Saturday, 8 March 2014

Let Books be Books by Keren David

Beautiful Girls...Brilliant boys? 
I'm on deadline, so this post will be brief. In fact I'm over deadline, and I've reached the gibbering stage of madness where words and storylines are swirling around my head in such a bewildering fashion that I despair of catching them all. 
So, let me quickly commend the Let Books Be Books campaign to you and urge you to sign the petition, which calls for children's publishers to take 'Boys' and 'Girls' labels off colouring, activity and sticker books.
As the campaign says: 'Children are listening, and take seriously the messages they receive from books, from toys, from marketing and the adults around them. Do we really want them to believe that certain things are off-limits for them because of their gender? They’re not ‘getting it wrong’ if a girl likes robots, or if a boy wants to doodle flowers. These artificial boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, and provide a fertile ground for bullying.'
I'd go further and ask that publishers think carefully about all the books they publish for children of all ages and ask if gender specific  covers are really necessary.  Too often the message goes out to children that books about girls are off limit to boys, and vice versa. That adventure and action is for boys, and relationships are for girls. That a 'pink' book written by a woman is somehow not serious. 
The book that I'm struggling to finish is about love. It's about love from a boy and a girl's point of view. It's also about expectations and freedom, including the freedom to love who you want.  My hope is that it'll appeal to all sorts of readers, and I have great confidence that my publisher will  market it accordingly.
 Do you feel that marking books for 'girls' or 'boys' helps to write and sell them? Is it inevitable? Or can this campaign just be the start of real change in the world of children's books? 


catdownunder said...

This is a really tough one to crack. I think there are sex differences - my studies in psychology suggest that and also suggest that this is not just because of environmental influences. (Anna Freud did some interesting work in this area.) But I agree that marketing needs to be much less sexist. Doing that might also help to reduce sexual abuse and violence.

Joan Lennon said...

Signed. Without understanding why we are STILL having to fight this stuff, I know we have to keep fighting.

Midlife Singlemum said...

There's probably a middle line. There are some books that appeal to both sexes (dare I mention Harry Potter here) but most of my favourite childhood books would not have appealed to boys at all. On the other hand everything pink and sparkly versus blue and mechanical is a bit sckening. On the other hand my 5yo daughter only draws pink and sparkly princesses, all day, every day. Should she be denied her passion?

Keren David said...

No one should be denied anything - but why not open things up a bit, so that boys can enjoy the pink and sparkly too, if they want to?

Stroppy Author said...

If books (and toys, etc) are not labelled as suitable for boys and girls, there might still be a polarisation of choice - but if it's undirected and unconstrained, choice, then that's fine. I thnk a lot depends on family circustances. I had two girls, who liked LEGO, Action Man, a plastic tool set - and zoo animals, dinosaurs, and other non-gendered toys. They also dressed up in costumes of all types, including some girlie ones, and played with some awful thing called 'sky dancers' which whirled up in the air and were sparkly. If they had had brothers, playing with girlie toys might have been a way of setting out their own territory (on the basis that a boy wouldn't want to nick their fairy princess). So I wouldn't deny a girl her pleasure in pink things but neither would I encourage it. I wonder how much time a 5yo would spend drawing pink princesses if that wasn't what the world told her she should like, though... They aren't very interesting, when compared to dinosaurs or whatever because they never *do* anything

Andrew said...

" that boys can enjoy the pink and sparkly too, if they want to?.."

No 'fanks..

Keris Stainton said...

My oldest son's favourite colour was pink until he went to school and, in his words, "learned pink is just for girls." My younger son is 5 and doesn't go to school (we home educate now) and he loves pink *and* sparkly (he also loves trucks and monsters). He often asks me why the pink sparkly stuff in shops says it's just for girls.

TU said...

This prompted me to look for a fabulous article I saw on gender neutrality, but can't find it -- but I did find this Smithsonian link, which touches on the same issues (clothes, not books, but the same principle):