Over the past weeks, Christians have been discussing the question of why (many) men don’t read women authors. The spark that started the discussion ignited when Relevant magazine released an article called, “How Six Weeks of Reading Books By Women Affected My Thinking“ by Tyler Daswick.
In short, Daswick’s article was poorly received. So much so that Relevant has apparently removed the article from the site, and I only could produce the title of the article and define Daswick as the author because Jen Pollock Michel referred to the article here.
Despite the poorly received Relevant article, the discussion is important. I would like to contribute to the conversation by adding one possible reason for why men don’t read women authors.* But before doing that, here’s a brief survey of how two Christians have answered so far.
Jen Michel suggests possibilities for why men don’t read women authors. One reason she offers is that male experience is considered normative in our culture. So, we don’t consider the importance of womanly experience (e.g., labouring). She writes, “As long as the male experience is considered to be universal (and female experience alien), we’ll be missing a lot of good material for our preaching and teaching.”
Tim Challies gives another reason. According to him, publishers market women’s books for women (because of both content and the covers of books). Challies is on to something here, and his argument is worth considering.
To this list, I would like to add a third reason. Men don’t read women authors because we aren’t pursuing good books to shape our souls. We pursue, often enough, only entertaining books (we should read books for entertainment just not only for that reason). We also find books by buying whatever we see at the store or see others reading.
But we aren’t looking for the best books. We don’t even know what these books are.
And women have written many great books, books that will stretch, inform, and grow you. Anything by Marilynne Robinson is worth reading. In terms of fiction, read Robin Hobb or J.K. Rowling. For theology, reading Frances Young, Jen Wilkin, or perhaps Katherine Sonderegger. Many other women authors could be listed (e.g., Flannery O’Conner!).
The point is: get on GoodReads or Google and find the best books. Ask trusted people. Don’t just read what every publisher releases or what others reading. Find books that have or have the potential to stand the test of time. Read the best stuff, much of which is written by women.
You won’t have to go too far in your pursuit of good books before encountering a woman author. And at least to some degree, this pursuit could encourage men to read more women authors.
This is my brief exploration of an answer. So please don’t go away thinking that I have it figured out. But hopefully this adds to the public discussion.
What do you think? Why aren’t men reading women authors?
Michel recounts important research into the issue, demonstrating that men greatly prefer to read men: “As Dr. Albert Hsu discovered in his doctoral research (Hsu earned his PhD in educational studies from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and is senior editor for IVP books), women read relatively equally between male and female authors (54%/46%), while men, on the other hand, are much more likely to read male authors than female authors (90%/10%).”