In May Jessica Valenti wrote an interesting piece on the Guardian’s Comment is Free section entitled: You might not think you’re a sexist until you take a look at your bookshelf. It wasn’t having a go at people but more pointed out how our own passive bias may shape our tastes.
“So if the only culture you pay attention to is created by men, or created by white people, you are making an explicit statement about who and what is important.”
It’s an interesting point, and one I hadn’t considered in any great detail ,although I am aware of passive bias. Also, as a recent parent, I am more attune to attempts the pigeon hole girls and boys at an early age, as such the quote from American author Shannon Hale, who visited a school and the audience was all girls, as the school administration only allowed the female students out of class for her event, rang especially true:
“I talk about books and writing, reading, rejections and moving through them, how to come up with story ideas. But because I’m a woman, because some of my books have pictures of girls on the cover, because some of my books have ‘princess’ in the title, I’m stamped as ‘for girls only.’ However, the male writers who have boys on their covers speak to the entire school.”
I’ll admit this kind of thing makes my blood boil. This idea feeds into campaigns like the Let Toys be Toys campaign which targets toys that are labelled as being for ‘Boys’ or ‘Girls’.
So anyway, I decided to look at my Twitter feed, my book (well, kindle) collection, and my music collection. How did women fair.
I follow 800 accounts in Twitter as of time of writing. Of those 269 are men, 351 are women and the rest (380) are bands, organisations, or groups of some sort.
I glance at my purchases on my Kindle shows that of 260 books, the break down is 146 written by men and 114 written by women.
Over to my music collection. Just keeping it to my CD/Digital collection [which I can see via my blasted iTunes library] I have 1253 distinct artists, and the break down is: 667 Bands (197 of them all female or fronted by women); 253 men, and 333 women
Over all I think I come out of this quite well, at least as far as men and women go.
Now, there are some explanations to some of my figures. On Twitter for example. I’m a Librarian/Information professional and this is sector where there are typically more women than men, so it would make sense that if I were keeping in contact with others in my profession that the majority would be female (they are) .
With books, most of my favourite books have been written by women. I’ve never really bought into the idea that books have a gender. As a young child Enid Blyton and Susan Cooper were central in my world. As an adult, Jane Austen, Anne Tyler, and Marilynne Robinson took their place.
Musically, those who know me well would tell you I have always been a sucker for a girl with a guitar – my gigging record of the last 20 years would also back this up.
I didn’t do a proper break down on race, but my Twitter feed and my recent book collection (if not my collection taken as a whole) are predominantly white. My music collection, perhaps less surprisingly, fares better on racial diversity.
This was an interesting exercise. Fun too. How about you?