Post Reply Boys. Girls. Books.
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Posted 3/19/14
Should Boys and Girls Be Treated Differently When It Comes to Books?

http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/03/19/are-gender-specific-books-bad-for-kids/?mod=djemLifeStyle_h

Should boys and girls be blocked from reading gender-specific books?

Young adult books such as “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” feature strong female heroes, and have attracted legions of readers of both genders. The success of such books, which don’t cater to a specific gender, is giving new life to a long-running debate over whether kids books should be segregated by gender at all.

Katy Guest, the literary editor of the Independent on Sunday, a British newspaper, recently announced in an essay that “splitting children’s books strictly along gender lines” was a bad thing for girls, boys and publishing. She cited an online campaign called Let Books Be Books (an offshoot of Let Toys Be Toys), which has been working to encourage publishers to get rid of gender-specific books, and declared that she was now making her own move.

“So I promise now that the newspaper and this website will not be reviewing any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys,” Guest wrote. “Nor will The Independent’s books section. And nor will the children’s books blog at Independent.co.uk. Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys. If you are a publisher with enough faith in your new book that you think it will appeal to all children, we’ll be very happy to hear from you.”

A representative for the Independent didn’t return a request for comment.

Guest’s announcement prompted heated responses in the paper’s comments section.

“This is probably one of the stupidest things that I have read in a while,” Chaeri commented.

“Girls and boys are not raised in a gender neutral society, so while I applaud the effort to strike a balance, it’s completely ignoring the current imbalance of power, agency and opportunity for girls, as well as boys,” commented TruthisBeauty.

“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Although I doubt it will ever happen, I do hope that one day we will look back on all this gender division and shake our heads in shame and wonder why,” commented Bergie.

The paper also published an article answering readers’ questions. “Am I a Nazi?” Guest asked rhetorically in answering one question. “No. I don’t plan to burn any books. Nor to ban them. Just not to review some.”

Guest also said that “Each book will be judged on its own merits – as always – but an example of ‘explicitly’ targeting a book at boys or girls would be calling the book ‘The Boys’ Book of Sportiness’ or ‘The Girls’ Book of Looking Pretty’. ‘The Sporty Book’ or ‘The Gorgeous Book’, on the other hand, would pass.”

She addressed the question “Will I get rid of chick lit, romance or action novels next?” answering “Not if they’re for adults, no. Adults are aware of subtle marketing messages and know how to negotiate them. They’re old enough to know what reading is available and make their own choices.”

Rachel Kahan, Executive Editor, William Morrow, isn’t a children’s book publisher, but posted the Independent article on her Facebook page.

Kahan said via email “This is a challenge to writers and publishers and ultimately to consumers to defy the dismal (and dismally old-fashioned) idea that books have to be marketed to one gender only because boys can’t identify with or enjoy stories about girl characters and vice versa.”

Catherine Pearlman, a social worker who works as an assistant professor at the College of New Rochelle and writes the periodic “Family Coach” column for Speakeasy, said via email that there is a “gender divide” across many children’s items like books, toys and clothes. But, Pearlman said, “I don’t think simply deciding not to review any book with a gender line solves the problem.”

“Maybe it would be more powerful to review a book and point out how much more interesting it could have been if marketed to both boys and girls,” Pearlman said. “Also just shunning ‘princess for girls’ books doesn’t eliminate the fact that so many girls love those stories. If they connect to reading through those stories what a shame to try to take that away.”
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Posted 3/20/14
WTH ppl? 25 views & not a single reply?
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Posted 3/30/14
No. I benefited greatly from reading books with female protagonists. I still enjoy YA fiction as a guilty pleasure and for work related purposes while drafting book reviews. The genre is dominated by female writers and the audiance is even larger than that of contemporary adult fiction. These authors are stimulating reading. Whether it be J.K. Rowling or even Cassandra Clare. I don't see the need for boys to read "boys books" or girls to read "girls books" I remember loving the Sabrina the Teenage Witch show and books when I was a little boy. I think there is a space for things like "The Dangerous Book for Boys." and its girl equivalent but only because its fair to acknowledge how the culture has treated children differently in the past but it shouldn't be seen as the norm and I can respect the decision to not promote such books.
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Posted 8/26/14
Well…I have a few thoughts about this. XD

1) I think the declaration of “opposing or supporting” can be limiting period. So these publishers, by declaring that they will by-pass blatantly gender targeted books, are inviting themselves to get stuck somewhere else in the future. Books are manifested expressions – the territory of openness – so censorship of any kind is a sticky situation. With that aside, I do actually like that this is occurring; I think that it has good potential to create works that are just plain good – not good for boys or good for girls.

2) Children really are the future. So if you don’t like the gender divides we adults and young adults experience – we cannot keep repeating what was done before. Uh-oh, that means CHANGE! Imagine the first few widespread generations of little girls that could actually go to schools and learn to be literate – I bet the first princess books caused uproar. Heroines have come a long way, as have heroes. I think giving kids the space to make their own decisions about protagonists is healthy. In fact, I reckon that it helps them learn about the real-world better. One has to make decisions as a grown-up and some are very tough, so getting to decide which books to read, not just the ones that get shoved down your throat, is a way less scary learning ground for kids. In turn, by getting them to choose what they want and like to read, they (and really all ages haha) will know themselves better and have a higher potential for better self-esteem. I think that’s a great foundation to build upon!

3) The challenge goes beyond the libraries and publishing offices though; it really gets handed to the parents and families. A prime reason kids flock to heavily gender specific books is because that’s what they get acculturated with at home…from day one. So again, letting kids choose what they identify with most will build better self-esteem that helps set a foundation for them to be authentic and confident in the future. If a kid loves princess books or a book about a car-racing-hero, it should be supported…in reality, what the child likes might be the overarching theme or habit presented, not necessarily the noun creating it. Meaning, a girl might love stories about fairies, not necessarily because they glittery and in cute outfits, but because she likes believing in magical and mystical worlds that go beyond what she sees around her; I don’t think that is something that is gender specific.

4) I also agree and appreciate what Marmondesu shared. I benefited quite a bit with a variety of books as a kid and it all comes down to promotion. The Transall Saga was a book that the school library never had – because it was at my house. XD It featured a male protagonist, and that had zero meaning to me, because the adventure was what I loved. A few years down the road that same thing was experienced with the Cirque du Freak series.

So in short, book promotion, and people in positions to promote, should give their attentions to GOOD STORIES – not being too concerned with whether it is for boys or girls. So while I think this filtration of gender-specific books could allow some good books to go unnoticed, I think it is a move that could be great. (: Kids are cooler than they get credit for – fully capable of deciding what they dig and not, which in the long run, provided support, helps them build self-esteem.
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Posted 8/27/16
The gender stratification in books is a social construction so those gender boundary can be shifted; an example is when more action shows is being marketed to girls. Also, different readers have different interpretation of a story; for example, the Koyomimonogatari OVA keep viewers interested in past Bakemonogatari anime series by providing a different view of those past plots.
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