The White, Straight, Cis Male Authors Challenge

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series The White, Straight, Cis Male Authors Challenge

The White, Straight, Cis Male Authors Challenge is a politically charged mouthful. K.T. Bradford threw down the gauntlet with a post clearly titled I Challenge You to Stop Reading White, Straight, Cis Male Authors for One Year. I consider myself a feminist, but as an avid reader I can see she has a damn obvious point. I love science fiction but it is a boys club. That’s not to say there isn’t a huge selection of wonderful female science fiction writers out there, just that the men occupy the most prominent layer of that publishing area. Of publishing in general, actually. I read her article, looked at my recently read and to read shelves, and realized that I was part of the problem. So challenge accepted.

The aforementioned article has a great section at the end to get anyone started on non-white hetero cis dudes, but as of now I’ve been reading exclusively women1. Why women? Because when looking at my e-book shelves, women were the easiest qualification to pick out of my author list. I’ve gone so many months into this year that I’m just declaring this year to be the year of women. I’ve chosen non-cisgendered women, non-hetero women, and non-white women, but I’ve really enjoyed women writers as a unifying theme for an entire year of reading. Next year will probably be themed around non-white authors of all genders, as this overarching reading theme has been a blast. I’ve been seeing subject matter that is focused on, as well as not, and it’s been fascinating.

The first thing I noticed was the vast majority of my science oriented nonfiction went right out of the running. Looking for a handful of popular physics books? Good luck. When you do find some, it most likely won’t include titles on the current best seller list. But I also ended up with more history and social science volumes than I normally would have read. Similarly, the science fiction I picked up, for the most part, was more character driven than plot. There were exceptions, and hard sci-fi is going to be based on world building by design, but I did notice that the nuanced character building that some male authors are praised for is far more abundant in women-authored texts. In fact, even the books that I haven’t been crazy about have still had very strong points of merit when it comes to creating characters that hold my interest. I read a lot, and the books I’ve chosen all had recommendations attached, but that doesn’t mean that they’ll suit my taste and I’m notoriously particular when it comes to my media. Considering the percentage of books that I’m reading that fall outside my genre comfort level, I’ve had nearly no books that felt like a waste of time in the end. But I’ll get into specifics of those in a later post.

I embarked on this a long time back, obviously, but took until now before I wanted to write about it. It’s shifted my perspective, and I wanted a look back to already have that. I didn’t want to spend all of my time talking about climbing a tower, but rather I want to focus on how things look from the top. Even the act of keeping an eye out for gender in book selections has made me notice gender disparity in other areas. Movies that feature all white cis guys now stand out as missing large portions of the population and seem narrow in their representations of “slice of life”. This year has coincidentally seen a slew of movies commenting on women, and I can’t help but feel even more prepared than before for analyzing and enjoying (or hating) them. It Follows, Mad Max: Fury Road, Jurassic World, Avengers: Age of Ultron. These movies have all gone out of their way to either discuss women’s issues, or to look at issues not inherently gendered, but with women firmly in mind. Some of these have succeeded spectacularly. It Follows and Mad Max have been exemplars. Some failed utterly. Age of Ultron was notably problematic, and Jurassic World played more like a macho parody film than an action flick unto itself. Regardless of specifics, making myself constantly aware of gender issues for an entire year has prepared me a bit more for not only being part of the conversation that is going on, but also to see that the discussion needs to happen.

As I said, this reading project has been a hoot. I’m learning about people, society, and storytelling. I’m getting angrier at certain things, but deeply appreciating other trends that may have tread a bit more lightly on my perception, had I not been paying attention. I’m learning about myself, the world, and other people’s experiences. That’s the goal of storytelling, right? To enable the reader or listener to understand a different person, a different perspective. So even on a selfish level, at the very least I’m still getting more out of my stories. With all of that in mind, I can not recommend this challenge enough. And next year I think I have another challenge to rise up and meet.

Series Navigation<< 2015s reading challengeWhite, Straight, Cis Male Authors Challenge: Some Reviews >>


1 With an exception here and there. I had to finish the Skulduggery Pleasant series, after all.

About Adam

Adam is a Jewish American who's sick of the white Christian male being America's "default" setting. For money he works in a public library because free books and information access are wonderful things. For love he writes here for his pet project, The Chaotic Neutral, which is always looking for more writers. You can follow him on Instagram, Goodreads, and at his oft neglected Twitter where he will try to post more, and probably live-tweet the Eurovision Song Contest.

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