Thursday, May 5, 2016

No Girls Allowed: Book Clubs for Guys

I wasn't planning on posting anything, but I read this article in the NYTimes "Men Have Book Clubs, Too" and thought I'd throw in my two cents because there was a lot of eye-rolling.

To get this out of the way first, I don't think there's anything wrong with guys have a book club. OBVIOUSLY. If guys want to get together with just other guys to talk about books, awesome. Not by rule, but pretty much any book club I've been a part of has been all women. And female dominated seems to be the case, though I have no actual data to back that up. So book club just for guys. No problem there.

But here are some select quotes that promoted said eye-rolling
This is detailed in the Man Book Club’s criteria, on the group’s website: “No books by women about women (our cardinal rule)”.
“I was always a little jealous of my wife’s book clubs,” Mr. McCullough said. “Now our wives are jealous of us. We’ve created something that is more durable. The book club my wife belongs to — there’s a lot of changeover.”
And yet the group has standards. “We are not allowed to suggest books that our mothers have suggested,” Mr. Creagar said. “We had an accident one time. We read ‘Water for Elephants.’ It was a huge mistake.”
 The club rates the books it reads on a five-star system for overall quality, and on a five-hand-grenade system for “manliness.”
Alright, so really it's that first quote, which started the eye-rolling and once that starts it's hard to stop. But SERIOUSLY? The first criterion for this MANLY BOOK CLUB is nothing by or about women? I guess stories by and about men don't get enough attention, so good thing these guys are here.

Then there's so much defensiveness about how this isn't your mother's book club and they have MANLY names like "Man Book Club" or "Ultra Manly Book Club" and how the men's book club is so much better than the book clubs their wives belong to.

Like I said, I think it can be a good thing to have this book club for guys. They make some good points about how some men may want to join existing book clubs that are mostly populated by women but are afraid they'll be intruding on women's space or be stigmatized for being the only guy. One guy talks about how when he mentioned he was in a book club a woman assumed that meant he was gay because straight guys don't join book clubs. And he said he understood the reaction because
“Fiction is designed to examine empathy,” Mr. Nawotka said. “Men aren’t encouraged to talk about their feelings or emotions in public.
This is a good reason to make book clubs for guys. And a reminder that people shouldn't assume reading means you're not masculine (because what is that even?) and remove the stigma of guys joining book clubs. Tackling toxic masculinity? I am ALL FOR THAT. Of course the method of tackling it seems like we're taking two steps forward and one step back.

Maybe I'm being ridiculous. Let the guys have their Boy Book Club and their girls have cooties (or boring/unrelatable points of view) book choices and whatever else they want (soap in black packaging so their masculinity stays in tact while showering and stuff like that I assume).

What do you think?