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Fear? No not quite – bored by perhaps

Men fear ‘chick-lit’ and read far fewer books by female authors, says Women’s Prize judge

You know that demand that men should talk more about their feelings? Some goodly portion of chick lit is folk talking about their feelings.

Of course this is a stereotype but the one great truth of the social sciences is that there’s always a nub of truth to a stereotype. Blokes talk less about their feelings than birds do, are interested in reading about people talking about their feelings less than birds are. Plot, shoot ’em up and the villain’s guts hanging out on the last page – not “and then she considered her feelings for the brute”.

Yes, yes, spectrums and all that. But gender differences in a sexually dimorphic species? Gerraway!

34 thoughts on “Fear? No not quite – bored by perhaps”

  1. Steve across the Pond

    The perpetually offended are really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find things to be offended by.

  2. Erika Mitchell, a.k.a. E L James, has sold over 125,000,000 books. Mostly including the number 50 and the word Grey.

    On the one hand we are assured it’s only men, particularly conservative MP’s, who are interested in pron. So if men read far fewer books by female authors, who is reading Ms Mitchell’s tales which are notable for explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving BDSM (bondage/discipline, dominance/submission, and sadism/masochism). .

    It’s a right old puzzler.

  3. “You know that demand that men should talk more about their feelings?”

    My experience has been that when men ‘talk about their feelings’ a massive row ensues, making absolutely certain that their ‘feelings’ are never, ever mentioned again.

    Women wonder why men don’t talk? – it’s because you don’t want to listen.

  4. Rational Anarchist

    It’s funny, two of my absolute favourite sci-fi authors right now are women (Martha Wells and Lois McMaster Bujold) but on the fantasy side it’s all men (well, mostly one man – Brandon Sanderson).

    Interestingly, the last couple of Vorkosigan books (by Bujold) have had more feelings, less action – and I’ve enjoyed them less. Still very readable, but less so.

  5. If Anne Eliot had been a leather clad international assassin, I might have enjoyed ‘Persuasion’ more…

  6. Many books would be improved by the addition of Cathy Gale or Emma Peel. Actually, surprised that Jane Austen hasn’t been rewritten with those characters….or perhaps it has and I just don’t know about it.

  7. Addolff has it right. If you tell a woman your honest feelings, she will inevitably tell you you’re wrong, and why, and what your feelings ought to be.

  8. But… but…. I enjoy the Falco series, Masters of Rome, Earthsea and the Hame stories. All by female authors, what’s wrong with me?!?!? Izzit because I is somebody who appreciates well-written stories?

  9. Rational Anarchist,
    Martha Wells is a fucking genius. Who’d have thought a gay terminator would be so engaging? I’ll check out the other bird.

  10. jgh, the entire gamut of female fantasy authors do not write “Novels”, they write “escapism” and are never to be taken seriously.
    Even when their sales are 1000-fold those of “actual novels”.

    There’s plenty of well-written “chick-lit” around, with good world-building/suspense/mystery, and even (ohdear!!) action. And when applicable, some very decent erotic tension/scenes to boot.
    But that is, of course, stuff a Modern Lady wouldn’t touch with a barge pole.
    In public anyway.

  11. Addolff

    Very reminiscent of how any campaigner regarding race, LGBT or feminism (Or myriad other -isms that seem to proliferate like Japanese knotweed) say they ‘want to have a conversation’ when I fact what they want to do is deliver a monologue which you need to receive, preferably on your knees…

  12. Addolff and Rhoda:

    Women: ” Men need to learn to express their feelings more.”

    Men: ” Express feelings.”

    Women: ” Not like that!”

  13. Grikath,

    “There’s plenty of well-written “chick-lit” around, with good world-building/suspense/mystery, and even (ohdear!!) action.”

    Yeah, but that isn’t what this is talking about. It’s those sorts of meandering books that some women seem to read. It’s like those French movies with successful people in Paris eating and drinking fabulously and having lovers but at the end of it they didn’t land the ending. I all quite pretty stuff, but what were you doing that a thousand books before didn’t do better?

    I’ve read nearly all of the Lord Peter Wimsey stories. I’ve read a few Austens and a few Edith Whartons. These are good books. I think Edith Wharton is probably one of the best women writing about men.

  14. A lot of my favourite authors are women but ‘chick lit’ ie rubbish in pastel covers is not for me.

  15. “Women spend more time wondering what men are thinking than men do actually thinking”.

    Heard JP say once that the biggest difference between men & women psychologically was in their interests – men are interested in things, women are interested in people.

  16. “…..Who is reading Ms Mitchell’s tales…..?
    I would suggest women who would scream bloody murder if their partners tried anything they enjoyed fantasizing about.
    Personally, I’ve always enjoyed reading books by Tess Gerritson or Patricia Cornwell, who also have women as the main characters. Probably because they are so well written.

  17. “Miss Woodhouse, what first attracted you to Mr Darcy and his large estate and thirty thousand a year?”
    I quite liked Jane Austen until I realised it was all about money. Then the subtlety was lost.
    There are some good female historians but they do tend to choose quite niche subjects.

    Everyone agrees that women are more sensitive to feelings. But is it actually true? Making explicit what men are content to leave implicit seems to me to indicate that men don’t need a detailed explanation. OK, I get it; now get on with the plot.

  18. There are some good female historians but they do tend to choose quite niche subjects.

    philip, look for works by CV Wedgewood, there must still be some around. Her work on the Thirty Years War was excellent.

  19. If it makes the feminists feel any better, Angelina Jolie did an incredible job directing Unbroken and First They Killed My Father. Highly recommended!

  20. Dennis, Tiresome Denizen of Central Ohio

    There are some good female historians but they do tend to choose quite niche subjects.


    Neither Barbara Tuchman nor Amy Knight strike me as niche.

  21. Why can’t they just leave us alone? Most novels are written by women about women and for women; are then published by firms dominated by women. But that’s not enough: men have to read them as well.

  22. When I have a choice between reading about feelings and relationships or how they’re mowing ’em down with Gatling guns, I do tend to prefer the latter.

    Though I’m at about the 400th page of The Gordian Protocol, and they’re using rifles and panzerfausts now.

  23. Men fear ‘chick-lit’
    Indeed. I browse bookshops I’m literally petrified I might inadvertently pick up a book written by…dare I say it?… a woman! And it’s so easy to be trapped. Some deliberately have their names on the covers with initials instead of their forenames. And George Elliot! There should be trigger warnings. They should be printed on pink paper.

  24. Dennis, Unpublished For Obvious Reasons

    Nothing says you suck at writing like blaming half of humanity for your lack of sales.

  25. Men don’t fear it, they’re just not that interested in it – it is *chic-lit* for a reason.

    And men read fewer female authors because there are fewer female authors and a percentage of them are writing chic-lit.

  26. “I quite liked Jane Austen until I realised it was all about money.”

    What romantic fiction for women isn’t? The bloke in 50 Shades of Grey is a billionaire. Every Disney fairytale is about getting a massive house. Any sort of story where a woman prefers the poor guy to the rich douche, it turns out he has a massive inheritance or is secretly rich near the end, but just dresses down.

  27. Dennis.. That one was more or less said by worthies like Marion Zimmer-Bradley, and propagated by her protegés/discoveries.

    All females. Very millionaire well before the Potter Train arrived. All “escapism” of 5th print+, with jubilee special hardcover editions, etc.
    But they aren’t obviously the “right” kind of Feminist. So they don’t count.

  28. Re books in pastel colours, is that why a couple of charity shops I’ve looked in for books have them ordered by spine colour? “I like the pale yellow ones meself – they have more of a Spring vibe”. Perhaps that’s just as good a marker as BiS’s pink paper.

  29. When asked to expressing feelings especially the why do you love me or what do you live about me then Pablo Neruda had the answer for avoiding the question……

    “ I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
    I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
    so I love you because I know no other way than this”

  30. James MacPherson

    “Never Let Me Go” by a (male) author of “literary fiction” (whose Japanese name I can’t be bothered reminding myself of), hence much higher status than a mere science fiction writer. The plot device was the basis for nothing but a bunch of narrow, self centred, inward looking explorations on the part of a tiny number of characters. A science fiction writer worth their salt would explore the vast panorama of how society at large would be reshaped as a result of the “conceit” (I believe it’s called?). But nothing – just the insides of a couple of characters.

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