Guest post by Rob Kennedy
Marisa Wikramanayake and I have started a blog, Guys Read Gals – or GRG, for short – with the aim of finding out if men are reading women’s fiction, and getting men to talk about what they are reading. It’s a social experiment which began after I wrote an article for my blog, Arts – Writing – Life, titled, Real men read books? It had a reasonable response, and Marisa found it. From that article and Marisa’s passion, GRG sprouted.
Such a blog is timely, judging by the lack of reviews of books by women in literary pages which the VIDA count has identified over the years. If the Bookseller & Publisher’s assessment published in March last year is any guide, the situation in Australia doesn’t appear much better.
Australian author Michelle de Kretser might give a clue as to why don’t men read more books by women. In her novel, The Lost Dog, she writes, “When the Australian desire to provide assistance meshed with the Australian dread of appearing unmanly, it produced the bluff that was Mick Corrigan’s default setting.” The Australian dread of appearing unmanly. Is it unmanly to read women’s writing? Is that belief a default setting for most men?
If it is unmanly for men to read women’s writing, it also appears unmanly to talk about what you read. Out of interest I went to Goodreads to see how many people had reviewed The Lost Dog. There were a lot, 563. So I spent some time going through that list and found that 49 men had either reviewed, rated or marked it to read. That’s less than 10%. I’ve done this before for other books written by women, and the figures are similar. As a reader of current fiction by Australian women, I’m definitely in the minority.
Over the past year I’ve read, Five Bells by Gail Jones, The Secret River by Kate Grenville, All That I Am by Anna Funder, The Bone Thrower by Aishah Macgill, Defiant Daughter by Linda Martin, Mr Right and other Mongrels by Monique McDonnell and Pride by Nicole Suzanne Brown. Now that the Stella Prize longlist is out, my book club has plenty of other great books to choose from by Australian women. But, as most book clubs are dominated by women, it’s a challenge to get men to join.
That’s where our new blog might help. Our aim is to find the 10% of men who are willing to read books by women, to get them involved and build on that base. We’ve started with just the one category, Australian women’s fiction, so we can maintain a focus. If we get requests for other forms of writing, we will expand it. For now, these are the criteria to join. You need to be:
- An avid reader
- Willing to contribute regularly and
- Willing to read Australian female fiction authors.
- Any gender
- Any location and
- Have something intellectual/interesting/riveting to say on either/both men
reading/Australian female fiction writers.
So if you’re a guy who reads, or you’re interested in Australian women’s writing, sign up to GRG. Let’s make this International Women’s Day count.
Rob Kennedy is a writer, poet and composer. Rob founded and manages the fabulous poetry group DiVerse. A cluster of artist who draw their inspiration for poetry through the visual. (Ekphrasis)
Rob has articles published in the Sydney Morning Herald, Cordite, State of the Arts magazine, Newswrite, Five Bells and the UK based Culture Wars, on the arts and social commentary. He is also the author of eight books.