Should books be sold as gender specific?
“What’s a good book for ten-year old girl?”
When I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I’d hear variations of that question, with age and gender specificity varying.
That always gave me pause.
It certainly wasn’t enough information.
Think back to when you were ten-years old.
Picture everybody in your class.
Would you have all liked the same book?
I didn’t think so. ;)
That means I would ask another question…
“What does she like?”
Shopper: “I don’t know. It’s for my niece.”
It was always possible to suggest a book that pretty much any kid would like…or at least, that the odds would be good.
It struck me as…odd that someone would assume that all kids of one gender and age would like the same book…or at least, that those factors should narrow the choices sufficiently.
Regular readers know that I don’t tend to identify genders here (and other inherent characteristics). I’ll admit that it sometimes makes the writing more challenging, but I don’t identify mine, my Significant Other’s, my adult kid’s, or other people’s (unless they have already).
I chose to eliminate that information from the nominees for
It’s not that I think people should be ashamed of their genders: it’s that I want people to be known for their thoughts on the internet. That’s part of what’s magic about it. ;)
What about in bookstores, though?
Should books be marketed as for “girls” or for “boys”?
There is a group in England that is arguing that they shouldn’t…and it’s gaining quite a bit of support.
It’s an offshoot of “Let Toys Be Toys”, which also argues that toys (be they G.I. Joe or Easy Bake Oven) shouldn’t be sold as “girls’ toys” or “boys’ toys”.
I have to say, from my experience, the issue is probably less with the kids themselves picking books.
I’m sure many a boy has picked up a Beverly Cleary or a girl gotten Choose Your Own Adventure books…even though the store might have marketed them as gender specific.
I think it is more the adults buying them that make choices based on those classifications.
about the campaign has some nice background.
Lest you think this is just an online petition (although there is one of those), some major retailers and publishers are following it, pledging not to market or label books as for girls or for boys.
I’m sure some people think this is a silly thing to do. After all, aren’t girls and boys different? Don’t they like different things? How is this any different from “chick lit” or “men’s adventure” (I’ve worked in a bookstore that had the latter section)?
For that matter, does something like this mean we shouldn’t label books as “romance” or “science fiction”, so we don’t prejudice the people buying them?
For me, there is a very big difference between labeling a book as “for boys” and labeling one as “mystery”.
It’s that “for” part.
It isn’t saying what the book is…it is saying who should read it.
I’ll decide what I want to read, thank you very much.
I don’t want to be judged by what I read…well, okay, sometimes I might like somebody to be a tiny bit impressed, but that’s about it. ;)
I’ve certainly seen that judgement. I read books that someone might think are not targeted at me. One easy example is kids’ books. If you saw me, you’d know I wasn’t a kid…at least chronologically. ;)
I’ve consumed a lot of kids’ media as an adult.
Oh, let me give you a great story with my Significant Other (I don’t think I’ve told this one on the blog before).
We hadn’t been together that long.
My SO came out and I was watching TV.
SO: “Are you watching cartoons?”
There was a pause.
SO: “Japanese cartoons?”
Me (A little more reluctantly): “Yeah.”
SO: “In Japanese?”
Me (more reluctantly): “Yeah.”
SO: “Do you speak Japanese?”
Me (sort of pouting): “No.”
It was fine (my SO absolutely did not think less of me or hold it against me), but with each answer, I could feel myself sinking deeper and deeper into the geek zone.
Now, I am a proud geek, but there was something about this where it was…yes, I’ll say “embarrassing”.
Geeks like me, back then, we had seen what we read a lot disparaged by others.
I was always happy to claim somebody who was considered to be a classic writer for the geek community.
Charles Dickens wrote a ghost story (A Christmas Carol).
The Greeks had fantasy characters all over the place.
Jack London wrote science fiction, even a post-apocalyptic tale.
I wanted to show that good writers wrote science fiction and fantasy, too.
I guess I have to agree with the name of the campaign: “Let books be books”…not labels.
What do you think? Anything wrong with marketing books for specific genders? If that’s okay, would it be okay to have a section in a store for people of a particular race? Not one that was fiction by a race, or that race’s “interests”…but labeled as for that race. If one is okay and other one isn’t, I’d be curious to know why? Did you read books where people would think they were intended for another group? Did you do it openly, or did you hide it? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.
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