Well Read and Willfully Ignorant
You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.Ray Bradbury
I’d go a step further with that quote. After all, it was said by a man, so he doesn’t see the whole picture. I’d say, the best way to prevent a group of people from existing, from contributing to a culture is to prevent them from writing and/or being read. Most people don’t read or take seriously those women authors who are allowed to be published. And most women are not allowed to be published unless they are willing to tell men’s version of the truth. So essentially, the world doesn’t get to read what is not allowed to be there. And that is the story of women.
There are tons of people who don’t read. They can read, but they just don’t. Can’t be bothered. It’s too much work, and requires too much sustained attention, I reckon. I was watching a documentary about the future of reading, and I recall a PhD student commenting that she had to retrain herself to read proper articles in a focused and analytical way after her modern immersion into social media skim-reading. I imagine that an actual work of literature must seem a sisyphean task when you normally spend your day ‘reading’ Twitter and Facebook feeds.
Even among the supposedly superiorly educated Chinese (according to people who’ve never been to, let alone worked in, China), reading non-mandatory books is not common. Last year, I brought in a pile of English language books from my own collection of modern literature to my writing class full of English majors here in China. I’d told them that to become a better writer, reading was a requirement. Only two of my students borrowed books. No one else even attempted to look at the books. Disappointing. But unsurprising. Only occasionally does a Chinese student tell me that they both read and enjoy reading non-mandatory books. It’s all about texting and reading other people’s constant status updates – just like in the West. How is this interesting?
Regarding documentaries, I know plenty of people who’ve never watched even a single one. And those don’t even require a fraction of the attention that a book requires!
But of those few who do read – and I’m talking about great works other than Fifty Shades of Shit or Maxim (seriously, I once dated a British dickface who told me with a straight face that Maxim was the ‘thinking man’s magazine’) – they are still woefully and willfully ignorant of topics and authors who should be a required part of school curricula. The tired old classics are standard, and those classics are written by penises for penises. For most school children and college students, women don’t exist on paper or in politics.
Women authors of literature and feminist philosophy and politics are unsurprisingly absent from school curricula all over the world. Dangerous thinking relegated to Women’s Studies programs, I suppose? As I mentioned, the classics are priapic, but even the edgy or avant-garde have a phallic bent. For many students, misogynists, J. D. Salinger and George Orwell and their social and political commentary have possibly appeared on school reading lists, but who but an English major in Canada has read Margaret Atwood (who is actually a better writer than both of those men)? And everyone knows who Karl Marx is, but Andrea Dworkin’s vast collection of work remains in obscurity in danger of complete obliteration.
But all of these works are available in the public domain, at least for now. There is no reason not to read, not to know.
There is something I find very interesting. I think about my liberal-minded male friends, the few of them I still keep around, and I know they read. They watch documentaries. They learn stuff. They know stuff. They can talk about a number of topics with a level of understanding. And they have one thing in common. They know zero, nothing, nada about women, women’s struggles, the women’s movement, the status of women today. About the movement that concerns half of the world’s population directly and the other half in an important way – they know bupkis. They can talk about other social movements. They know something about racial struggle.
Some of these men, once they come into contact with struggling groups, go out of their way to learn about what these people go through. One friend in the American TV and film business, upon meeting Albanians who had fled their country’s turmoil, went out of his way to learn about the history of their country and plight. But when he was casting actresses for one of his films, he couldn’t figure out why they made sexual overtures to him (other than the idea that all women are sluts always looking to service men). The idea that the film business requires female actors to ‘consent’ to rape in order to get jobs and how that came to be (female subordination/male domination) was completely beyond his educated mind. He got angry when I tried to tell him what many people have said about ‘his business’, the film industry, as an outsider. Yet, while I don’t work in entertainment, I am better read about the plight of women in film than he is. I’ll bet you money that he hasn’t read Rose McGowan’s recent whistleblowing of Hollywood’s widespread sexual assault of its female acting population. He doesn’t have to know about it. He benefits from women’s slavery and to know about it means he has to take responsibility and change the way he does business.
This is the willful ignorance of supposedly intelligent and educated men. The one group all of these men actually live in close proximity to, and sometimes in the same home with – women – they know nothing about. They can’t be bothered to learn about what their close female friends and loved ones have endured and continue to endure. Women don’t matter except when they stop delivering that which is taken for granted. They are objects. They serve men and men’s struggles. The struggle of men is assumed to be the struggle of women. There is no struggle outside that. The concerns of racial groups, religious groups, and gay people matter because men are members of those groups. Women aren’t men, so their continued slavery does not matter.
But these knowledgeable men do know about what the fun-feminists are doing. Oh yes, they are well aware of topless events in the name of political reform. They do know about slut shaming and the movement to embrace sluttiness as a defiant, ‘feminist’ response. They know those powerful ‘feminists’, the Suicide Girls. And by knowing about this kind of stuff, they think they have their fingers on the pulse of feminism. Women just want to fuck more! That’s all. And men don’t need to know more than that. They don’t need to explore the history of struggle. To look for real information might push them out of their comfort zone. Fun-feminists have given ignorance their stamp of approval as per historic male agenda.
Willful ignorance is dangerous. And it comes from failing to read. That failure to read starts at the school level with the censorship of books written by and about women. And it continues through college and into the world of work and survival. We destroy our culture by promoting willful ignorance, by de-emphasizing reading, and especially by negating the contributions of women writers. After all, you can be well read by today’s standards, and still incredibly ignorant by choice.
Posted on October 23, 2015, in Education, Feminism, Language, Misogyny, Patriarchy and tagged books, censorship, ignorance, reading, women. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Well Read and Willfully Ignorant.