The Pew Research Center recently released a new report about American reading habits, declaring that more women are reading books than men. The numbers say that 82 percent of women last year read a book, whether it was paperback or an e-book, while merely 69 percent of men read a book.
Moreover, Pew states that women who read typically read more books, with the average woman reading 14 books a year while the average man only reads 10. Despite the fact that huge part of the reading demographic is female, and books published by females come out in the same volume as those published by males, often times the female authors are ignored by the general public.
So, when Joanna Walsh published her new column at “The Guardian,” she declared that 2014 would be the year of the female writer. Her idea, now called #readwomen2014 has been circulating over websites like Tumblr and Twitter for the past few weeks and is picking up momentum. Walsh even released a set of bookmarks to market the movement with the names of famous female authors on the back. Authors like Annie Dillard, Maya Angelou and Mary Shelley were included.
Walsh stated that she does not want to minimize the importance of many literary works by male authors, but that she believes the integrity of female authors needs to be upheld.
“I’ve listened to female writer friends grouse when their books are given flowery covers though their writing is not; when reviews, or even their publishers’ press releases, describe their work as ‘delicate’ when it is forthright, ‘delightful’ when it is satirical, ‘carving a niche’ when it is staking a claim,” said Walsh in her column.
Many people on Twitter have jumped on the bandwagon, tweeting their picks and lists of books they plan to read this year by female authors. Classic authors like Jane Austen and Gertrude Stein are popular, but many women are also pushing for more people to read new-released books by female authors. Time Magazine put together their own list that includes Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Invention of Wings” and Karen Russell’s “Sleep Donation.”
#Readwomen2014 is not limited to female participation. Many men have jumped on board to support the movement. Many participants passed around an online list, adding their own favorites as they went along, and the contributors included people of all genders and races. Some women have decided this is the year they have pledged to only read books by Arabic women writers or those by women of color.
Whatever your reason to participate, #readwomen2014 is sure to become a resounding success. It is not important that you only read women writers this year, but that you vary the authors that you are reading and include some from both genders and all different races. Walsh encourages all readers to study their bookshelves and focus on how many female authors are represented there. If the answer is very few, she asks that you think about why it might be that way.
The idea behind #readwomen2014 is not radical or revolutionary, and the feedback and support from online communities has been overwhelmingly positive. Walsh said she never expected something like this to become so popular, but the fact that it has clearly shows that women around the world are ready for more representation and recognition.
Art courtesy of Joanna Walsh