On boy books. Otherwise known as OMG SOMEONE THINK OF OUR BOY CHILDREN!

escape-children I’ve been thinking a lot over these past few months about gender and books. When the SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF OUR BOY CHILDREN cry began about two years ago for a second I was thought, oh my gosh, I don’t read anything where the MC has a penis! The immediately I realized, wait, why can’t the people with penises read about people with vaginas? It works the other way around and no one cares.

At what point did reading become something we can call masculine or feminine? Then I wondered how many men read Jane Austen… not that many. “She is too fond of books and it has addled her brain.” Men had to read about war, and history, and Greek myth. Novels were for people with lady parts who observed the holy rite of tea time and wore kid gloves.

I went into Toys R Us this holiday season with my daughter so that she could get her friend a toy for her birthday. The first thing I noticed were the stark sides to the store. Pink on one side and clearly labeled as GIRL and the other side a polar opposite in blue and labeled BOY. The problem came when my daughter realized the Spiderman Web Shooter her girlfriend wanted was a boy toy, she wanted to buy her a nice doll instead. So I wondered, how did my daughter come to think like that? School, where your child will learn every societal thing you never wanted them to learn. YAY HIGHER EDUCATION. We bought the web shooter, and on the way out we stopped by the GIRL side with my toddler son who loves Tinkerbell and got him a little something as well.

My plea is near to yours. Just take the BOY out. SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN! Take them out of this girl vs boy mentality. Let boys read about girls like Katniss having amazing adventures and being strong without telling him he is feminine. Start earlier! If your little boy wants to read Pinkalicious, then let him. I certainly do and my toddler son (who also likes to have his nails painted the color of his favorite cars) is perfectly well adjusted.

Boy books are boy books because we say they are. Girl books are girl books because we say they are and for some reason being a girl book is LESS THAN.

Dear Parents, just STFU and let your kids read.

10 Responses so far

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    I absolutely agree, although I DO think young books are skewed toward the feminine. I miss books like Hatchet, Call of the Wild, etc. Still, my nephew likes trains and Spongebob, but he also has a barbie doll and a book about a boy who grows flowers. My sister and her husband are trying very much to let him like what he likes and experience what he chooses to experience, and I think that’s fantastic.

    P.S. Plenty of men read Jane Austen. ;)

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    Adam, I think MG in particular is very even. I read a lot of books from that section and they feature boys and girls pretty evenly. Men read JA now for sure! I love that.

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    My son, whom is now 15, loves Tinkerbell. You are exactly right! Stop saying it’s gay for a boy to like pink or she is a tomboy if she likes Marvel and DC comics. Really it shouldn’t matter either way.

    When Chance was in 5th grade a boy made fun of him for his Gir “I feel pretty” shoelaces. The kid called Chance gay. My response to the kid and his mother was “Do either of you even know who Gir is?” Of course they did NOT and I explained to Chance that people whom are idiotic you should never take their account on anything. The same women thinks her son is bullied although everyone tried time and time again to explain to her that her son is the jerk. Put it this way, she is definitely not on the bright side.

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    You’re an awesome parent. I have a six month old niece and spent a lot of Christmas cringing as gift after gift came out being pink and girly. We got her a dinosaur that plays music and a big stuffed turtle. And my 3 year old nephew loves Princess Sofia. It always bothers me when adults try to pigeon-hole children, especially so young.

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    I was out somewhere recently and overheard a dad tell his kid, “don’t do that, it’s for girls!” It doesn’t matter what “it” was, that is so commonplace. Doing something “like a girl” is an insult. I commend any parent who reaches beyond that, and will not tolerate insulting someone using gender as the punchline. I do think it can go too far–if a boy likes a truck, let him make explody sounds and crash the toy truck. Some of those stereotypes exist for a reason. When it comes to books, I wish the gender dividing line wasn’t so harsh. Books are the place for young people to explore, and when gender gets factored in, I wonder how much boys are missing. Like you said, no one questions when girls read boy stuff, it’s always the reverse.

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    The “there are no boy books” complaint really bugs me. If you can’t find them, you can’t have been looking. Look at the award winners and bestsellers to start with – definitely a good number of boy books there!

    And second, boys should be reading “girl” books. There really needs to be an end to this mentality of boy = for everyone, girl = for girls, both in books and movies and more. Boys can read about and identify with girl characters, as long as we stop teaching them that they can’t. Stop teaching them that “girls/for girls = bad”, because damn that will cause problems down the line.

    I mean, look at Tamora Pierce’s books. They are about becoming knights and going on adventures and stopping invasions and being spies and travelling amongst the gods and going to war. Those are all interesting things, right? Or are they not because the main character is a girl?

    *goes to chew on more things*

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    My wife and I have four boys, but we purposely raise them with awareness about more things than gender (for example, openmindedness to disabilities). To the point of your post, I’ll focus on the gender things. Our boys watch tv shows that are considered “girly,” partly because we worked at a boarding school and lived with our 12 middle school girls for much of their early years. They are huge fans of the Tinkerbell brand of movies (a zillion so far), Disney princess movies, and Sophia the First. Yikes, that’s a lot of Disney.

    Also, because we want them to be entirely who they are and not box them in by gender limiting thinking. We went to Toys R Us to look for a boy baby for them to practice being a father. Let me tell you, this is a very difficult undertaking. Such dolls for boys don’t exist, at least not right away. After several tries, we did succeed on our mission to find a boy doll for our boys.

    We have also, on occasion allowed them to have nails painted (mostly toenails, though).

    So, if my oldest boy (an avid reader) reads a “girly” book, I have zero problem with that. First of all, it’s harder to find a book for him he HASN’T read than it is to make gender an issue when finding a book for him to read. One of his recent favorite reads is THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING, and the sequel. I just want him to read as much as he can.

    Wait, should he only read MALE authors? Is this really a thing with rational, sane people who happen to be parents? Great post.

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    When I was a pre-k teacher I always encouraged the children to play with everything. I had the boys play with dolls and the girls build with blocks and cars. Boys playing with dolls is a GOOD thing- studies show they actually become more attentive fathers. Girls playing with blocks and Legos encourage math and spacial skills so they can become interested in being architects and engineers. I CANNOT STAND (I can’t emphasize it enough) the separatist labeling of toys and books and colors. This isn’t 1962. Girls are more than just princesses and boys are more than just race car drivers and soldiers.

    I always chose as many gender neutral or reverse gender roles books as I could for the classroom, too. I still had the traditional roles books, too, though because it is important for them to see all aspects.

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    This is all very well and good, (and sorry about being 3 weeks late on this post) but based on 15 years in the bookstore business, there are certain preferential differences between boys and girls (evolutionary abilities for survival purposes, nothing to do with me) and this is the reason for a certain yin/yang in kid’s tastes. As for boys, they’re in rather a bad odor now socialogically, gatekeepers hate them as strong characters, so in YA they’re either weak second bananas to the heroine, or sick, bullied losers that no self-respecting kid would want to have as a role model. (been great for Mnaga and video game sales, though) I know this is a broad-brush generalization with some notable exceptions, but most YA writers know that strong, funny, ironic teen girls are in great demand among gatekeepers at agencies and editorial offices, whereas teen boys with the same resume are routinely pepper-sprayed and thrown off the premises…So writers (my good self included) quickly learn not to offer them any…Sorry, but I don’t make the policy around here..

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    [...] girls for the boys I think you make an excellent point, Hoopy — and you might be interested in this blog post by Bookalicious Pam where she makes a similar [...]

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