Women Read Women Update 3

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At the end of March, I set myself a personal reading challenge. So, how did I do in June?

I had an excellent reading month in June, with three 5 star books and four 4 star out of a total haul of 11 books.

My male/female ratio on LibraryThing has improved slightly. I should think so, too, because 9 of the books were by women and 6 by women I’d never previously read.

I discovered one author whose work I’m going to read more of – Charlotte Wood. The Natural Way of Things is incredible. It set something off inside me that is a positive. I hadn’t realised just how much the undercurrent of hatred and suspicion of women in society and the way it plays out across all forms of media, as well as subtly in personal relationships with men and women, had influenced the way I think about myself on a subconscious level. I am, by and large, a confident person. I was encouraged by my mum and by school teachers to believe in myself. I am aware, through experience in the wider world, that the wider world is not always appreciative of self-confident women. I thought I had a grip on it, but reading Wood’s book made me realise that I often have negative thoughts about not being good enough. Not being a good enough daughter, not being a good enough friend, not wearing good enough clothes, not meeting all kinds of unspoken expectations. I thought it was just me being a bit hard on myself but, in the context of Wood’s book, I’ve realised it’s also to do with the world telling me to think that way about myself. I don’t think men get quite the same message.

I was thinking about it while watching the first week of Wimbledon on tv. How you get some male commentators making observations about how female players look, rather than how they play. Male players don’t get that condescension. And yesterday, watching Serena Williams play Christina McHale, the male commentator felt the need to observe that the way the two women were playing was “a real advert for women’s tennis”. Because women’s tennis is portrayed in the media as being less than the men’s game. Less exciting, less watchable, less important. It’s none of those things. It’s as exciting and as dull as the men’s game can be. That’s one example of how women, even elite athletes, are told we’re more decorative than useful.

The positive I’m taking from Wood’s book is that when I catch myself telling myself I’m not good enough, I’m going to examine why I feel that way and call bullshit on myself if it’s not based in fact. I’m going to stop listening when the world tells me that my gender makes me inferior.

Other great books I read by women were Rush Oh!, City of Strangers and The Yellow Wallpaper.

I read a book that fulfilled my personal challenge to read more literature by and about differently abled people. It’s a shame I didn’t pick a better book for me! My lack of connection as a reader with Rosemary Sutcliff’s fiction meant I couldn’t find a connection to her in her memoir.

I’m counting The Yellow Wallpaper towards that challenge, too. As well as being a must read feminist tract, is an examination of mental illness by someone who experienced it.

I need to work more on my TBR next month – it’s gone back up to 109…

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