A few weeks ago I was part of a really interesting conversation on Twitter, where a handful of people were talking about the fact that most popular minimalism writers are male. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t noticed this trend and Ben and I have often talked about why it might be the case.
It’s true that I don’t often talk about minimalism as such anymore, and I’ve spoken about the reasons why a few times on the poggie. But there are so many parallels between slow living and minimalism, and many of the key tenets of both movements are the same. So while I wouldn’t call myself a minimalism writer, I think it’s safe to say I work in the same sphere.
Which goes back to the question of why I think the majority of popular minimalism writers are male (at least in terms of best-selling books on Amazon). For me (and it’s important to to note that these are all in my personal experience) I think there are a few reasons:
- fear of judgement
- learning style
- teaching style
- the kind of problems we’re trying to solve
Confidence and fear of judgement: I add a million qualifiers to my writing before giving my opinion or point of view because I’m nervous of being called out for being judgemental or ignorant of others’ circumstances. So I include lots of options, lots of disclaimers, lots of clauses as to why my words may not reflect your reality. In turn, this makes my writing less punchy. There are fewer pronouncements. Fewer hard and fast rules. I’m OK with that, and it’s not a criticism, but it is something I’ve observed. I’ve also noticed a lot of male writers don’t do this. Their opinions or advice are laid out squarely on the page, and as a reader we’re free to take from it what we want.
Learning and teaching styles: We learn and teach in myriad different ways, and I think that also impacts the way we write about a particular issue. For example, I like to offer questions to readers, and lead them towards their own answers and solutions, as opposed to offering a readymade one. I don’t often provide a one-size-fits-all solution because in my experience, they very rarely do fit all. Again, neither approach is wrong or right. But again, one makes for punchier, more confident writing while the other is softer and more open to interpretation.
Perspective and the kinds of problems we’re trying to solve: This is probably the most stereotypical, broad brushstroke answer I have but I do think there is a lot of truth to it. Women are often looking for practical advice on specific issues – how to create a simple wardrobe or a rhythm to their mornings, for example. As a result, women often write about these kinds of problems. Men, on the other hand, are often looking at things from a 50,000 foot view. They’re looking for big solutions to life-wide issues and as a result, write about things from that perspective. In general, these 50,000-foot view pieces of writing are more inspiring, more aspirational, more likely to attract attention. And that’s not to say there isn’t value in both the very specific practicalities and the big pronouncements on living a good life. In fact, they’re both really important – without a balance we’re either going to get stuck in the details or never actually get down to them at all – but again, one kind of writing makes for more popular content than the other.
I’m not entirely sure what we were hoping to bring about in the conclusion of today’s episode, other than to hopefully allow ourselves to consider simplifying from a broader range of perspectives. I think it’s important to look at it as an opportunity to shift every area of life, and having a wider sphere of influence can help us do just that.
I know my reading takes in the entire range of opinions and voices in the simple living sphere – the masculine, feminine and everything that falls on the spectrum between and I’ve learnt so much from all of them. As always I think a balance is the key, as well as an awareness of your own needs and an intention to go in the direction required rather than any desire to stick to the ‘popular’ writers in the space.
As Fleetwood Mac says: go your own way.
I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this too – do you think men and women approach simplicity, and learn about it, in different ways?