Why Women Don't Read Books
Usually I don't bother to look around at the city when I am taking a taxi uptown to my fencing class. Usually, I have my nose buried in a book like so many urban gentlemen.

But this afternoon the traffic was so bad that I found myself watching the passers-by and envying their transportational mobility.

Here I was, trapped by my own luxury, while they could walk around free as dirt wherever they might please!

People in cars are invisible on the streets of New York, and so they have all the license in the world to stare at the unfolding drama of the pedestrian scrum. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the people around me and to see things as they might see them. I wondered what the fishmonger might be thinking, and whether or not his henpecking wife had made him grow his mustache in order to make him look more masculine and civilized. I tried to empathize with the young street gamin who was selling his belts and scarves. I tried to hunger as he hungered. To dream as he dreamed!

However, as I looked into the window of a dress shop, I saw something so d_____ peculiar that I could hardly believe my eyes. The woman who worked there was dressed in a skirt that was cut too low and was wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed that "Anthrax" was one fine band of musicians. All was as it should be...


At first, I had to laugh. To see such a sight! But then I realized that her eyes were actually moving back and forth across the pages of the novel that she had somehow acquired (perhaps left behind on her night-table by a hard-rocking paramour?). She was going all out, pretending to read with utter and complete seriousness, fooling everyone around, including me.

"Good lord!" I shouted to my cabriolet-man. "That woman looks as if she is reading a book! And why not, I say?"

"Good one, mac," said the cabriolet-man. "Imagine if women read books just the same as men do. How could anyone write a book for f______ frails? It would have to be about how dresses look on them or how to have a baby."

"Pish," I said. "For instance, I think women could enjoy romances just as much as men, if they could be coerced to put aside their cookbooks and dayplanners. One need not have imagination to enjoy dipping into the imaginations of others."

"I don't know," said the cabriolet-man. "I'm all for women reading books. Christ, then we would have something to f_______ talk about. But I just don't see it ever happening."

This got me thinking. Why DON'T women enjoy reading? What is it about the female gender that makes ladies universally eschew the printed word? Will they never be able to find satisfaction in grand, long-form narrative? Will the fairer sex always be beholden to cheap spectacle and empty baubles? And why does it have to be this way?

I thought about this problem during the rest of my ride to my fencing class and I decided that there was nothing INHERENT in women that made them hate books.

I am not a determinist: I truly believe that someday women in dress shops will actually be able to enjoy novels, and won't just pretend to read them in order to shock and fascinate men.


1. Men run publishing

Publishing is primarily run by men because women simply don't want the job. They feel it is a silly job and do not think it is practical to curate and encourage imaginary worlds, when there are children to raise and money to be made. However, letting women into the high echelons of publishing, even as a curiosity, might help men determine which books women might like to read in order to build a new marketplace. If these "experimental publisher women" find that they do not have the patience to read entire manuscripts by unpublished authors, interns can be paid to read manuscripts aloud to them.

2. Women don't have time to read.

After hair appointments, sexual conquests, sports, shopping, pregnancy, and home repair, when would women find the time? But what if we published books with large print that could be read while a permanent is setting or while a bottle is warming up?

3. Women only like to know about themselves, whereas men enjoy learning about people who are different than them

So what? Even if women only read books about other women, they are still reading. They are still training their minds and broadening their horizons.

4. Women are too practical to waste money on intellectual entertainments

Perhaps recipes, fashion ideas, and baby management advice can be worked into fictional narratives. Women may have to be "tricked" to read, but it will be worth it in the end. For the nation, and for Human Evolution.

5. There aren't enough good women writers

This is unfortunately true and will always be true. But what if men wrote books under female pseudonyms?

So many what-ifs!

What would the world look like if ladies read books? Would it be a better place for men? Or a scarier one?

I, for one, am curious, intrigued, and titillated.


Posted by miracle on Tue, 01 Jun 2010 16:55:03 -0500 -- permanent link

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