My Bio

My Bio
My name is Sharon Levin and I've been reviewing children's literature for 20 years. I founded and run the Bay Area Children's Literature List. My biggest passion (outside my family) is getting books into the hands of children and teens. My favorite thing is getting non-readers to realize that they're readers. I also LOVE t-shirts that have to do with books or literature. As soon as I figure out how to do it, I'll have a click through on the above picture so you can see my entire collection (and where to get them).

January 12, 2016

Recognizing My Own Anti-Female Bias: Reflection on Kirby Larson's Strong Women Post

I've been mulling over Kirby's post (okay, and drinking eggnog with Rumchata, so I haven't used my hiatus all that constructively) and I've had some interesting and disturbing insights into my own psyche.  Yes, I know, there are MANY disturbing things in my psyche, but let's just focus on this one for the moment, shall we?

I agree with Kirby, we shouldn't use the term 'strong woman' as if there's any other kind.  I'm completely onboard with empowered women, valuing women, etc.  What I realized I DON'T do is value things that are considered 'girl', in fact, I denigrate them (careful, you may see yourself in here by the end).

After rereading Kirby's post, I thought about something I do when booktalking the HILARIOUS Phoebe and Her Unicorn  book by Dana Simpson.

Now, I LOVE this book!!  I love handselling the heck out of this book!  Do you know what I say (said) when talking about it?  I say, "Look past the pink and sparkly cover"  Why do (did) I say this? Because I thought that being stereotypically 'girly' was bad, something to be avoided.

I have reacted similarly to the Babymouse series

I LOVE this series with the wonderful Walter Mittyesque (ooh, how that's for a word) heroine, Babymouse.  I've often handsold it by saying "Ignore the pink cover" and the response I get is often a nod of agreement: YES, I will consider this book IN SPITE OF its girly feel.

Until I reread Kirby's article, I really had never considered how I negatively view anything considered stereotypically female.  I remember being happy that my eldest daughter wasn't into princesses, Barbie, etc. I even said, "Yup, we're raising her right." RAISING HER RIGHT because she didn't care for things that society sees as the purview of girls. Has any parent of a boy said, "Yup, he hates sports, we're raising him right."?

I am now consciously NOT putting down 'girly' covers, but it actually takes effort.  I am aware of rethinking my biases anytime I talk about pink covered or sparkly books.  I feel that I want to explain it to my customers.  Would I ever explain/excuse my handing them a blue book or a book with some male athlete on the cover?  In case you don't know the answer to that, it's "NO".  Sigh.

If you have read my earlier posts I wrote about the 'nose wrinkle' adults make when handing a book about a girl to a boy, or actually NOT handing a book about a girl to a boy.  I have never told boys they wouldn't like a book about a girl (cuz we're interesting DAMN IT) but I HAVE done the nose wrinkle when handselling a pink book to a girl or her parent.

I have been a feminist all my life and it is incredibly disturbing to me to realize at the advanced age of 53 (okay, not advanced, but past, sigh, middle age) that I have looked at my own gender or  'attributes' of my gender with disdain. Worse (or just as bad) I have looked at many 'male attributes' as positive, something to be valued more than female ones. 

I'm now struggling to wrap up this post with something wise or pithy (No, NOT lisping) and I've got nothin'  So, a la prochaine (because everything sounds wiser, or at least classier, in French).