An article caught my eye on Discover. It was headed, ‘Why Boys Should Read Girl Books’, by Caroline Paul. Paul believes that boys should not only read girl books but also be made by their educators to attend talks about them.

Paul’s book is called ‘The Gutsy Girl: Escapades or Your life of Epic Adventure.’ She’s ‘wound up’, says Paul. Her offer to speak at ‘a middle school’ about her book was rejected because ‘it would exclude boys.’ In these interesting politically correct times I’d be more inclined to believe that the author of a boy’s own book would have less of a chance to get a foot in the school door than someone offering to empower women or girls would.  Could Caroline Paul be holding out on us? I suspect it was an all boys school that Paul applied to. But that’s my cynical self kicking in.

Paul begins her Epic Adventure book with ‘Dear Gutsy Girl’ but in her article assures the reader that although ‘all the drawings feature girls it doesn’t mean boys are excluded… just that the book isn’t about them.’ (As in, really, does everything have to revolve around you boys?)  Boys have had their chance at being top dog is the implication. It’s their turn now to take a back seat in an auditorium and be lectured to.  Of course today’s boys are never going to be top dog, they’re paying the price for the sins of their forebears. Thing is, in the era of equal rights, no one should be top dog.

Paul lists some books she read as a child, like Shane and The Red Badge of Courage that exclude female characters. Despite that, she says she liked them, perhaps it’s that she was too young to know better back then and of course there would have been no alternative available to her. Political correctness wouldn’t even have been a twinkle back then in the eye of the PC brigade.

PC aside, there’s not much money to be made in non-fiction which is what boys prefer. Gutsy girl / empowered girl are the go. Books galore that aren’t about boys or aimed at boys are being written and published and read by girls but that doesn’t seem satisfy Paul and her colleague Shannon Hale.

My sister who is a children’s librarian says that there aren’t enough books written these days aimed at a male readership. Boys of a certain age don’t like novels, no matter who the hero is. Harry Potter would have had to have been an amazing exception. J.K. Rowling started a whole generation of children (and many adults) reading. She deserves to pocket every advance and royalty that comes her way.

Girls like reading about themselves and being empowered. If the stories are good enough, girls will surely read them. I’m all for that. I can sympathise with Paul. Talent isn’t enough these days and competition is fierce in the electronic age. You need to be your own publicist and build up your own readership.It’s the idea that boys are to be used to do it that I resent. No one seems to care that role models for boys are thin on the ground. In boy novels, no one encourages or empowers them to be their best. Most boys books today have a female partner or mentor to help and advise. That’s fine only if novelists plan to write girls books in which the boys get to play a positive role. If not, then Paul can expect to limit the readership. Paul needs to acknowledge that heroic girls in the present are no more realistic than boys were in past novels.

If Paul wants boys to read girls books she has to include them, she has to make it worth their while. She has to do her research to see what makes boys tick sand stop stereotyping them. Excluding boys and telling them it’s for their own good is shonky rationale, lazy writing and it alienates boys.

Paul quotes Shannon Hale, also a writer, who had written a book that featured girls and given a talk at a school got to talk to the girls ‘Many of the seats were empty because boys had been excused from the program’. It’s Hale’s belief that if boys aren’t reading girls books and finding out what girls think about in books, ‘it’s an agreement that leads directly to rape culture.’ An unfounded and thoroughly disgusting statement.

Stay out of the minds of my boys, I say to anyone who wants to force them to sit in an auditorium being brainwashed by people with an agenda that doesn’t consider boys and their needs. My boys love adventures; they spend hours flipping back their capes and being the heroes of their own stories. No one has the right to tell them what to think and how to think. I say that it’s wrong that authors, academics and educators have taken over the role of parenting. It’s up to parents and grandparents to take that role back, to raise their children and teach them right from wrong. It’s up to parents, to teach their children to respect each other and I mean each other. There are lessons that girls can learn too, particularly about how not to behave once those hormones kick in. Parents can guide them but it’s not even up to parents to choose what their children read.

It peeves me no end that Disney has invaded and polluted the Hundred Acre Woods and killed off A A Milne’s character Christopher Robin. It doesn’t seem to matter to Disney’s revisionist decision makers that Milne’s character was based on his son. Pooh has to have a female friend (called Robyn). That’s the sort of creepy PC I abhor; it tarnishes innocence and misses the point entirely.

I get book offers in my inbox telling me I could/should choose from an all-female line up of authors and characters. I won’t read books based on gender preference. I will read books that appeal to me no matter the topic or who wrote them.



30 thoughts on “PC aside…

  1. PC is a new form of censorship and totalitarianism.Who are these people, who think it’s their job to tell us what – and how – to think, read, and speak? And why do we agree to it?

    I also don’t understand the idea of “girl book” or “boy book” and totally despise books that were written with an agenda.
    Good books speak to everyone. Rewriting an existing book so that it will fit some agenda should be considered and act of violence.

    • It’s easy to tell, Ronit, that you’re as angry as I am about the PC brigade and their increasing power over us. In this country, anyhow, they have invaded higher education and are now setting their sights on primary schools. Like you, I’ve often asked ‘why do we agree to it?’ I’m sure today’s parents care. Thanks for dropping in for a chat. 🙂

  2. I think of books as I do of food, and reading something like eating. Offer as much variety as possible and let the children’s taste and imagination guide them. It not only makes sense to me but is a lot easier than forcing anything on unwilling victims. I am pleased to see what my now grown children choose to eat and read!

    • When raising children, I think it’s a matter of do what I do, not do as I say. Which, I suspect, is why you are rightly pleased to see how well your children have turned out.

      • Yay, Peggy. Too many people these days are wanting to raise our children. The only way to set the pendulum back to center is to call people out on their unsubstantiated statements and expose their personal agendas. So nice of you to follow, Peggy. I generally don’t know why people click the button.

  3. Your last sentence summed the post and point perfectly. It applies to all who read, no matter the age. No matter the intention, forcing children to read books in which they’ve no interest will do little other than to increase the attraction of video games.

    • It does sum things up, doesn’t it. I just gave my 7 year old a book of (simple) science experiments. I’d been holding on to it for a couple of years. He and his dad are already marking out items of interest and making plans.

  4. Stopped by to thank you for following my blog. It’s much appreciated. i so agree with you that we should stop the political correctness and read whatever holds our interest. As for children, they should read about each other so maybe they wouldn’t be so daft about the opposite sex as adults. They are clueless about what the other thinks.

    • I liked your non fiction stories very much0, but as there was no like or comment that I could see. I’ll just have to keep in touch to see what you’re up to next. 🙂
      It would be nice if children could read about each other, but my complaint is that today’s children’s novels leave one gender totally out of it. Caroline Paul and Shannon Hale aren’t the exception to this story of exclusion.

  5. Is Shannon Hale a guy or girl? Not that it matters, what an irritating empty head. An interesting post Mary and my take on the subject is pretty much yours. I didn’t know Christopher Robin was replaced by a female. As you say, it really does miss the point entirely. Noddy and Big Ears is another example of warped PC. It copped criticism because the relationship could have been seen as homosexual. I suppose anything can be twisted if you try hard enough.

  6. I read a variety, never a gender reason. My kids read what interests them when I can get them to read. 🙂 Heck, I even read young adult novels from time to time. I think if you write it well enough a book can be for both genders to read. They will get something from it whether they are curious how a girl or boy feels or want to read their adventures.

  7. Although it took me a while to wrap my head around The Hunger Game’s premise (kids killing kids?!), what I liked about the series (I haven’t read it, but I saw the movies) was that it attracted both boys and girls. Gender wasn’t really an issue in it. I wish there were more books that appealed to both genders.

    • My 16 year old granddaughter would agree with you, Carrie. She didn’t think gender was really an issue either. My enthusiastic girl has read the books and seen the films and insisted that I watch one with her. Grand parenting is not all (as I was led to believe) about orthopaedic shoes and lamingtons.

  8. This resonates with me totally. I especially loathe the opinion of Hale that my sons ‘could become misogynist/rapists’ if they don’t read designated books from the perspective of a girl. What a load of crap. I get the frustration of an author and would hope that my sons were able to meet a wide range of authors of all genres and genders. But I can’t force them to read something that doesn’t resonate with them, at least just a little bit. My almost 12 year old lad is currently reading and loving a series of books written for the early teen and teen market by Rick Riordan called Heroes of Olympus and his other series, Percy Jackson. I am also reading these books and can factually state that the heroes are both male and female and portrayed as human beings with a varied range of human emotion, regardless of gender and sometimes to do with gender. In other words, normal life. With a wonderful storyline of Greek and Roman Gods and Goddesses, monsters, mythology, battles, humour and adventure interwoven throughout. Rant over, back to my book. (Thanks for a great post.)

    • Dear Cheery, thanks for your rant. My mother chose books for us that she thought we would like. She meant well, but when she found them under our beds, we got to choose our own. Meeting a range of authors is one thing and being forced to is another.
      ps it’s amazing what even untechie types like me can do when desperate. Consider yourself unspammed. 🙂

  9. Definitely an interesting look at gender preference in books. Something I have thought about, but it’s worth pondering. There is so much to learn at any age – and opportunities never stop.

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