I know I’ve ranted about this before, but I can’t help but rant again.
I went to a conference this past weekend, where I heard numerous times ‘Will a boy like this book?” asked because it’s got a girl main character, is about a girl’s thoughts or has a girl on the cover.
I even went to a presentation by a children’s lit ‘expert’ (okay, I know that’s snotty to put that in quotes, but she got a lot of stuff wrong) who kept hammering in the point that boys will not like books about girls. She showed the cover of Calpurnia Tate and said, “Would a boy like this book? No,”
Sigh. Where do I start? So many places, so let me begin with Calpurnia Tate. A child (young woman) who doesn’t want to do what her mother wants her to do (sew, cook, etc.) but instead wants to study science and evolution and discuss Darwin. Hmm, a child rebelling against what the parental unit wants for them. Yea, that’s hard to relate to. Let’s make a quick change – Calpurn Tate’s dad wants HIM to be a rancher but Calpurn wants to, hmm, study science and evolution and discuss Darwin. NOW would a boy like it?
So, let’s say it IS about good old Calpurn. Would anyone, ANYONE not give it to a girl OR show it to a girl and say, nose wrinkling “You wouldn’t want to read this, it’s about a boy.”?
Well, of course they would say that because nobody gave Harry Potter to girls. When schools read Hatchet for literature circles, they make sure they give the girls Little Women instead.
Oh wait, people DID give HP to girls AND expect them to enjoy Hatchet?!?!?!?!?!? Wow!
So, really, what we’re saying is that boys are interesting and girls are boring. We wonder how any boy could be interested in what girls are up to, even though in any good book, the story, conflict, etc. should be interesting enough to be a good read for ANYONE.
What do I find most disturbing about this? Well, that it’s mainly women who keep this ‘boys can’t possibly like books about girls’ train of thought on the track. It’s the female teachers and librarians at conferences I hear asking about ‘male appeal’ of books. It’s the moms I’m selling to at the bookstore who will not buy books about girls for their sons
What I find interesting is that when I do booktalks in classrooms or am handselling at the bookstore, boys do not run away from Kiki Strike or Heir Apparent or Red Scarf Girl.
Do we truly think so little of ourselves that we believe that adventures featuring our gender cannot possibly be of interest to the opposite gender? What is it about women that we instill the value in boys (and girls by extension) that reading about girls is for girls and reading about boys is for everyone? Where does this self loathing come from? It breaks my heart.
We want boys and girls, well, all people to understand and relate to each other. Then why do we teach boys that girls are unrelateable? How do we understand each other if we don’t get to know about each other?
As I was ranting on the way home from the airport after the conference the spousal unit said “Would any of these people hold up a book about an African-American child and say to a white kid, ‘you wouldn’t like this, it’s about a black kid’? Well, of course not, that would be racist. So, why in the world is sexism not only accepted, but reinforced, taught even, by those we hope know better?