Feminist author: girls shouldn’t read any books written by men

March 10, 2017 • 11:00 am

Over on the Penguin Books blog, author, journalist, and feminist Caitlin Moran explains why she think that young girls should not read any read any books written by men. Those books, she says, will infect women with Toxic Masculinity, erode their self-image, and denigrate them to the point they’re not prepared to deal with the opposite sex. When girls get older, says Moran, and have been sufficiently buttressed in their self-esteem by reading only female authors, then they can do battle with the Authorial Patriarchy:

In The Guardian last week, Gloria Steinem – brilliant, bad-ass, pioneering, pack-mother feminist Gloria Steinem – was asked which book changed her life.

“Little Women,” she replied. “Because it was the first time I realised women could be a whole human world.”

Oh man, she’s right – so right I yelped when I read it. Because if I had one piece of advice for young girls, and women, it would be this: girls, don’t read any books by men. Don’t read them. Stay away from them. Or, at least, don’t read them until you’re older, and fully-formed, and battle-ready, and are able to counter someone being rude to you, in conversation, not with silent embarrassment, or internalised, mute fury, but a calm, “Fuck you very much, and goodbye.”

So for young Ms. Moran (born 1975), there was no Shakespeare, Cervantes, Hemingway, Faulkner, Rushdie, Proust, Plato, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, or even Keats, Shelley, or Dylan Thomas. No, because her assumption is that every male author has the potential to poison the wells of female self-esteem. She preferred reading books that promoted a feminist ideology, at least implicitly:

Home-educated, we were simply left to choose what books we read – no reading lists for us, no GSCE English demands to read Catcher In The Rye. Instead, I was free to read whichever books I chose – and, without thinking about it, all I wished to read were female authors.

The Railway Children, Jane Eyre, Ballet Shoes, What Katy Did, Anne of Green Gables, Gone With The Wind, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, I Capture The Castle and, of course, Little Womenwhat I instinctively gravitated towards was stories about girls, and women. Stories about their lives – struggling with money, wondering what their careers would be, reading books, learning skills, finding clothes that made them happy, learning how to have relationships with siblings, friends and parents, chafing against societal restrictions, getting angry about the injustices of a wider world. Grieving. Hoping. Carrying on. [JAC: as if no books written by men deal with these issues!]

My world, in short. My life. Everything I thought and felt was reflected in these books – I felt befriended by these imaginary girls, spread across the centuries. I felt like we were all in this together. I felt normal. I felt like my life was a story, too – something to rejoice in; to share without fear, or embarrassment, or stumbling to find the right words. I felt – as you should, at that age – that me, and girls like me, were the centre of the world, and that we were important.

This is a woman who didn’t want her viewpoints challenged, nor to see the views of the half of the world that comprises men. Her assumption is that all male authors are sexist and that their books distort the views of women. If she had been Asian, would she have read books only by Asian authors, or, if black, by black authors? (I of course would recommend giving marginalized kids literature that shows them in a good light, but not only self-esteem-boosting books.)  The privileged Moran is a Snowflake, who can’t find a single book written by a man that didn’t crush her ego. Did she perhaps read Anna Karenina or The Master and Margarita?

It was only years later – quite recently, really – that I started reading all the books you’re supposed to read: the books by the Great White Males. Faulkner, Chandler, Hemingway, Roth. The canonically brilliant. The men in them are brilliant, clever, awkward, compelling, complex – their stories drag you in, their voices are unstoppable. The dazzle and flair is undeniable. As both a writer, and a reader, I bow down to them.

But as a woman?  What I noticed, straight away, was how unwelcome these books made me feel. How uncomfortable. As someone reading a book with my heart open, waiting to find out how the author would see me; talk to me; evaluate me, as a girl who might be in these books – as I was in the others I read – my heart was broken in the first few pages. Or else, slowly, creepingly chilled, until I had to stop, two chapters in: all love quietly crushed.

Is there no male-authored book that could speak to her as a human, and not just as a girl who already sees men as The Enemy? After all, men and women do share many traits of character that can lead one to enter into the spirit of a character different from yourself–that is, unless, you think that only a female character can speak to a female reader. And if she has that attitude, would she not be getting distorted views of men from books written by women? Or do women authors portray men accurately, while men always portray women in a misogynistic way?

Now is is true that there are distorted images of women—and sexist ones—in books written by men. Particularly in earlier times, women were seen as inferior, and that’s often reflected in literature. But Moran’s one example, which she belabors at too great a length, is Raymond Chandler. Raymond Chandler—that world famous producer of literature?

For as soon as a female character enters a story written by these dazzling, confident, 20th century men, the author is apt to look a her with a cold, cold eye. Describing how she looks in a way that I  – raised on female authors, with their gentleness, pride and respect for female bodies – was wholly unused to. That famous Raymond Chandler line – a line which, in isolation, I thought so brilliant? “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.”

When you read that, in Farewell, My Lovely, it makes you think, in quick succession, “Man, that is a beautiful line,” and then, “Christ, what an exhausting thing to be.” A woman who makes bishops want to kick holes in stained glass windows. How’s her day going? What’s her story? How is she navigating this difficult life – of driving bishops insane, and violent, just by walking into a room?

As a girl, like her, I feel like putting my arm around her, and saying, “Dude – shall we go for a drink somewhere – somewhere away from cathedrals – and sigh over how difficult life is?” I think any grown, adult, confident woman reading it would.

And yet, in Chandler’s world – and for Chandler’s male readers –  that’s the best thing a woman can be. This woman – surrounded by crazy men – is supreme.

I seriously doubt that all of Chandler’s male readers today embrace that view of women.

But yes, Chandler’s is a view of women as beautiful objects, and, though I haven’t read him, I’m prepared to accept that he sees women like that. But do all male authors? Has she read, for instance, Tender is the Night? The Grapes of Wrath? Women in Love? The Dead (in which the female is sensitive, her husband a dolt, and the author a male)? Ulysses? No, it’s all that misogynistic Chandler prose that made her neglect authors having a Y chromosome.

And that’s bigoted and despicable: the form of feminism that sees men as the enemy from the outset, and seeks to reinforce that prejudice by reading only books that keep her in her safe space.  Pity she couldn’t read Elie Wiesel’s Night, Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago, or Primo Levi’s If This is a Man or The Periodic Table, for the authors had that toxic Y chromosome. She couldn’t learn about the camps.

Of course once she’s buttressed herself with books written by women, then, loins girded (was that sexist?), she’s ready to read The Men, who have somehow transmogrified into an ageist “old men”:

No. They are not the right books to read, if you are a young girl. They are not the voices you should allow in your head. Until you are grown – until you can argue, with confidence, with a narrator; with a genius; with a world-view – girls, do not read books by old men. They live in another century, and you are the future. You, and all those brilliant, beautiful girls, writing in the past.

No, the future, in both life and books, is men and women together, with a mutual understanding that can come only from learning about each other’s thoughts. Girls should read books written by both women and men.  But I wonder if Moran thinks that boys should also read books written only by women, for that would reinforce the Patriarchy.

Fortunately Penguin UK still puts out books for both adults and children written by men and women.

But to check on my views, I asked Grania to read the piece to get at least one woman’s take. Here is her reaction to Moran’s piece:

I have a certain amount of sympathy for the sentiment, I can remember one very clear feeling as an avid, voracious child-reader – I very often felt marginalised if there were no relevant female characters in the book I was reading. I also sometimes came across characterisation of girls and women that made me choke in indignation (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe springs to mind). That is a genuine problem, and one that any educator of a child, whether formal (teacher) or informal (parent/guardian) can take steps to fix by including books in children’s reading lists that have female characters and female protagonists.

But you don’t achieve this by eliminating male authors. There are many male writers who have written books that girls and boys love. Roald Dahl, for example. Terry Pratchett. Neil Gaiman. All of these men write and wrote for their daughters and granddaughters and the love they have for women and girls shines through every book they’ve written. It would be a sad adult who removed these writers from their children’s libraries.

I might not expect a 19 year-old self-righteous twit to know this. But I’m very surprised that someone associated with Penguin—who are, I understand, in the business of publishing those flappy paper things with scribbles in them—apparently does not.

And that’s the way it is.

Building a girl: keep them away from male writers

206 thoughts on “Feminist author: girls shouldn’t read any books written by men

  1. Men would benefit from reading more women writers. But since few women or men read books at all anymore this discussion is rather pointless. Young girls and boys are largely socialized by media -> friends <-media

    1. How would we benefit from that? You know what got me and a million other kids to read? Harry Potter and I didn’t know J. K. Rowling was a woman until the first movie came out. What then kept me reading was Stephen King and that was mainly because I saw a lot of movies from his books/scripts. The gender or origin of a story shouldn’t matter, the quality should.

      Also, “today’s children” read don’t read less than previous generations. People weren’t gobbling up a book a week in the 60’s or 30’s, they were reading tabloid magazines and newspapers, they listened to dumb radio shows, people today arguably read more! I read books, I also read large writing prompts on web pages, I read game lore, I just finished listening to 4 of the Dark Tower series on audio book, I listen to history podcasts, I experience stories first hand in video games and second hand through television. I have heard more and better stories than any person who lived 80 years ago.

      The idea that kids don’t read is such a ridiculous and narrow minded concept when you don’t think about media evolving with time.

        1. Actually, he is right. Feminism is a new kind of religion by which many women and men rule their lives. Any ideology begins with some followers and can become a true religion. Please study the history of religions before making comments. As far as her idea that women should not read book written by men, that means no woman will ever get into any school, and even less besome a doctor, an engineer or an architect or any job that requires any studies. Is that really what she weants?

          1. Many people’s definition of “religion” includes apprehension of the supernatural, and that’s not feminism (and is also why atheism is not a “religion”). You clearly haven’t read the rules about polite commenting, so please study Da Roolz before commenting further. In fact, please just go away, you’ve been uncivil and dissed the proprietor of this website. Bye.

          2. He’s not right. Feminism is *not* “a new kind of religion”. You need to check the definition of both of those.

  2. It’s worth bearing in mind that Caitlin Moran’s style of writing is often exaggeratedly over-the-top, making serious points in ways that are semi-comedic and close to satirical.

    Thus, writing such as “girls, don’t read any books by men” is perhaps not intended literally, but as making a wider point in an exaggerated way. (I say this as someone who reads the newspaper in which she has a column.)

    1. Oh, come now. We’ve been hearing about feminists on campuses and in classrooms only wanting women authors, or authors of color, or of this group or that group (or anything but evil cis het white men) for ages now. There was a whole movement, hashtag and all, around not reading any white men for a whole year last year.

      1. I’m not saying that some feminists would not have written a piece like this entirely seriously, but that, being fairly familiar with Caitlin Moran’s writing style, I interpret this piece as deliberately non-literal, flippant and exaggerated (though with a serious undercurrent).

        Would you really take this as literal: “Now I know, if I’d read that when was I was a teenage girl – 13 or 14 – those words would have gone into me in a bone-deep way. I would have thought, “Raymond Chandler is a by-word for cool, so I must, clearly, become the kind of woman who makes bishops want to kick in windows, also. I don’t know how I will do this – I must lose weight, and wear heels, and put on lipstick, and find some manner of intoxicating walk, and look sultry at all times, and never run into the room screaming ‘OH MY GOD HAVE YOU SEEN THE NEW MUPPET MOVIE? KERMIT RIDES A BICYCLE WITH HIS TINY FROG LEGS!’ ”

        As additional evidence, her book: “How to Build a Girl” was described by the NY Times as “a *comic* coming-of-age tale …” and her TV series “Raised by Wolves” is described as a “comedy series”, etc.

        I can see, though, that someone not familiar with Moran, but who was familiar with many other feminists (especially those the US, where everything is currently much more fraught and angry) might interpret the piece as PCC-E did.

        1. I both take the Times and have read Moran,s book which I found amusing in an over the top way. So, I largely agree with you.

        1. And when exaggerating to make a point, the point is usually lost unless you take the exaggeration to an obvious extreme. Subtle exaggeration is a poor rhetorical device.

  3. I think of myself as a feminist, but I feel sorry for her. She missed so many years of reading wonderful books. I wonder if she read Dr. Seuss when she was younger? I loved reading the books she mentioned, but it seems a shame to deliberately limit your experience.

  4. She’s taken a kernel of truth and completely destroyed it. Emphatically no, she is wrong.

    1. It’s true that many, probably most, books by men–especially until just the recent past–usually have some sexist characterizations. Or a lot. As a kid, I did find it confusing until I realized they were writing about people they didn’t even know about–turning people into these things they called “women”. It didn’t take me long to figure that out, either. I don’t think it takes anybody very long to figure that out. And then I read the books that way. It’s still useful to warn girls when they start reading on their own that they’re going to see this. And then discuss it as they go along. That’s all you have to do. To blot out nearly all great literature from the past is ridiculous. And when I hear people advocating such things, I immediately think of Mark Twain’s wonderful short story “The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg”. Sadly, Caitlin Moran would not have read Mark Twain. But in that story, the residents of a small town are proud of how honest they are, brag about it everywhere, and keep their children from temptation to make sure everyone stays honest. Of course, the minute a temptation comes to town–everyone falls for it. Arm your daughters against the world. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t exist. I read Mark Twain as a very young child, and he didn’t corrupt me!

    2. Some of the books that were the worst to me, as a girl, were written by women. Of course this would be true–those women authors were brought up in a sexist world too, and soaked up its poison. Women have to be just as careful of other women, frankly. Caitlin Moran loved Little Women? Gloria Steinem loved Little Women? I love Gloria Steinem but I hated Little Women. Jo is the hero of any independent girl who wants adventure and her own life. And what happens to Jo? Does she get an adventurous life with her best friend Laurie? No, he falls in love with sweet pretty much younger Amy! And Jo ends up married to some old man running a school for boys. No adventure. How anyone imagines that as a feminist triumph, I don’t know. It enrages me still.

    1. Yes. It’s a fair point if she wants to say “many male authors write crappy female characters,” but I have a hard time seeing that as a reason not to read any male authors at all.

      I also suspect that if you stripped the author’s names from some lit, she’d fail her own test at being able to identify the author’s sex by which book made her feel welcome. I still remember reading The Paper Bag Princess to my kid and then doing a double-take on the author’s name.

        1. Ironically Louisa May Alcott also used the male pseudonym A.M. Barnard – something not discovered till the 1940s. Had Moran been a contemporary of Alcott she’d have missed much of her work.

          ‘George Sand’ and ‘Vernon Lee’ were women, as was ‘Murray Constantine’.

          Constantine wrote the feminist dystopian classic Swastika Night which is currently available in the SF Masterworks series under her alias or under her real name, Katherine Burdekin, published by Feminist Press (I have both).

        2. I’d post the clip but I can’t find one, so you’ll have to make do with the script

          Baldrick: Gertrude Perkins?
          Blackadder: Yes, I gave myself a female pseudonym. Everybody’s doing it these days: Mrs Radcliffe, Jane Austen
          Baldrick: Jane Austen’s a man?
          Of course. A huge Yorkshireman with a beard like a rhododendron bush.
          Baldrick: Quite a small one, then?
          Blackadder: Compared to Dorothy Wordsworth’s, certainly. James Boswell is the only real woman writing at the moment, and that’s just because she wants to get inside Johnson’s britches.

          — Ink and Incapability

  5. “Home-educated, we were simply left to choose what books we read… all I wished to read were female authors.” Well that would be an interesting experiment. Would girls and boys really choose only authors of their own gender? I seriously doubt that. Having children read only books by their own gender sounds like a recipe for instilling less, not more mutual understanding and respect between genders. In short, more of the bigotry, Ms. Moran espouses.

    1. Would girls and boys really choose only authors of their own gender? I seriously doubt that.

      Well, probably not only authors of their own gender… But mostly, even overwhelmingly, of their own gender? Perhaps.

      To offer an n=1 study, the vast majority of books I read as a kid and teenager were written by men. The only exception I can think of is J.K. Rowling. There were probably a few others, but for the most part I was imbibing words from male brains. This was more an accident, a coincidence of psychology, I think, than any kind of conscious decision. I was quite the prototypical boy reader, interested in fantasy, sci-fi battles, epic sagas, etc. It stands to reason that my psychology as a boy would translate, if I aspired to be a novelist as a man, into writing the same kinds of stories.

      I’m generalizing, of course, but this bears on points PCC(E) has made in previous posts about sex differences (and the denial of them). If boys and girls differ psychologically and grow into men and women that differ psychologically, we shouldn’t be surprised if girls read more women and boys read more men. That is, so long as we tell them the simple maxim just read what you’re interested in.

      Caitlin Moran is a perfect example of what’s wrong with modern intersectional feminism. It’s not enough for them to just let people be people; they have to confuses biological “is’s” with normative “ought’s” and tell people what to think and whose thoughts to value, based on nothing more than identity.

      1. Most authors are male, I think, even today. So there’s going to be some skew towards male authors even if one were to just pick randomly. IMO people often select books based on which authors they liked in the past, which will bias the data too.

        I fully agree with the ‘just read what you’re interested in’ mantra. Especially in this day and age where books have to compete with video games and tv; the sci-fi/fantasy snob in me might turn up my nose at the latest glut of crappy teen vampire fiction (which seems to have a majority of women authors), but frankly if my kid gets into that, I’d be perfectly happy that he was reading something, even if it isn’t what I’d choose.

        1. I’m not sure most writers are men.

          ‘Hard’ science fiction, maybe, but most psychological and forensic thrillers seem to be by women.

          I read a lot of women writers without the need or desire to actively seek them out because of their gender.

      2. Ever notice that the author of the Harry Potter books is J. K. Rowling not Joanne Rowling? This is due to a very real phenomenon where boys avoid books written by women. Ms. Rowling’ s publishers told her to use initials.

        Boys / men don’t advertise it or brag about it, but I expect a lot of men have never read fiction written by a woman.

        In the same way, girls will watch movies will male leads but boys won’t watch “girls movies.” The advance advertising for Frozen totally downplayed the female leads and showed Olaf the snowman.

        Hopefully this is changing, and kids will be able to appreciate works on their merit. The anti logic “I only read women authors” does nothing to break down these barriers.

        1. Many women writers took on male pseudonyms to get around the sexism in the industry and the biases of their readers. This still goes on, but to a lesser extent.

          But you bring up a good point. I wonder if Ms. Moran found herself not liking the works of George Sand, George Eliot, Isak Dinesen, and James Tiptree Jr. (and others), just because she had a bias against male authors.

        2. I take a small issue with this argument in that I don’t believe publishers or executives are necessarily always right.

          Related to the topic of Harry Potter, it’s taken as evidence of the stupidity of American audiences that the title of “Philosopher’s Stone” was changed to “Sorceror’s Stone” in the US. But is it true that Americans are just too dumb and ill-educated that they would have been horribly put off the series had it kept its original title? Or is that just what some random executive mistakenly assumed?

          1. The same happens in reverse; AIUI Hollywood movies are sometimes given different names when they are exported overseas…even to other English-speaking nations.

            IMO you’re right in blaming this on Execs who are proactively attempting to guess the public’s response. However the entertainment industries to tend to do a lot of product testing through test markets, so their decisions are probably more educated guesses than wild-ass guesses.

          2. Phillip Pullman’s Northern Lights was returned The Golden Compass. Neither title is smarter or dumber than the other, they’re just different.

            In fact The Golden Compass better matches the titles of the other books in the series, which are all titled after artefacts.

        3. Except that everyone knew from the first book who wrote it, and they just became more and more popular. It’s not like she kept it a mystery, even before the first one came out, that she was the author.

        4. J K Rowling was writing in a genre practically synonymous with writers who used initials: ER Edison, CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, JM Barrie, TH White.

          It’s a genre thing, not a gender thing.

        5. I read voraciously and never, not ever, based a reading choice on the gender of the author.

      3. I am a 53 year old male. One of my favorite authors when I was young was Beverly Cleary. I was utterly entraced by her adventure stories. Just thought I’d throw it out there. Thx all.

    2. Well that would be an interesting experiment. Would girls and boys really choose only authors of their own gender?

      You’d need to blind the experiment. Since so many authors in the past used “gendered” names (e.g., John vs Joan), you’d need to go though every book that discusses literature, and the associated indices and (whatever people look at when bothering with “literature”) to replace each author’s name with a code from which their gender could not be deduced by an astute reader. A 10- or 11- digit number, perhaps (because until the advent of mobile phones, people could actually remember such numbers).

      1. Just observe a statistically significant number of pre-literate children picking out picture books they want read to them.

        You would still have all sorts of confounding factors. Cover art quality, the influence tv and movies may have on their picks, etc… However, you can at least be certain they aren’t picking by the sex of the author’s name, because they can’t read. 🙂

        1. That would be a test of what pre-literate children are attracted by, not a test of which literature (i.e., reading, in a pretty sustained manner ; more than a Ladybird) appeals to which gender.
          Chocolate-flavoured paper would be a good boojum to introduce for the preliterate.

    3. I learned to read at around the age of five in the early 70’s. for the first couple of years of my reading career, my favourite author was a woman, Enid Blyton. I doubt if Caitlyn Moran would approve even though Ms Blyton was unquestionably a woman.

      It sounds to me like Caitlyn Moran was allowed to read whatever books she liked as a child, so it seems odd to me that she is proposing to rob modern girls of that opportunity.

  6. And Jane Eyre? She wants to promote Jane Eyre as a feminist triumph? Jane Eyre also ends up married to what is, for her, an old man–and we the readers are expected to sympathize with and excuse him for locking up his crazy wife in an attic for years and years, and then lying about it. The pinnacle of success for Jane is to be married to a much older man and live in the country. Its well written and I liked it, but please.

    1. When I said “also”, I meant like Jo in Little Women, as I noted in my earlier post. It’s books by women with sexist messages that have eaten away at me my whole life, not stupid sexist male authors.

    2. I think you don’t give Jane enough credit. There are a lot of devastating dialogues between Jane and Rochester, who is not necessarily supposed to be admired. He leans on her, instead of the other way around. She’s a remarkably strong and complex heroine, and I think the book is generally considered an early feminist novel.

      1. You’re completely right, I didn’t spend enough time on that post. Jane is super smart and interesting, and it’s incredibly well-written. I do like the book, I keep it in my bookshelves and reread sometimes. I just don’t think it makes sense to use it as an example of a great feminist heroine these days. At the time, sure, absolutely. But as an example to defend the crazy argument to only read women’s books–no.

  7. Stay away from them. Or, at least, don’t read them until you’re older, and fully-formed,

    So, on current neurology theories, that would be some time in the mid-twenties? Or later?

        1. I must confess to having read Alice … probably in my early twenties. I don’t think I’ve actually read Winnie. Excerpts, maybe, but not cover to cover.

          1. Alice is an entertaining read, and surely the canonical children’s fantasy story. The sequel Through the Looking-Glass is equally good, as I recall.

            And of course Alice has given rise to as many subsequent cultural allusions as a Shakespear play, from the Cheshire Cat to the Mad Hatter. Errm, for example White Rabbit

            I don’t know if anyone’s checked this, but I sometimes wonder if it wasn’t some subtle political satire, as Gulliver’s Travels was reputed to be.


            1. Quite possibly there is, but in whose politics? Oxford Don’s, Westminster, or Dublin’s? No, scratch the latter – for some reason I thought he had some connection with Dublin (Trinity Coll.?), but it seems not.
              I’ll leave that one for literary historians.

  8. As a young female with an uncanny ability to read way beyond my years, I read a lot of male authors, especially because I liked reading sci-fi. I found that where women were not represented or represented poorly, I identified more with the males in the books.

    This also goes for TV shows where in the 70s, most women just screamed when in danger. I didn’t like those women. I remember liking TV’s Bionic Woman because men would taunt her and say she looked “skinny” then she’d beat on them (they were all criminals harassing the Bionic Woman). I also liked Wonder Woman for the same reasons – she was underestimated and then those under-estimators got what was coming to them.

    So, is reading a lot of books written by men harmful? I don’t think so, especially if you get the opportunity to think about how those authors portray women and of course not all, especially now, portray women in a bad light.

    I generally don’t like separating the sexes and only associating with one as it tends to “other” the sex you don’t associate with. And for me, not hanging around men would be horribly boring for me.

      1. Ha ha – as an 7 year old I would go to the library and take out vampire books for adults (and you know they can be kind of on the sexual side). My dad had to have a chat with the librarian after I asked him questions about things little girls shouldn’t know about.

        1. When I was 12 I got into Edgar Rice Burroughs. There was an edition of his John Carter series that used Boris Vallejo-like pictures on the cover, complete with topless women swooning in the arms of men, boobs akimbo. My guess is that strongly influenced my 12-year-old choice of what to buy (though it could also have been that they were very short and cheap). When I brought the first few home, my mom picked them up, read several pages, and said “you can read this, but put a brown paper cover on it if you’re going to take it to school.”

      2. I read it even younger, and it’s remained my favorite book of all time. One of my cats is named Yossarian. It’s the first book I thought of when I read this post–almost no women, and the women aren’t portrayed all that great. I quickly figured out they just weren’t all that real and, as someone else here pointed out, you just automatically identify with a character you feel closest to, regardless of gender, instead.

        1. I loved Yossarian too. I couldn’t help but agree with him that running away was a safe strategy!

          MASH is another one of my favourite books, and in a similar vein to Catch-22. I read it couple of years later, very informative!

        2. As I recall, the men weren’t portrayed all that great either.

          IIRC Yossarian was the only sane and logical person in an insane world that kept trying to kill him.


    1. I felt exactly the same way about those useless ‘heroines’ who had to be rescued all the time.

      I really liked Mrs Peel (Diana Rigg) of The Avengers precisely because she could give as good an account of herself as Steed could.

      But I do agree there was a dearth of strong women characters in fiction. At least the sort of fiction I liked to read / watch, which did not include the sort of ‘period’ domestic novels Ms Moran likes. The nearest I got was Thomas Hardy, (whose female characters are by coincidence reputedly sympathetic), though the real reason I liked Hardy was that the countryside (a little of which I knew when young) featured largely in his stories.

      Agatha Christie (hey! female author) I found quite readable for the mystery.

      But what I really wanted to read was excitement and adventure and really wild things.


  9. It is hard to think of a social or political movement that doesn’t breed an extremist fringe. Sometimes such movements are “hijacked” by the extremists who take them over. For example, such was the case when the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Revolution. It is not surprising that a person such as Ms. Moran has appeared on the scene, as she is hardly the first of the radical feminists to gain a degree of public prominence. She is practicing free speech in the world of ideas. It is the job of those who oppose her views to vigorously counter her arguments, such as in this post. Activists are usually full of energy. Those who not are all too often complacent or don’t take the threat seriously until it is too late. And it is this complacency that leads to extremists gaining power, whether in politics or intellectual debate.

    Edmund Burke’s aphorism comes to mind: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Although, of course, I would change “good men” to “good people.” This post is a good example of someone doing something on an important topic.

    1. There was a whole feminist campaign of “let’s not read books by any cis white men for a whole year” last year. You can look it up. This isn’t something new. It was gestating on college campuses for years.

      She’s just found a way to publicize it to her advantage.

      1. That seems okay. After all, the whole point of doing stuff like a book club is to get you to read stuff you wouldn’t normally read, and that’s all this sort of ‘1-year experiment’ is doing. I find that suggestion much more reasonable than suggesting young girls not read any male author until they’re teens.

        1. It wasn’t a book club. It was a social and lefty media campaign to get people to stop reading books by white men for a year.

          You say that’s ok, but imagine if such a campaign was started against literally any othert group. How would you feel then?

          1. Hmmm…I guess I took it charitably as a suggestion to read authors you would not normally consider. No I would not necessarily want a “don’t read them” message pointed at any other group, but I also don’t mind someone making the argument “hey eric, whether you know it or not you’ve been reading a steady diet of books by old white men. Hows about consciously, intentionally not doing that for a year, and seeing what other ideas you might discover?”

            However, I would say that sort of message is better focused on getting the reader out of whatever rut they’re in, rather than focusing on certain authors one shouldn’t read. It would be just as legit to suggest an all-novel reader read some non-fiction, or vice versa, or whatever.

      2. While I don’t agree with “Don’t read any books written by cis white men for a year,” I understand it. It can expand your horizons to intentionally seek out authors you might not otherwise read.

        But “don’t read anything written by men ever”? That’s nuts. That breeds ignorance and reinforces prejudice.

  10. A new contender for the “most self-destructive claim on behalf of women ever”. Distressing.

    (The previous was Sandra Harding’s “Newton’s laws of motion are a rape manual.”)

  11. Don’t read websites written by male authors!

    Hey, hold on a sec, you will be exempt if you simply identify as not-male, PCC! You don’t have to identify as a woman, just identify as something not-male. Fire, or water, perhaps. Or maybe a beaver?

    Actually, you are a Ceiling Cat, so you technically get away with being not-male!


  12. “So for young Ms. Moran (born 1975), there was no Shakespeare, Cervantes, Hemingway, Faulkner, Rushdie, Proust, Plato, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, or even Keats, Shelley, or Dylan Thomas.”

    There still would be Mary Shelley, I guess…

    1. And Ursula K Leguin, who had some interesting things to do with gender/sex in her book The Left Hand of Darkness

      1. I still remember actually feeling cold when they were trekking accross the ice.
        I remember some kind of orb, that produced a small amount of light and heat, that one of them produced and I felt glad and warmer.

        I was influenced a lot by Ursula Le Guin.

        Like “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”.

        1. I was privledge to have discovered Ursula K Leguin’s book in a 4th year thesis course that included a selection of science fiction and children’s books when I was doing my English degree. Most of the other books were garbage and I was irritated by my peers’ lack of science understanding that made them enjoy those crap books but the Leguin book was fabulous and worth putting up with the horrible ones to read that one.

          1. I read relentlessly when I was young.
            Non stop, I needed the escape and the otherwise elusive happiness found in reading.
            I don’t recall that th gender of the author was ever a concern, or even something I noticed.
            On reflection, women authors have given me a lot of pleasure.

            I think I would have gone insane if not for books.

            1. Indeed. I didn’t even notice the authors’ names when I was young, let alone what their gender was, nor did I care. Good writing is what matters and that includes realistic portrayals of women so when you see them written as foils to male heroes, you aren’t much interested anymore.

              I felt the same with TV. The early Doctor Who companions were often treated condescendingly by the Doctor. That’s much different now. I also thought there were times that Uhura was treated condescendingly by the Enterprise bridge crew. I remembered one episode when she was translating morse code and Kirk said “we all know morse code Uhura!” That stuck with me all my life. So, it didn’t go unnoticed to me when shit things happened to women but it was also nice to see their treatment change over time.

              1. It is nice.
                I can’t remeber which author, nor quite when (many many moons ago), but I remember him apologising for writing female caracters, that, for example, shreiked in fear when danger struck.
                They were probably crew of a space ship or something.
                It may have been Isaac Asimov, I am not sure, but they realised, or were educated into realising that any ‘crew’ would be as well trained and professional as any other, gender not withstanding.
                And so apologised for earlier work.

  13. Caitlin Moran has for years been a professional provocateur who thinks she’s not doing her job unless she’s pissing people off — someone who’s made a profession, essentially, out of being a perpetual moody teenager, with the characteristic sense of self-righteousness that comes with the territory. I mean — just look at the photograph. Do I need to say more? Pay no attention.

  14. Anyone promoting censorship is very suspect, regardless of the reasoning and how many even understand this reason. The opposite to her argument would be – know our enemy. If the male is so bad and toxic, you should want to read more, figure it out and then take action.

    If I think Donald Trump or the republican party is the worst possible thing in the country today, I want everyone, male or female to read everything they can on this subject and make up their own mind. Take a position. To do it her way, Stop, don’t read anything on this issue, and stay away from it. What do that get you? It gets you the party in power that we have.

  15. I do have to take issue with Jerry’s characterization of Raymond Chandler, though. Remember, Chandler is putting those words and thoughts into the mouth of a fictional character, Philip Marlowe. Writers are not the same people as their characters. In real life Chandler was a rather diffident chap with a very uxorious attitude towards his much older wife Cissy.

    1. +1

      A good book is Mark Haddon’s “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time”. It is a first person narrative. It would be wrong to conclude Haddon is autistic on the basis of what this character says.

      1. It would also be wrong to think Anthony Burgess approved of tolchocking old vecks for a malenky bit of cutter before indulging in a bit of in-out-in-out with a devotchka with horrorshow groodies.

  16. … struggling with money, wondering what their careers would be, reading books, learning skills, finding clothes that made them happy, learning how to have relationships with siblings, friends and parents, chafing against societal restrictions, getting angry about the injustices of a wider world. Grieving. Hoping. Carrying on.

    I had to chuckle a bit at this list of the activities engaged in by the mostly 19th and early 20th century girl heroines she lists. She leaves out some very prominent pursuits — such as getting a husband and keeping a nice home, becoming a lady and being a good mother. I’m not saying those are necessarily anti-feminist themes, but I don’t think young girls reading the Anne of Green Gables series are going to get the message that they can be president some day, or do anything a man can.

    The daring Victorians and Edwardian authoresses often embraced what’s been called “difference feminism” — the belief that women were equal to men in that they both have strengths associated with their respective sexes. Men are braver and smarter, but women are more compassionate and emotional. Complementary and equal. I know, because I used to read a lot of this stuff.

  17. A Google search of authors writing about how they spent many months reading only books by black authors:


    “Look at me, I am so just and righteous compared to the rest of you. You should be just like me and also show the rest of the world how morally superior you are”

    That almost sounds like a directive from a church. Do 10 Hail Mary’s, volunteer at the soup kitchen, protest abortion, hate the gays – brag to your congregation about how moral and righteous you are, and admonish them for not doing the same.

    1. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with someone realizing that their reading has been pretty exclusively works by white men and then deciding to spend a few months reading only women, or only black authors, or Asian authors, or Latin American, or gay, or whatever. These works shouldn’t replace the white men, though; they should be read in addition to the white men.

  18. As someone reading a book with my heart open, waiting to find out how the author would see me; talk to me; evaluate me, as a girl who might be in these books.

    I guess I’ve never read a book with my ‘heart open’, judging how an author would see/talk/evaluate me. I just can’t wrap my head around reading a novel with this sort of egoistic pretense. And then claiming that finding “no love” after a few pages, she would give up after 2 chapters. Because there was ‘no love’, whatever that means. As if every author should be judged on whether or not their work has love.

    This is obviously someone who doesn’t read novels the way I do. Maybe that’s a male/female distinction that I’m unaware of.

    1. The tone she’s giving off, to me, is “everything is about ME. Me me me me.” Just read the damn book and stop thinking about yourself for one second.

    2. Dont think its male/female difference. Sounds like A) short attention span/patience
      B) mild narcissims – it has to conform to ME as I am now and place ME at the centre complaining that life is really tough for most people everywhere and has always been without trying to understand why and how (besides SJW complain-“activism”)this can change. My personal gripe is that only science – and defence against traditionalist onslaughts until these start to weaken – as Well as focussed community nurturing (not on EVERY cause but on causes we can do something about) -can change our circumstances to improve this situation.

    3. Fully agree, that particular sentence seemed very narcissistic. ‘You probably think this book is about you, don’t you? (Don’t you?).’

      I do have to admit that sometimes it is harder for me to “get into” a story with a female first-person character or a gay male first-person character. And I recognize that women readers probably had to do that “getting into someone that isn’t like you” a crap-ton more than I did, at least probably before the ’90s-00s. In that respect, more women authors and more books written from a woman’s perspective is a great boon to young women readers. But again, I fail to see how that justifies the extreme of no male authors. Everyone should occasionally, at least, read something outside their comfort zone.

      1. I wonder how she feels about books written by men, but with a woman protagonist. I’m thinking of Main Street by Sinclair Lewis, which is one of my all time favorites.

        1. Wasn’t that a SJW thing recently where they didn’t think men should write women characters as well as white people shouldn’t write non-white characters?

          1. Well LOL that would solve Ms. Moran’s problem: if no men wrote (stories with) women protagonists and she wanted to read only stories with a woman protagonist, then she would by default read only women authors.

        2. Yes. What does she make of the children’s book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, or The Sound and the Fury?

          And on a slightly different topic, it’s just as well the window breaking blonde didn’t have a face which launched a thousand ships.

    4. Doesn’t the expression “no love” in British English mean the same thing as “no luck” on the other side of the pond? Nothing really to do with love…

  19. The other problem here is that in apparently holding up feminist ideals, Moran is ironically taking away women’s freedom of choice. Who am I to tell my young daughter not to read Hemingway and Dawkins? And who is she? My daughter is free to read these books and make up her own damn mind about them. Sure I will discuss them with her, and sure I will even tell her when I disagree with her about something in those books, but I am never going to tell her what to read and what to believe.

    1. My second grade teacher wouldn’t allow boys to read anything more than John and Betty level books which I had considered childish in grade prep. From that time on I would not allow anybody to tell me what I could or should read. It did cause me some problems during my secondary school years.

    1. You seem to be suggesting that female authors are idiots and male authors are non-idiots. Are you kidding me?

  20. What about nonfiction books written by male authors? I guess they are out of question, too, as they promote objectifying “white male” science.

    At least, women can dodge Newton’s famous “rape manual” that has since kept women away from physics (a discipline that is of the reputation of having a hard-on for solid-states, and still hasn’t understood liquids as well, just because they’re female).

    I have to say, Moran has hit the head with a nail on this one.

  21. I’ll admit it was partly the sexism of most story tales = but equally the violence and egotism and/or apparent righteous identity posing of many acts of story telling – that put me off fiction as a child – also I like something i can assess the likelihood of. Often women can buy into narratives that oppress them to garner social status or else acceptance within their role – especially in traditional societies. And grandstanding is not just a male thing – especially on a communal chest beating level. I do occasionally read books of literature and enjoy them – but seldom. Im one of those people that prefers to hear real stories in journalism or interviews and can’t stand grand narratives.

    However this is just juvenile and another aspect of Victimhood Culture or the Oppression Olympics.

  22. In addition to “Anna Karenina”, other reasonably decent books about women by men include “The Scarlet Letter”, “Madame Bovary”, “Camille”, “Moll Flanders”,
    (However, many of these are about women’s struggles with men. The advantage of Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” is that its all gals: men are not even a reference point.)

    Stephen King writes women well in “Dolores Claiborne” and “Carrie”.

    I have mixed feelings about DH Lawrence’s “Women in Love”. I’m not sure DHL really understands women as well as he would like.

    Grania, the 2005 film of “The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe” re the portrayals of Susan and Lucy, is a huuuge improvement over C.S. Lewis’ novel. He seems to have gotten better at writing women after his marriage, as evidenced in “Till We Have Faces”.

    1. Yes, I don’t think that Lewis was a misogynist at all, just a product of his times. After all, TLTW&TW was dedicated to the eponymous Lucy.

      Aslan’s pontifications to the fictional Lucy on the subject of women in war though reared the first stirrings of feminism in five year old me though.

      As stereotypical as some of his views on women were, he nevertheless wrote strong female characters in all of his children’s books.

      1. Lewis might have been a bit sexist, but his compatriot and rival Tolkien was worse – not really deigning to write much in the way of female characters at all. Still, as Grania says, they are products of their times, and you need to read their books with at least a little historical context.

        1. By today’s standards they were both sexist, but neither especially so, I don’t think.

          Though Tolkien didn’t write many female characters the ones he did write were usually quite powerful characters. Like Arwen, Galadriel (one of the most wise and powerful entities left in Middle-Earth during the 3rd Age), Luthien Tinuviel, Idril Celebrindal, Lady Haleth, Morwen Eledhwen and a few others. All either wise, brave, leaders, strong warriors, powerful in magic, and usually a combination of several of those things. Oh, and beautiful of course. A bit of that sexism.

            1. How can I forget Eowyn? I fell in love with her when I was 10 based on reading TLOTR.

              There was also the mysterious Goldberry, Bombadil’s river-spirit wife.

            2. Here JRR was riffing off of Shakespeare’s Scottish play.

              In Shakespeare’s play, MacBeth will not be conquered until Birnham wood come up to his castle. It is all small-sized Christmas trees, and the approaching army cuts them down to use as shields. But in LotR, Saruman is conquered because he has awoken the living trees of Fangorn Forest from deep sleep, and they have actually marched to his fortress.

              Likewise, “no man of woman born” shall harm MacBeth, but MacDuff is born by Caesarian section, an alleged exception. But Eowyn is literally “no man”.

          1. Plus, the male characters in Tolkien are surprisingly non-macho, emotionally quite androgynous, capable of simultaneously being fierce warriors and expressing tremendous feelings of tenderness. There’s a tad of this in Homer, but it’s stronger in JRR.

          2. Even though she didn’t get a lot of page-time, Galadriel was probably my favorite character in LotR. And don’t forget the female Valar. Yavanna was another favorite of mine.

      2. Lucy was named after the daughter of Lewis’ friend Owen Barfield, but was in many ways inspired by June Flewett who was evacuated from London during the war and lived with Lewis and his brother Warner during the air-raids.

        June became an accomplished actress and married Sigmund Freud’s grandson Clement Freud, an odd coincidence since there is a well-known stage play about a fictional meeting between Freud and Lewis called “Freud’s Last Case”. (Come to think of it, actor David Suchet has played both Freud and done the voice of Aslan in a radio play!)

  23. This keeps getting more confusing. We hear from one part of the left that there is no such thing as gender. At the same time another part tells us that gender is the only thing that matters about a person. They need to get together and take a spiritual journey to get to the root of their beliefs. I know just the shit-slinging guru that can help them.

    1. We hear from one part of the left that there is no such thing as gender. At the same time another part tells us that gender is the only thing that matters about a person.

      This reminds me of a very confusing conversation that I had over on the intersectional feminist blog “Love Joy Feminism’ a year or two ago.

      Yeah. I suggested that we should work to abolish gender completely – that way LGBT people would no longer be persecuted and discriminated against – if we can convince people that we are all the same, that the content of our character matters, and not our sexual orientation/gender identity etc…

      Well, they told me that this was a very bigoted thing and that I *had* to see gender, as this was the *only* way to protect people who are victims of discrimination.

      Kinda like how we can only help ‘people of colour’ by seeing race, and by judging all “poc” by the colour of the skin and not their character.

      Yeah, this is just what MLK and other social justice activists have always had in mind, no doubt!

      In short, these social justice warriors *need* racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and any -phobia because without professional victimhood they have nothing. This is one reason why they keep upping the ante with more and more absurd claims – *everything* is racist, sexist, etc etc. EVERYTHING, and we need to point it all out!

      Sometime I amuse myself by pretending to be an intersectional feminist and I accuse my friends (jokingly of course) of misogyny over the most random and inconsequential of things…good times!

      1. It’s funny how they’ve gone full circle to wanting to judge people by the color of their skin and have segregation.

  24. Grania mentioned Terry Pratchett, and I was just thinking that as well. I am slowly moving my way through his Discworld series, and my favorites are the books about Tiffany Aching.

    1. Those are in fact Pratchett’s ‘junior’ (is that the right word?) books, though an adult can read them without suffering.

      My favourite Pratchett female character is Susan Sto Helit, Death’s granddaughter. Second, Angua the werewolf.


  25. I agree with her. As a child, the most oppressive book I read that caused me so much anguish was the bible…kidding of course.

    In all honesty, Moran forgets that reading is an individual experience, and thus, everyone has different reactions. As a young girl, I related most to Salinger, Oscar Wilde, and Poe.

    Girls can empathize with male characters even if their problems/experiences are different. As a twelve-yr-old girl, my heart sank when Poe wrote about his dead wife and when I learned Wilde was imprisoned for homosexuality. But, this was my experience.

  26. She thinks this: “It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained-glass window.” is a “beautiful line?” I think it’s terrible writing. It’s the kind of writing that makes me think I’m probably not going to be able to finish reading the book.

    1. Yeah. I stumbled on that too. Sort of reminds me of James M. Cain, who I always found tedious at best.

    2. It’s in the genre. You like the style or you don’t.

      Ever tried reading Damon Runyon? He has an even more distinctive style which, again, either grabs you or leaves you cold.


  27. I don’t know what the proportion of men to women is right now on the planet, but let’s just say, half and half. Are we to read only books that purportedly promote feminine values
    and pay no attention to the other half of the world? As a child, I read anything that attracted my interest that was available from the library. My kids read any book in the house or library.

    I am so tired of people who want to restrict our knowledge to their limited perspective. Read it all. Then draw your own conclusions. It is stupid to believe that all women are the same vs. all men are differently the same. There are “feminine” men and “masculine” women, and the whole range in between. For humanity’s sake, let us all live in the manner best suited to each of us as long as we’re not being harmful.

    1. Also, women aren’t necessarily favourable to other women in how they portray them. Women often take on the role of social control so it’s not guarantee that a female author won’t write a crummy female character.

      1. Yes. There is a certain matter of writing skill, too, which is not the prerogative of either gender.

        Not all writers are equally good at all situations.


  28. I wonder why she doesn’t say that women should only read women authors of the same race, age group, culture and time period as their own? Why not take her reasoning to its logical conclusion?

  29. For the longest time I could not understand why women would not want to call themselves feminists. Alas, I do understand it now.

  30. Would you give up Dr. Seuss?
    Your young girl’s reading so reduce?
    Hop on Pop and the big-hearted moose?

    No! I will not do it Ms. Moran!
    I will not give up Green Eggs and Ham.
    You can stuff that idea in a can.

    1. Perfect!

      Ms. Moran is way over-the-top on this. I saw her in a Monk debate with three other very articulate women a few years in Toronto, something like Are Men Obsolete?, and she was very amusing but also slightly whacko. I believe she is married ( to a man) and has young children, fwiw.
      Just found a link: http://www.munkdebates.com/debates/the-end-of-men

      I call myself a staunch (?) feminist, yet probably read as many men as women.

  31. I agree with Grania’s take on this. Moran has valid grievances but her responses to them go too far and are actually self damaging.

    As a father to a daughter, and a male who has always felt (as opposed to having to reason to that view) disgusted by males behaving as if they are superior and or of higher station than woman, I most emphatically did not, do not, want to assume that my daughter is anything like the fragile pre-damaged little girl that Moran seems to think is the default for girls. Or treat her as if she were.

    I have no idea if Moran has good reason for her negative views of men, but there are plenty of women who do and I am more inclined to reserve judgement of her motivations than to ridicule her. Though that doesn’t mean I won’t criticize her views or feel bad about doing so.

    Though we have made some big progress there is still much left to do to achieve parity of social, political and economic rights for men, women and all other genders. I still see women treated as if they were substandard every day. It is positively common, the norm even, still, in many places in our society. Many feminists have indeed gone overboard, and some are just plain nuts. But I hear people, some even here at WEIT on occasion, who also go overboard at any mention of women’s rights and don’t just refute the nuts things the feminist extremists say but refute that there are any inequalities / inequities left in our society. That too is nuts. I see it every damn day.

    1. Thank you, Mr darrelle, for this post.

      AS do I: “see it every damn day.”


      ps What are readers’, women or men ones, reviews on this y1893 work: Woman, Church and State by M.J. Gage? Certainly been around long enough it has — for its availability to’ve been read by any gender, that is.

      1. I cannot read. I have before on W E I T stated this. At all well, that is. I am a terribly, terribly, extremely slow reader (in order to, the first time through something, be able to comprehend stuffs) and have been all of my childhood and adult life. Tested through junior high’s SRE series of reading skill examinations. And as, initially, in adulthood a person of the sciences’ endeavors.

        About 15 or so years ago, then, I knew I had not read pieces, nonfiction or fiction ones, by authors who were women. I had not ever been mentored by any teacher at any level of my educations anywhere, female or male, to do so. At all. Thus, since I only have a very lessened measure of reading minutes left inside my lifetime, I selected six authors whom I already knew of their takes on things who are men to keep in my purview; and the rest of anything I read offline shall be works written by women. And since I am so, so slow and works by women amount, by now, to a gargantuan number of these, then all for which I have ambition, energy and time, is nonfiction, including histories.

        When I started upon this plan, then, I quickly became astounded at the histories that were out there available. And, importantly, at the philosophies and ideologies within those histories. I had until this plan never, ever known of these thinkings, these … … thinkers !

        A friend I lent one to brought it back to me in three weeks’ time. I told her she did not need to do that, that she was welcome to keep it in order to get it finished if she wanted to — to which statement of mine, of course, she replied to me that she .was. done with the 625 – page work. It, that same piece, I too had actually completed: it took me, steadily working at it however, over six months’ time. O m’golly, it was so, so good. That one: Personal History by Ms Katharine Meyer (Graham) of http://www.who2.com/bio/katharine-graham. Known to you, too, and, as well, read, not ?

        Now ? Now I have two going at the same time. After four months’ time, I am on page 111 of Ms Gloria’s My Life on the Road and University of Texas – Austin Professor Robert Jensen’s The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men at where I am still, after three weeks of it on loan, in its preface.

        Yes, I am sorry I am so slow. But I do love to read. I don’t know what is the matter. Just is what it is — with that matter.


    2. Spot on and I still remember, as a young girl, going with my mother to places like Radio Shack and watching as the men working there treated her like she was a complete fool when my mom knew much more than they did and was very smart. That affected me more than the literature I was reading at the time as did the treatment I received as I grew older and entered those same shops. Thank goodness things aren’t as bad as that anymore!

      Simply put, people need to think of the bigger picture.

  32. I have no problem with transparently shallow folks. The ones who annoy me are those who act deep, but are in essence insubstantial. Caitlin Moran’s interpersonal style is exhausting to watch, and this is just from checking out some still photos. Goodness, I had to take a nap to recover from observing her rabid eyes, Joker-like-smile, and other theatrics. When I woke up, boredom then set in after reading a bit more of her writing.

    Variety is the spice of life so read as much as you can from lots of different sources. One of my favourites when I was but a tyke was reading out all the billboards as we whizzed past them in our family car. Lots to learn from billboards. Even a judicious amount of Moran can be useful as bad writing is instructive in what not to do.

  33. The Railway Children, Jane Eyre, Ballet Shoes, What Katy Did, Anne of Green Gables, Gone With The Wind, Pride and Prejudice, To Kill A Mockingbird, I Capture The Castle and, of course, Little Women…

    My world, in short. My life. Everything I thought and felt was reflected in these books

    So Moran owned slaves then?

    1. Yes, it’s a strange choice. The “heroine” is a shallow and conniving user of others.

      For all her straining against conventions of her day, she is swift to try to enforce them against others – even her own daughter – when she thinks that it would be to her own advantage.

      She’s not a particularly inspirational figure for young girls, more of a cautionary tale: yes, there are people out there who will walk over your face to get what they want.

    2. Gone With the Wind? Which ended (the movie version at least) with the famous line “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn”?

      Very strange choice…


      1. I wish it had ended with that line. Some idiot added another line for Scarlett “After all, tomorrow is another day”, which ruined the ending for me.

        1. That was the last line in the novel. The movie after some wrangling with the censors settled on “Frankly, my dear blah blah blah”.

  34. I think when somebody plays the identity card it’s only fair to point out how White her list is.

    Even her criticisms of Chandler are based on his representation of gender – and not the far more problematic portrayal of the disposable ‘dinges’ and sweaty Indians in Farewell, My Lovely

    I am a straight white man but Chandler – who inenjoy immensely – doesn’t represent my world view. I recognise more of myself in Shirley Jackson’s work, even if she is a woman and so are her protagonists.

    And what am I to make of women writers who use male protagonists? Is Mrs Marple okay but Hercule Poirot problematic? Are Ann Cleeves’ Vera Stanhope books more ‘female’ than her Jimmy Perez books?

    What of Patricia Highsmith and her iconic male antihero, Ripley? Was Highsmith ‘masculinised’ when Strangers on a Train was adapted by Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler? Was Chandler feminised when adapted by Leigh Brackett?

    What of male writers with female protagonists? Is Modesty Blaise less iconic for being the creation of a man?

    1. Errm, it’s Miss Marple. Not that her marital status has anything to do with her detecting abilities.

      But with Modesty Blaise we’re getting into modern territory. I’d point out that the typical Bond Girl (from the James Bond movies) – whether ally or villain – is considerably more formidable and capable than any female heroine from 50 years ago.

      I’m not offering the James Bond movies as an example of female equality, but they do demonstrate how far the Overton window (is that the right term?) has moved.


    2. What of male writers with female protagonists?

      The first rule of fight club is do not challenge Red Sonja’s femininity. The second rule of fight club is DO NOT CHALLENGE RED SONJA’S FEMININITY.

  35. I would have thought by learning how men behave, or capable of in fiction, you would be forewarned. It is bad enough today learning of the huge pitfuls of life, the cad’s of this world and how they operate. How are these young women going to recognise mysoginistic behaviour in it’s myriad forms, you think it’s normal and have had no exposure to evaluate it, what to avoid. Discuss and diss it with your friends.
    And besides all that, like the snowflakes on campus we are needed to live in the real world if we can or want to make changes to it. There are a lot of points in the post and comments that are just common sense, something lost to Moran.

  36. Maybe nobody should read anything written by a male writer. Caitlin Moran has taken what is obviously a great idea and failed to run with it. Men can continue to put pen to paper, of course. To infringe their right to write would be silly.
    Something that worries me is that my daughter might accidentally read something written by an author who has had gender reassignment. If she fails to see the poison inherent in the writings of a former-female-now-male she could be scarred for life, and I couldn’t trust a former-male-now-female writer to have totally disposed of all the baggage of her previous life.
    All too confusing. Perhaps I should re-read The Getting Of Wisdom by Henry Handel Richardson.

    History will probably judge Caitlin’s idea as totally Moranic.

    1. “the poison inherent in the writings of a former-female-now-male she could be scarred for life, and I couldn’t trust a former-male-now-female writer to have totally disposed of all the baggage of her previous life”

      What an interesting comparison.

  37. Caitlyn Moran has a point. When I was still reading bedtime stories to my two daughters, I couldn’t help but notice that the stories were almost always about boys or men. Terry Pratchett wrote some good works with major female characters, and the Dark Materials trilogy was excellent, likewise the Series of Unfortunate Events. I didn’t find much else.

    1. The solution is a list of recommended books fitting your target. It is interesting that Moran thinks the female-author approach works so well…

      Of course she did not look for recommended books by men…

    1. ‘not half cool’. ?

      In English parlance, that would mean she’s very cool indeed.

      Is there a usage difference here?


  38. This has a sense of déjà vu for me. By this logic, gay men should only read books by gay men, black gay men should only read books by black gay men, women who identify as lesbian shouldn’t read books by straight women, etc. Oh, and men shouldn’t read books by women.

    BTW, she appears to mean that girls shouldn’t read fiction, drama, or poetry written by men. I doubt she means books on math, physics, atheism, cattle breeding, investment banking, head and neck surgery, philosophy, ethics, entomology, knitting, collecting china, sports, cookbooks (never eat a dish created by Bobby Flay!) wine-making, etc., etc. But she doesn’t clarify that. She says “[D]on’t read any books by men.”

  39. Wow, the SJWs are doubling-down on the stupid. Instead of wasting time and energy on stupid ideas, they should be concentrating in challenging Trump and the GOP, especially since it is likely that they will gain more Senate seats in the midterms.

  40. Well, I guess all textbooks men have written are out. I guess there are plenty of cookbooks for them, written by women. Seriously, if you say don’t read books by men, you are leaving out almost every major scientific and mathematical discovery, which would cripple women when it comes to getting an education. Also, I challenge someone to read this, replace man with black people, or woman. Then, come tell me what you just read wasn’t racist or sexist. This person is an intellectual midget. The reason she can even read and write, is because some evil hetero white male probably wrote the textbook she learned from. It’s hilarious to me that people see this as progressive, bit switch the genders around, and holy shit! It is about the most sexist thing you could write.

  41. > But yes, Chandler’s is a view of women as beautiful objects, and, though I haven’t read him, I’m prepared to accept that he sees women like that.

    Not quite. Chandler is, after all, one of the main codyfiers of the femme fatale type of woman:

    Each and every one of his books features a woman as the villain or main plot driver – not as romantic interests, not as damsels in distress, but as independant, capable and intelligent women who are quite able to best the men in the story. And even more importantly, this is never remarked on as something out of the usual.

    While one might argue that the femme fatale is just another stereotype (but so would be the acerbic, wise-cracking private eye), it’s definitely not treating women as mere ornament.

  42. “Stories about their lives – struggling with money, wondering what their careers would be, reading books, learning skills, finding clothes that made them happy, learning how to have relationships with siblings, friends and parents, chafing against societal restrictions, getting angry about the injustices of a wider world. Grieving. Hoping. Carrying on.”

    I would find that stuff unutterably boring, whichever gender it was written by, and whichever gender it was about. But then I’m male. Do males and females have different tastes? (I think so, but then I can’t remember whether that’s the currently approved dogma or complete anathema).

    I want to read about excitement and adventure and really wild things. I absolutely don’t want them to *happen* to me, I want to live a comfortable life that appears utterly boring to anybody else, but I certainly don’t want to read about that since I’m doing it already.

    By the way, I find the choice of Raymond Chandler to exemplify male authors bizarre and overstated. I’ve read almost nothing of his, what I understand to be his tough-guy all-females-are-bimbos style doesn’t appeal to me.


    1. I see from Robert Seidel’s comment above that apparently Chandler’s women are femme fatales, not bimbos. Big difference and in that respect I should revise my uninformed comment.


    2. Do males and females have different tastes?

      Heh, to borrow a concept: the within-group variance in reading tastes >> the between-group variance in reading tastes. 😉

    3. “I would find that stuff unutterably boring…”

      Worse than that! “Finding clothes that make them happy?” Barf!

      1. I did notice that. Talk about stereoypes! Didn’t Ms Moran feel a ‘oops!’ when she was typing it?

        Contra that, I do have to admit that James Bond, that paradigm of masculinity, was frequently noted to be wearing clothes of (presumed) distinction. (I say ‘presumed’ because my knowledge of such matters is zero).


  43. And kudos to Grania for mentioning Terry Pratchett. He has a brilliant and subversively ironic way with words (which is above all what drags me into a story – I’m currently slowly working my way through my complete Pratchett collection for the third time), but coincidentally his female characters of all species and ages are just as powerful, for good or evil, as his males.


  44. Is the author an idiot? Principia? And a number of mathematical and scientific books were written by men, which a young girl should be encouraged to read. That’s how you get women scientists and inventors.

  45. I have some sympathy for Moran, and suspect she is being a little hyperbolic, as other commenters have suggested.

    how books made me a feminist

    Isn’t there a sense in which being aware of literature that is misogynist, sexist, and so on, will make you a feminist? It’s important, from the historical pov, to see the effect that such attitudes have on the depiction of women in literature. If all one reads is positive, well-drawn, well-rounded female characters, one might think there is no problem!

    Ironically reading female writers isn’t necessarily going to deliver the message a feminist might prescribe either; one of my favourite authors as a young boy was Enid Blyton, who, let’s be honest, was a tad sexist, amongst other ‘ists’. Despite her simplistic ways, she did write about complete female worlds, in the Mallory Towers series. I loved them, though the critics, and my teachers, disapproved. I moved on to Richmal Crompton, Jane Austen, Patricia Highsmith, Jane Smiley and many other female writers.

    …girls, do not read books by old men. They live in another century, and you are the future.

    I think characters like Little Dorrit, Bella Wilfer and Nancy are positive well-rounded female characters, despite being the inventions of Dickens, an old Victorian gentleman. Another old Victorian, Thomas Hardy, depicts the unjust anihilation (spoiler alert) of one woman by weak, exploitative men, thanks to the mores of the time; surely a lesson that might benefit many a young girl?

    1. “one of my favourite authors as a young boy was Enid Blyton”

      Likewise. She was the only fiction I was willing to read until about age ten when I discovered E E Smith.

      Blyton was banned from libraries in my part of the world for several decades.

    2. “The Famous Five” books had girls beng as good as the boys didn’t they?

      Is girls being tomboys sexist?

  46. Two counter examples I would mention are two women mystery writers Elizabeth George and Martha Grimes. I no longer read either of them after coming across novels where they had children murdered with unnecessary clarity and vividness of description. I think books should be judged on their own merits and Moran’s idea is quirky at best. A counter example in the other direction is Sophies Choice by Stryon which was made into a movie with Meryl Streep.

  47. Why not call for a book burning next? This is just so progressive… it’s regressive. I’m stunned to see how you fail so perfectly to see the irony.

  48. It is probably too late to comment … but I was busy yesterday and didn’t read this site until today …

    I hated Little Women when I read it as a girl and I still hate it. How Jo’s character is anything but anti-feminist is beyond my imagining. It’s follow up, Jo’s Boys, is even worse.

    Why admire a character who regards boys as more important then girls? In what feminist universe is the rejection of having and raising daughters anything but contemptible?

  49. This seems to me to be an almost pathological case of extreme “virtue-signaling”:

    “What I noticed, straight away, was how unwelcome these books made me feel. How uncomfortable.”

    What she’s trying to impart here, indeed, what the whole BASIS behind her absurd claim that it’s somehow “damaging” for young girls to read male authors, is that SHE is so “enlightened” (by HER own, self-chosen practice of not reading “male”) that she has managed to return herself to that “natural, pristine” state in which, why, of COURSE she wouldn’t feel good reading them! She manages to make herself feel more mature (having obviously moved past that
    “don’t read them until you’re older, and fully-formed, and battle-ready, and are able to counter someone being rude to you” stage, as well as assuring herself that she is “superior” to any woman who ISN’T subject to her “self-fulfilling prophecy” of being automatically distressed by reading male authors. What a perfect example of circular thinking! I can only feel sadness for such self-limiting, insecure people….

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