Saturday, February 28, 2015

Boys Vs Girls

This week I read a blog post by the fabulous author Shannon Hale (here’s the link: ). Ms. Hale did a school visit and to her amazement and disappointment, found that boys over a certain age were not allowed to attend her presentation. It was assumed that only girls would be interested.
The question was posed as to why we assume that boys won’t like books with girls as main characters.

Is it certain assumptions about the kinds of things that girls like in their stories? You know, roooomance….loooooove……ooeygooey-ness?   It made me think of that line in the movie The Princess Bride: 

Growing up, I read Little House on the Prairie, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown, Hardy Boys, Choose Your Own Adventure… okay, to be fair, I read the backs of shampoo bottles, soup labels, instructions to everything…. If it had words on it, I was all-in. Now, it’s Dean Koontz, my scriptures, stuff I read from ANWA sisters, and after being nagged about it for a couple of years, TWILIGHT. The latter was the most “lovey-dovey” of books I’d read for a long time. I’m not much interested in kissing books.

My brothers…. They certainly didn’t read the same books I did, but they weren’t very interested in reading back then—at least not like my sister and I, who practically read our way through our local library every summer. 

My kids…. Well, they all read Harry Potter, but only my daughter reads Nancy Drew (she’s crazier about ol’ Nancy than even I was!).  Even my son who loves to read, is not into books that aren’t about animals, or soldiers, or sports, or monsters, or Wimpy Kids™. 

But he’s a boy. Just like I wouldn’t drag him out to go see a ballet, or a Hannah Montana movie (back in the day), I wouldn’t expect him to like girly books.  

But should I? Is it just that girl-centered books tend to talk about girly stuff and boy-centered books talk about boy-y stuff, and each plays to the interests of their focus group?

Or is it something deeper? The blog talks about rape culture and how these assumptions being made play into that. She says:

The belief that boys won't like books with female protagonists, that they will refuse to read them, the shaming that happens (from peers, parents, teachers, often right in front of me) when they do, the idea that girls should read about and understand boys but that boys don't have to read about girls, that boys aren't expected to understand and empathize with the female population of the world....this belief directly leads to rape culture. To a culture that tells boys and men, it doesn't matter how the girl feels, what she wants. You don't have to wonder. She is here to please you. She is here to do what you want. No one expects you to have to empathize with girls and women. As far as you need be concerned, they have no interior life.

Wow. That makes it sound much more sinister than the old nursery rhyme about boys being all snakes and snails and puppy-dog tails, and that they just aren’t interested in girly stuff. 
Have we been perpetuating this culture all along, since…. I don’t know, the days of Moby Dick vs. Pride and Prejudice?

Do I need to get my boys reading more books with girls in the female role? Am I harming them by just letting them read whatever they want and being happy that they are reading at all? Part of me thinks that this is a large part of why people don’t think that boys will read girl books…because they think that you have to use stuff they like to bribe them to read.

What do you think? 


  1. I’m happy that my son is of the read-everything-you-can-get-your-hands-on variety, because once he’s read his science fiction books from the library book bag, he happily reads the Junie B. Jones and Judy Moody and fairy books my daughter gets. In fact, we just got Shannon Hale’s Princess in Black from the library last week and my son said, “Audrey, when you’re done with that can I read it?”

    But yes, I’d never thought of it quite the way that Ms. Hale laid it out in her post. Something to consider...

  2. I think it is just the way boys are hard wired they like different things from girls and I think that is ok, if a boy doesn't like books with girls in them that is fine they don't need to my grandson Blain loves to read books about superheros.

  3. Working at an elementary as a reading tutor my job is to help kids learn to read when it doesn't come easy to them. A big part of that is motivating them to WANT to read. So my thought on the whole school visit thing is this: So what if the books aren't their thing, what if the author says something to inspire these boys to WANT to read. Even if it's not her books. They don't know how the author visit could impact these kids because authors often talk about reading and writing more than they talk about their own books, at least that's been my experience.

  4. That's sad that the school assumed that boys wouldn't like the books. Many times, there are things that both boys and girls like. Interests overlap whether they are labeled feminine or masculine, and either gender shouldn't be discouraged from an activity.



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