Join 3,564 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Let Books Be Books
March 18, 2014 6:34 AM   Subscribe

Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex
There are those who will say that insisting on gender-neutral books and toys for children is a bizarre experiment in social engineering by radical lefties and paranoid “femininazis” who won’t allow boys to be boys, and girls to be girls. (Because, by the way, seeking equality of rights and opportunities was a key plank of Nazi ideology, was it?) But the “experiment” is nothing new. When I grew up in the 1970s, and when my parents grew up in the 1950s, brothers and sisters shared the same toys, books and games, which came in many more colours than just pink and blue, and there was no obvious disintegration of society as a result. Publishers and toy companies like to say that they are offering parents more “choice” these days by billing some of their products as just for boys and others as just for girls. What they’re actually doing, by convincing children that boys and girls can’t play with each other’s stuff, is forcing parents to buy twice as much stuff.
posted by eviemath (189 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
Metafilter: "a bizarre experiment in social engineering by radical lefties..."
posted by Optamystic at 6:41 AM on March 18 [23 favorites]


I'm all for giving genders equal opportunity while growing up. BTW, neither my wife nor I can cook worth anything so we both obviously had the chance to "succeed" at ignoring that calling (yay Progress for her! not so much for me!" My Wife's father does all the cooking in his household and her mother is all for eating out. I was a bit surprised when she expected me to cook for our first child. I was like, "I'm not qualified!" and she was like, "why would you think I would be!". Good Point!

But honestly, yes, Gender should not define the future roles for either of the sex. I wish I had been taught to gut and cook those fish my dad made me catch instead of just handing it over to my Mom. I was deprived an education of cooking simply because of preconceived notions of what a Man should be like.

So I'm all for it. Tear down the walls of gender stereotype. If we cripple each other simply based on what's perceived as best for each sex, we limit and weaken our potentials on both sides.
posted by cicadaverse at 6:43 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


So glad to see The Independent taking a stand on this. Anyone who thinks those hideous "Big Book of Things For Boys" (dinosaurs, trucks, science)/"Big Book of Things For Girls" (cupcake recipes, makeup, shoes) are worth keeping deserves to be punted into the nearest sinkhole.

But, ugh, as in all things: Do Not Read The Comments.
posted by fight or flight at 6:44 AM on March 18 [13 favorites]


I think all they really mean is that they won't review books that actually have 'for girls/boys' or something similar in the title. They probably rarely do as it is.
posted by Segundus at 6:45 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Now, Dahl’s Matilda is published with a pink cover, and I have heard one bookseller report seeing a mother snatching a copy from her small son’s hands saying “That’s for girls” as she replaced it on the shelf.

Oh please oh please let this just be one of those apocryphal tales booksellers tell, like how every kid on the playground knows a kid whose cousin's best friend's neighbor kept his eyes open when he sneezed and his eyeballs fell out.
posted by phunniemee at 6:46 AM on March 18 [30 favorites]


Mr O’Mara himself told The Independent that their Boys’ Book covers “things like how to make a bow and arrow and how to play certain sports and you’d get things about style and how to look cool in the girls’ book.” At the same time, he added: “We would never publish a book that demeaned one sex or the other”.
Ugh. That's horrible, and I'm glad that the Independent is resisting it.

I'm not sure she's totally right about "girls books' and "boys books" being a new phenomenon, though. Particularly if you're talking about downscale kids' books, I think there was a fair amount of gender segregation in the '80s when I was a kid. I distinctly remember thinking I was doing something a little daring by reading my brother's Hardy Boys books instead of Nancy Drew, and I don't think many guys read Sweet Valley High books. There were also a whole bunch of classics that were considered "girls' books." My brothers didn't read Little Women or the Little House on the Prairie books or really any of the golden age girls' books that I loved so much. And I think that a lot of sci-fi and fantasy was a bit of a boys' ghetto, although I'm not sure that was as explicit.

So yeah. In some ways, things are worse, because lots of things are now branded as pink or blue. But there's actually a lot of genuinely gender-neutral kids' literature, including books with female protagonists that are read by both boys and girls, and I think that's a big improvement.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:47 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Wouldn't be surprised, phunniemee.
posted by rtha at 6:47 AM on March 18


Metafilter: "Do Not Read The Comments."
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:48 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


hahaha O'Mara are terrible terrible people
posted by ominous_paws at 6:49 AM on March 18


Obviously the pink/blue, "for boys/for girls" thing is gross. But aren't there very good books that were written with one gender or another in mind as the intended audience? For instance, much of Judy Blume? I wouldn't think you'd want to throw those out.
posted by jbickers at 6:50 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


This is another interesting take on the campaign by Lilit Marcus, although I think she's slightly missing the point of The Independent's stand (that is, refusing to review books specifically marketed to either gender, rather than books socially designated -- but not specifically marketed -- to either gender).
Many of the genres that market the most heavily toward women and girls are genres traditionally marginalized by book reviewers, including young adult and romance. Female authors who write fiction are often more likely to find their books shunted into the ambiguous “women’s fiction” category, ignored by the mainstream and more legitimized capital-F Fiction.
posted by fight or flight at 6:52 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Obviously the pink/blue, "for boys/for girls" thing is gross. But aren't there very good books that were written with one gender or another in mind as the intended audience? For instance, much of Judy Blume? I wouldn't think you'd want to throw those out.

That is not what this is about. The campaign is very specific.
posted by Wordwoman at 6:53 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


But aren't there very good books that were written with one gender or another in mind as the intended audience? For instance, much of Judy Blume? I wouldn't think you'd want to throw those out.

The other problem with this is that books aimed at girls are much more likely to be seen/marketed as "for girls" than books for boys are to be seen as "for boys." Often, the two categories are "things for girls/women" and "things." Now, the fact that the Independent is taking this stand inclines me to trust that they'll see their way through that problem, but I think that it is a problem.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:53 AM on March 18 [36 favorites]


The thing is, this kind of policy would also keep out books like "A girl's guide to dealing with patriarchy" (which, admittedly, I don't think exists, but still). Or more specifically, "A girl's guide to puberty" or "A girl's guide to avoiding shitty high school cliques." It's possible to have useful information in gender-specific books, and I worry that this will leave that out.
posted by corb at 6:55 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


But aren't there very good books that were written with one gender or another in mind as the intended audience? For instance, much of Judy Blume? I wouldn't think you'd want to throw those out.

"One gender in mind" and "marketed exclusively to one gender" are pretty different things. (Besides, half of my sex ed as a young teen boy came from reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret. Suddenly everything made so much sense.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 6:55 AM on March 18 [29 favorites]


It's possible to have useful information in gender-specific books, and I worry that this will leave that out.

I think this campaign is mostly dealing with fiction and entertainment-based non-fiction, though I imagine many boys would also benefit from learning about shitty high school cliques and what girls go through in puberty. I'd like to see more "A Young Person's Guide To Getting Through Life" and less "Girls Are Horrible To Each Other Just FYI".
posted by fight or flight at 6:57 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Gender specific books are awesome. The genders, variant as they are, face different challenges whilst growing up, and the literature they read should encompass this.

I'm not convinced either that the majority of kids don't want to differentiate and label themselves according to gender. Mostly every kid I've known has wanted every other kid to know what gender they are.

I'm no fan of "bows and arrows for boys", because that's just sexist bullshit. But using pink and blue as non ability-based differentiators seems like a great solution.

Obvs - this creates challenges amongst those who are not cis-gendered, but that wrinkle aside - I don't really get how pink/blue for boys/girls is as "gross" as jbickers et al say it is.
posted by zoo at 6:58 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


But aren't there very good books that were written with one gender or another in mind as the intended audience? For instance, much of Judy Blume? I wouldn't think you'd want to throw those out.

This campaign isn't talking about Judy Blume, but just for those interested, I looked it up and this is what the cover of Are You There God looks like these days. That's...uh...not the cover I grew up with.
posted by phunniemee at 6:58 AM on March 18 [14 favorites]


Last week, both Parragon (which sells Disney titles, among others) and Usborne (the Independent Publisher of the Year 2014), agreed that they will no longer publish books specifically titled “for boys” or “for girls”.

Agreed? I generally don't like it when competitors collude on what to offer consumers, but this seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. A book with the title "Archery for Girls" or "Gutting a Fish for Boys" reaches only half of the market.

And capitalism will accomplish in a short time what decades of radical leftie-ism has failed to achieve.
posted by three blind mice at 6:59 AM on March 18


I think that one publication declining to review books that are marketed at one and only one gender when they really don't need to be doesn't mean that there won't or shouldn't be gender-specific books (like ones about puberty).
posted by rtha at 6:59 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


I think my question is: are they refusing to review bullshit gender-specific books, or just gender specific books in general? The first is praiseworthy, the latter is overbroad.
posted by corb at 7:03 AM on March 18


Obvs - this creates challenges amongst those who are not cis-gendered
It doesn't just create challenges for kids who aren't cis. It creates challenges for any kid who doesn't totally adhere to gender stereotypes. I'm really cis, but I was a little girl who didn't care much about clothes, was hyper-competitive, and enjoyed reading stories about adventures. A lot of stuff marketed to boys appealed to me. That's ok if you're a girl, because it's considered ok for a little girl to be a tomboy. But it's really not ok for a little boy to like stuff that is marketed towards girls, and in a pink and blue world, that means that boys are completely shoved into gender boxes that may not reflect their personalities, temperaments or interests. We tend to focus on the ways in which the pink/blue dichotomy is bad for girls, but I actually think it's even more toxic for little boys, for what it's worth.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:08 AM on March 18 [68 favorites]


What they’re actually doing, by convincing children that boys and girls can’t play with each other’s stuff, is forcing parents to buy twice as much stuff.

I've found that "Cherchez l'argent" is rarely bad advice when figuring out why things in a society seem to move sharply in a certain direction.


Oh please oh please let this just be one of those apocryphal tales booksellers tell, like how every kid on the playground knows a kid whose cousin's best friend's neighbor kept his eyes open when he sneezed and his eyeballs fell out.

I had a coworker who flipped the f*** out when her son asked for a Dora the Explorer toddler bed when he was transitioning out of his crib. She was describing how upset she got in the store, and if how upset she got retelling the story was any indication, everyone in Target was probably WISHING she would just sneeze and have her eyeballs fly out. The worst part was, she was acting like that was the natural, reasonable reaction any parent should have.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:08 AM on March 18 [17 favorites]


I looked it up and this is what the cover of Are You There God looks like these days. That's...uh...not the cover I grew up with.

Wow, those covers look like the subtitle should be 22 Ways to Ask Your Crush to Prom and Mani-Pedi Your Way to Spring Break. That's...certainly a new take on presenting the story.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:12 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


> I don't really get how pink/blue for boys/girls is as "gross" as jbickers et al say it is.

It limits us. It steers us into boxes that may or may not fit. As a girl, I hated pink. (Still do.)
And if someone had bought me something from the pink aisle I would have know that s/he did not know me at all, had no idea who I was, or did not care.

On preview, what ArbitraryAndCapricious said.
posted by Too-Ticky at 7:12 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


It sounds like they're refusing to review books that say "for Girls" or "for Boys" in the title, or the equivalent. It'd be interesting to see if that stretches to exclude books that are obviously part of the 'boys' own adventure' genre without actually being labelled as such.
posted by topynate at 7:12 AM on March 18


(Which, to be clear, I think would be a huge overreach.)
posted by topynate at 7:13 AM on March 18


This is the kind of bullshit that they are talking about, FYI.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 7:17 AM on March 18 [15 favorites]


Well, from the top this statement is specifically addressed at childrens' literature, not the future Mary Daly or pop-feminist guide to sex. And I took the statement as read about titles like "The Big Book of Boy Stuff" and "The Big Book of Girl Stuff," not Judy Blume vs. adventure stories.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:18 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Personally I'm seeing this as the start (or next step, if we also consider the #lettoysbetoys campaign) of a very important conversation about how we inform gender to our children. This isn't the be-all and end-all of discussions around children's lit, nor should it be.
posted by fight or flight at 7:21 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Wow, those covers look like the subtitle should be 22 Ways to Ask Your Crush to Prom and Mani-Pedi Your Way to Spring Break. That's...certainly a new take on presenting the story.

Obviously everyone is allowed their own interpretation, but given the content of this specific story and the (admittedly fairly hammy) symbolism in the photo... I think that's a pretty harsh judgement?
posted by ominous_paws at 7:25 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


it seems to me that in the 2000s and 2010s, things (specifically objects and items of clothes) have been getting *more* gendered. There's been a slow, steady shift over the past hundred years where the walls between genders have been somewhat broken down, but the past 15 years or so feel like there's been a big push for the opposite. Is that just me parroting what I've read in other comments, or is this truly a shift?
posted by rebent at 7:27 AM on March 18 [13 favorites]


Wasn't there an fpp in the last year or so about how Legos marketing had gotten much more gender specific than it was 20/30 years ago?
posted by rtha at 7:30 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Lego ad from 1981.
posted by Wordwoman at 7:34 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


Wasn't there an fpp in the last year or so about how Legos marketing had gotten much more gender specific than it was 20/30 years ago?

Yes.
posted by cjelli at 7:35 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Here you go, rtha. See also the Nerf Rebelle line, which has been mentioned here a bunch of times but doesn't seem to have it's own FPP.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:35 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


ArbitraryAndCapricious: I distinctly remember thinking I was doing something a little daring by reading my brother's Hardy Boys books instead of Nancy Drew, and I don't think many guys read Sweet Valley High books. There were also a whole bunch of classics that were considered "girls' books." My brothers didn't read Little Women or the Little House on the Prairie books or really any of the golden age girls' books that I loved so much. And I think that a lot of sci-fi and fantasy was a bit of a boys' ghetto, although I'm not sure that was as explicit.

I was just remembering how, as I was going through my Laura Ingalls Wilder reading phase, my mom asked me (in a way that seemed casual and helpful to her, I'm sure): "When are you going to start reading boys' books?" It hit me like a punch to the gut, because it had never once occurred to me that I had been doing anything that wasn't proper for boys. It was probably the first time I can remember feeling shame about not performing my gender correctly. But I kept on reading Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume and (eventually, God help me) V.C. Andrews. And I like to think that all those made me into the mature gay guy I am today.
posted by ChrisTN at 7:35 AM on March 18 [32 favorites]


22 Ways to Ask Your Crush to Prom (excerpts)

1- Leave him a note in his locker. The note should read "we have your parents. Go to prom with Cindy or else they'll be returned."
2- Drive up to his house on prom night unannounced, honk the horn and yell "get your ass out here, hot stuff."
7- Challenge him to open, unarmed combat on the grounds that he will go to the prom with you if he loses. Destroy him.
12- Bring him a traditional courting gift: the Spear of Longinus, hidden in the Holy Land by the Templars during the Crusades.
14- If he has a bully, incapacitate the bully and hang him by his feet outside the window of your crush's math class with a note saying "you're welcome."
17- Bribe the morning announcement people to let you sing the Ramones' "I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend" and put his name in it.
22- Buy his lunches for a week. Tell him he can have the antidote when he picks you up for prom.
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on March 18 [84 favorites]


There is no reason a boy shouldn't read and enjoy "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?" or a girl "My Side of the Mountain."
posted by 256 at 7:39 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Yeah, this strikes me as a perfectly logical policy regarding gross books that engage in gender stereotyping, but why can't your rule be "we don't review books that we think are marketed in ways that play to stereotypes," rather than "we don't review books marketed to one gender"? As many other people have pointed out, there are perfectly valid reasons to aim some kinds of books at one gender, and it's entirely possible to fill your book with grody stereotypes while marketing it to both genders.

Also, the point about the division between "things" and "things for girls" is spot-freaking-on, and that's a huge, huge issue.

Right attitude, wrong policy, to me. Both overinclusive and underinclusive as far as actually solving the problem.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:40 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Related: Pointlessly Gendered Products, from the Sociological Images blog.
posted by ChrisTN at 7:41 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


I was in a Lego store in London over the weekend, and was very happy to see the wall of Lego Friends almost totally ignored. There was a mum walking around with two young girls, happily picking out Star Wars and Hobbit sets. I wanted to give her a salute of gratitude on behalf of my younger self and all those vivid memories of being given jewellery making sets and makeup brushes I'd never use every single birthday since the age of 5. Instead I just clutched the box of my X-Wing Fighter and tried not to cry.
posted by fight or flight at 7:42 AM on March 18 [12 favorites]


> Oh please oh please let this just be one of those apocryphal tales booksellers tell, like how every kid on the playground knows a kid whose cousin's best friend's neighbor kept his eyes open when he sneezed and his eyeballs fell out.

I work in a library and, sadly, this sort of thing happens every now and again. Just last week I was helping a little girl and who I believe was her caretaker find a DVD and when she grabbed a Bob The Builder disc the caretaker said "That's for boys!" The happy ending is that I smiled and said "It can be for girls, too!" and she wound up signing it out, but...yeah.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:43 AM on March 18 [15 favorites]


Ugh. We have a daughter due any day now, and I'm already dreading having to walk the line between blowing up gross, hyper-gendered marketing and being That Weird Dad who won't let his daughter be a princess for Halloween. "For Boys" and "For Girls" are just awful notions.

We have prepared by buying some sweet pro wrestling onesies, though.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:43 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


22 Ways to Ask Your Crush to Prom (excerpts)

Griphus, I would pay to own this book and give it to children.
posted by corb at 7:44 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


I think my question is: are they refusing to review bullshit gender-specific books, or just gender specific books in general? The first is praiseworthy, the latter is overbroad.

My question is whether there really are any books that can be safely identified as "gender specific?" Are there books that are so embedded within the experience of one gender that they can't or shouldn't be read by others? I'd consider it likely that such books are likely more exceptional than the current publishing fad of trying to sell activities and stories by putting "Boy/Girl" in the title. And that's from the perspective of actually having read and learned from feminist-separatist texts from the outside.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:44 AM on March 18


Anyone who thinks those hideous "Big Book of Things For Boys" (dinosaurs, trucks, science)/"Big Book of Things For Girls" (cupcake recipes, makeup, shoes) are worth keeping deserves to be punted into the nearest sinkhole.

Reading those "Big Book of Things For Boys" with my son has brought me closer to him and has encouraged my son to explore things he didn't initially find interesting.

How far should I be punted for this egregious transgression?
posted by lstanley at 7:45 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


How far should I be punted for this egregious transgression?

You read other books though, right? If he wanted to read "Big Book of Things For Girls", if he wanted to be a Disney Princess instead of a Power Ranger, would you stop him?
posted by fight or flight at 7:47 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


The thing is, this kind of policy would also keep out books like "A girl's guide to dealing with patriarchy" (which, admittedly, I don't think exists, but still). Or more specifically, "A girl's guide to puberty" or "A girl's guide to avoiding shitty high school cliques."

Can you explain why you think this policy would do that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:47 AM on March 18


Reading those "Big Book of Things For Boys" with my son has brought me closer to him and has encouraged my son to explore things he didn't initially find interesting.
Do you think that would have been less likely to happen if it had been billed as a big book of things for kids, rather than boys?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:48 AM on March 18 [17 favorites]


One of the favorite books of my childhood was my treasured and well-worn copy of Alfred Morgan's 1938 classic, Things A Boy Can Do With Electricity. Even in 1978, though, when I was but a paltry ten-year-old boy, I couldn't quite fathom why it was things a boy could do with electricity and not things you could do with electricity, but at least we were heading for the world of the future, when sexism wouldn't be quite so—

Er.

At the same time, I was a huge fan of Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack, by M.E. Karr, which was not plastered with the weird genderification bullshit that would almost certainly be tacked onto its marketing these days.

Somehow the whole equal opportunity impetus got warped into "don't minimize my gender by saying we're the same," which got convoluted into ruinous big-headed doe-eyed sparklepinkness by evil marketing types in corporate conference rooms throughout the world, in a giant fussy feedback loop that now seems too massive to stop.

It goes way back, though, and I was heartbroken that I really felt uncomfortable trying to share my beloved Richard Scarry books with my nieces when they were, as seen by my adult eyes, just swimming with gender-assigning bullshit.
posted by sonascope at 7:48 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


We have a daughter due any day now, and I'm already dreading having to walk the line between blowing up gross, hyper-gendered marketing and being That Weird Dad who won't let his daughter be a princess for Halloween.

Relax. It's perfectly fine for your daughter to be a princess, if that's what she wants to be. Just don't tell her that that's what she has to be.

My daughter is the ultimate stereotypical girly-girl, loves her Barbies and Lego Friends and Pinkalicious books and all of that. None of it was forced on her or made more available in our house to the exclusion of anything else - it's what she genuinely loves, and that makes it okay, and I'm so happy that those things exist for her. Kids are awesome creatures that seek out the things they love and are interested in. The trick is to not put limits on how they explore.
posted by jbickers at 7:49 AM on March 18 [17 favorites]


Sure they're a small fraction of the population, but aren't there many children in the world who from birth do not physically and genetically fit into one gender? It makes sense to me that if you're going to discourage gender stereotypes, why not just go all the way and pitch gender itself out the window, at least as far as the first books a child gets in life goes?
posted by XMLicious at 7:49 AM on March 18


I was an omnivorous reader between the ages of 5 and 15, and I was lucky enough to have a school librarian (and parents) who didn't try to steer me away when I wanted to read, among others, the Beverly Cleary "Ramona" series and any number of books by Judy Blume.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:49 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


We have a four year old daughter (and now a 6-month old daughter as well) who we have relentlessly fed ungendered (or even, ocassionally, male-gendered) media/play to. And she still wants to dress up like a princess.

As a parent, that's the most salient part of this to me. No matter what you do, they're going to learn their societally approved gender roles. It always boggles me when people insist that you must give girls toy dolls or dress them all in pink or else they will be confused and socially disadvantaged. They are going to be slammed with this their whole lives. All I can do is try to make the home into the one single sanctuary from it.

And of course she gets to dress up like a princess.
posted by 256 at 7:51 AM on March 18 [20 favorites]


Can you explain why you think this policy would do that?

Sure, it was their
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.
that made me think that would include guides or books that were explicitly aimed at just girls even if they were aimed that way for a reason.
posted by corb at 7:56 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


phunniemee:
This campaign isn't talking about Judy Blume, but just for those interested, I looked it up and this is what the cover of Are You There God looks like these days. That's...uh...not the cover I grew up with.
Me neither. I had read Superfudge with no problem in third grade and the cover made it look like any other Judy Bloom book. I was confused but certainly no worse off after reading it. Hell, probably did me some good.
posted by charred husk at 7:56 AM on March 18


How about Archery for No-one?


Those little fuckers are getting more accurate, and I just don't move as well as I once did.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:56 AM on March 18 [24 favorites]


It's perfectly fine for your daughter to be a princess, if that's what she wants to be. Just don't tell her that that's what she has to be.

The trouble is, it's not you, the enlightened parent, who will tell her that. It's her idiot classmates and their idiot parents, parroting the bullshit of their idiot parents, repeating the same tired lies until they become something that's just in the air. It's idiots all the way down.

I was relatively annoying to the more conventional parents among my family and social circles for pointing out to little princesses, that eventually, French revolutionaries would cut off their heads, and that princesses become princesses by stealing food and wealth from the poor. I find it bizarre that anyone still romanticizes evil feudal bullshit, but we love our sketchy fairytales, alas. It's a trait my brother picked up, as well, as I overheard him telling my nephew, while we were all out thrift shopping, that yes, he could have that soldier toy if he really wanted, but he should remember that soldiers sometimes kill mommies and daddies and little children just like him.
posted by sonascope at 7:56 AM on March 18 [45 favorites]


You must be very popular at Christmas parties.
posted by jbickers at 7:58 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


Cinderella is a class traitor.
posted by kyrademon at 8:00 AM on March 18 [48 favorites]


It goes way back, though, and I was heartbroken that I really felt uncomfortable trying to share my beloved Richard Scarry books with my nieces when they were, as seen by my adult eyes, just swimming with gender-assigning bullshit.

Nearly every time I read something I loved as a kid to my kid, this happens. But, I take hope from the realization that I totally missed most of that as a kid. I just re-read Little House on the Prairie after buying it for him, and the stuff I see now that's sexist/racist (which is fairly mild, at least in this book in the series), I did not remember at all; I mostly remembered what the girls did/wore/got for Christmas, and the novel idea of riding around in a wagon and building your own house.
posted by emjaybee at 8:01 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Meh. I think a better way to address problems with gender specific books is to not ignore them, but rather to point out their failings (or strengths) as they may be.

>Do you think that would have been less likely to happen if it had been billed as a big book of things for kids, rather than boys?

This is when it starts to get dick-ish. Does one really want to start second guessing someone else's positive experience and parenting skills?
posted by 2N2222 at 8:01 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Yeah, this strikes me as a perfectly logical policy regarding gross books that engage in gender stereotyping, but why can't your rule be "we don't review books that we think are marketed in ways that play to stereotypes," rather than "we don't review books marketed to one gender"?

My guess is that since there tends to be a large overlap between those categories in today's market, and newspapers are running on skeleton staffs, it's just easier and more practical for them to go with the broader category than to commit worker-hours to the sifting.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:02 AM on March 18


Also, Princess Anne is a total badass and I dare anyone to tell her to her face she's a bad role model.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:05 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


This is when it starts to get dick-ish. Does one really want to start second guessing someone else's positive experience and parenting skills?
You think it's dickish to ask whether the gender-specific title was an inherent part of the positive experience? That seems like a fairly innocuous question, to be honest. And it's an essential question, given that it's sort of the whole point of this discussion.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:07 AM on March 18 [12 favorites]


...their Boys’ Book covers “things like how to make a bow...

I was going to make some catty comment about the Girls' Book showing, instead, how to make a crossbow and link to a 15th century ladies hunting crossbow in the St. Louis Art Museum's collection, but, sadly, it does not appear to be in their E-collection.

But seriously guys, 15th century. Sigh.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:07 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


You must be very popular at Christmas parties.

isn't this stated at the beginning of the second paragraph of sonascope's comment
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 8:08 AM on March 18


The trouble is, it's not you, the enlightened parent, who will tell her that. It's her idiot classmates and their idiot parents, parroting the bullshit of their idiot parents, repeating the same tired lies until they become something that's just in the air. It's idiots all the way down.

This is why it's important to never stray off the compound.

I was relatively annoying to the more conventional parents among my family and social circles for pointing out to little princesses, that eventually, French revolutionaries would cut off their heads, and that princesses become princesses by stealing food and wealth from the poor.

I'll bet. Kinda sounds like you're making yourself out to be a bit of a whack job, or someone who is tiresome to be around. Cripes!
posted by 2N2222 at 8:08 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


It was a novel idea when the book first came out almost a decade ago. The score of imitations produced with trivially different titles since then less so. To me, it's rather like discovering that the local Barnes and Noble devoted an entire standing shelf to "teen paranormal romance" when Twilight was in theaters, but only stocked half of the World Fantasy Award winners. I have few doubts that some magazines that did reviews quietly stopped doing Twilight derivatives that year.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:09 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I think my question is: are they refusing to review bullshit gender-specific books, or just gender specific books in general? The first is praiseworthy, the latter is overbroad.

Does the Independent really normally review "The Girl/Boy's Guide to Puberty" in their guides to children's books? I agree that there are a bunch of gender-specific useful books, but how much overlap does that have with the kind of books they review?
posted by jeather at 8:09 AM on March 18


You think it's dickish to ask whether the gender-specific title was an inherent part of the positive experience?

No. I think it's dickish to respond, when someone says how they had a positive experience, "Don't you think you could have done it better my way?"
posted by 2N2222 at 8:10 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


I think part of the motivation for the "Big Book of Stories for Boys" is that you get some boys who think of reading itself as "girly" and are resistant on that basis. If you can give them a "Big Book of Stories for Boys" they can be reassured that they're obviously not betraying their own gender identity by reading the stories. This is a kind of inverse of the Lego Friends thing where there are some parents who are very grateful to have a construction toy that is coded "girly" enough that their strongly self-gendering daughters will deign to play with it.

I think this all gets into super tricky areas very fast. The fact is that kids are subject to enormous amounts of social pressure around gender identity that go way beyond whatever their parents are doing. I know so many parents who resolved to be rigorously "gender neutral" in their parenting practices and were dismayed to discover that their children were gender-policing everything in their clothing, toys, reading etc. as if they'd been raised by Ward and June Cleaver. You can certainly rail (with good reason) against the multiple corporate and other forces that make that happen, but there comes a point where you also have to confront the fact that your kid, despite your best wishes and best efforts, is just like that--and at that point there can sometimes be real advantages to the "X-product-for-girls/boys" things.
posted by yoink at 8:11 AM on March 18 [18 favorites]


Princesses are one of the few powerful roles that are easily accessible to the imagination of girls. Little boys (well, mine, anyway) play Emperor and King and Evil Wizard Who Will Zap You, and there are very few female equivalents, in terms of power, in popular culture.

Princesses boss everyone around, don't work, are rich, wear amazing clothes, and sometimes have magical powers. Other popular roles are Queen, mermaid, fairy, witch.

It's about power, which kids want but do not have, boys and girls alike.

If you are mad that girls love princesses, then the only real solution is to create more powerful characters in children's movies/books. There are many writers doing that, but it's going to take awhile to saturate the culture. Badass princesses and pirate queens are more of a thing now, but still marginal. Women warriors are almost entirely nonexistent, at least in a form that is not Sexxxy and therefore something parents will let kids play with.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 AM on March 18 [18 favorites]


that made me think that would include guides or books that were explicitly aimed at just girls even if they were aimed that way for a reason.

corb, you are being extremely literal about this. If you are so concerned, why not ask the campaign for clarification? Based on the people who are promoting it and the rationale that has been offered, it seems obvious to me that the interpreters of this policy will be capable of distinguishing between titles that promote gender stereotypes and titles like My Body Myself for Girls.
posted by Wordwoman at 8:17 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Oh no, I doubt the campaign has that problem, Wordwoman. I was more thinking that the newspaper might, as someone said above, given a skeleton staff, be taking an overbroad stance in terms of not wanting to sift.
posted by corb at 8:18 AM on March 18


If you are mad that girls love princesses, then the only real solution is to create more powerful characters in children's movies/books.

The point is not that it's bad for girls to like princesses, it's that it's bad for ONLY girls to be allowed to ONLY like princesses. It's bad for boys to express interest in princesses and be told "no, princesses are for girls". It's bad for girls to express interest in toy cars or Lego and be told "no, that's not for girls".

There is nothing wrong with girls liking princesses. The point is that princesses should not only be "for girls".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 8:20 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


Princesses are one of the few powerful roles that are easily accessible to the imagination of girls.

I don't remember any Disney princesses-- surely a campaign at the leading edge of the GIRLS MUST LOVE PRINCESS SHIT movement-- bossing anyone around. Mostly they sing songs with woodland creatures and then other actually powerful characters with real agency fight over who gets to magically control the color of the princess's dress.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:20 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


You do make a good point that the way they phrased things could be interpreted that way, corb; however, I suspect that things like "A Girl's Guide To Her Period" might be an exception to the rule.

Actually, though, I also don't recall the books section of any major newspaper reviewing any such guide-to-puberty books in the first place, so while it is a fair point, I suspect it's a situation that is quite unlikely to come up.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:22 AM on March 18


I don't remember any Disney princesses-- surely a campaign at the leading edge of the GIRLS MUST LOVE PRINCESS SHIT movement-- bossing anyone around. Mostly they sing songs with woodland creatures and then other actually powerful characters with real agency fight over who gets to magically control the color of the princess's dress.

Right. Although my five year old daughter has just now started to differentiate between the Disney princesses that "do something" and those that just sit around waiting to be rescued. Cinderella's gone on the backburner in favor of Merida "because she's more like a superhero, Mama".
posted by gaspode at 8:23 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


What they’re actually doing, by convincing children that boys and girls can’t play with each other’s stuff, is forcing parents to buy twice as much stuff.

Huh. Even with all my cynicism regarding marketing and advertising (a business I am in, by the way) I never considered this simple truth before. I'll be sharing that with my children.

Speaking of my children: my son enjoyed wearing nail polish to school, until they all got old enough to care about gender roles and he started getting teased for being a girl. My daughter insisted on a short pixie cut, until they all got old enough to care about gender roles and she started getting teased for being a boy*. You can't put the full weight of that on gender-specific marketing, of course, but you can acknowledge that gender roles are a matter of some significance in the lives of children that perhaps shouldn't be leveraged to sell more product at the expense of a child's confidence and self-image. A boy who likes "girl" things or a girl who likes "boy" things (as reinforced by certain products and marketing) is just being marginalized and pushed into a specific role that may not actually fit them.

That's where the pink/blue thing becomes unpleasant, I think: a boy who likes pink and wants to wear a pink shirt is going to get teased by his peers in a way that any other color of shirt will not get him teased. That liking a color should put a kid into a situation of feeling like a bad or flawed person at such an important part of their development is pretty gross, and the color-reflects-gender-orientation products plays into that really strongly.

*she's eight now, and has just decided to go back to her short hair. I'm very proud of her for being true to herself (none of her friends have short hair.)
posted by davejay at 8:27 AM on March 18 [17 favorites]


French revolutionaries would cut off their heads, and that princesses become princesses by stealing food and wealth from the poor. I find it bizarre that anyone still romanticizes evil feudal bullshit, but we love our sketchy fairytales, alas. It's a trait my brother picked up, as well, as I overheard him telling my nephew, while we were all out thrift shopping, that yes, he could have that soldier toy if he really wanted, but he should remember that soldiers

This is a serious load of WTF...

You know, traumatizing kids into a sanitized world of political correctness is also not okay. That's not saying - don't talk to your kids about soldiers and princesses, but to actively discourage play by defining soldiers by dead children and princesses by the conditions leading up to the french revolution during formative neural development is only going to be awesome for the steady paycheck for the therapist the kids will need... Wait, are the kids like high school kids that still like princesses and soldiers? Because that might be an appropriate topic for kids at that point, and I might see a solid reason to discuss/discourage the social impact of their play - but before that - there's a lot that is explored and learned and not just the subvert the patriarchy.

Telling a kid soldiers kill kids is asking a kid to be afraid and fearful. Soldiers also evacuate people from storm ravaged New Orleans and assist in rescue efforts. Kids can't differentiate between 'National Guard' and 'Frontline Grunt'. Generally also 'Frontline Grunt' is not indiscriminately targeting kids and mommies, and kids don't understand that soldiers don't just randomly patrol at night, sneak in their window and kill their mommies. At certain ages, the boogie man exists and soldiers, knights, and princesses are things that kids can cling to to get past their fears. I can understand the desire to want to teach your kids to eventually question the social norms influenced by play - but starting out giving them a glimpse into reality without letting them navigate a bit of it themselves is just nightmare fuel.

I mean, sweatshops exist too... does that mean that you make sure that kids know at any point that they or their parents can be abducted and forced to work in near slavery? Do you tell them that the vehicles they drive are killing the planet, and that their shampoo possibly killed dolphins. Yeah... holy hell.

Don't get me wrong - princesses are bad if that's all your kid is exposed to, and soldiers are bad if that's all your kids are exposed to... but that's a question of over-exposure, not the 'Howard Zinn Children's Companion of Nightmare Fuel' version. Let kids have a childhood, and if they like princesses and soldiers - that's their thing. And its also okay if your son wants to dress up like a princess, or your daughter wants to be a knight. They don't need to add into their play the part where they trample the small villager (likely if two kids are doing playing together, this will happen anyway - kids generally get in eachother's way when playing... especially when they are brother and sister and one wants to make the other cry)
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:28 AM on March 18 [23 favorites]


> "I don't remember any Disney princesses ... bossing anyone around."

There is certainly a lot of truth to this, but ... Mulan, Merida, Elsa & Anna, even Lilo ... they are *trying* to do better, and I appreciate that.
posted by kyrademon at 8:31 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


I was pretty sure our little tadpole was going to be a girl. My wife did, too. Then that sonogram showed us he was a boy. At first I was a bit taken aback - had to readjust - but by the time we left the doctor's office, we were excited about a little boy. And I realized, knowing her parents like I do, that we had just dodged a huge, pink, frilly bullet, because my mother-in-law would have buried us in an avalanche of pink Disney princess bullshit.

I have seen my wife wear a dress on maybe 10 occasions over the last 24 years (including two proms, and our wedding). I have more pink and purple in my wardrobe than she does (gee, wearing a purple shirt right now, because my son said I should wear it today). She is not girly, never has been, but my mother-in-law can't seem to figure this out. She just assumes all girls like pink crap. She unloads a pile of yard-sale toy cars on our kid whenever she sees him (yard sale because my father-in-law is sure that "boys just like to smash their toys so why buy new?"). This is what we are up against.

We didn't push gender roles on him. We try to keep things on an even keel and let his own interests drive what we share with him. He does like cars and dinosaurs, but he also likes to play dress-up and wear nail polish on his toes. He will occasionally says things like "Girls have long hair" to which we reply "Sometimes, but your friend XY has long hair, just like his daddy does" or "Some girls do, but other girls like XX have short hair." There are trends, kid, but there are exceptions, and that's OK.

The toy aisles are where it falls apart. He wants to avoid the pink aisles. I don't blame him. There is nothing there except pink dolls and princess crap. You ever try to buy a baby doll for a boy? Even if you can find a boy doll, it's wearing pink and is in a box with a title indicating it is intended for a girl to use to play mommy. So how's a kid supposed to learn to be a dad, without a doll to play-act with? My brothers and I all had our own baby dolls as kids, but they just don't make gender-neutral dolls any more. If it's for a boy, it's hard plastic and probably transforms into a robot, unless you do what we did and spend time looking online for a specially-made one (we got him an anatomically correct doll, because I didn't want him taking the undies off and wondering where the doll's bits were).

Books? We read him whatever he wants. Halfway through the Little House series, took a break to read some Tolkien and Kipling. Every book we read him is an opportunity to talk about what the book is saying, and whether it is OK to say or do things like those described. A lot of "Well, a long time ago, people thought that..." kind of explanations. He mostly understands.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:33 AM on March 18 [11 favorites]


Telling a kid soldiers kill kids is asking a kid to be afraid and fearful. Soldiers also evacuate people from storm ravaged New Orleans and assist in rescue efforts. Kids can't differentiate between 'National Guard' and 'Frontline Grunt'. Generally also 'Frontline Grunt' is not indiscriminately targeting kids and mommies, and kids don't understand that soldiers don't just randomly patrol at night, sneak in their window and kill their mommies...They don't need to add into their play the part where they trample the small villager (likely if two kids are doing playing together, this will happen anyway - kids generally get in eachother's way when playing... especially when they are brother and sister and one wants to make the other cry)

Actually, it's a good opportunity when someone gets hurt and the kid says "well, I'm a [role] and [role] does [bad thing]" -- you can say that "[role] are still people and people get to choose how they act as a [role]...are you the kind of [role] who does [bad thing], or the kind of [role] who does [good things]?"

so for soldiering, saying that "soldiers are still people, and people get to choose how they act as a soldier. Do you want to be the kind of soldier who thinks hurting people is good, or are you the kind of soldier who rescues people and helps evacuate people from dangerous areas?"
posted by davejay at 8:33 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


kyrademon: "Merida"

Yeah, she's great, the one princess that spent the entire movie explicitly stating she didn't want to conform to the expected role, so Disney pinkwashed her after the fact. Thanks, Disney. At least they retracted it, I guess.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:36 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


My daughter insisted on a short pixie cut, until they all got old enough to care about gender roles and she started getting teased for being a boy*.

I think this is one of the gender "norms" that depresses me a lot. I have two nieces--the oldest is going to be five this year, the youngest just turned three--and they both have very pretty long hair. But that is the only kind of hair they are allowed to have. My sister complains about having to brush it out, put barrettes in it, etc, and when I asked once why she didn't just let them get their hair cut short, she said, "Because then people will think they are boys." Really? Because their names and the clothes they wear somehow make their gender irrelevant, the hair is the clincher? (I said this in my head because I am Not Their Mom.) I didn't realize that sometimes this shit carries over into adulthood because I cut my hair very very very short this past year and my own father's response about it was, "I think long hair looks better on women."
posted by Kitteh at 8:36 AM on March 18


First off, I applaud this stance, and I think it is a wise move and long overdue. However, there is a bit of throwing the baby out with the bathwater that happens here.

My daughter has (and loves) The Daring Book For Girls, and as the first Amazon review points out, includes sections on karate, tire changing, women inventors, building a campfire and negotiating salaries in addition to sections about friendship bracelets and hopscotch. It really emphasizes that being a girl is a wide open experience, and that a girl can be whatever kind of girl she wants to be, and doesn't attempt to limit their horizons in any way.

Could it have been better as The Daring Book For Kids, with a gender neutral stance? Maybe, but for kids and pre-teens, there is a certain caché that goes along with gender exclusivity (like a clubhouse with a "No Boys Aloud" sign on the door) that is, I think, very comforting and appealing. I don't think she would have been interested in reading The Daring Book For Kids, as she is not a very daring kid, by nature, but the gender exclusivity of the book allowed her to feel safe enough to get into it.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:39 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


Wasn't there an fpp in the last year or so about how Legos marketing had gotten much more gender specific than it was 20/30 years ago?

I'm not sure why this would surprise anyone. In the U.S. anyhow, 1981 was at the end of two decades of steady progress in rights for women, and progressive causes in general. Now is at the end of a long period of reactionary retrenching (in social, political, and military attitudes).
posted by aught at 8:41 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I don't really get how pink/blue for boys/girls is as "gross" as jbickers et al say it is.

I am rocking a pink shirt right now. I'm not a girl. (Arguably I'm not a boy either, but nevermind that for now.) When I first bought it, as a 38 year old, I worried what people would think of me wearing a pink shirt, because I was brought up to believe that pink is only for girls.

And that's just stupid.

Boys afraid of the stigma of pink grow up to be men who are afraid of women and femininity. Some of them never figure out how to act around women without resorting to bullying and belittling.
posted by Foosnark at 8:43 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Beverly Cleary is almost 98. I love her books. All of the Henry Huggins, all of the Ramona but most especially The Mouse and the Motorcycle - I still sometimes imagine being tiny, wearing a half of a ping-pong ball as a helmet and propelling myself by making motorcycle sounds. Hello Ms. Cleary if you are reading this.

Thank You.
posted by vapidave at 8:47 AM on March 18 [16 favorites]


zoo: "I don't really get how pink/blue for boys/girls is as "gross" as jbickers et al say it is."

It's completely artificial... eg, in 1918: “The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.”

The article is also notable for a picture of a young FDR dressed in the 1880's traditional boys outfit of a nice white dress.
posted by Auz at 8:49 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I think part of the motivation for the "Big Book of Stories for Boys" is that you get some boys who think of reading itself as "girly" and are resistant on that basis. If you can give them a "Big Book of Stories for Boys" they can be reassured that they're obviously not betraying their own gender identity by reading the stories. This is a kind of inverse of the Lego Friends thing where there are some parents who are very grateful to have a construction toy that is coded "girly" enough that their strongly self-gendering daughters will deign to play with it.

Yeah, I think those kids are definitely out there. But I think the Independent, or anybody else, for that matter, doesn't really need to knock themselves out too hard promoting those things to them, because they're already out there looking for them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:50 AM on March 18


Pink is also the business casual office man's easiest escape from the monotony of blue dress shirts.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:51 AM on March 18


Rock Steady beat me to it, but I think the resurrection of the "___ for Boys" and "___ for Girls" books involved "The Dangerous Book for Boys", which came out in 2006. It was #1 in the UK for some time. It's self-consciously retro and a throwback to the 19th and early 20th c. "boys own" books, e.g. this one (which is admittedly pretty awesome although full of completely impractical projects).

The publisher produced "The Daring Book for Girls" as a followup after the initial success of the Boys one. Most people I know with kids in the targeted age range (upper elementary / middle school AFAICT) seem to think pretty highly of them, but they are highly gendered even though the Girls book in particular seems to have been written with that criticism in mind.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:53 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Pink is also the business casual office man's easiest escape from the monotony of blue dress shirts.

Never underestimate the power of a textured medium grey shirt over black slacks. Turns business casual into business-casual-but-why-does-he-always-look-so-much-better-than-everyone-else-in-it?
posted by davejay at 8:58 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Women warriors are almost entirely nonexistent

This may not be such a bad thing. When I was a small boy, I was constantly miserable about all the other small boys running around shouting their heads off about being the 'zap wizard' of ultimate power or whatever and wearing superhero pyjamas. Why couldn't they just shut up, I used to think?
posted by colie at 8:59 AM on March 18


Aw, yeah. It's damn exciting to read about stuff like this in a major news outlet.

...this is what the cover of Are You There God looks like these days. That's...uh...not the cover I grew up with.

Oof. My inner third grader is gnashing her teeth and rending her garments due to her acute allergy to pink-hued, heart-shaped anything, particularly when it appears on the cover of one of the most touching books ever written about what the world can and will expect of and extract from you as a clumsy nascent woman-child. (Here's the cover I grew up with.) I would be incredibly psyched if more dudes read this book and am pretty well convinced their doing so en masse would help make the world a better place.

The problem with "The [X] Book For Boys" and "The [Y] Book for Girls" isn't that they acknowledge particular differences between gender-tinted lived experiences, it's that instructive titles like this are operating from a presumption that there is any reason at all for boys to be grouped under the umbrella of preferring X and thus girls, naturally and conversely, will be grouped under the umbrella of preferring Y (and vice versa). But as Ms. Guest's article reminds us:
...there is no credible evidence that boys and girls are born with innately different enthusiasms, and plenty of evidence that their tastes are acquired through socialisation. Let's face it, any company with a billion dollar advertising budget could convince even Jeremy Clarkson to dress up as a Disney princess if it really wanted to, and probably would if his doing so could double its income.
I'm hardly a neuroscientist, but I do not look very kindly upon having the biologically essentialist falsehood of "men's brains" vs. "women's brains" foisted upon anyone, anywhere, anytime. As I'm fond of noting, pink used to be a "boy's color." Why is it a "girl's color" now? What gives? What changed?

I feel like it's part of our responsibility as human beings to let everyone get into whatever the hell they want to get into, with no import given to whether said interest has a clear stereotypically gendered slant or no stereotypically gendered aspects at all. One of the only ways we can readily dismantle gender stereotypes is by encouraging people to discern only whether their interests are appropriate for them, personally and individually, not whether they're appropriate for the stereotypical version of someone with their secondary sex characteristics. We would probably do well as a species if we just encouraged people to be their real and honest actual selves, as fearlessly as possible, no matter what stereotypical or not-so sort of stuff they find most compelling.

Something I always hate to hear as an extremely strident feminist is the accusation that it must make "feminists" mad to see things like little girls playing with Barbies, because doesn't that fly in the face of everything we and our sisterly forebears have railed against? But the answer isn't just no, it's hell no. Dolls aren't the problem, a society that insists that XX Humans and Only XX Humans Enjoy Dolls, No XY Humans Allowed is the problem (and the increasingly sexualized bent applied to visual representations of female characters -- even as they appear in classic board games -- is, of course, another topic entirely).

I certainly realize that there won't really be an easy way for kids of any configuration to shape their own ideas of themselves fully outside the restrictive context of the stereotypical gender binary for a long, long while -- it feels like an impossible dream most of the time. But campaigns meant to discourage various media outlets from publicizing antiquated ideas a la "boys like using power tools, girls like shopping for clothes --> girls who like using power tools aren't Real Girls, boys who like shopping for clothes aren't Real Boys" can help give curious, open-hearted, open-minded kids a good head start on expanding their horizons.
posted by divined by radio at 9:00 AM on March 18 [15 favorites]


The Daring Book for Girls

By Mefi's own!
posted by shakespeherian at 9:01 AM on March 18 [8 favorites]


My daughter insisted on a short pixie cut, until they all got old enough to care about gender roles and she started getting teased for being a boy*.

As a ladyperson with short hair, my absolute favorite argument to use with kids is this:

Tiny person: You have BOY hair!
Me: What? Really? Am I a boy?
Tiny person: No.
Me: Well then how can it be boy hair?
Tiny person: :-O

Gets them every time. Feel free to share that one with your daughter.


For older guys who like to pull the "how come you have short hair? I love long hair on girls. I think you'd look so pretty with long hair" bullshit, I like to respond "oh, I keep my hair short because it makes it easier to spot the sexist dickbags in my life." (Maybe wait until your kid is a bit older to share that one.)
posted by phunniemee at 9:02 AM on March 18 [32 favorites]


I'm not sure she's totally right about "girls books' and "boys books" being a new phenomenon, though.

I own several "Blackies Big Book for Boys" and similar titles, printed in Britain in the last decades of 18xx. They are hefty (inches thick) tomes explicitly targeting boys, containing adventure stories, practical how-to advice, and surprisingly dangerous experiments.

So, very much not a new phenomena.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:08 AM on March 18


Boys afraid of the stigma of pink

And oddly, there's not much corresponding stigma of blue. That's bad for both boys AND girls. It says to boys: "Your choices are more limited than girls'." It says to girls: "You are so worthless that it demeans boys to even wear a color associated with you."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:11 AM on March 18 [16 favorites]


And oddly, there's not much corresponding stigma of blue. That's bad for both boys AND girls. It says to boys: "Your choices are more limited than girls'." It says to girls: "You are so worthless that it demeans boys to even wear a color associated with you."

I don't think it's odd. Femininity is stigmatized but masculinity isn't.
posted by rue72 at 9:14 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


You know, traumatizing kids into a sanitized world of political correctness is also not okay.

Well, I'd dispute the "traumatizing" aspect of letting kids know that things do not exist in a magical vacuum, and I'd definitely not use the far right's litmus test phrase "political correctness," either. There far more "sanitizing" going on when you just shrug off the bad stuff that comes with carrying on centuries worth of tale-spinning about princes and princesses and power roles that are hereditary and taken from the people, rather than earned.

Note that I don't say "don't be a princess," in the same way my brother doesn't say "don't play soldiers" by any stretch of the imagination—play is open and free, and we just offer background to the myths and legends that the playground zeitgeist offers. My parents did it for us, and yeah, sometimes it was sad, hearing my father explain the problems with Song Of The South after we'd seen it in the movie theater, and it made me embarrassed when my mother would hear me say "well, of course you can't be a doctor" to my play pal Julie and firmly correct me that yes, she can be a doctor, or whatever else she wants, often by pointing out that I had a much-beloved Mrs. Beasley doll instead of the socially acceptable GI Joe that my best friend had, but I'm glad I had those lessons.

When we would play war, a game in which I always chose to be Swedish so I wouldn't have to yell so much, my father would take the time to have us ask our next door neighbor, who hit the beaches on D-Day, about what war was really like, and yeah, it made it a lot less fun as a game, but made us a lot more open, rational, and understanding about the real costs of war. Hearing my neighbor tell me the story of being on the RMS Queen Mary, then in use as a troop carrier, on 2 October 1942, when it collided with and sank the HMS Curacao was horrifying and vivid and real, but that trauma made me thoughtful, not fearful, and our war games changed. I was, however, usually still Swedish, but henceforth, I was trying to negotiate treaties and armistice agreements.

There's this myth that kids are so easily traumatized that we're supposed to just accept and promulgate every damn bit of nonsense that some fool passes along because hey, why spoil their fun? I was lucky enough that my parents didn't just smooth over every little detail, and were frank and open about things. My namesake kept slaves, my grandmother actually believed, for a time, that Jews had little horns, and wars have no winners, even when the cause is just. My nephew, given the choice between a soldier toy and a science toy will usually pick the science toy, but sometimes he'll pick the war toy and that's okay, because he's not doing it in glassy-eyed ignorance. My nieces rarely looked up to princesses, but instead wanted to grow up to be monkeys, Little Richard, scientists, or social workers.

Telling the truth isn't crouching down to a toddler and whispering "Hey kid—Santa is a lie." It's something far less cut-and-dried, and when my well-intentioned uncle would shout at my niece "Rain, you'll never grow up to be a princess if your underpants are showing," because she was being rambunctious in an awful holiday girl uniform, I was always happy to say to her, as an aside, that princesses never get to leave the castle or play with normal children, because bullshit deserves debunking, and if my niece wants to be a monkey, hanging upside-down from a branch with her stupid little Easter dress hanging over her head and her drawers on full display, someone's gotta point out that that, too, is okay. Call it world-sanitizing political correctness all you want, but I disagree.
posted by sonascope at 9:15 AM on March 18 [34 favorites]


Books certainly don't need to go down the "explicit sexist marketing as a way of building market share in our target demographic" road that videogames have done over the years.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:17 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Well, I'd dispute the "traumatizing" aspect of letting kids know that things do not exist in a magical vacuum, and I'd definitely not use the far right's litmus test phrase "political correctness," either. There far more "sanitizing" going on when you just shrug off the bad stuff that comes with carrying on centuries worth of tale-spinning about princes and princesses and power roles that are hereditary and taken from the people, rather than earned.

I gotta say, though, that I am kinda siding closer to Nanukthedog in this instance, though. There's a wide continuum between "don't traumatize kids" and "sanitize everything and sweep things under the rug." But I think people are reacting to how it sounded like you were talking about this:
I was relatively annoying to the more conventional parents among my family and social circles for pointing out to little princesses, that eventually, French revolutionaries would cut off their heads, and that princesses become princesses by stealing food and wealth from the poor.
That kinda reads as if you were indeed doing the "hey, three-year-old, Santa isn't real" kind of thing. But your follow-up cleared that up, so yay.

And actually, there are some kids for whom hearing that princess' heads get cut off would make them more intrigued (I'm picturing a bunch of little girls all getting to act out elaborate stagey death scenarios because of the oh teh drama element).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:22 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


That's ok if you're a girl, because it's considered ok for a little girl to be a tomboy. But it's really not ok for a little boy to like stuff that is marketed towards girls, and in a pink and blue world, that means that boys are completely shoved into gender boxes that may not reflect their personalities, temperaments or interests. We tend to focus on the ways in which the pink/blue dichotomy is bad for girls, but I actually think it's even more toxic for little boys, for what it's worth.

The shit that boys get when they choose "girly things" -- compared to the approval girls get when they choose "boy things" -- is not evidence that boys are more hurt by gender. That's like saying that straight people are more hurt by homophobia because straight people get shit when they are perceived as gay, but it's okay for gay people to be perceived as straight. Gender is a hierarchy, not equally-weighted sides of the same coin.
posted by Wordwoman at 9:22 AM on March 18 [17 favorites]


and our war games changed. I was, however, usually still Swedish, but henceforth, I was trying to negotiate treaties and armistice agreements.

Did you offer to look after any gold they might happen to loot, too? (By which I mean that there's really no end to processes of "demystification" when you get down to it.)
posted by yoink at 9:26 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Personally I think all of this is just a bit of the proverbial tempest in a tea pot. As one of the few posters who raised daughters during the late 60's to mid 80's books, toys and clothes pale in comparison to Title IV, EEO/Equal Pay/Non-Discrimination State Federal Laws, the changing role of women after WWII, more accessible and evolving Higher Education, the positive effects of mass media, the pill, civil rights, etc. I think this is the Independent being the Independent, the Right acting out their fears and 'Liberals" gnashing their teeth. Much much greater issues are the role of women in developing worlds, the reactionary Right, religious fundamentalism/zealots and overreacting liberals who run a risk of crystallizing the opposition and alienating moderate progressives. Yes, we (and our friends) often used gender neutral books, toys, clothes--sometimes with utmost despair when sons used sticks as make believe guns and daughters wanted "girly" things. In my case I will take my wife's career, daughter's college scholarship, the basic concept of "equal rights", and TV/Movies/Music from 60's through 70's as much more important than the children's books they read--and they both were readers. My oldest grand daughter read every book imaginable/obtainable about horses and girls when she was growing--she is now a Junior at Notre Dame U. studying organic chemistry to be a research physician.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:31 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Did you offer to look after any gold they might happen to loot, too?

Alas, no one filled me in on that one until the truth came out well into my adulthood, and it was sad to learn that even Sweden's got problems. These days, when I play war, I prefer to be George Orr.

The neat thing about the lack of limits to demystification is that it means you're doomed to have to go on learning until you die, which is a pretty decent goal to set for oneself. You tend to find that things like nationalism and other human inventions don't count for much, and have to really focus on people. I think that's a pretty good thing.
posted by sonascope at 9:36 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


...pink used to be a "boy's color." Why is it a "girl's color" now? What gives? What changed?

Humoral theory doesn't sell (or inform culture) like it used to.
posted by mr. digits at 9:38 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Yes, we (and our friends) often used gender neutral books, toys, clothes--sometimes with utmost despair when sons used sticks as make believe guns and daughters wanted "girly" things.

You know, this type of experience is often raised. I have to offer a different one, in that I too raised children in a gender-neutral way -- which by the way, was SOP and completely non-controversial for progressive parents at the time. (It also wasn't as hard to do as I think it would be today, given how children's products are now created and marketed -- and how gender roles are increasingly seen as reflective of an intrinsic identity.) My sons did not turn their dolls into soldiers and their cooking items into trucks, nor did either show any preference for "boy's toys." And it would have been fine with me if they had. I suspect that there's a lot of confirmation bias in the anecdotes about kids reverting to gender-stereotypical behaviors despite the best efforts of their parents. (And rmhsinc, I'm not doubting your experience -- just offering another.)
posted by Wordwoman at 9:56 AM on March 18 [5 favorites]


There is no reason a boy shouldn't read and enjoy "Are you there God, it's me Margaret?" or a girl "My Side of the Mountain."

Or, for that matter, "A girl's guide to dealing with patriarchy" or "A girl's guide to puberty".
posted by brundlefly at 10:05 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


When we would play war,

This is how me and my two closest friends - who were also girls - played war: They pretended to be Vietnamese villagers whose village had been napalmed, and I pretended to be Walter Cronkite, interviewing them. Sometimes one of them might pretend to be either a Viet Cong guerrilla or an American GI. I still got to be Uncle Walt.
posted by rtha at 10:06 AM on March 18 [20 favorites]


And oddly, there's not much corresponding stigma of blue.

Yes, because there is no way in hell our society is giving up its blue jeans.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:08 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


But, ugh, as in all things: Do Not Read The Comments.

I glanced over the comments and they mostly looked about like the stuff being written here. I do like the idea of someone flipping out over this liberal bullshit, demanding that a publication named "the independent" start reviewing gendered children's books right now. For freedom!
posted by Navelgazer at 10:09 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


One of my great shames as a feminist and a librarian is that I do tend to steer boys towards a certain kind of book and girls towards a different kind when asked for recommendations. It just comes from knowing through experience what kind of books get the wrinkled nose and the dubious "Maybe", and when the kid is frustrated and in a hurry I want to give them something that looks good right away. I hate that I do that kind of prejudging (and I try to ask kids questions so that I have more to go on than "boy, 8th grade," but I can't always chip past a teenager's surliness) but I do it.

I'm in a pretty conservative neighborhood so I hope this doesn't apply more generally, but I find that parents of boys tend to be really harsh in choosing books for their sons; action-adventurey books with girl protagonists get rejected, sensitive books with sensitive boy protagonists get rejected, sometimes I get asked "isn't that a girl book?" just because the author is a woman. Basically unless a book is drenched in spies and Axe Body Spray, it's a hard sell.

So, I don't know. I find it deplorable when publishers do this kind of "for girls!" "for boys!" stuff, but as far as I can tell it's also smart, effective marketing, and really, I wish we could change the larger culture to the point where that kind of stuff wasn't even relevant, but it's a big, hard problem.
posted by Jeanne at 10:10 AM on March 18 [6 favorites]


:-) rtha reminds me that kids often tend to figure this shit out fine if adults back the hell off a little. I'm remembering that when I was about nine two of my friends and I - all of us girls - stopped playing with our Barbies, and instead switched to playing "office", with each one of us stationed at a different spot in my friend Amy's bedroom and dealing with our allotted tasks for our travel/import business. Lisa took the orders and made the bulk of the logistics planning, I called back the customers for a more detailed inquiry into their needs, and Amy handled billing. I remember also claiming frequent coffee breaks in "the company lounge", during which time I would go into another room and sprawl across the bed saying "LOUNGE!" in a loud voice, and then get myself some apple juice.

None of that was the result of anyone rounding us up and saying "hey girls, did you know that women can be more than just mothers or housewives?" or anything like that, it was just an idea that we had and we ran with it and it was fun for a while. Granted, it does cast a chilling light on how my current life path is going (I'm a clerical-worker desk monkey for a day job), but it's still something that we came up with all on our own. Most kids are pretty good at that, and maybe what's needed alongside dialing back the gender-segregation of toys a little is maybe parents also dialing back a little when it comes to overseeing how their kids play.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:14 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


Meh pushing masculinity on males and pushing femininity on females is ridiculous. But it's not like nobody realizes this. There's significant movement away from that sort of thing, and I expect there to be more movement--unsteady movement--in that direction.

The correlation between femaleness and femininity and maleness and masculinity will never go away completely, given that it's obviously partially natural. All we really need to do is move away from a society that pushes people one way or another--pushes them to exaggerate their natural tendencies. There's obviously nothing wrong with less feminine females, nor with less masculine males, and the correlations between sex and gender would be a lot weaker without social forces that turn a weak correlation into an important social norm. Gender [sic]-specific (actually: sex-specific) book titles are kind of dopey IMHO, but its absurd to say that they "demean all our children." They don't demean anybody, they just tend to play into false theory about how great the natural behavioral differences between males and females are.

It's extremely unlikely that there will ever be a time at which it won't be useful for people to make some generalizations about boys and girls. I don't like seeing the differences between then exaggerated, but it's approximately equally silly to think that they don't exist. And if your job is to sell things to people, these differences are the kinds of differences that can matter to you. (Even the natural, unexaggerated differences, that is.)

I guess I'm inclined to think that a policy like this is a bit much--but that's the free market for you. People who think this is sufficiently important can drop their Independent subscription...or sign up for one.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 10:21 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Gender [sic]-specific (actually: sex-specific) book titles are kind of dopey IMHO, but its absurd to say that they "demean all our children." They don't demean anybody, they just tend to play into false theory about how great the natural behavioral differences between males and females are.

Sorry, I have to disagree with this. It is demeaning to be told as a kid that you're only good for style and fashion tips and makeup. It is demeaning to boys to tell them the assumption is they only like the outdoors and chemistry, and heaven forfend that you get more interested in the other side's nail polish.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:26 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


The correlation between femaleness and femininity and maleness and masculinity will never go away completely, given that it's obviously partially natural.

No, it is not "obviously" so at all.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:29 AM on March 18 [9 favorites]


> "The correlation between femaleness and femininity and maleness and masculinity will never go away completely, given that it's obviously partially natural."

Do you happen to have a mountain of solid research backing this up, or are you just going with it because it sounds right to you? Because it certainly isn't obvious to me. At all.
posted by kyrademon at 10:29 AM on March 18 [11 favorites]


compared to the approval girls get when they choose "boy things"

Hoo, that is one that can still poke at my self-esteem if I’m not really careful. When some women brag about how “Oh, I’m not one of those girly-girls. I don't think I even OWN a dress," and shudder like the very idea makes them want to vomit, I wonder if they can see that I'm sitting in front of them wearing a dress right then. Then, they'll usually go on to boast about their childhood hatred of "all that stupid doll crap," and how they had "REAL fun" like playing hockey with their brothers. They'll go on about "banning pink" in their own houses for their own children, or "praying for a boy, because they're just easier."

I've talked before about how much my father wanted boys and the grief he gave me every time I wanted to express myself in any kind of traditionally feminine way. Well, if I'd been born the boy he wanted, I'd have had to become a drag queen, because that's just a big part of how I express myself. As soon as I was big enough to go off my myself and do stuff, I was designing and sewing fabulous doll clothes, and I'm still doing it. I guess nobody's immune to developing a chip on his or her shoulder - I just wish we could fast-forward to the day when we're all so secure in our own gender expression, and when we're all made so welcome in our own gender expression, that we don't have those awkward conversations about each other's anymore.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:32 AM on March 18 [22 favorites]


toys and clothes pale in comparison to Title IV, EEO/Equal Pay/Non-Discrimination State Federal Laws, the changing role of women after WWII, more accessible and evolving Higher Education, the positive effects of mass media, the pill, civil rights, etc.

Oh, don't worry, the social conservatives are working on all that stuff too.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:40 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


It's extremely unlikely that there will ever be a time at which it won't be useful for people to make some generalizations about boys and girls.

You're probably right. You might want to acknowledge just how different those generalizations are though, across history and cultures.
posted by rtha at 10:50 AM on March 18


Yeah, she's great, the one princess that spent the entire movie explicitly stating she didn't want to conform to the expected role, so Disney pinkwashed her after the fact. Thanks, Disney. At least they retracted it, I guess.

Brave is really great about this all around, with one of the main themes being the difference between actual responsibilities, which should not be abandoned, and societal expectations, which no one should feel subject to if they don't wish it. And it attacks it from both angles, with neither Merida nor the Queen getting that distinction until near the end.

Also that the suitors seem relieved to be free from arbitrary social structures at the end as well. That was a nice touch.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:52 AM on March 18 [10 favorites]


An interesting form of patronizing censorship and oppression. I guess readers are a weak and stupid lot who need protecting from this scary gender-thing.

I must be extremely special because I could read alpha-male type comic books, girl-lit from Judy Blume, and everything from cowboy fiction to romance novels and interpret them as I learn to emphasize with different points of view -- and even *question* the author's ideas.

But I guess that's just me and critical thinking and independent thought is no longer existent in today's young readers...

No, it is alive and well -- we just have editors with God complexes who like to pretend they are shielding people from themselves as they give people a warped view of reality.

No wonder newspaper circulation continues to drop...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 11:16 AM on March 18


I must be extremely special because I could read alpha-male type comic books, girl-lit from Judy Blume, and everything from cowboy fiction to romance novels and interpret them as I learn to emphasize with different points of view -- and even *question* the author's ideas.


Once again: the publication is declining to review a small subset of books that explicitly truck in stereotypes. Like this one:

For Boys Only: The Biggest, Baddest Book Ever

Want to have some fun? Maybe learn how to land an airplane in an emergency? Or fight off an alligator? Escape from being tied up? How about taking a ride on one of America’s scariest roller coasters? Learn how to make fake blood or turn a real bone into a pretzel. What if you could find out how to identify some of the world’s most horrifying creatures? Or learn the secret of making a blockbuster movie? What about guessing the top 11 greatest moments in sports history? Find buried treasure? And once you’ve found the treasure, find out just how much it would cost you to buy one of the world’s most expensive cars.


The policy pertains to books that directly state that activities such as airplane landing and escaping from being tied up are "for boys only." Your childhood love of both Judy Blume and cowboy fiction would not even remotely be affected.
posted by Wordwoman at 11:35 AM on March 18 [7 favorites]


I certainly hope this catches on. I sometimes staff a children's desk at a public library, and I can't even count the number of times I've seen parents take a book away from their son because it's For Girls. My own son isn't old enough to have been teased by his peers for reading Books For Girls (or wearing nail polish, or hair clips, etc.), but he does read them, and I feel defensive already against all potential assholes.
posted by libraritarian at 11:38 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I must be extremely special because I could read alpha-male type comic books, girl-lit from Judy Blume, and everything from cowboy fiction to romance novels and interpret them as I learn to emphasize with different points of view -- and even *question* the author's ideas.

Being a woman doesn't hurt, in this case. It's been stated upthread, but perceived gender variance in girls is stigmatized so much less than it is in boys. FWIW, at said children's desk, I don't think I've ever seen a parent tell their daughter she couldn't check out a book because it's For Boys.
posted by libraritarian at 11:42 AM on March 18 [1 favorite]


I must be extremely special

Your family, your parents, and the people in your life do sound pretty special for giving you the space to do that, and for making a wide variety of materials available to you and supporting you in your choices.

Heaven knows my parents made their fair share of mistakes, but one thing I will always thank them for is that they did the same thing. There was always a ton of widely varied reading material in the house ($1 for a big "mystery box" of unsorted books at the local charity shop was a regular purchase) and our reading was completely undirected, uncensored, and unfettered in any way. Nothing was considered out of bounds - they figured if it was too old for us, we'd come back to it later.

I've found out that a lot of other kids didn't have that freedom and support, and still don't. So, yeah, I think you and I did and do have something special.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:54 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


Reading those "Big Book of Things For Boys" with my son has brought me closer to him and has encouraged my son to explore things he didn't initially find interesting.

How far should I be punted for this egregious transgression?


Did you point out that the things he learned about in the book were perfectly fine for girls too and that the title was silly? If not, then far. Very far.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:03 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


My daughter's going to be 2 years old in a few months. To hell with anybody who tells her that she can't do awesome things because she's a girl. Because that's what the "for Boys" books are really saying. Why can't we have a culture where there are awesome things FOR KIDS? Why are totally innocuous toys like "baby's first laptop" gendered and my daughter's is pink?
posted by graymouser at 12:10 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


As several folks have pointed out, the role models thing (princesses and soldiers) is only a problem when it is about power and limitations. We are trying to raise a child who can decide for herself what her limits and interests should be. As she is almost 3 we finally introduced her to my favorite childhood Disney movie, "Robin Hood". All week she has been declaring herself 'The Princess Fox' and telling me I'm Robin then simpering to me that she needs help and is afraid. Oof.

The other issue with the literature that this doesn't resolve is that power problem. Female characters are MISSING and when they are there, they have no agency. Can't tell you how many times she has declared the main character of whatever story we are reading to be male, simply because the story is about that character!
posted by Doctor Force at 12:26 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


I suspect there's a middle ground between erasing gender entirely and specifically marketing a book with a "no girls/boys allowed" sign on the cover. That middle ground is occupied by people who put the story and the content first, letting the audience sort themselves out as they will. I can't imagine that writing specifically for boys or girls (which ones?) in the current decade could be much better than, say, pulp genre formula writing. I suspect that the Independent probably isn't in the business of reviewing formula romance or space opera either.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:34 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]



Also, Princess Anne is a total badass and I dare anyone to tell her to her face she's a bad role model.


I get confused by 'share the best advice your parents gave you' discussions, because truly the only advice I can remember my mother ever giving was a dry "Nice straight back, like Princess Anne!" as I struggled with some bad, mad, and dangerous pony.

And of course, I now hand that down to my son, although his childhood so far has not been as chancy and spartan.
posted by Catch at 12:57 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Reading those "Big Book of Things For Boys" with my son has brought me closer to him and has encouraged my son to explore things he didn't initially find interesting.

How far should I be punted for this egregious transgression?


If there really are people in this thread who believe that no book with “Boy” or “Girl” in the title should ever be written, published, sold, bought, or read, I’m certainly not among them. I just think that today’s market is so artificially hypersaturated with gender-specificity at every level that as consumers and members of society it’s a good idea for us to pay attention to that bigger picture.

There’s nothing wrong with an individual parent buying and thoughtfully reading an individual book with an individual child and then talking about it – I wish more parents did the same thing! There’s also nothing wrong with that parent taking a look at what’s going on with other kids and books and parents in the world his kid is going out into every day.

I’m sure there will always be some level of unprovoked demand for gender-specific children’s products, but it’s hard for me to see the current level as anything but supply-driven. Of course, one can chicken-and-egg supply and demand all day. Do clever marketers convince consumers they want certain things, or do they just give them what they really wanted all along? I’ve only had limited backstage exposure to marketing, but it was enough to make me lean sharply toward the former, especially where children are concerned.

That's why I think it's a great time for things like the Independent's decision: people who want gender-specific items will have no trouble finding them. There is a TON of room to back up the publicity wagon without any danger of taking away any parent or child's favorite things.

So, there you go. I’m glad you had a good experience reading with your son, and I hope you find a broader range of titles to enjoy together as he discovers the things he likes because he’s the person he is.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:23 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


That Weird Dad who won't let his daughter be a princess

So let her be a princess, but don't let being a princess limit her in doing anything else. Gender is arbitrary foof, but we get into a bad habit of treating "Girl Things" like the other that girls have to be protected from when the problem is not pink sparkles, but what we assume the pink and sparkly are also not allowed to do.

A princess might be pretty, but she might also be in charge of a principality.
posted by Phalene at 1:28 PM on March 18


I can't even count the number of times I've seen parents take a book away from their son because it's For Girls

So many reasons why this is depressing.

The main one, for me, is that as a voracious reader and girl-child, I was forced to see things from the "boy" point of view a lot in my reading, because so many of the neat books I read (e.g. My Side of the Mountain) had boy protagonists. This taught me a lot, most importantly that my personal point of view was not universal or even necessarily terribly common. Boys have a lot less access to this way of seeing/reading/learning.
posted by rtha at 1:41 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


In a lot of ways, the pointless gendering* does have some very negative effects on boys. Masculine coded behaviors are treated as aspirational, so except in incredibly regressive cultures, girls are usually allowed or even encouraged to enjoy media 'for boys.' And anyone living in the Western world at least can tell you that if you're going to consume popular media, you're going to learn to identify with male protagonists. Usually white ones.

But because 'girl's' media is so often treated as actually degrading to boys, boys can easily go through life never really identifying with a female protagonist and never really learning anything about those things that are coded 'female' in our culture. And you can see some of the results of that in the seemingly endless parade of blustery old men trying to explain things like reproduction and women's health issues and betraying the fact that they have less understanding of those issues than I'd expect from an average ten year old girl.

It's kind of ridiculous, especially considering that girls and women make up about half the people in the world, that knowledge coded as female is so devalued in our culture that it's falls completely off the radar for so many boys and men. It makes them stupid, it makes them bad at their jobs, and every now and again, it even comes back to bite them.

* And the followup to the article makes it clearer that she's distinguishing books based on pointless gendering, and isn't talking about books about biology or anything like that.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:13 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


Did you point out that the things he learned about in the book were perfectly fine for girls too and that the title was silly? If not, then far. Very far.

I just want to spend a little time with my son reading fun books that reinforce fun things, not march lockstep to ensure that the most important message is that it's also OK for little girls to make forts. There is no damage by just reading what is in the book and doing magic tricks and building paper airplanes and learning about planets. Thankfully no one is leashed to your violent demand to talk about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in gender and sexuality just because a book is titled The Dangerous Book for Boys or The Double Daring Book for Girls.

My son has plenty of stuffed animals and uses a purple haired Barbie as part superhero, part gymnast. He reads books that have female heroes. He loves the movie Frozen and sings along with Anna and Elsa. And it's disappointing that the I have to mention this to counter the concealed implications that I demand my boy do boy things just because I also want to reinforce that it's fun to tie knots, skim stones, and play stick ball via a book with Boy in the title.
posted by lstanley at 2:26 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


There was a depressing story that was linked on the local news site earlier today about an elementary school kid, a boy, who was being bullied because he carries a My Little Pony backpack, and it's "girly." The school's solution was to tell him to not bring that backpack to school anymore. His parents aren't having it.

There's this notion - the extreme end is outlined in the fpp a few doors down about attitudes towards menstruating women - that boys will catch terrible girl cooties if they come into contact with "girly" things. If girls come into contact with boy things, though, that of course is mostly fine (up to a point).
posted by rtha at 2:34 PM on March 18 [5 favorites]


I was a voracious reader, and things may have been different over here, but I remember lots of kids' books with female protagonists that weren't specifically aimed at girls. Besides the Little House books mentioned above there were Joan Aiken, Peter Dickinson, and Diana Wynne Jones. Also, many kids' authors used ensemble casts: Enid Blyton, C S Lewis (who gets criticised for sexism, but still), and Arthur Ransome. Yes, in some ways my bedroom was the last outpost of the British Empire.

When I got into science fiction things were a lot more limited. Most SF had male protagonists, and the rare exceptions were heavily trumpeted: the "captain" takes off her helmet and shakes out a mane of golden hair because she was a woman all along! But these weren't kids' books, strictly speaking: they were mostly reprints of stories that were originally sold for the pulp-SF market in the USA. The kids' books I experienced, on the whole, didn't make a big deal about the gender of their protagonists.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:59 PM on March 18


I have actually had trouble recommending books to tween and teen boys (and even to their parents, when the parents have come to the library looking for books for their kids) if the cover art is "too girly." It stinks, because it means that the kids miss out on some great books.
posted by sarcasticah at 3:37 PM on March 18


Lawrence King. There, I said it. Which doesn't compare to the shit that women have to put up with but violence that is both gendered and anti-gay is very much a thing in American culture.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 4:03 PM on March 18


Hmm. I can't help but think of the American Girl line of books, which (though I can't speak for the historicals past Kit, and while there are problems with the line) are pretty decent historical fiction which seems aimed at contextualizing a girl's place in history that is feminism and gender aware. These books wouldn't be bad for boys, but often deal with a girl's anxiety at navigating femininity in a historical context, so Felicity has to learn skills that will make her a good wife in a few years' time despite the fact that she's "spirited" and Kirsten has to worry about her mother dying in childbirth when she really wants to work on a friendship quilt with her friends.

There is other children's historical fiction like this, but the truth is, stories about girls and girlhood don't have strong cross-gender appeal in our society and often times we end up giving girls books about boys because then boys will read it, too, and so I think there's something to be said for spaces that are explicitly marked "girl" and are tailored to the needs of girls in a thoughtful, feminist, and self-aware way. The Dangerous Book for Girls is another example of this.

Would not want to throw away these babies with the bathwater.

Also, I don't really see anything wrong with the new Are You There, God . . . cover.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 4:39 PM on March 18 [4 favorites]


So, the other day we took five boys to the zoo. On the trip back, I had three 9-year-old boys with me, from three different families.

Because I can't resist making trouble, I asked if there were "boy things" and "girl things". I got emphatically put in my place by not one, not two, but all three boys, who proceeded to tell me that there was no such thing as boy things or girl things and that girls could do anything they wanted. Like, if Tessa (their classmate) wanted to play pitcher she could totally play pitcher.

To be fair, this immediately devolved into the other two boys telling my son that he'd better hope Tessa played for his team, because he LIKE likes her, and if she played for another team then he'd have to let her win, and eventually got into SHUT UP NO YOU SHUT UP and from there into who could make the best fart noise.

And Tessa is awesome, and is causing our son to Have All The Feels, which is very often hilarious to us. I fully expect to see her on the first Mars mission.

But, anyway, all told, the general "THAT IS WRONG" reaction I got to even implying there were girl things and boy things (or girl colors and boy colors) made me very happy.. All three boys have strong mothers who work and fathers who aren't douchebags, so, from anecdotal experience, repeatedly stressing that gender roles are stupid seems to work.
posted by scrump at 4:56 PM on March 18 [16 favorites]


I think there's something to be said for spaces that are explicitly marked "girl" and are tailored to the needs of girls in a thoughtful, feminist, and self-aware way. The Dangerous Book for Girls is another example of this.

Would not want to throw away these babies with the bathwater.


I agree - I wouldn't ban Girls' and Boy's shelves entirely from the bookstores in my principality. They'd just be a lot smaller, and made more welcoming to curious seekers of the opposite gender, and the majority of the books would be in the main Children's section.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:02 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't really see anything wrong with the new Are You There, God . . . cover.

It immediately made me thing of this fpp, about book covers, in which funny and talented people designed covers for books as if the author were the other gender. I haven't gone through the whole thing, but I swear there is some kind of trend with YA-for-girls books in particular where the cover has to show hands cupping something. (Is there that trend?)
posted by rtha at 5:06 PM on March 18


> "(Is there that trend?)"

Yes. Which incidentally led, in the fpp you linked to, to an amazing genderflipped cover for Willa Golding's Lord of the Flies.

(By Metafilter's own chococat.)
posted by kyrademon at 6:28 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


I was always happy to say to her, as an aside, that princesses never get to leave the castle or play with normal children, because bullshit deserves debunking, and if my niece wants to be a monkey, hanging upside-down from a branch with her stupid little Easter dress hanging over her head and her drawers on full display, someone's gotta point out that that, too, is okay. Call it world-sanitizing political correctness all you want, but I disagree.

Look, in my family there would be little difference between telling her that princess dreams are bad and that whatever she's eating is making her fat. Sure, you might have her sociological well-being in mind in the same way that a dance mom from hell has their daughter's physical well-being in mind - but at the end of the day - what that sounds like from my perspective is "I am the authority and arbiter of bullshit and what you like at your age is immature and bullshit." To a kid in their formative years, words such as that from a respected adult and authority figure might mean something, and that may mean that what they believe or enjoy is bad. Belief and enjoyment at a certain age is a measurement of self worth.

Now, I'd imagine that in a family where children are taught to question authority and to appropriately process all of the societal and family pressures, that this could be something that is simply shrugged off - whether that be to continue to play princess, or whether that be to tearfully and shamefully burn every barbie in the house is probably up to the individual child.

I don't consider one sided authority lessons in the way of things to be world-sanitizing political correctness. I consider them to be close-minded, forgetful of the joys of childhood, and forgetful of the gender exploration necessary to be a emotionally stable adult. Everyone has their own path and some paths take a short detour through princess or soldier filled play. Likely its also an age variable response. A five year old interested in soldiers has a very different cognitive understanding than a ten year old. I appreciate involved family that wants the best for their nieces and nephews; however, if my sister or parents inadvertently traumatized my child telling them the things they were doing were morally questionable and there wasn't a house burning down or similar catastrophic event - I'd probably book them or my family a hotel for the remainder of their visit.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:10 PM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I'd also add, a better strategy to handle less than stellar play subject matters is to fire up youtube or documentaries or tell a kid a really off the wall fact about something else. Tonight my son spent 20 minutes misbehaving right before dinner. About 2 minutes in to dinner I could see that he was eating but I was going to lose him back to poor behavior (and subsequently lose my daughter as well). I know my son, and I know his interests - and so I fired up Cosmos, and my son ate his food, asked questions (such as - 'wait... you mean my DNA is similar to dinosaur DNA? Am I part dinosaur?'), and actively encouraged and assisted his sister to quiet down and eat her food. Distraction, while it may seem like avoidance, isn't. It is a reset of the clock designed to buy time and cognitive function to ensure your kid is mentally ready for some new part of reality. That doesn't mean that if my child decided to play 'Guantanamo Bay detainee' that I wouldn't immediately put an end to it - but it does mean that I understand that my kid might need to take a short detour through some semi-unauthentic play.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:24 PM on March 18


Reading those "Big Book of Things For Boys" with my son has brought me closer to him and has encouraged my son to explore things he didn't initially find interesting.

How far should I be punted for this egregious transgression?

Did you point out that the things he learned about in the book were perfectly fine for girls too and that the title was silly? If not, then far. Very far.


Wow, that's harsh and all kinds of wrong. When your boys played with their cooking toys and dolls, it was because they wanted to and not because you shamed them OUT of those silly trucks and dinosaurs, right? Of course not.

Look, my boys liked all kinds of stuff, including Barbie dolls and dinosaurs, when they were little. Part of making kids comfortable is letting them know that it's fine for them to like whatever they like.

I feel very confident that an involved parent who reads with his little boy will find plenty of opportunities for discussion about how boys and girls can do and be whatever they want, without having to force feed the message down his kid's throat every time Dad opens up a book. Sheesh.
posted by misha at 7:54 PM on March 18


Also, I don't really see anything wrong with the new Are You There, God . . . cover.

I think it's pretty awesome. The person on the cover is wearing blue, a color associated with the Virgin Mary, and she's offering her heart to the reader. So it immediately makes you think of a woman, a virgin, with a troubled interior life, especially one who talks to God. The heart is a paper valentine, so it's also about lo–o–o–o–ve, one of the themes of the book. But the heart and the fact that it's a bright red symbolises blood, and the shape of the paper heart and its position ... well, it makes the symbolism work on a whole lot of levels. I think it's brilliant, although I suppose I'm not the intended audience.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:39 PM on March 18


We have always encouraged my oldest daughter to very much be her own person with her own specific interests, and to not be limited by stereotypes. I am so happy that she chose Star Wars.
posted by SpacemanStix at 11:10 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, she is free to choose her own path. But boy, do I love Star Wars, and it touches my hear that she does, too.
posted by SpacemanStix at 12:22 AM on March 19


The Independent on Sunday .. ah yes, the newspaper that abolished its review section last year and fired all its arts critics. You've got to admire the barefaced cheek of announcing that 'the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex' when the truth is that the Independent on Sunday no longer reviews much of anything at all.

In case you're wondering why the IoS cut back its arts coverage, the answer is that it was a purely cost-driven decision. As the editor wrote at the time, the push to 'drive down contributor costs' means that 'it was no longer possible to continue with reviews in the way they have appeared', so 'traditional reviews' would now be replaced by 'features, interviews, essays, previews and comment'. Amusingly, she also wrote to theatres and publishers demanding that they continue to supply the IoS with free tickets and review copies.

It hasn't done the IoS much good, as the circulation continues to collapse (down 10% in the last year) and the owner has been trying to offload it for months.
posted by verstegan at 2:20 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


In case you're wondering why the IoS cut back its arts coverage, the answer is that it was a purely cost-driven decision.

Are you implying that this is strictly a cost saving method where some marketer or PR guru is trying to polish the turd of layoffs into the golden gem of "We are about equality"? I like your moxie.
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:27 AM on March 19


The policy as stated will almost certainly not be followed. The policy as stated is that they won't review books that are marketed to one gender or the other.

As others have noted up-thread, that would mean that they couldn't review books that addressed specific, real, gender-specific concerns.

It would also have the unwanted side-effect of reducing the number of titles with female PoV or protagonist.

So we know going in that this is not going to happen, and that the policy is therefore either naively or disingenuously stated.

Much more useful would be for them to simply have a policy of addressing the book's marketing in the review. We already know they don't review everything -- nobody (well, nobody who actually hinks it through) expects them to do that -- so this is really just prestige-trolling on their part to begin with. Much more honest would be for them to just address the issue in reviews without issuing some phony policy statement.
posted by lodurr at 9:22 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Also, I don't really see anything wrong with the new Are You There, God . . . cover.

Well, here's my problem with it. Unfair though it may be. If you have never heard of Are You There, God (whereas most people are aware of Twilight), and see that cover, what do you think the book is going to be about? If you recoil at even the thought of Twilight, looking at that cover and knowing nothing else, do you think that book is for you?
posted by phunniemee at 9:36 AM on March 19


The policy as stated will almost certainly not be followed. The policy as stated is that they won't review books that are marketed to one gender or the other.

As others have noted up-thread, that would mean that they couldn't review books that addressed specific, real, gender-specific concerns.


I don't know; that still leaves LOTS of books to review. A Girl's Guide to Being Awesome may be a fun, well-written, perfectly valid, socially worthwhile book, but that doesn't mean that there aren't two or three or ten books out there that are just as fun, well-written, perfectly valid, and socially worthwhile that the Independent can review while another publication reviews AGGtBA.

It would also have the unwanted side-effect of reducing the number of titles with female PoV or protagonist.

But would it, necessarily? Surely if they made a minimal effort, they could find enough titles with female protagonists that didn't say "FOR GIRLS" on the cover, to make up the difference? And in the process, maaaybe they could take a small step towards normalizing the idea that a book with a female protagonist doesn't automatically consign the reader to the pink ghetto.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:40 AM on March 19


But they're not saying that's what their limitations are. They're saying 'marketed to exclude children by gender.' Well, what does that mean? It's an empty criterion. Meaningless. And given what's been noted about the IoS's finances, probably disingenuous.

Again, it would be more honest to just review the books you want to review and not pretend it's driven by some noble rule instead of a combination of editorial judgement and financial constraints.

And again, if they want to make a real difference, they won't make a rule to exclude -- they'll make a rule to address: as in, address the issue of how the book is marketed in every review. That would have the benefit of actually, you know, talking about how the book is marketed, instead of essentially ignoring the marketing question altogether.

It also occurs to me that a policy like this could be the gender equivalent of "colorblindness": silently excluding gender-marketed books based on policy, but since the books excluded are never acknowledged, we never get to assess whether that's effective -- whether, e.g., coded gender-marketing isn't happening. If they had a policy of addressing the gender marketing on every book, then people could judge how well they were really doing.
posted by lodurr at 10:02 AM on March 19


I don't know if it's necessary to go quite this far, but it certainly can't hurt to try to focus primarily on more inclusive books that anyone can enjoy.

When I grew up in the 1970s, and when my parents grew up in the 1950s, brothers and sisters shared the same toys, books and games, which came in many more colours than just pink and blue

This seems a tad revisionist. There were certainly toys and books in the 70s and 80s that were for both girls and boys. There still are. There were also toys marketed to specific genders. There still are. I thought part of the problem was that stuff like Lego that to many of us seemed pretty neutral wasn't really captivating girls as much as boys. Coloring it pink seems like a bit of a cop-out but it's an attempt at least. I do agree that there's a lot of pink and blue garbage today, I say as someone with a toddler who now spends significant time in Toys R Us for the first time in 20 years, but there's plenty of other stuff, too, and the pink and blue stuff tends to fall along the same old lines of "army men" vs "dollies" that was a thing even without pink and blue. Also toys for infants and toddlers seem to be fairly "unisex" these days.

Anyone who thinks those hideous "Big Book of Things For Boys" (dinosaurs, trucks, science)/"Big Book of Things For Girls" (cupcake recipes, makeup, shoes) are worth keeping deserves to be punted into the nearest sinkhole.

I went through a phase when I was a kid reading Beano and Dandy books. My Dad is English and brought one back for me once, and after that every time he'd go to England I'd beg him to bring back more. (Also Cadbury Flakes). I liked them, they were fun. Go ahead and punt me into a sinkhole if you think you can, but they were simply not that interesting to my sister.
posted by Hoopo at 10:02 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


But they're not saying that's what their limitations are. They're saying 'marketed to exclude children by gender.' Well, what does that mean? It's an empty criterion. Meaningless. And given what's been noted about the IoS's finances, probably disingenuous.

Gender-specific titles as described in the nine paragraphs of text surrounding that mined quote, with references to an interview with O'Mara of Buster Books who is a key surfer on the fad. Then there's further comment from their children's book reviewer clarifying that no, pink-covered Matilda isn't what the policy is about.

But I don't think, "marketed to exclude children by gender" really needs explanation when the market has examples of books that say, "we're only for boys/girls" printed right on the cover/dust-jacket. I think using an image of those covers probably would have made a stronger article than a publicity still from Hunger Games. But I think "exclude" can be interpreted in a common-sense manner to apply to "The Ginormous Book of Gendered Stuff for Gender" as opposed to "Matilda."
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 11:16 AM on March 19


There were certainly toys and books in the 70s and 80s that were for both girls and boys. There still are. There were also toys marketed to specific genders. There still are.

Oh, absolutely! I think it's just a matter of degrees and proportions.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:11 PM on March 19


Thankfully no one is leashed to your violent demand to talk about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate in gender and sexuality just because a book is titled The Dangerous Book for Boys or The Double Daring Book for Girls. [my bold]

Violent demand? Can I ask where you are seeing violence here? That is very hyperbolic and in my opinion not at all helpful.

I think Sonascope's original comment is apt and hilarious, I trust him to judge the intellectual curiosity of his child interlocutors appropriately, and I don't think it's any adults job to protect any other adult's child from their information and opinions about how war and feudalism and aristocracy work, any more than it is to hide their beliefs about God, Jesus, homosexuality, the Tooth Fairy, or Santa Claus. On top of everything else, I think it's incredibly problematic that the paradigmatic hero for girls is a position achieved solely through accident of birth or marriage. (And I am a huge fan of Princess Di. Huge).
posted by Salamandrous at 12:12 PM on March 19


The word "violent" got me curious, too, since it's an MRA code word.

In context, though, it's an accurate description.

Question: how far should I be punted for reading a 'boys book for boys' with my boy?

Answer: Far. Very far.

So, in this case, what's being said is this: Conform to someone's requirement about how you educate your child, or you deserve to be marginalized ('punted very far into the nearest sinkhold'), as stated in violent language.
posted by lodurr at 12:25 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Ars Technica: How to break games out of the “act like a man” box
"I don't want to make Master Chief a girl and then have everybody go 'This guy is kind of like scared and running around.'"

That statement, offered by an unidentified audience member at the end of the "Connection Between Boys' Social Status, Gaming, and Conflict" panel at GDC 2014 this afternoon, hit the audience like a force of nature. The crowd's outrage was expressed with an exasperated groan that rolled across the room like a quick-moving thunderstorm.
posted by XMLicious at 12:30 PM on March 19


On top of everything else, I think it's incredibly problematic that the paradigmatic hero for girls is a position achieved solely through accident of birth

The classic male hero of the monomyth as identified by Joseph Campbell is usually marked from birth as well.

The Force is strong with this one! You're a wizard, Harry! Your name is Kal-El. You are the only survivor of the planet Krypton.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:31 PM on March 19


That's actually one of the things that pisses me off about a lot of modern media. Instead of "person is dropped into difficult situation and hijinks ensue", it's "person WHO IS DESTINED FOR AWESOMENESS is dropped into situation to ENHANCE THEIR AWESOMENESS and hijinks ensue." Instead of Kirk being a guy who made his way up the ranks to Captain, he's WORKING OUT HIS DADDY ISSUES AND LIVING UP TO THE LEGACY OF HIS BIRTH.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:35 PM on March 19 [3 favorites]


The classic male hero of the monomyth...

Not always male, if you know your mythology. In fact some of the key examples from Hero... are female. It's the differences between the male and female versions of the tropes that are instructive. E.g., the female removes articles of clothing, the male passes tests.

I've long thought it would be interesting to write a 'hero-story' where the 'chosen' hero is someone who in some sense is explicitly NOT marked by fate. If I understood correctly what I was being told, I think someone told me Mieville did that in UnLunDun, but I haven't read past the Nook sample pages.
posted by lodurr at 12:41 PM on March 19


rmd1023, that's why i think they should hire John Sayles to re-reboot Trek. You'd end up with Uhura in command after Kirk had a nervous breakdown late in Act 3.
posted by lodurr at 12:46 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I would watch the hell out of that movie.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:49 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


That's actually one of the things that pisses me off about a lot of modern media. Instead of "person is dropped into difficult situation and hijinks ensue", it's "person WHO IS DESTINED FOR AWESOMENESS is dropped into situation to ENHANCE THEIR AWESOMENESS and hijinks ensue." Instead of Kirk being a guy who made his way up the ranks to Captain, he's WORKING OUT HIS DADDY ISSUES AND LIVING UP TO THE LEGACY OF HIS BIRTH.

GRR! Of all the things I didn't like about the 2009 Star Trek, that was hands down the worst. One of the things I love the best about Star Trek is the idea of brave, smart, beings building ships, going out into the unknown, and taking their fates into their own hands. That whole woo-woo-Jim-this-is-your-destiny-and-it-must-happen-whether-it-makes-sense-or-not-because-woo-woo angle was a real dealbreaker for me.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:51 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Lodurr, that is indeed what happened in UnLunDun
posted by rebent at 12:52 PM on March 19


When I first bought it, as a 38 year old, I worried what people would think of me wearing a pink shirt, because I was brought up to believe that pink is only for girls.

Has this not been put to bed yet? Men have been wearing pink dress shirts for ages--easily since the 1980s. To the point where I thought it was sort of anachronistic when the Simpsons covered it way back in 1991.

I don't wear pink because it looks awful on me. Makes my skin look terrible. But I don't find it at all odd when someone else does.

Beyond that I don't find that many adult women wear a lot of pink regularly either. Maybe shoes or athletic gear I guess, but it seems to be primarily something we do to little kids.
posted by Hoopo at 1:21 PM on March 19


I've long thought it would be interesting to write a 'hero-story' where the 'chosen' hero is someone who in some sense is explicitly NOT marked by fate.

I may be misremembering, but that always seemed to me the central premise behind the character of Taran in the Chronicles of Prydain.
posted by yoink at 1:31 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


Has this not been put to bed yet? Men have been wearing pink dress shirts for ages--easily since the 1980s. To the point where I thought it was sort of anachronistic when the Simpsons covered it way back in 1991.

I still get the occasional snarky comment on pink dress shirts from other guys. From women, I get tons of compliments. Pink dress shirts are a great self-esteem booster.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:38 PM on March 19


There are those who will say that insisting on gender-neutral books and toys for children is a bizarre experiment in social engineering by radical lefties and paranoid “femininazis” who won’t allow boys to be boys, and girls to be girls.

Hm. Nazis burned books the disapproved of.

She by contrast hopes to influence publishers not even to publish books that she disapproves of.

Well, it does seem a time saver, it must be said.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:12 PM on March 19


Hm. Nazis burned books the disapproved of.

She by contrast hopes to influence publishers not even to publish books that she disapproves of.


You might want to consult a physiotherapist after a stretch like that.
posted by yoink at 4:13 PM on March 19 [2 favorites]


You might want to consult a physiotherapist after a stretch like that.

The problem isn't that it isn't a stretch -- it is, but only a little -- it's that we don't seem to be able to accept that it's OK to do that.

We pretend we have these nice rational justifications for everything, when really all we're doing is trying to propagate our culture. Sometimes our cultures are more humane than others; sometimes they're brutal and destructive. We make judgments about what we want, and we make plans and act on them, and one of the things that crucial to a successful outcome for those plans is that we get reproduction of our cultural values.
posted by lodurr at 5:35 PM on March 19


You might want to consult a physiotherapist after a stretch like that.

Coincidentally, I think I know of one named Dr. Godwin....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:53 PM on March 19 [4 favorites]


"God's Little Princess Devotional Bible" vs. "God's Mighty Warrior Devotional Bible."

We pretend we have these nice rational justifications for everything, when really all we're doing is trying to propagate our culture. Sometimes our cultures are more humane than others; sometimes they're brutal and destructive. We make judgments about what we want, and we make plans and act on them, and one of the things that crucial to a successful outcome for those plans is that we get reproduction of our cultural values.

Every publication in the world has standards about what they will and will not accept for submission. "Don't send us vampires." "Don't send us chick lit." "Don't send us a manuscript unless you are an agent." "Don't send us stuff if you've not read our publications." "Don't send us fiction over 5,000 words." "Don't send us fiction under 1,000 words." "Don't send us hard copies." "Don't send us electronic copies."

Incidentally, this was what freedom of the press originally meant. Not the right to toss everything over the transom and into the slush pile, but the right of publishers to make their own editorial decisions about what will and will not appear on the page without external interference. Note that neither Guest or Davies are interfering with O'Mara's ability to get derivative books on end caps in Barnes & Noble with a blog that's averaged about a post a month outside of the Christmas season.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:11 PM on March 19 [7 favorites]


Every publication in the world has standards about what they will and will not accept for submission

Yes. I refer to this as editorial judgement. And this explanation of editorial judgement is problematically vague, and the judgement itself abrogates their claimed responsibility to make a positive contribution to gender balance.
posted by lodurr at 4:48 AM on March 20


It's only vague if you're insisting on being an illiterate when it comes to both the definition of "exclude" and the cited examples that provide the needed context. And, the purpose of a book review column is to review and promote books. I'm not certain how gender balance is served by devoting scarce resources to the promotion of a marketing gimmick rather than reviewing good books with cross-gender appeal. Especially when they only appear to be publishing monthly outside of the holiday season.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 5:20 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I'm not insisting on being illiterate. I'm reading what she says, and understanding that in the context of my experience of the world. I'm being actively literate.
posted by lodurr at 5:38 AM on March 20


Unfortunately what she says isn't remotely ambiguous if you read complete paragraphs, much less intertextual links.

This review policy is actually less exclusive than three of the columnists on my blogroll, who cover books by women, books about bisexuality, and books about non-binary/genderqueer people respectively.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 6:02 AM on March 20 [1 favorite]


I am aware that you think it's not ambiguous. I think that when you take a publication that doesn't do many reviews to begin with, probably wasn't reviewing this kind of material before, and see it publish a statement that for this specific reason it won't review them in the future (when it was never going to, anyway) -- that's really not very transparent. It's prestige trolling. And it's missing an opportunity to actually comment on the problem, and actually present materials that might be of value. And it will most likely contribute to "gender blindness" by avoiding future discussion of the issue.
posted by lodurr at 6:36 AM on March 20


So glad the Independent are doing this. As a Literacy tutor, I'm unfortunate enough to see these books pop up more often than not. Thankfully, we have a superb library manager who does her best to direct the books to all, based on what they're looking for in a story as opposed to a socially constructed idea of what the child is supposed to like. The pink Matilda cover fiasco does exist and has caused a few problems, but using it as a whole class scheme of work 'politely' forces all pupils to engage with it with equal interest. Last term, a female pupil of mine picked up a book with a walloping "Books for boys" banner on the cover. It was about some little practical joker. She read and loved it, told me how it was a silly thing to put it on there (after we discussed it) because she "liked it just as much." Was the best day.

Absolutely wish Foyles would stop stocking these gender-specific colouring books: 1 / 2 Can't boys like gorgeous things? Do girls not build sand castles? Argh! Good on the Independent.
posted by rockyrelay at 4:40 PM on April 17


« Older What is life like when having your period puts you...  |  Remember The Gleaners Kitchen?... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments