Friday, 4 February 2011

Call Yourself a Feminist! or, the Difficult Second Blog

And it really has been difficult.  While catching up on Feminist Frequency the other day I stumbled across a few other feminist blogs, including one that mentioned Feminism Friday - the idea being that if several bloggers post feminist blogs or articles on a Friday it will create a bigger buzz and maybe reach readers who wouldn't otherwise read something with that tag.  I think it's a great idea (I accidentally nearly wrote 'great' in capitals, I didn't think it was that great) and immediately wanted to give it a go.  Cue a few stumbling paragraphs about some of the sexist attitudes I encounter on a day to day basis.

Just one problem.  Turns out, I'm not terribly good at being opinionated.  I do a few things wrong:

1) I'm really bad at expressing myself without making allowances for other people having a different opinion to me.  I blame my parents, they did a pretty good job.

2) I always make a counter argument to myself in my head as I go along, which I find it hard to keep off the page (screen? keys?). I blame James II.  Not the king, the boyfriend.  James II was always right - he'd be the first to admit it.  In fact, he wouldn't just admit it, he'd inform you he was always right. No matter what you were arguing he'd be right, he'd pick the opposite viewpoint just for the mental workout.  Overall, it was probably pretty good for me and I have a lot to thank him for.  But unsurprisingly, I didn't marry him.

3) I write like I'm in the Famous Five.  It's not put on, I speak that way too (people who know me in real life will verify this).  Julia Marchese didn't think English people really say 'jolly good' until she heard me say it- I had to break it to her that they don't usually, since the 1950s.  I'm not sure who I can blame for that as my mother was strongly against Enid Blyton, or any children's literature where the girls helped mummy/Cook in the kitchen while the boys planted potatoes in the garden.  She used to switch it around when she read us bedtime stories (yes, I do blame her for me wanting to get involved in Feminism Friday. Thanks Mum!) Anyway, try making a forceful argument using phrases like 'jolly good', 'terribly' and 'marvellous'.  See what I mean?

All of this has sort of got in the way of me saying it makes me rather cross when, in the course of recommending an excellent book (which I have course to do on an almost hourly basis, and they pay me for it), I'm asked if it is Woman's book - 'woman' said in the same tone as 'I'm on a train that stops at Balcombe' (for those who don't use the London-Brighton line, the tone you use for an irritant the universe has thrown in your path which is not deadly but highly inconvenient and if you could think of a safe and legal way of destroying it, you might.  David Cameron. Seagulls).  So my brief nod to Feminism Friday which I will participate in, not necessarily every Friday, but as often as I can, and my response to all those readers who judge a book by its gender, is this:

There is no such thing as a woman's book.
A woman enjoying a book does not mean that a man will not.
And vice versa.
The novels I have most enjoyed have been those which surprise me, allow me to experience things I might not otherwise experience, educate me.
The gender of the authors of those books is irrelevant to my enjoyment of them.
The gender of the characters of those books is irrelevant to my enjoyment of them.
I know of no biological reason why this should be different for a man than it is for me.
It would not kill you just once in your life, or maybe even more often, to read a book about motherhood, or love.  In fact, in order to treat your condition, I view it as compulsory.
Yes, discounting a book as suitable reading material purely on the gender of the author or the person who recommends it is sexist, and in eight years of working with books, I have never seen a woman do it.

Every Feminism Friday, until I get bored, I'm going to recommend a good book by a woman.  I'd love to know what you think.  Today, it's The Electric Michelangelo by Sarah Hall. 

Also, I'd love for other bloggers I know and love, every now and then, to spare a thought (or even a blog) for Feminism Friday. 


  1. i enjoy sexism in society as much as you don't. i have it currently in work at present. if i were to say in the 'industry' i work in that that you were prejudice for not allowing a man to do what a female could do as ridicoulous. not many other 'industries' can get away with such nonsense as mine. it's pro choice (not in the pro-abortion sense) and the arguments thrust upon me are criminal in their sexism like none i know no other....if i owned a garage and said 'no chicks can work here ..unles you get your bapps out and make the tea' or if i had a B&B and said no gays- proven to be ilegal... or i said i 'don't want to live near the darkies' or in the case of the now 'dead' gray and keys anti lineswowmen thang it'd be unacceptable. as a white man looking to make it in a 'female' industry i 'enjoy' the sexism that many of my 'peers' have not experienced. i have the suggestive comments, the ass slapping and the ingratitude of my peers. if i were black, foreign, male and gay i'd be truely screwed. i'm lucky i'm just white and married. discrimination is discrimination however you look at argument presented to me by one of my collegues was that it was ok for a woman to look after a man, but a man doing such things is unnatural thing because only women can nuture children...what a piss take!

  2. by the way my spelling is appalling and thus i can't spell like a woman....larks!!!

  3. Its about time people realised gender roles are something we just made up for practical reasons centuries ago. Men have as much right as women to work in whichever field they choose without fear of discrimination or harassment. I suggest, gleddersav37, you go and buy yourself a Rammstein box set to make you feel better...

  4. that's a great idea. maybe i will!

  5. I was enjoying your pondering on the issue of Feminism Friday and book authors, until I realised I can't think of one female novelist I like. I most definitely know that of my favourite books not one is written by a woman. What does that say about me?!

    In general I have a horrible habit of also taking a side, any side, if a good old fashioned confrontational didactic argument can be had. I try to stick to the arguments that matter but if I really need to vent and can't vent in the direction of whatever is really bothering me, I will occasionally latch onto anything :/ In the case of feminism I get annoyed and intrigued with the arguments of feminists in equal measure. If I had to guess the percentile of how much feminist stuff I've heard that was awesome, eye opening, motivating etc vs the amount that was pedantic, mis directed, pointless, petty and ill conceived I'd honestly have to say 50/5 :#

  6. Oooh, nearly wrote a comment that was long enough to be another blog so I will save that for another feminism friday. On the subject of books, it doesn't sound like you choose your reading material based on the gender of the author, which is the problem I have with these customers - although I can think of plenty of great female novelists so perhaps you should pop into my shop for some personal book shopping.


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