Wouldn’t it be lovely if there was no such thing as books for boys…or princesses…or pink
I recently wrote about a Barbie book that should never have seen the light of day and now I’ve heard about a young girl in California who has managed to convince a publisher that it isn’t only boys who are interested in insects.Seven years old Parker Dains from California, wrote to Abdo Publishing after she discovered that the book on bugs she was reading was part of a series called the Biggest, Baddest Book for Boys. She told the publishers:
I really enjoyed the section on Glow in the Dark bugs and the quizzes at the end…when I saw the back cover title, it said ‘Biggest Baddest Books for Boys’ and it made me very unhappy. It made me very sad because there’s no such thing as a boy book. You should change from ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys’ into ‘Biggest, Baddest Books for Boys and Girls’ because some girls would like to be entomologists too.
According to the local paper, the publisher told her she had made ‘a very good point…After all, girls can like “boy” things too.’ They have now changed their series to Biggest, Baddest Books, although they clearly haven’t changed their way of thinking if they still believe that science topics are male. Attitudes take longer to change, but we can do something about labels. Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s I thought that this battle would have been won long ago . It is so in-your-face wrong, so obviously a bad thing to do but many publishers still can’t see it. (Or see the connection between what they produce for seven year olds and the number of women who study science at a higher level.)
Let Books Be Booksis a UK campaign supported by such authors as Neil Gaiman, Joanne Harris, Malorie Blackman, Anne Fine, Carol Ann Duffy and Philip Pullman. Usborne were the first to announce that they will not be commissioning any new boys/girls titles, saying in the Guardian that the company takes ‘feedback on gender-specific titles very seriously’, and now has ‘no plans to produce any titles labelled “for girls” or “for boys” in the future’.
Paragon, Ladybird Books, Chad Valley, Dorling Kindersley and Miles Kelly publishers have also told the campaign they will not be releasing any new girl/boy labelled titles. Paperchase have agreed to withdraw gendered activity books. Well done, Paperchase that has an immediate impact.
This Christmas Let Books Be Books are encouraging shoppers to reject stereotypes and #shopoutsidethebox
Here’s how to help:
4/ Talk to friends and family about why gender stereotyping matters to you.
As the grandmother of a button-smart, funny, sparkling four year old girl I am also tired of pink princesses but I guess one step at a time. As a writer and a reader I am really tired of the chick lit label and a whole literary genre: women’s fiction. That’s just fiction, isn’t it?