I’m frankly baffled by the pronouncement by Katy Guest, literary editor for the UK Independent newspaper, that The Independent on Sunday will no longer promote any books that are “marketed to exclude either sex.” Go, read what she says: We’re Done with Gender Specific Books.
She is concerned that boys like “adventure books with thin action-based plots” and that girls like “boring princesses”, and while I concur that there are fewer well written children’s books and teen fiction, I think that Ms. Guest is revealing that, as is perhaps unsurprising for a “literary editor” that she’s actually just a snob.
My 10yo daughter doesn’t want to read about boys having boyish adventures, she wants to read about girls. If those girls are doing adventurous things, that’s great, but her idea of what’s adventurous might be going to a party where she doesn’t know anyone or having to babysit an annoying little sister (see the Dork Diaries, her current obsession). My son, 14, prefers those (and imagine I have a sneering lilt to this phrase) “thin action-based plots” and reads plenty of murder mysteries.
Do those investigators go to parties where they don’t know anyone? Do they babysit little sisters who are brats? No. They question homeless people and get into fist fights with bad guys. And that’s just how my son — and I — like it.
I can’t express strongly enough how appalled I am by Katy Guest’s decision and by the fact that a reasonably reputable British publication is standing behind her, not coming down with a “Katy, Katy, your job is to help people find good reads, not change the world.” and a suggestion that if she does want to have her gender-neutral protest that perhaps she should be painting placards, not making the publication a laughingstock.
Or, way, way better. Why isn’t Ms. Guest writing better books for children, books where girls get to enjoy thin action-based plots intertwined with UNboring princesses and, presumably, more depth.
And for the record, us guys really do often like to relax by visiting Mars while gals seem to be quite predisposed to find Venus more comfortable and satisfying. Or is that too gender specific for you, Katy?
Take that! To deny that boys and girls are different is, well, absurd. We shouldn’t prevent girls from lovin’ action movies and it’s wrong to dissuade boys from embracing themes that are more commonly associated with girls. Still, the journalist’s stance here is flat out wrong, and your quiet anger on the subject is justified. Now, what would Boyd Crowder say about that?
I understand where the gender neutral thing is coming from. I do. There is a lot of pressure on kids to identify strongly with one gender or the other, and for some people that doesn’t suit them. But some girls like “girl” books. If it wasn’t for Rainbow Fairies series, my middle kid might never have picked up a book. And some boys like “boy” books. And some boys like girl books! And some girls like boy books! Point being, if it gets them reading, who cares. Parents need to be the gatekeepers for what kids read, not people like…whoever this chick is. That said, I try and steer my kids toward what I consider to be quality literature, vs. fluff, but whether it is “feminine” or “masculine”, I don’t really care and neither do they.
Imagine all the amazing works of literature that would be gone under this chick’s jurisdiction! Little Women? Call of the Wild?
Honestly I could care less what type of book my kids decide to read as long as they are reading and enjoying it. I think parents need to help kids see that there are all kinds of books out there. If my son only decides to read superhero books I am fine with that but if my daughter wants to read them too…hell ya! I find it sad that with what this lady is doing so many great books that could be enjoyed by children will be gone and missed. Something to shake your head at for sure!