Indie bookshop Pages will run a men-only writing course on womxn’s writing with a view to diversifying literature.
The shop's Pages Cheshire Street, Tower Hamlets branch has opened 12 to 15 spaces to writers who identify as “men/male/he/him” to take part in a six-week course in October led by poet Rachel Long.
The course “Men Reading Womxn” costs £90 for six sessions however the shop has given applicants the option to pay 17.9% more, which is the amount that women earn less than men in the UK. Pages uses the term “womxn” as part of their commitment to stocking books by women, trans and gender diverse writers. The phrase is used to reject the etymology of 'woman' being 'of man' and to include transgender women and women of colour.
Successful applicants will study essays, short stories, memoirs, reportage and poetry by women, trans and gender diverse writers.
Pages manager Jo Heygate devised the course with Long after discussing the Emilia Report, published earlier this year by journalist Danuta Kean. The report showed men are favoured in broadsheet reviews and explored the gender stereotypes used in cover designs.
Heygate said: “There does seem to be a general trend where men read books by other men. We wanted to change that. It’s quite easy to read books by people who are like you and a reflection of the world that you feel comfortable in. It’s more challenging to read a book by someone who has a different experience or gender. That’s what we are trying to do here because all the people in power are men, and it’s not going well, is it? It feels like maybe reading books by someone with a different gender or experience from you can create empathy and break stereotypes.”
The shop is offering three bursaries to men of colour or men from working-class backgrounds who are not able to comfortably meet the cost of the course. Applicants are asked to submit a 200-word proposal and examples of their work. They are also required to have “a willingness to learn with and from other participants with varied levels of experience is essential”, according to Page’s website.
Heygate added: “We are hoping that it can be a diverse group of people so it’s not just people from one background. It’s a course where a lot of the learning will be from listening to other people read their work. From our values, it’s really important that it’s a diverse course.”
The course will study works by Audre Lorde, Jay Bernard and Samantha Irby - while each class will coincide with themes from Pages wider events calendar.