Judgmental is a word I shy away from most of the time. A word fraught with a tremendous amount of rightly earned baggage. But I found myself in a conversation with other writers discussing “being judgmental.” As in, judging a book by its cover. *raises hand for guilty* Or judging a book without reading it based on it’s genre or reputation or things I’ve heard. To which I found myself replying…Yeah…so?
The conversation coincided with an interesting discussion on Absolute Write, the writer’s forum I frequent, about whether the genre Women’s Fiction is sexist. After all, sub-categorizing it implies…something, because there is no genre called Men’s Fiction. My feeling is that having women’s fiction isn’t sexist on it’s own, but the way the term Women’s Fiction is used to separate certain categories of books, or to say “you’ll like this because it’s about women,” as if every woman’s life experience is roughly the same, or “you won’t like it because you’re a man,” certainly is sexist. But in all fairness, even though I’m writing romance, I admit that I do shy away from the books that are dubbed “Women’s Fiction.” Mostly because I’m not very much like a lot of women I know. I don’t have a close and loving relationship with my mother, I don’t have a core group of women friends with whom I share all, I’ve never gone on a girls weekend. I don’t relate to books that include those elements as cores of the storytelling. Beyond that, Women’s Fiction books tend to be a little too realistic for me. I read for escapism, plain and simple. So when it comes to reading, I judge. By the label or the cover. I know I miss out on some groundbreaking books, but, my God, I have to draw the line somewhere. I just can’t read every worthy book.
Which takes me back to the conversation with my writer friends. We have so many choices to make every single day. From what to eat for breakfast, to finding a way to afford the college your kid has gotten into. Small choices, huge choices. And in this vast spectrum are the What should I read? and Which movie should I watch? decisions. Not generally life altering ones, rather, the choices I’m making about my leisure time. And so I am judgmental, and I’m comfortable with that. I’ll judge whether to read a book (or watch a movie or TV show) by the cover or genre or word-of-mouth or review, without doing much more than a small amount of work to decide it. When it comes to books, often if the cover is pink and cutesy, I’m passing. Unfair, I know, but there it is.
We all have to make decisions about the most precious resource each of us have: our time. Without some shortcuts, we would spend our entire waking lives mulling those decisions, never getting to the action. I do regret that my decision on how I make my decisions might not sit right with everyone, might seem judgmental, but…well, it’s my decision.
(Oh, and by the way, the friend who would rather have us make more informed decisions about the books we read, to not be judgmental, wishes so out of the desire for us not to miss out on something wonderful, and I love her for it. I regret that I might be a disappointment to her.)