In society, sexism is dangerously present in even the most unsuspecting places. One of these places is in school systems, specifically school curriculums. About a year ago, I saw a challenge circulating social media to read strictly female authors for a whole year. Initially, that seemed easy, but when I though about it more the more I realized that I rarely sought to read female authors and throughout my career as a student I had been assigned a disproportional amount of books written by male authors rather than female authors. That outraged me because not only have women written some of the most influential novels in history, but also they frequently wrote them under pseudonyms for fear of alienating their male readers. That is a ridiculous practice because it is not needed for male authors.
I, as a woman, have never discriminated against a book because a man wrote it. I welcome the written perspectives of men and women, and I can relate to both, but a large amount of men do not trust books written by women. I have come to believe that this way of thinking is perpetuated by school curriculums where the default gender of an author is male. All of my English teachers in elementary through high school have been women, but I would say 90% of the books I was assigned were written by men. Between Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, Golding, and Bradbury there was one Mary Shelley. Sexism is incredibly sinister, and can easily go unnoticed. Many will try to say that this is pure coincidence and that predetermined curriculums feature the great classics that the majority of our population should read. Although, would it be detrimental to society’s common knowledge of the classics to swap out F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby with Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence or J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye with Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar? These novels and their equal and female written counterparts deal with similar issues, are American classics, and contribute the same amount of knowledge to the minds of students. The breakdown of prejudices, ignorance, and socially enforced stereotypes start in classrooms, and if English curriculums are continually structured to fit an antiquated version of literature then sexism will never be eradicated.
As for me, I am in my ninth month of reading only female authors, and I have never been better. It has been transformative and enlightening. It has encouraged me to self-reflect upon the internalized misogyny that had influenced my book choices all of these years. Also, it made me think about the fact that not only was I not reading books by female authors, but none of the female written books I owned were written by women of color. It is important to acknowledge the way sexism affects women of all races, classes, and religions. In school, I had never read a book written by a woman of color, and that is a great injustice to all the talented women of color authors and to the students who are being deprived of all the different perspectives they could be experiencing. Women deserve equal representations in all mediums, especially literature.
Written By: Enxhi Liti, Intern- NOW Oakland/Macomb County Chapter