I just got my first tattoo tonight to celebrate/commemorate my impending graduation from Library school. I wanted a quote so I started looking for quotes on libraries, reading, and information. I found a few great ones, which I still may get, but I also discovered that when it came to quotes about reading and books, when the reader was male or gender unspecific they were all exceedingly positive, but if the reader was female then they were quite negative. There was this sense that books, especially novels, will ruin a girl for any sort of "decent" life. Perhaps the best expression of this sense is in Charles Warnke's essay "You should date an illiterate girl", which says, among other things: "The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold. You, the girl who reads, make me want to be everything that I am not. But I am weak and I will fail you, because you have dreamed, properly, of someone who is better than I am.", and in this helpful Victorian infographic:
Look through these quotes long enough and you realize that the ruin dreamt up for the girl who reads, especially novels, is the ruin of wanting more from life than is deemed proper, the ruin of expecting great passions, true love, and thrilling independence; the great an inexorable ruin of independent thought. Such things as are grand and virtuous in men, simply ruin nice girls. I consider myself to be a girl ruined in just such ways and so when I chose my tattoo I went with this semi-biographical quote from my homegirl Louisa May Alcott:
Long before I got ahold of the mind-expanding and therefore obviously girl-ruining words of the likes of Audre Lourde, Carl Sagan, or, obviously, Sappho, I was already long gone. From Sophie in The BFG and Scout Finch I learned that girls can be brave and adventurous, from Chester the cat and Matilda I learned that it was okay to be smart and bookish, even a bit weird and that I didn't have to pretend to be otherwise and conform to the expectations of others, and from Huck Finn I learned to question every bit of received morality and to trust in friendship and your own beliefs, as your teachers and preachers may all be invested in a profound evil which they are too afraid to even question. That is just the corruption visited upon me in Elementary school. From there, it obviously got much worse. Therefore have books turned my brain. I might have been a normal girl; the kind that doesn't get excited by graph theory and has never tried to figure out a friend's Erdos number, but I am too fond of books, and so I went to grad school. We all know what kind of decision that is.