[Paleopsych] Guardian: Women are still a closed book to men
checker at panix.com
Thu Jun 2 15:25:37 UTC 2005
Women are still a closed book to men
[This is part of a series on gender issues.
http://www.ferris.edu/isar/bios/cattell/genetica.htm. Too many to pick them off
one by one.]
Research shows men mainly read works by other men
Sunday May 29, 2005
Men have finally realised what they are missing, but they still aren't
all that keen to do anything about it.
This is the conclusion of a study into sex differences in reading
habits, which found that, while women read the works of both sexes,
men stick to books written by men. And the boys can no longer use
ignorance as an excuse.
'Men clearly now know that there are some great books by women - such
as Andrea Levy's Small Island - they really ought to have read and
ought to consider "great" (or at least good) writing,' the report
said. 'They recognise the titles and they've read the reviews. They
may even have bought, or been given the books, and start reading them.
But they probably won't finish them.'
The research was carried out by academics Lisa Jardine and Annie
Watkins of Queen Mary College, London, to mark the 10th year of the
Orange Prize for Fiction, a literary honour whose women-only rule
provoked righteous indignation when the competition was founded. They
asked 100 academics, critics and writers and found virtually all now
supported the prize.
But a gender gap remains in what people choose to read, at least among
the cultural elite. Four out of five men said the last novel they read
was by a man, whereas women were almost as likely to have read a book
by a male author as a female. When asked what novel by a woman they
had read most recently, a majority of men found it hard to recall or
could not answer. Women, however, often gave several titles. The
report said: 'Men who read fiction tend to read fiction by men, while
women read fiction by both women and men.
'Consequently, fiction by women remains "special interest", while
fiction by men still sets the standard for quality, narrative and
In the survey, men were asked to name the 'most important' book by a
woman written in the last two years. Brick Lane by Monica Ali and
Carol Shields's Unless were frequently among the replies, but many men
admitted defeat and confessed they had no idea. At least one who
suggested Brick Lane admitted he had not read it.
The report added: 'Men's reading habits have altered very little since
the Orange Prize burst onto the fiction scene in 1996.
Although no one would admit that the gender of the author had any
influence on their choice of fictional reading-matter, men were still
far less likely to have read a novel by a woman than by a man, whereas
women read titles by either.
'Pressed for a preference, many men also found it much more difficult
to "like" or "admire" a novel authored by a woman - for them "great"
writing was male writing (oh - apart from Jane Austen, of course),'
the report said.
'No wonder, then, that each year when the winner of the Orange Prize
is announced a chorus of disappointment goes up from "mainstream"
critics: how could such an undistinguished book have won?'
A decade ago the Orange Prize drew the scorn of many leading writers,
including Kingsley Amis ('If I were a woman, I would not want to win
this prize. One can hardly take the winner seriously'), and AS Byatt
('I am against anything which ghettoises women. That is my deepest
The prize is now estab lished just behind the Man Booker and the
Whitbread in the literary hierarchy and had huge support among survey
respondents, although some still expressed ambivalence. Julie Burchill
said: 'I see where it's coming from but totally understand the reasons
why women don't want their novels to be entered for it.'
Jardine said: 'When pressed, men are likely to say things like: "I
believe Monica Ali's Brick Lane is a really important book - I'm
afraid I haven't read it." I find it most endearing that in 10 years
what male readers of fiction have done is learn to pretend that
they've read women's books.'
This year's £30,000 Orange Prize will be awarded on 7 June.
More information about the paleopsych