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An Open Letter to Mark Grist

14/01/2014 11:12 GMT | Updated 14/03/2014 09:59 GMT

A friend of mine recently sent me the video for Mark Grist's spoken word poem "Girls Who Read". I know that it's been around for a while but I was quite surprised upon finding worryingly few negative responses to this mind-numbingly sexist bullshit, so here is my open letter to Mark Grist. If you haven't done so already I suggest watching Mark performing his poem before reading the following.

Dear Mark Grist,

I am a girl who reads. Before you fall off your chair in flabbergasted disbelief, don't worry, we're all thinking it - aren't women just sexual objects for men? How can woman book when woman only kitchen and sex? It's a pretty new-age idea; I'm not going to lie. As you say, though, the idea of a girl reading makes her a "total fox" so not all is lost - we can go back to being valued for our desirability above all else after all. Phew! Because in any case, a woman reading is somehow more exquisite and interesting than a man reading. Women are clearly mystical unicorns and not three-dimensional human beings doing as they please within their own right: no, they are ethereal angels who are chauvinistically idealised to the extent where even the act of reading is sensationalised as part of their otherworldly presence.

Seriously, get over it. Romanticising a girl who reads as if it's an utmost rarity stems from the sexist view that we are objects whose only role is to cater to men's desire: in other words, we're not human. We're not really individual people who read and live and breathe and whatever else have you solely for our own sake. I get that your flowery descriptions of a "girl who reads" such as "...feeds her addiction for fiction/With unusual poems and plays/That she hunts out in crooked bookshops for days and days and days" are purposefully exaggerated for a dreamy and later on comic tone, but it feels a little too sickly sweet and fetishized. This coupled with your vague use of the verb "to read" and sentimentalising of the act itself suggests a bizarre fascination with pretentious pseudo-intellectuality that is ultimately insubstantial, because a woman reading is a fairly normal and everyday thing.

See, it's kind of a given that women are human and not pretty ornaments so I'm pretty sure you're not the one to have made this revolutionary discovery. It's for this reason that I'm honestly perplexed as to why you single yourself out for appreciating so-called intelligence in a woman - it doesn't make you a saint; it makes you a decent human being. Finding intellectual thirst in another person to be attractive is understandable, but not when that person - or in your case an entire gender - is put on a pedestal for your enthrallment.

And what about girls who don't read? Are they not "interesting and unique" enough for your two-dimensional view of what a woman should be like in order to garner your attention? Luckily for everyone, the answer to this is irrelevant as I can guarantee that no woman, ever, in any place or time has read or not read in order to please a man (or done anything else, for that matter). Not only is your view of your perfect woman one who "needs the written word" or any of your other patronising requirements, but also one who's "sweet" and thin and conventionally attractive as depicted in your video. This trope of a woman being intelligent, but only enough to delight a man, and still "flirty" and alluring is all too reminiscent of the oppressive 19th century ideal for women.

So unfortunately, your attempted humble, progressive and anti-chauvinistic attitude is pretty much in line with the lager-sipping and overtly misogynistic guys you strive to distinguish yourself from at the beginning of the poem. Here's a tip: instead of praising yourself for appreciating brains over beauty in women (which is a ridiculous concept in itself as it promotes the sexist false dichotomy of ditzy/nerdy women), let it dawn on you that women are real, live people. And all people have "passion, wit and dreams" - not just the literature-luvin' fairies of your imagination.