Tag Archives: rare books

How Blame Fails

A bookstore in London noticed something in the sales lists of the top 500 rare books sold at auction in 2018: no woman broke the top 20. In fact, they began to average 1 woman every 100 books. They call this grim:

blame

Any set of data can be analyzed in limitless arbitrary ways. This same data, for example, would probably show that men of a certain age appear in the top 500 than men of other ages. Books probably come from some centuries more than others.

A more thoughtful person would probably not notice or care about any patterns. After all, this is a list of rare books sold at auction. The types of books that become rare and the demand for those books are contingent on innumerable causes. Maybe the third-place book made it so high because the author recently had a resurgence from a movie based on his work. Maybe copies of dozens of the books were recently discovered in an old library, allowing them to be sold. Maybe books written by women are produced in larger quantities than books written by men such that they never become rare. It’s all speculation. Professional investigations could be performed on each book and the buyers (if the data is available) and it might take years. It doesn’t seem to be a valuable use of time.

But what is a valuable use of time for the Perpetually Outraged is to quickly look down the official list of victims (from least to most victimized) to see if any are represented less than half the time. At the top of the list is women in general, followed by select racial minorities, etc. Lucky for this bookstore, they didn’t have to go very far down the list.

The bookstore doesn’t spend any time considering what the possible causes are for the results. Obviously, as men wrote more books in the past than women and older books are typically the ones that become rare, the obvious explanation is that we see exactly what we expect. There’s no systematic bias against women by people who collect rare books or people who auction them. There’s just fewer rare books written by women. Reflection is anathema to the Perpetually Outraged, so we fall instead to the default position of blame.

Feminists on Twitter soon took the data to say things it did not say:

blame2

Aside from some severe misunderstandings of scarcity (scarce books cannot be auctioned more frequently than less scarce books), the Twits also presume that sexism is to blame for the apparent discrepancy. Why do women have fewer rare books? Sexism. There can be no other explanation. Even though it would take a great deal of effort to determine if someone is a sexist (hating someone for their sex requires incredible knowledge of one’s inner thought life), the Twits have no problem applying the term to a bunch of strangers. Strangers whose names are not even known.

Where reflective, thoughtful people might, in extreme circumstances, wonder how best to improve their own writing, the feminist Twits blame sexism. It’s much easier that way.

The article concludes by reminding us both that female authors are not taught as frequently in the UK as male authors* (for likely similar reasons as above), and also that entire bookstores dedicated to feminism exist without issue. This isn’t something the author of the article should be so excited to mention. If women are read less than men even without dedicated bookstores selling only books written by men all while women do have such bookstores, feminists have bigger problems to worry about. The conclusion isn’t that men are sexist, but something much simpler: people in general don’t like female authors and blame keeps the harshness of reality out of sight for feminists.


*Maybe the accidentally anti-feminist Transgender movement will helpsolve” this problem by having men produce books while claiming to be women. That way men still write all the books, but ideologically pure liberals will stop noticing.