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Reading lists, and all they entail

While there's no way to know whether Hillary Clinton would have hung tougher than President Obama with those recalcitrant Republicans, here's a safe bet -- her summer reading list would have included a few more women authors than his.


Obama opened his Martha's Vineyard vacation by purchasing Daniel Woodrell's "The Bayou Trilogy" and Ward Just's "Rodin's Debutante." He'd already packed novels by David Grossman and Abraham Verghese, along with Isabel Wilkerson's "The Warmth of Other Suns," a nonfiction account of black migration from the American South. (Some reports also had Obama carrying Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and Emma Donoghue's novel "Room.")

That would make Obama's reading 70 percent male -- which is actually a better male-female ratio than the past.


[. . .]


Now the fact that the president of the United States apparently doesn't read women writers is not the greatest crisis facing the arts, much less the nation -- but it's upsetting nevertheless. As I suspect Obama would agree, matters of prejudice are never entirely minor, even when their manifestations may seem relatively benign.


It is a well-known fact among those of us to whom this matters that while women read books written by men, men do not tend to reciprocate. The reasons for this imbalance are the subject of much speculation and little conclusion, but, simple as this may sound, it looks an awful lot to me like we think they are more interesting than they think we may turn out to be. And I very much doubt that's a message Mr. Obama means to endorse -- especially as a father of daughters who might enjoy and even be inspired by seeing their father cart around a book emblazoned with a woman's name writ large.


In recent months, women writers have tried to call attention to this discrepancy and received some hefty pushback. In February, a group called VIDA released a study detailing jaw-dropping differences between how often men and women are reviewed in such publications as the New York Times and the Atlantic. Both publications reviewed dramatically more fiction by men than women. (Robin Black, “President Obama: Why don’t you read more women?” Salon, 24 August 2011)



Don't push the fe-man too far!

When you deliberately elect in a man who is now essentially constituted to abay women's whatnot anxieties, you have to allow him his escape to his man-cave, else he go insane and lose all use. What is Obama but someone elected to obey our mothers' demands that we now show self-sacrifice, to evidence our awareness that we should have spent more time diligently attending to them?



Robin, What Makes You Even Slightly Different..

...than the chuckleheads who have been ripping the president's reading list from the Right?

You are a parasite; your article is parasitic. (Chupacabra)

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troll bait

This article virtually screams for Zorkna's contumely, and alas will richly deserve it when it comes. (absolut carnage)

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Strange Article

It must be silly season if this article gets such a high billing on the Salon home page. Seriously Robin I hope this is not keeping you up at night!

I suspect most people, regardless of sex, do as I do when selecting reading material - chose based on subject of interest regardless of whether the author is male or female. (hemp4evr)

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Why Are Women So Resentful?

What horrible person would make a gender issue out of the President's reading list on an annual vacation? How sick are so many women in this society? (mobutu)

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Holy crap!

I bet he doesn't have any Sarah McLachlan on his iPod either! The cad! (greengoblin)

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Because

Women aren't good writers. Hey, write a stupid article, get a stupid response. (g50)

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This is a ridiculous article

I'm sorry. This just sounds like one more dumb reason to bash Barack Obama. I think the President should be able to read anything he damned well pleases on vacation. This is a waste of brain cells and energy. (gaylefleming)

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A Reason NOT to Be President

At least if you're NOT president, you don't have people complaining that your reading list doesn't have gender balance among the authors.

Geeeeeez! (cross1242)

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[50 more consecutive responses of essentially the same]


another perspective

What is noteworthy about these comments, aside from their viciousness, is their complete failure to understand the point of the article they are commenting on. A serious issue is raised, and it is not what President Obama reads or doesn't read. It is the fact, well documented (as is pointed out) that women writers do face a struggle for recognition beyond that confronted by all writers. Since President Obama's reading list was made public, it afforded a perfectly reasonable way to raise the larger issue. It's too bad that commenters have seized on this harmless illustrative device as if it were the central point of the article; had they bothered to read in order to understand, we might have had an interesting discussion instead of an outpouring of venom. (mysteryperson)


@mysteryperson

RE: It is the fact, well documented (as is pointed out) that women writers do face a struggle for recognition beyond that confronted by all writers.

This privilege is evidence of a culture that has mostly surrendered the rest of the ground to women, so long as "they" have some elevated mountain top to swap secrets, share signs, and indulge in all men for awhile. Some women want even this sundered, but when this is accomplished -- the termination of such a obviously-needed masculinist ritual -- the results aren't pretty (see Donald Tuzin's "Cassowary's Revenge" for an example of what happened after a millenium-held long masculinist cult dissolved).

Most men are still born to insufficiently-respected, insufficiently-loved mothers. Such mothers don't magically, despite their lack of sustenance, become enabled providers, but inevitably look to their boy children as "gay hags" do gay men -- to satisfy, serve, and then dispose them until their next craving. Later in life these unfortunate men are either going to need an incredible dose of spot-on therapy or masculinist sexist escapes, or else, and even if very literate, they’ll start doing base things like suiciding themselves or indulging on impulsions to physically abuse women.

Women, grow up and afford yourselves a more mature understanding of what lies behind these masculinist escapes. Also, admit you voted for Obama for what actually leads to him needing these periodic escapes -- because you sensed in him someone constituted, fully broken, to respond to your distress and needs.


Really, people?

The vast, vast majority of these comments just go to show how important it is that SOMEONE make the point(s) Robin Black made in her piece. Otherwise, the myriad sexists on the internet and off might never come crawling out of the woodwork spitting their venom.


I invite you to call me a feminazi for posting this, but the issue of gender in the arts, and how prominent people consume them, does deserve to be examined. The sickening anti-woman stench coming off of this comment thread is evidence enough of that. Once Obama's summer reading list has been publicized (and it has been!), critics have the right to ask questions about it. And the lack of women writers on Obama's summer reading and other reading lists - conscious or not - just speaks to a larger, society-wide issue.


The New York Times reviews far more men than women (http://www.slate.com/id/2265910/pagenum/2) and, (again) whether it's conscious sexism or not, it's reflective of a bias that (AGAIN) is also reflected in this disgusting comment thread.

Or it could just be that women write worse than men.

(For the clueless among you, also known as most of you, I was being sarcastic in that last bit. You're welcome.) (seriouslah)


seriouslah

Re: I invite you to call me a feminazi for posting this, but the issue of gender in the arts, and how prominent people consume them, does deserve to be examined. The sickening anti-woman stench coming off of this comment thread is evidence enough of that. Once Obama's summer reading list has been publicized (and it has been!), critics have the right to ask questions about it. And the lack of women writers on Obama's summer reading and other reading lists - conscious or not - just speaks to a larger, society-wide issue.

I considered it, seriouslah. It's right there, and kinda obvious -- or were you too much prepared to enjoy your indulgent haughty snark to internet plebs to consider it? Still, what did you make of my argument that masculinism owes to a need for compensense, for boys who grew up with insufficiently loved and respected women who could not then but help using their dependent boys to feed them some of what they'd been denied?


How to disagree

It is with some discomfort that I disagree with Robin Black’s piece. I am a friend of Robin’s and have been an admirer of her writing since before she was published. The problem with her premise, I believe, is that she is conflating two things that on the surface appear to be related but which are not. The coverage and positioning of female writers (sorry, I just can’t go with the popular usage of “women writers”) in the media and what President Obama chooses to read in his free time are vastly different. One is a business/editorial decision and the other a matter of personal taste. Could both have influence? Sure. However I think it’s reasonable to assume that someone in the editorial meeting at Time magazine thought Jonathan Franzen was a pompous gasbag but still sided with putting him on the cover. Hopefully the President chooses to read books that he is truly interested in and not because he’s trying to make some sort of impression.

Robin Black does not need anyone to defend her. She is quite capable of that all on her own. I find it, however, despicable the language used and way in which some here have disagreed with her. Many of the cowards who have posted comments would shirk from the chance to voice their opinions publicly on matters of art, politics, or society, and yet feel free to do so in the basest, most vulgar ways on the internet because of its faceless, impersonal nature. Yes, we live in a country where freedom of speech is a right; however, shame on us if we don’t use it in a manner that is commensurate with its importance. (bdudlick)


@dudlick

Re: Robin Black does not need anyone to defend her. She is quite capable of that all on her own. I find it, however, despicable the language used and way in which some here have disagreed with her. Many of the cowards who have posted comments would shirk from the chance to voice their opinions publicly on matters of art, politics, or society, and yet feel free to do so in the basest, most vulgar ways on the internet because of its faceless, impersonal nature. Yes, we live in a country where freedom of speech is a right; however, shame on us if we don’t use it in a manner that is commensurate with its importance.

Dudlick, I'm not sure if you're a dude, but you sure sound like a gentleman concerned to defend his lady from unruly ruffians. Just so you know, feminists have long ago dissected such ostensibly women-serving behavior as vile and inherently patriarchal, because it reinforces the idea that women, however becoming and noble, are more delicate than men, which would leave contentious stuff like politics and business mostly to those better constituted for the fray. Yes, you begin by saying she surely is capable of defending herself, but with her absent from the discussion and you immersed within it, this seems about anxiety-calming, about manners, and being fundamentally disingenuous, and this too does your case no good.

Also, if you are a guy, a marxist perspective would have your gentleman's refutations of the boarish to be mostly about aristocratic privileging at working class expense. To other eyes, that is, it's about selfishly making claim to the chick and dicking her, dudlicks. Thought you should know.

Link: President Obama: Why don’t you read more women?

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