Are you a man? Do you like books? Do you like talking about books? Have you always wanted to join a book club, but demurred, because you thought that book clubs were for ladies only? Fearing that, were you would to join one, perhaps your dick would fall off or you would be rendered infertile immediately upon hearing a woman’s opinion on a work of literature?
FRET NO MORE, MASCULINE BOOK LOVERS! According to a trend piece in Wednesday’s New York Times, manly book clubs just for manly men are now a thing!
All joking aside—I think it’s fine. It never actually occurred to me that book clubs were a gendered thing, but sure! Fine! Whatever. Reading is fun and fundamental, and if joining a book club for dudes means that you will read more, then go for it! Do what you’ve gotta do! I do stuff with just ladies all the time!
One of the groups profiled in the article, Man Book Club, has a pretty chosen a pretty douchetastic cardinal rule—”No books by women about women.” Andrew McCullough, the leader of the Man Book Club told the New York Times, specifically, “We do not read so-called chick lit. The main character cannot be a woman.”
It’s quite tragic, really, that these men, so bravely conquering the (I guess?) female-dominated world of reading books and then talking about them with some people, still cower in fear that their masculinity will be questioned should they, godforbid, read a book by a woman or about a woman.
In this way, I suppose I—and every other woman on earth—am a lot less delicate than these virile, masculine, literary dudes. Because I have somehow been able to read Henry Miller and Dosteovsky without worrying that doing so will make me any less of a woman! Such a thing would never even occur to me. In fact, I once spent part of a summer reading all of Raymond Chandler and not once did I stop menstruating!
Do these men live in some kind of alternate universe where 99 percent of the “Western canon” is not made up of books by men and about men? Where men are ever expected to read books by women or about women? Or to watch movies or television shows produced by women or about women? Or to listen to music performed by women? If so, I would like to go to that universe.
Because from what I can tell you about the world I live in, is that things produced by men and about men are for everyone, and things produced by women or about women are “just for women.” Where people—both men and women—feel totally fine saying things like “I don’t read books written by or about women” or “I just don’t like female singers” or “I just don’t like female comedians.” This isn’t sexism, they say, it’s just a matter of taste.
Yet, for the most part, you’re not really ever going to hear those phrases with the pronouns switched around. If anyone were to say “Eh, I just don’t really like male writers/singers/comedians—I just can’t relate to them” most of us would look at them like they had three heads.
Men—white men, specifically—are considered the default position. We are all supposed to be able to relate to them, we are supposed to feel their pain, see ourselves in them, empathize with them, regardless of whether or not we possess the same reproductive organs. Their life experiences, their pain, their ups and downs are all universal, whereas ours are particular to us.
And it’s awfully hard to achieve equality when men still think they’re going to get girl cooties if they’re exposed to media that centers us.
There wouldn’t be anything douchey about a male book club reading only books written by men, featuring male protagonists if it weren’t already considered out of the ordinary to do anything else. As it stands, it is.
Frankly, book club fellas, if you really want to impress the world with your virile masculinity, perhaps you should demonstrate that you can, in fact, read books by women and about women without being terrified that it will somehow destroy you.