I came across an article that mirrors a bit what I’ve been doing since my pregnancy. I focus on reading books by female writers. Particularly feminist books, but any books written by females will provide you with a different perspective on writing and the world really. Women experience this world in a different way. In times of #metoo a lot of people are more aware of this. But #metoo focuses on one area only. We have to ask ourselves where else a woman’s perspective differs from what we’re used to hearing about the world. Even as women we see and judge a lot of things by a man’s opinion. We need to unlearn this and listen to ourselves and stop silencing ourselves.
Unfortunately, sexism is everywhere. The publishing world is still dominated by men and what they choose to read and review, see here. Obviously, this has an effect on whose work gets published. “You learn empathy by listening to other voices,” says Harriett Logan, a professional bookseller from Ohio. That applies to books written by women, but also to all other marginalised voices. What are the struggles of a woman of colour? What are the struggles of a transgender? How are their lives worsened by your/our privilege? How will we ever understand someone else’s perspective if we don’t ever acknowledge their voices and listen to them?
When our work gets critiqued, it is usually from a man’s perspective, even when a woman is the editor or the critic. Female protagonists look or behave a specific way, but this has started to change. So, as a woman, as a member of any marginalised group, don’t let the conventionalists discourage or dishearten you! It’s easier said then done, I know. Our work is relevant and important, so keep at it and don’t go mute.
So, let’s challenge ourselves and pick up a book by an author whose perspective would be very different from ours. And then let’s do it again. In my teens I loved reading Stephen King. But eventually, I got bored with his books. They seemed to have the same pattern and very similar characters. I enjoy a book when it takes my thoughts to different places. It will inspire me then and teach me something new. But still I had to make a conscious decision to focus on stories and experiences told by women. I guess their underrepresentation on the shelves of a book store influenced my choices nevertheless. Sexism is so wide-spread that it can creep up on you and make you an accomplice even when you don’t want to be that at all.
If you value equality and want to participate in the creation of a world that is more just, then really you have to challenge your choices everywhere. You should read more books written by women, by transgender, by homosexuals,… Make an effort to understand their perspectives, make sure you expand your experience! Why? Victor has put it really well and I’d like to amplify his voice and his experience here:
Victor Arteaga is a writer of science fiction, urban fantasy and paranormal stories. He is a first generation American from immigrant parents.