‘Reading from great pieces of literature didn’t seem participatory enough.’
One bookstore in Ohio flipped every single book by a male author backward in honor of Women’s History Month. Loganberry Books wanted to make a statement about silencing the male voice as a way to raise awareness about inequality in publishing.
“I was looking for an event and activity to commemorate Women’s History Month, but I grow weary of doing the same thing over and over again,” said Harriett Logan, who’s owned the bookstore for more than 20 years. She told the Cleveland Scene, “Just reading from great pieces of literature didn’t seem participatory enough, and this activity doesn’t require anything.” So Logan and her staff spent a few hours reshelving the secondhand bookstore. With about 10,000 works of fiction and poetry, it took the team of eight two hours.
“My staff is entirely female here, but we have a lot of books written by women and about women, and we go out of our way to get them,” Logan explained. By turning the spines inward, it placed a greater emphasis on the books from women writers. “Pictures are loud communicators,” Logan told Heat Street. “So we are in essence not just highlighting the disparity but bringing more focus to the women’s books now, because they’re the only ones legible on the shelf.” It provided a jarring visual for the gender gap that exists in the world of books. In the average publishing house, women only account for 30 percent of the books published every year, MIC reported.
“Truly, this is a metaphor of silencing the male voice,” Logan shared. While turning books around with the spine inside is a trick home decorators often use, it’s not typically seen in bookstores. And Logan thinks her store might be the first example of it being done in the name of feminism. While some customers have been confused by the set up it’s sparked conversations about the lack of published female authors.
Of course, not everyone was a fan of the idea. Several men decided to explain how the project – slated to last two weeks – was unnecessary. Because that’s what the conversation was really lacking: men’s opinions.
“Stupid. Why don’t you go home and clean your house,” one man wrote. Another chimed in with: “So men just write more shit that people actually want to read, or women don’t write as many books as men? I’m confused. No inequality to see here.” A fellow decided he had some free advice for women on how they should be spending their time and shared: “Maybe more women need to start writing instead of bitching.” Logan and most of the bookstore’s fans didn’t seem deterred by the comments. She told reporters that awareness comes first and action follows. Plus, she inspired a librarian to flip her books around and educate some folks in the name of women.
The gender gap in publishing won’t be fixed quickly. But it’s nice to know there’s bookstores anxiously awaiting my publications from lady writers.
“To give the floor and attention to women, you need to be able to hear them,” Logan explained. “And if someone else is talking over them, that just doesn’t happen.”