Monstrous regimentUK politicians, policy-makers and writers: Got a problem with your male population’s reading habits? Guys too lumpen and anti-intelligent to be good citizens? Workforce too ignorant to be competitive? Well, here’s an easy get-out: blame the women in publishing.

Because according to a Times article sensitively entitled “It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading — the children’s book market is run by women,” children’s author Jonathan Emmett has deduced “that the majority of publishers, editors, librarians, judges and reviewers of children’s books were women, and this was exacerbating the literacy gap between the sexes. He said that children’s books tended not to contain the elements many boys were typically attracted to, such as battling pirates and technical details.”

“Boys are underachieving, boys do not like books as much as girls,” he declares. “I am arguing that this is because the industry is dominated by female gatekeepers.”

Does he have data to back up this claim? Not a whole lot, as you might imagine. And it rather stands at odds with the opposite claim in The Bookseller that women are underrepresented in publishing, especially at the higher levels. But why let simple things like facts and evidence get in the way of a possible answer to one of the most vexing questions of our (English) times?

Of course, Emmett could be putting the cart before the horse. Perhaps the real problem is that the average English guy, by the time he graduates, is too stupid and ignorant to get a job in publishing anyway.