. Plus the men she liked didn't like her back, and the algorithm suggested she ought to make contact with someone who listed Atlas Shrugged as his favourite book. And don't say 'At least it's by a woman'.   


EP said...

Are there really any humans out there (male or otherwise) who haven't read JK Rowling?

lobedentag said...

I love this text! And it reminded me of 2 things I heard recently (=within the past 3 months) 1. Marcel Reich-Ranicki answered to the question, why he did not read female with a list of approximately 25 superfamous male writers from Shakespeare to Thomas Mann or something, like, Hello? I could answer to the reverse question with approximately 25 great female writers...
2. The nobel prize for Literature would have to be given only to women over the next 90 year to finally get the gender relation back into balance.
So: I think, your datas are not too unscientifically.
Good Night and keep on writing and researching Susanne

Harvey Morrell said...

I will happily admit to reading Flannery O'Connor, Jane Austen, Laura Lippman, Sue Grafton, Hertha Müller, Virginia Woolf, Doris Dörrie, etc.

kjd said...

Thanks Susanne! Luckily, MRR already had a wife and so presumably never set up an online dating profile.

Harvey, you're obviously the perfect reader of gender-neutral material.

And EP, I've never read JK Rowling. But I have seen the films.

Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a nice text! Well written!
Just behind me on the shelf are these books I like very much:
Hillary Mantel, A Place of Greater Safety (Absolutely gorgeous, terrific, frightening book about the French Revolution) and Beyond Black
Maeve Brennan, Tanz der Dienstmädchen (Short Stories from New York)
Miranda July (10 Wahrheiten und It Chooses You)
5 books or so from Antonia Byatt
Katherine Mansfied (Collected Short Stories, very entertaining)
Annette von Droste-Hülshoff (Sämtliche Werke)
Several books from Oriana Fallaci, Brigitte Kronauer
Else Lasker-Schüler, Mary Shelley and Jane Austen (Emma, Pride and Prejustice)
Simone de Beauvoir (Das andere Geschlecht, Die Mandarine von Paris)
and Christine Resch, Schöner Wohnen: Zur Kritik von Bourdieus "feinen Unterschieden"
I even read and liked the diaries of Alice Schmidt, wife of Arno!
I'm not on a dating site but I would certainly mention these books there.

The Male Anonymous Coward

kjd said...

Thank you, MAC. You should sign up to a dating site.

Unknown said...

If I were to give my favourite writers (and were limited to, say, five), I doubt that many (if any) women would appear. That is most definitely not to say that I don't read books by female writers - it's just that I would have a good few male writers before the first woman...

nick keller said...

Can we not call this a "study" please? Good lord.