A Year in Reading Women, Continued

The second in a 2 or 3 part series. Who knows what else I’ll decide I need to say about this?

On Friday I articulated the notion of Feminist Compromise:

That if you care about full equality for women (and other disempowered groups), and you also want to participate in the world like by watching TV or reading books,  you have to compromise.


In just about any experience with popular culture. Many workplace interactions. Flipping through any magazine with ads.

Once you learn how to see it, the feminist way of seeing disempowerment everywhere, you can’t unsee it. And you don’t want to. Even though this new sight—Femi-vision!—pretty much bars you from contented consumption of most entertainment.

However, the Bechdel Rule will only get you so far. Sometimes you just want a sitcom and a beer before bed. Hence the Compromise.

The real rules for women

I apparently needed  to commit to a Year of Reading Women to even realize the role of the Feminist Compromise in my life, let alone understand it.

Before, I’d get peeved about the ways women are depicted. I’d even make elaborate arguments, at parties, about how artwork relying on stereotypes is just boring. That original, innovative thought demands seeing all people as people, rather than types. Which seems like a no-brainer until you’re talking about Faulkner, or Roth, or whoever else the smarty-pantses love oh yeah, Cormac flippin McCarthy. DFW, as I wrote last time.

And who’s really going to say that Faulkner wasn’t innovative? (I mean, I do like Faulkner.)

But who’s the oversensitive dick feminist with no sense of humor that doesn’t fully embrace the self-evident genius authors of our times? Who’s going to admit, drinking beer with the fellow bookish, that she’s just tired of it? Tired of making excuses for or developing baroque defenses of her rejection of or generally avoiding discussion of Great Writer Men? Tired of compulsively examining her feminist frustrations for symptoms of the (fabricated, but always lurking, watching you, like Elf on the Shelf) PC-Police Disease? Tired of finding fault in writers on whom I once banked my whole career?

So until I decided to take a break from male authors, I didn’t see this Feminist Compromise at work in my daily life.

And I didn’t see my decision about this past year as a decision to reject the Feminist Compromise.

Now, with the distance of blogging and such, I can.

So what did I get and what did I lose by rejecting the Feminist Compromise?

Well, I don’t want to articulate any of this as a gain or loss. Like it’s all double-column accounting. Every book decision a debit or a credit.

But I will share with you some fascinating effects.

1. Twitter. I found myself simply not following men. Men I love. The Daily Show. Louis CK. Barack Obama. Just not following them. Why not? I dunno! Tired of the dominance of men’s voices, I guess? I’ll get the re-tweets anyway, if they’re any good. I’m clearing space in my head for more women’s voices.

To be clear: I did not have an articulated a-gender-a (har). I’m talking about absentminded clicks through the Twitterbot suggestions. The level of the barely-conscious, as most of the Internet operates.

I don’t think I’ve lost anything by not getting Daily Show tweets.

2. Michael Chabon. His new book sounds really, really good. And there are midwives in it! And vinyl record stores! And complex race/class stuff! I mean, it’s a hit list of TfH’s favorite themes. But I’m not reading it yet. It’ll be there, waiting for me when I’m ready. I’m not worried about it.

3. Junot Diaz. His latest books, and others, which I haven’t yet read (sorry!) are evidently great, and supposedly reckon with male privilege. But, like the Chabon, I’ll get to it.

4. Glaciers. A quiet, lovely book. I didn’t review it because it (and its protagonist) are so unassuming. But come over–I’ll loan it to you!

5. Sheila Heti.

6. Dana Spiotta.

7. Lorrie Moore.

8. Cynthia Ozick.

9. Susan Orlean, Tracie McMillan, Jessica Valenti: nonfiction that I am very glad I read.

10. Alison Bechdel’s latest graphic novel.

11. The masterful NW, which I’ll review later this week.

12. Another book waiting for me, which I’d totally buy if it weren’t so pricey, is the new Chris Ware. I felt like a toddler when I saw it in the bookstore, beguiling me with its intricately interlocking panels and melancholia. I don’t think I’d have to make a Feminist Compromise for him. He seems to get women’s lives.

13. David Foster Wallace. I addressed this a bit in the previous post, but there’s more to say. A whole mess o’ DFW books came out this year. And I haven’t read any of them. Considering the fact that I was once, as I said, banking my career on this guy, one may be surprised. I’m a little surprised about myself. I’ll explore more of this in the next (final) post in the series. I’m really curious about what I’m going to say.

All numbered like that, it doesn’t seem like I read much this year. My New Yorker subscription ate up a fair amount of time formerly spent reading novels. (Plus, do you dig how I worked up a TfH retrospective in this post? Like the sitcom flashback episodes of both tedious and comforting familiarity?)

So here’s what I learned from this year of reading:

The Feminist Compromise is real, I’m sick of it, and I’m trying to eliminate it from my life.

There are more living women authors than a bookish-but-busy person can read in a year.

By ignoring the men of the year to make time for women, I haven’t missed out on a single thing. Besides getting Jon Stewart’s tweets on time.

But I’m getting Daily Show creator Lizz Winstead’s. Which are just fine.

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3 thoughts on “A Year in Reading Women, Continued

  1. Melissa says:

    Ok, I know you just said there are too many books and too little time, but allow me to add. Donna Tartt’s “The Little Friend.” Curtis Sittenfeld’s “American Wife.” (Or Prep, but not The Man of My Dreams.) And, well … crap. I’m looking at my recently depleted bookshelf (downsized to make room for new baby) and seeing that it has a lot of men on it. I know I’ve read more great women, but they must be in storage. Sad. I’m currently reading a dude. Francisco Goldman’s depressing memoir of his dead wife, “Say Her Name.” It was excerpted in the New Yorker — did you read it?

  2. […] Hey y’all, I’m working on another post-ac essay. It’s Part Three of last year’s two-part blog series about reading only women authors. […]

  3. […] shit; now with our limited times, budgets and energies: I dare you: Start reading women. Instead. Instead. Read women […]

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