As a part of the post I added up all the reviews that I’d done since I started this website to check the gender breakdown. It turned out it was roughly equal (16 female authors compared to 14 male authors). I was pretty happy with that too.
That’s the part I’ve been thinking about over the last week. While I remain satisfied with the ratio, there was one aspect of my own reaction that has started to bug me.
I feel like I’ve been reading mostly women authors over the last 6 months or so. I sought out books written by women in the genres I’m interested in and made a point of prioritising women authors in my to-be-read list. I didn’t feel like I was reading many male authors at all and that my reading was “dominated” by female authors.
And it still came out 50/50.
It was a stark reminder of the power of unconscious biases. Admittedly my sample was pretty small, but somehow I’d “made an effort” reading 16 books by female authors, while reading 14 books by male authors had somehow happened without me noticing.
I consider myself a firm believer in equality. I don’t think I engage in any conscious sexist behaviour and I believe in judging individuals on their merits, not based on a stereotype or cliche. I knew I’d been guilty of letting my reading circle shrink over the years, but the fact that pre-challenge I was reading mainly male authors I put down to being time poor and perhaps a little conventional in sticking with authors I’d discovered in my youth.
Thinking about my reaction and listening to some of the discussion in the last couple of episodes of The Writer and the Critic podcast (episodes 18 and 19) when Ian and Kirstyn spoke at length about some of the default male centric settings in modern Australian society has left me a bit shell shocked. It’s triggered a lot of self reflection. I blame the bloody objective data. Self delusion would be a lot easier without it.
I look forward to the day when maintaining a more diverse reading pattern doesn’t seem like an effort. But in the mean time I’ll continue on with the AWWC, listening to excellent podcasts like The Writer and the Critic when they intelligently discuss these kinds of issues and hope like hell I’m able to evolve!