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Don't tell me what not to read...

So a friend of mine posted this article on Facebook and I had to respond. However, It got so long I though, okay this isn't fair to leave in the comments on someone's page so I decided to move my response over here. I should preface this with no I am not defending the patriarchy, I'm not a self hating woman, I'm not saying that people shouldn't have thier prefernces or opinions. I know I mention in this books and authors I don't like and it seems hypocritical but what I'm railing against is the the kind of group think I keep seeing on the internet and academia where if there's something that doesn't fit modern sensibilities s or makes anyone uncomfortable it should be disreagard or banned.


I take issue with this article. I know that she says she's not serious with the title "80 books no woman should read" but at the same time she's arguing just that. It's another example of the current thinking that is problematic in academia in recent years this entitlement that "oh this doesn't match modern sensibilities or my ideas therefore it should not be read/addressed/studied" and I think that's really dangerous. Yes it's going to look like I'm defending the dead white guys but just because those dead white guys are misogynist or just male-centric doesn't mean they have nothing to say. Books need to be read in a number of ways, one of which is to bare in mind the context in which they were written. If we discard anything that makes us uncomfortable, or anything we don't agree with we are just blinding ourselves to where we came from, not looking at a book critically, closing any discussion, not looking at books in a different way and just creating an echo chamber of words we can all agree with that serves no dialog with the past. It's okay to have a writer say something in a book that makes you feel uncomfortable and still like him/her. Many of the male writers she mentions I like but in their writing I come across something they say that makes me uncomfortable or I don't agree with. At which point I can say to myself "well that's some bullshit" and keep reading knowing that maybe the writer will still have other things to say about life or the human condition that will still resonate with me. I don't stop reading. And if I keep reading and maybe it's all a bunch of bullshit then, hey, I can make my case as to why it's bullshit. Or maybe I just can't relate to it enough to get behind that author. For me Graham Greene is like that. I've had to read The End of the Affair twice in school and I still can not relate to or wrap my head around all the of Catholic hang ups the writer/characters have. It's not really my cup of tea, but I know people who love that book, can identify with that spiritual/ethical themes in the book. I'm still better for having read it. I guess my main issue with this article is "I can't place myself in the protagonist's mysoginist's shoes" henceforth don't read. I think making a male's perspective too "other" to bother reading is an issue. I think as women we've got an upper hand over men in empathy and part of that is from growing up and having to read/watch so many stories where the male is the protagonist and we are still able to put ourselves in their shoes. In my writing, I've never had a problem writing male characters, then I've never given it much thought. They are characters that I create and I can base their thoughts and feelings on what I know of human nature. Then a friend of mine who writes was freaking out about writing from a female's perspective and asking me all sorts of questions about how women think, and I was surprised by this. That's when I realized how as writer's women have the upper hand because we're constantly putting ourselves in men's shoes. He's so used to protagonists being white men, that the thought of writing from the "other" position scares him. My advice to him was that was that women are human, nothing to be mystisized or confused by. Just humans with similar needs, motivations and rationale.. This article's stance of "I can't relate to the other" is, to me, as faulty as my friend's initial fear of writing and goes against the purpose of fiction. The amazing thing about fiction is to see the world through a set of eyes other than your own. In ways that window through other eyes can give you more empathy,Other times it can just show you something of the world or things about humanity that you dodn't see before. A lot of times, seeing something about humanity you didn't see before is not always pleasant. It's not always comfortable. Perhaps it's not supposed to be. If all we read was stuff we agreed with and was pleasant we'd probably all be reading some sort of romantic fan fiction with ourselves as the lead and there'd be nothing to learn. It's just self indulgent masterbatory material, not art. I'm not saying "woo patriarchy" or aguing against more female role models. I'm just saying don't completely disregard something becasue it doesn't match your ideals or policial agenda or it makes you slightly uncomfortable. I'll close on a particular case in point. Bret Easton Ellison, honestly most of his books don't interest me becasue the "poor little rich kid" themes (based off seeing movies mased on books). However I read American Psycho and man was that ever a difficult read. The mysogony the violence. It was literal torture. I certianly can't identify with the main character. Goodnees I wouldn't want to but as difficult as it was it was a masterful book for what it achieved. The window into another soul, a monster's soul, someone I can't relate to in the slightest, but also couldn't look away from is what makes that book genius. This is what fiction can do, and should do and it's not supposed to be comfortable.


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