Remember the good old boys cave?
I know some people thought that I (and others) either over-reacted or showed we didn’t care about boys reading. (See the comments to that post and linked to posts and articles.)
But, see, to me — it’s not a short walk from going from “for boys” but oh of course girls know we don’t mean that really to “for boys only.”
Which is what happened this past week.
Jackie over at Interactive Reader wrote about it first, at Sexist Much? She showed cover shots and tables of contents of a “how to survive anything” series with a “boys only” and “girls only” version. The difference between the two is stunning; basically, boys are active and do active things that they have to survive, while girls need to learn that survival at the beach requires sunglasses. No, really. Check out both Jackie’s post and the comments. (Try not to get mad about the comments. I wonder if you can guess my favorites?)
Before you get all excited, Jackie wrote this on Thursday and it was quickly picked up by other bloggers and readers; and by the end of the day, the publisher of these books (Scholastic) had responded: “Many readers have expressed concerns about our How to Survive Anything titles, and we want to thank you for your passionate responses. The two titles have had very limited distribution to date, and no further copies will be made available.”
Again, I’ll point you to Jackie’s blog; her second post, Don’t Accept Sexism or Today in Don’t Piss Off Twitter, includes links to those other articles and bloggers. Jackie says, “Objections would not have been had if Boys Only! and Girls Only! hadn’t appeared on the cover. Make them gender neutral, and it’s possible I would have talked these up to the couple thousand students I see this time of year. So, now that these books are no more, my little librarian mind is confused: Did I just instigate some sort of progressive-minded censorship? Regardless, let’s hope that Scholastic will keep this in mind the next time they think creating gendered books is spiffy keen.”
While Jackie and others point out ways in which Scholastic’s response could have been more, I am fine with it. Why? Maybe I’m in a good mood. But considering how many apologies I’ve seen that fail in two issues (timing and action), I liked Scholastic’s. It went up the same day the issue was raised. It presented a solution (no future printings.) It didn’t point fingers at others or make excuses.
Here’s the heart breaking thing: I agree with Jackie that had these titles been gender neutral, it would have been awesome. One book was mainly about surviving outdoorsy, active type things; another was about social situations or reacting to things. (Guess who acts and who reacts?) For example, my niece would love to know how to make a cat to sit. She also wants to know how to survive zombies. Remove the boys/girls only, mix up the “hes” and “shes” being used in the book, and problem solved.
Why does this matter? I’ll quote a comment from Misha at Jackie’s original post: “there’s always a bootstrap problem to the question of commercialism and normativity. At this point in late capitalism, it’s almost impossible to say which came first, the market as it currently exists or the marketing that made the market that way. But just because they are doing it to sell product does NOT make it right. Nor does the fact that children (or adults) are ignorant of the negative effects it has.”