Director and screenwriter John Waters once said: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em!” Wise words, but I’d add: Especially if they don’t have books by women.
When you live in a world with outrageous, explicit misogyny – domestic violence, sexual assault and attacks on reproductive rights, to name a few – it’s easy to breeze by the small stuff. After all, there are issues more pressing than whether or not the culture someone consumes is too homogenous.
But passive bias is still bias – and it has ripple effects into the broader culture. Is it really so much to ask that we pay attention to what shapes our tastes?
For example, I was riding the subway recently when I noticed my seatmate scrolling through a Twitter feed that looked remarkably like mine. I was tickled to be sitting next to a like-minded person, but as I looked on I noticed there was one thing that seemed to be missing from his newsfeed: women. He was following fantastic and smart men, but still – as far as I could tell, all men.
I got the same uneasy feeling when I listened to a podcast interview with a TV showrunner and writer that I admire. He spoke eloquently about his passions and mentors – and the people whose work he liked most. All men.
I’m sure both of these people are smart, engaged and not deliberately or actively sexist – but when your worldview is solely shaped by men, you are missing out. And like it or not, your taste in music, books, television or art says something about you: it sends a message about what you think is worth your time, what you think is interesting and who you think is smart. So if the only culture you pay attention to is created by men, or created by white people, you are making an explicit statement about who and what is important.
Look, what the dozy birds want to whine about as they hand knit their tampons is up to them. But it’s a bit much to expect us all to take any notice, to actually read this tripe, isn’t it?
Or is it that Valenti has a book coming up and wants to guilt us all into reading it?