If you work in any type of retail you begin to realize how gendered everything is. Kid’s clothing have specific “boys and girls”, toys have a target gender, even as companies like Target remove labeling. The way television commercials are made make certain items for one gender or another. Rarely is there a middle ground.
And that included Children’s Books…
A male-centered book MUST have a male protagonist, and often there is a reluctance or out-right refusal to purchase a book with a female lead for a boy. For girls, well first off there, is a limit in how many female-centered stories there are, and most the time if you want action and adventure, heroes, dragons etc. those stories predominantly star a male. Which somehow our culture okays girls to receive “boy books” but not the other way around.
Fortunately, there is a change among publishers, writers and parents as many move to be more open and accepting of genders being in all roles in a story. Lead, hero/heroine, passive, beautiful, charming, funny, goofy, writer, dancer etc. This is helped by parent’s willingness to share with their kids stories of many people, regardless of distinguishing factors around race, gender, sexuality etc. Girls should be able to go to the moon and fight a dragon, boys should be able to dance ballet and enjoy cupcakes!
Understandably, there is controversy around this subject, but us in the bookstore, have a strong drive to keep freedom of speech an active and evolving situation. This includes how we portray stories to the next generation and how they identify themselves and those around them. For at the end of the day we all should have access to the stories that we want to read and the ideas that are worth sharing.
Comment with ideas below.
Rebecca Lee Robinson