Thursday Thoughts this week, prompt via Ok, Let’s Read.
Gender Bias & Sexism – What is your opinion on males reading books “geared towards women” such as YA contemporary, romance, most new adult, etc? In that same vein, what’s your opinion on females reading comics and graphic novels? Do you agree that sexism, or at least gender bias’, are apparent in today’s bookish world? Are you someone who “breaks” these bias’?
I… have a problem with this question. I’m not a fan of people overemphasising gender in the first place. My dad cooked the meals and ironed my clothes, my mum earned the money to put food on the table. I played with Polly Pockets and Barbies, my sister played with Action Man, and we both fought tooth and claw — with each other, and with local boys. I don’t see that rigid ideas of gender do anyone any good; it’s mostly cultural stuff that enforces the differences, and most people are somewhere on the spectrum, not plonked solidly at a point marked ‘girl’ or ‘boy’.
That being said, of course there’s bias in the bookish world, especially in the market place. There’s constantly people on Goodreads wanting to filter reviews by the reviewer’s gender, because they don’t agree with ‘the opinions of females’. Some authors choose gender neutral pen-names to just dodge any sexism. If a woman writes urban fantasy, it goes in paranormal romance. If a man does, it goes in fantasy or maybe horror. Women are constantly objectified on book covers, and you should see some of the abuse female writers get — Kameron Hurley leaps to mind.
And yeah, I do break these biases. I read Georgette Heyer’s Regency romances, and I read the Captain America comics. I read hard SF. I read non-fiction that I seriously have been told is ‘too difficult for a woman to understand’. Blood and guts and gore don’t bother me, while flowery sex scenes make me want to puke.
I’ve been glared out of comics shops because I’m female-shaped, or blamed for other people being pushy, or told they don’t sell ‘girl’s comics’ like Ms. Marvel; the bias is there, but I say fuck it and go give someone else my money. Best thing to do — that, and complain to the managers.
There are people out there who feel constrained by these biases, of course, and I hope that doesn’t last forever. Mind you, a couple of Christmases ago, my male cousin asked for a copy of Twilight for Christmas, so if we ignore his taste in books, I think that does show that there are plenty of people who just don’t care.