Posting my review of Ancillary Justice this week got me thinking about gender in books again. Paired with Bookworm Blues’ post from last week, where she reflects on how some people have recommended books to her with the proviso ‘but you’d probably not enjoy it because you’re a woman’, I started thinking about my own relationship with gender and books.
I’ve personally never had anyone say that I wouldn’t like a book because of my gender (for which I’m grateful), but it reminded me of something I’d noticed over the holiday season when I was working extra at the bookstore. I realized that when men asked me for book recommendations I avoided recommending books by women unless I’d read the book in question and knew there was limited/no romance.
This disturbed me because I was assuming that men wouldn’t want books written by women and/or men didn’t want romance in their books. Granted, I tend to ask what other books a reader liked before recommending something and try to fit my recommendation within that framework. But the fact that I automatically defaulted to ‘dude wants stereotypical dude book’ was an awkward revelation for someone who believes women write books equal to men.
It was also disturbing because I wasn’t sure if this was something I’ve always done and only recently become aware of or if my aversion to recommending female authors was because of all the posts I’ve read on the internet by and about men saying they don’t read female authors.
The posts have made me more aware of the female authors out there and I’ve made a point of displaying them on endcaps, but it still disturbs me that I could be actively preventing men from reading women by assuming they don’t want to read books by women.
I’m personally not keen on romance plots (though I like sexual tension in books - as it tends to create fun dialogue and situations), so I generally look for books by women - and men, since they write romantic plots too - that are light on or missing the romance and are, instead, heavy on plot. I also tend to recommend books I’ve personally read, since it’s easier to be excited about a book - and pass on that excitement - when you liked it yourself.
It’s also only something I’ve done with regards to SF, probably because I’m more widely read in fantasy and so have more I can recommend. I’ve been reading more SF lately, including books by women, so I plan to make more female SF recommendations in future.