Sunday, March 30, 2008

The whole "boys don't read bc its' something girls do, and girls have cooties!" is making the rounds again.

And once again, everyone's solution is to give them reading material (often comics) that screams "Boy! Boy! Boy! Boys only! No girls allowed!"

Which means that once again, everyone is failing to note that:

1) Comic stores may still be mainly for boys. Comics themselves? Not so much. Graphic novels? Not at all. Yes, there are certainly more "boy" comics than "girl" comics. But walking a reluctant reader over to the J GN section of their local library isn't all that likely to stop them from thinking that reading is for girls.

2) Giving boys "boy books" hardly addresses the root problem. Which is not just that reading is seen as something that girls and women do, but that boys can't (shouldn't?) do anything that is for girls.

3) Inasmuch as the lack male role models in early educational environments seems to be why boys see reading as "feminized" - rather than the actual material itself (which still feature more boys than girls, btw) - wouldn't recruiting more men to be kindergarten and (gasp!) preschool teachers be a better solution? (Oh, but then we may have to pay the latter decent salaries. And stop pretending that men can't be nurturing/that any man who likes small children is a predator.)

4) As my brother points out, guys don't read as much because they have more "choices." In other words, they are more likely to go to the movies or play video games. Both of which, especially the latter, tend to be made for and advertised at them more than women/girls. (Solution: Make more video games for girls! And stop pretending that teen girls don't go to movies!)

5) It's mostly only non-white and working class boys that fall behind their female peers in reading. Upper class white boys still beat everyone. Which means that there is more happening than just reading being considered feminine.

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for efforts like Guys Read - as band-aids.

But....can we all get started on some long term solutions sometime this century?

Please?

5 comments:

Ciella said...

As another hourly bookseller may I say how much I agree with number 2 (well actually the whole post, but especially number 2). There are a huge amount of girls(mostly those into sci-fi/fantasy) that are more than willing to read "Boy" books. Books with action and adventure and male leads. However, if I even try to recommend a book with a female lead to a boy he'll refuse it outright. I had one boy come in who had read all of Garth Nix's Keys to the Kingdom series (well the ones that are out) and when I tried to recommend Sabriel to him it was a lost cause. Sabriel is by the same author, has sword fights and magic and the dead rising from the grave and in my opinion beats Keys to the Kingdom hands down, but Sabriel is a girl and that's all that mattered. When it comes to Young Adult books there probably should be some expansion to target more boys. But the idea that boys can only read "Boy" books is just dumb. Especially considering the amount of girls and women who read every genre under the sun and then some. I don't blame the boys for this. They're young and probably afraid of what their friends would say about them reading a book with a girl on the cover. Which is why you're completely right about society having to come up with long term solutions. No one should be penalized for not following gender norms.

Mickle said...

that specific problem has been the inspirtion of of many a previous rant. :)

"When it comes to Young Adult books there probably should be some expansion to target more boys."

Ideally yes, There's some problems with that as a short term solution as well. Mainly that what happens isn't that boys stop reading bc the YA section is full of girl books (although that may be a small part o it).

What happens quite often is that boys move onto "adult" books earlier than girls do. In part bc parents are more reluctant to let their teen daughters move onto "adult" books. It's combination of teen girls reading about relationships more and boys reading about violence more, parents being more protective of girls, and parents freaking out over sex more often than they freak out over violence.

I always got a lot of parents who were worried that the YA books they were looking at would be too "adult" for their daughter. But not very many that were worried the scifi/fantasy books they were looking at would be too "adult" for their son.

Vail said...

I know that as I grew older, my mother limited the amount of "going out with friends" I did when we started doing things other then hanging out in the front yard. She was afraid we would be kidnapped and sold into white slavery. I kid you not. So I read a lot. I read all the books I could get my hands on, including all the Sci/Fi books my college brother brought home. I couldn't be picky (I had to hide my books as it was). So I read everything. So yeah, my family the girls became book readers and guys not so much (they could stay out late etc and Mom never cared a bit).

Anonymous said...

Inasmuch as the lack male role models in early educational environments seems to be why boys see reading as "feminized" - rather than the actual material itself (which still feature more boys than girls, btw) - wouldn't recruiting more men to be kindergarten and (gasp!) preschool teachers be a better solution? (Oh, but then we may have to pay the latter decent salaries. And stop pretending that men can't be nurturing/that any man who likes small children is a predator.)

I don't think the problem is salaries. I think the problem is the danger a man faces in terms of false allegations of molestation of kids.

Mickle said...

which I mentioned

and I kinda seriously doubt salaries doesn't play a part as well