July 26, 2017 Eric Blauer

Disappearing Men’s Sections in Bookstores and Why it Matters

In the course of my almost 25 years full time pastoral ministry, 27 years of marriage and raising 4 kids (3 boys and 1 girl), the issues about men and women have been legion. The complexity and contentiousness of the gender work recently got ignited in a post on Facebook that I shared about a recent observation at a local, independent bookstore.

They had a large ‘Women’s Issues’ section and a small ‘Men’s Issues’ section, in fact the LGTBQ section was about the same size as the mens. I was looking for books on mythology and mythopoetic men’s work to bolster a series I am doing in a men’s group I facilitate during the summer. The subjects we cover are broad and the needs expressed, discussed and engaged are profound, difficult and complex and I am always searching for books that can help me in this work.

I took a picture of the disparity of sections and posted it online with a question about what it meant.

Here’s a snapshot of the issues and comments from my first post:

-Men don’t want to discuss their issues?

-Men tend to work out their issues with little help?

-Men need more help that any book can hold.

-Women need far more words to say the exact same things

-Most men i talk with think all they need to do is ‘forget about it.

-For centuries most of the books in print were for men.

-Large-scale systemic inequity,  sexually assault, female genital mutilation, circumcision, pay inequity, plus-size women, the feminization of society, systemic sexism.

-Publishers print more (women’s issues) books to match the demand.

-For the most part men ignore emotional issues.

-Our culture has been catering to men for literally centuries? Men have more power on a systemic level.

-Because of gender stereotyping that began with cave men, men have been taught that discussing their feelings is not socially acceptable so therefore men need less books to learn about the feelings and issues they don’t really have.

That post generated a fair amount of heat…but need more light. So I decided to do some investigating of other bookstores and to talk with owners and employees about the issues brought up in my online conversations and reading about men, women, reading, book publishing, purchasing and the politics involved. I chose to primarily first visit the handful of local, medium to small, independent bookstores and then a national Barnes & Noble for comparison.

Here’s what I found out in my visits:

Booktraders:
Women’s Literature section but no Men’s Issues/Studies section.

Barkers Books
No Women or Men’s Issues/Studies specific book areas.

Giant Nerd Books:
No Women or Men’s Issues/Studies specific book areas.

Second Look Books:
They have book sections for Women, Men & LGTBQ Issues

Auntie’s Books:
A General Women/Feminism/LGTBQ section but no Men’s Issues section.

Barnes & Noble:
No Women or Men’s Issues/Studies specific book areas.
Racks of gender specific magazines.

There were men’s and women’s studies books in these stores, but they were placed in broader categories. The conversations I had with owners and employees were particularly enlightening, shocking, sobering, disheartening, surprising and even contentious at one point. My first interaction with a bookseller was at Auntie’s Books and it just happened to be a millennial age woman:

Me:
“Where’s the women’s studies and Men’s studies section?”

Her:
“We don’t have a men’s studies section, that’s our history section.” (Said with a little snark)

Me:
“What does that statement mean?”
“Is that a economic bookseller statement or an ideological one?” (Said with a little snark)

Her:
“That’s a personal one.” (Said with a little defensiveness and obvious irritation at my pointed response)

Her:
“Do you want me to show you the feminism section?” (Said with a sharp, dismissiveness)

Me:
“Yes” (Said with an obvious irritation)

After looking at Auntie’s surprisingly small women/feminism section for supposedly being such an ideologically driven bookstore, I left without purchasing any books and wrestled to rebottle the genie of my irritation and underlying, smoldering anger. “So this is how it’s going to go down, here we go, this is going to be interesting!” I thought to myself,

Throughout the course of the afternoon, I visited, snapped pictures, and bought books at every other independent store. Below are some of the quotes from the owners I talked to in my scouting mission:

There’s very little scholarly work being printed on men’s issues.

Most men’s material produced today is gimmicky.

Spokane’s a blue collar town with antagonistic views towards academia.

In book purchasing there’s a 80/20 rule: only 20% of material on any given subject is quality. That means since there’s a lot of current women’s, gay, transgender studies taking place, 20% of 80% in women’s studies is much larger than the 20% of the small amount of men’s studies books, explaining the disparity.

The last real push for men’s studies was the 80’s with Robert Bly…”The whole bang the drum stuff.”  

I carry material that I don’t think others will carry or is considered  controversial. I carry the satanic bible but not the Christian bible, because you can get that anywhere else.

Men aren’t reading much other than Facebook. They read an occasional science fiction book or a comic book, or look at car mags but they don’t even read them, they just look at the pictures.

People are distracted today…and not reading much anymore.

E-book libraries are narcissistic, when you die your personal library disappears, there’s nothing to outlive you. These books here have lives of their own, they’ve been around the world, London, Paris etc. If I keel over today they continue to live.

Books are published and sold these days via political agenda.

-”I only read books by women and gay men.” owner was referencing a conversation he had with a former book-purchaser he worked for in a popular Seattle bookstore.

Liberal, Jewish, elites drive the political, progressive book culture that’s pushing primarily liberal gender studies oriented material.

Ending Thoughts:

So there you have it, my excursion into the local booksellers world of politics, gender and economics. I found myself with a mix of conflicting thoughts and feelings after my day of investigation. First of all, I know that at the local Lifeway Christian bookstore there is a Men and Women section, in fact in almost all Christian bookstores that I visit they have these designated areas. It seems in those circles there’s a clear market for books that focus on the issues those men and women face.

I think there is a hyper-liberal, pseudo-academic bias influencing what is available to the general, diminishing reading public. The legit, historical and healthy feminist vision of equality and full cultural access has been hijacked by the extreme left with their ideologically driven, de-genderization, social re-engineering agenda. You add to that the dismal research regarding the decline of reading, particularly among men, and you get a growing distorted knowledge base with an undereducated populace that has a skewed, social media curated, myopic world view.

You have a growing adversarial, anti-traditional, understanding of masculinity permeating the high profile, clickbait internet landscape. There is a replacing of biological fact-based education and scientific clarity relating to gender and that is overshadowing clear reason by experimental cultural conditioning with social media being a heavyweight in pushing the narrative.

There’s also a confusing message being sent that focuses on ‘toxic masculinity and the destructive and oppressive historical impact of the patriarchy’ and yet the industry works to create diminishing access to books that are focused on helping men develop into more healthy, whole and mature men.

Add to that, the alarming statistic that nearly 30% of men have not read a book since school, according to a survey commissioned for World Book Night and you get a traditional based knowledge, science and values apocalypse. I hope that the meteoric rise of alternative media, self-publishing and the societal pendulum swing of generation Z are signs of hope in the vision and values war that’s pushing the ideological siege on bookstores and reading culture today.

So do your part to support freedom of speech and thought by writing, publishing, reading and purchasing more books, particularly diverse books, that help men and women become better human beings no matter what gender, from local, independent bookstores.

Bookstores visited and reviewed:
The names and stores connected to most of the comments were purposefully made anonymous for the protection or privacy of the commentators. Except for Auntie’s since the interchange was with an employee not a owner and she designated her comment as a personal opinion.

1. Booktraders
907 W. Garland Ave
Spokane, WA 99205

2. Barkers Books
2907 N Monroe St
Spokane,WA

3. Giant Nerd Books
709 N Monroe St
Spokane, WA  99201

4. Auntie’s Bookstore
402 W Main Ave
Spokane, WA  99201

5. Second Look Books
2829 E 29th Ave,
Spokane, WA 99223

6. Barnes & Noble
Northtown Mall

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About the Author

Eric Blauer I am barbarian, sage, saint, bard, husband and father. Bow my knee to only One, serve all, ruled by none.

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