Gender Stereotyping Strikes Again

avid reader

avid reader (Photo credit: sekihan)

The New Yorker ran an article by Joan Acocella on 10/15/12 titled “Turning the Page: How women became readers,” in which she reviews “The Woman Reader,” by Belinda Jack. (See link below.)

I’ve been reading for enjoyment, information, and edification ever since I learned how to translate letters into words and words into meaning; it’s something I’ve always take for granted.

But for centuries women were widely forbidden to read. Thank Gutenberg for making books so easy to get that men gave up trying to keep women away from them. But there were still a few obstacles remaining before women gained free access to books. One of them was the 19th Century belief that women were prone to hysteria as a result of their “strong emotions.”

One London doctor wrote that female patients might be allowed fiction but should be carefully watched. If a novel seemed to worsen a woman’s condition, it should be taken away and replaced by “a book upon some practical subject; such, for instance, as beekeeping.”

However, the 19th Century is also when novels became hugely popular–and some of them were even written by women!

All well and good (and I highly recommend the article), but what does any of this have to do with the Enneagram? One paragraph in Acocella’s piece describes a 2004 study of 800 educated British adolescents, who were “asked to name their ‘watershed books,’ books that sustained them ‘through key moments of transition or crisis in their lives.'”

The results of the study purport to reveal how boys’ and girls’ reading choices differ in “stereotypical ways.”

The boys chose The Stranger, One Hundred Years of Solitudeand The Catcher in the Rye. The girls chose Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, and Anna Karenina. (Acocella adds: “lest anyone doubt that women prefer tales of love and marriage.”)

Really? Really?

I don’t prefer tales of love and marriage. I’ve read all of those books, and I’m firmly in the boys’ camp as far as which ones had more of an influence on me. In fact One Hundred Years of Solitude is my favorite novel of all time.

Admittedly Enneagram type 3 or 8 women and Myers-Briggs type ENTJ women do not constitute the majority of women. But we do exist. And we do not conform to the stereotypes the psychologists and scientists and–now–writers keep trying to shove down our throats. The same goes for Enneagram type 2 or 4 men, who also exist and who also do not conform to gender stereotype.

Individual temperament–meaning personality type–is usually a more accurate indicator of a person’s habits and proclivities than whether that person is male or female. But gender stereotyping is easy. Understanding temperament is quite a bit more complex.

What book or books influenced you as a young reader?


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