Feminism | Posted by Emma on 12/21/2011

Pride and Prejudice: A Firsthand Account of Literary Sexism

Books: not for guys, apparently

Books: not for guys, apparently

Flashback: It is the first week of 11th Grade. Having gone to the same school since kindergarten, I have no need for first day back-jitters or thinking what to wear to impress my peers. I wear what I like and that usually ends up being some lurid mod dress I bought at a thrift store because I enjoy wearing happy clothes when I seem endlessly angsty.

There is a new kid in our grade. Let’s call him Andrew. I do not make any effort to talk to him because, honestly, I generally don’t talk to people outside of the small set of friends that I already have. Perhaps this is due to my aspirations as a fashion journalist or the fact that growing up an only child has made me this way, but I have always had a highly anthropological take on my peers. Either way, I won’t sugarcoat it: I make observations about people based on their appearances and the behaviors I observe. This makes me sound super creepy and possibly even shallow, but I like to think of myself more as The Harriet The Spy type character. The kind that sits with her notebook, takes notes on the people in her class and then writes about it.

Anyways, judging by “Andrew’s” appearance we don’t seem to have anything in common. He wears extra-small t-shirts to show off his muscles and I’ve noticed that he rarely eats which I’m told is so he can make it into a lower weight class for wrestling. Oh, what the hell, I figure, he’s new and sitting alone, I’ll give him a chance! He’s not so bad.

A week or so later, I check back in on him in a free period. He’s in the midst of a conversation with my friend and I decide to eavesdrop. I overhear them talking about books. I like books so this seems to be something we all have in common. Maybe he isn’t so bad after all. But then he opens his mouth again.

“What do you mean you are reading Pride and Prejudice?” he says to my (guy) friend. “Guys don’t read books.”

I can’t help myself. I burst out laughing. It’s one of those bizarre statements where you’re not sure if the person just has an unusual sense of humor or if they actually just said the most stupid thing that you’ve ever heard. Apparently it is the latter. It is not my conversation but I cut-in anyway.

“Wait, what? What do you mean guys don’t read books?” I say.

“I mean that girls actually read books. Guys shouldn’t have to. They should just SparkNote them.”

I think this is such an eschewed, sexist perception of reality that in no way makes sense to me. Hobbies don’t have genders…especially something as basic and necessary as reading.

One of my favorite quotes of all time was said by Daria, a cartoon character from 1990s MTV: “People call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.” You see, it’s as if my parents prophesized that at the ripe old age of 16 I would proudly call myself one. Being a feminist has nothing to do with what you wear or your sexual orientation, it simply means that you believe men and women should be treated equally. Period. The boy, “Andrew” that I was telling you about and I get into a verbal match that escalates, until finally he walks away. Whether or not he acknowledges the rhetoric I’ve just spat at him, I nonetheless feel triumphant like I have suddenly overcome something big. I don’t know what then but I will soon enough.

Emma also has her own blog, The Emma Edition

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