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No Boys Allowed: School visits as a woman writer

28 February 2015

From author Shannon Hale:

I’ve been doing school visits as part of my tour for PRINCESS ACADEMY: The Forgotten Sisters. All have been terrific–great kids, great librarians. But something happened at one I want to talk about. I’m not going to name the school or location because I don’t think it’s a problem with just one school; it’s just one example of a much wider problem.

This was a small-ish school, and I spoke to the 3-8 grades. It wasn’t until I was partway into my presentation that I realized that the back rows of the older grades were all girls.

Later a teacher told me, “The administration only gave permission to the middle school girls to leave class for your assembly. I have a boy student who is a huge fan of SPIRIT ANIMALS. I got special permission for him to come, but he was too embarrassed.”

“Because the administration had already shown that they believed my presentation would only be for girls?”

“Yes,” she said.

I tried not to explode in front of the children.

. . . .

I think most people reading this will agree that leaving the boys behind is wrong. And yet–when giving books to boys, how often do we offer ones that have girls as protagonists? (Princesses even!) And if we do, do we qualify it: “Even though it’s about a girl, I think you’ll like it.” Even though. We’re telling them subtly, if not explicitly, that books about girls aren’t for them. Even if a boy would never, ever like any book about any girl (highly unlikely) if we don’t at least offer some, we’re reinforcing the ideology.

I heard it a hundred times with Hunger Games: “Boys, even though this is about a girl, you’ll like it!” Even though. I never heard a single time, “Girls, even though Harry Potter is about a boy, you’ll like it!”

. . . .

At this recent school visit, near the end I left time for questions. Not one student had a question. In 12 years and 200-300 presentations, I’ve never had that happen. So I filled in the last 5 minutes reading them the first few chapters of The Princess in Black, showing them slides of the illustrations. BTW I’ve never met a boy who didn’t like this book.

After the presentation, I signed books for the students who had pre-ordered my books (all girls), but one 3rd grade boy hung around.

“Did you want to ask her a question?” a teacher asked.

“Yes,” he said nervously, “but not now. I’ll wait till everyone is gone.”

Once the other students were gone, three adults still remained. He was still clearly uncomfortable that we weren’t alone but his question was also clearly important to him. So he leaned forward and whispered in my ear, “Do you have a copy of the black princess book?”

It broke my heart that he felt he had to whisper the question.

Link to the rest at squeetusblog

Here’s a link to The Princess in Black

Children's Books

92 Comments to “No Boys Allowed: School visits as a woman writer”

  1. Well, but boys and girls don’t really like each other. Never have, never will. (Yeah, well, I’m just an exception.)

    Dan

  2. We build the stereotypes — and then pound them into the kids until they’re ready to pound them into their kids …

    .

    We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves. — Eric Hoffer

  3. I think it is the parents who need to fix this. I was a kid in the late 50’s early 60’s. I had the dolls etc., but when the boy next door got a cool new dump truck, I loved it and told my Mom about it. She bought me one. I played with it just as much as the “girl” toys. I also had bags of marbles and a pea shooter. I played with everything and had a blast as a kid.

    The schools shouldn’t have that much of an impact on traditional roles, and good parents make all the difference.

    • I agree about good parents. My aunt bought me, much to her chagrin, a toy I desperately wanted as a kid. It was a red fire truck. I played with it for years. And even though it was the 60s, my Barbie worked wonderfully well with my fire truck. I didn’t know that at that time girls couldn’t be fire fighters and Mom and Dad never taught me any different.

      And while parents need to set an example, I think teachers play a major role in quashing what kids are interested in – be that math, science, or books of any sort.

  4. Fortunately, they didn’t get into the other aspects of the situation.

    First, about how few books (and movies are even worse) have female protagonists. The ratio of male/female is relatively balanced in the juvenile and middle school books, but after that, female protagonists are relegated to the romance genre with only a scattering elsewhere. That may be improving slowly, but it is still too common. That would argue that boys should be reading more; they have people they can identify with as the protagonists. But then we come to the next issue.

    Second, another reason for the lack of older boys might not be active discouragement by the school administration, but because of the well-documented drop in recreational reading by middle school boys. Some attribute this in part to the rise of boy-oriented video games, but that same drop existed before video games became a large market. In fact, as many of the PV readers can attest, middle and high school boys who are active readers are often social outcasts.

    It’s a bigger issue than the article indicates.

    • This issue is something that needs to be addressed? I’m not at all convinced this does. I didn’t read as much through middle school and early high school because boobs.

      Can’t fix that, not yet anyway. They been tryin’ for forever. 🙂

  5. I think that when an author comes to a school, it is a big deal event for the kids. No kid should be kept from the reading party. To put one boy in the position of having to choose between being harassed for being in a room of girls, vs seeing his heroine, is not ok. That the school upholds such a culture, it seems, would be way 1950s-think.

    As in college, for gradeschool and highschool, the young folks should be exposed to all things the hierarchy brings to the school. Speaking as a long time artist in residence in the schools, I have to say, depends so much on the politics and narrowness or openness of the principal, and the number, high or low, of parents who have their own political and religious beliefs, who complain and threaten if their icon is not bowed to.

    Many court battles and school board battles, thereby about efforts by parents or school leaders to ‘ban books’ and censorship. Keeping an entire gender of children from joining the party, seems to be ‘censorship’ if one believes at all in educating children instead of infantilizing them.

  6. If boys read books with female protagonists, maybe they’d grow into men who understood women better.

  7. It was the same with Avataar: Legend of Korra. Everyone said the show would flop because the main protagonist was a girl, and the genre (action cartoon) was mainly for boys.

    The audience didn’t care in the least, and the show was a huge hit.

    Tiger and Bunny was an Anime that featured a loser 40 year old protagonist. The producers were sure only men would watch it. Yet the show’s biggest fans were teenage girls.

    It seems most producers have no idea who will like their show.

    • I doubt we’ll ever see the day when the stuffed shirts know what’s going to strike a cultural chord, and with whom.

  8. I think we need to stop writing books for girls and books for boys.
    Can’t blame boys for not being very interested in a bunch of princesses.
    Harry Potter also features girls.
    And yes, certain age groups tend to shy away from each other.
    (I think we should also start writing books meant for both genders for adults.)

    • You totally missed the point. The book is NOT written for girls, it’s about girls, and the whole series has a whole ton of boy fans who are very interested indeed. The school faculty decided that didn’t matter, and boys shouldn’t be interested, even though they were.

      A book about a girl is not only for girls any more than a book with a male protagonist is only for boys or men.

  9. It’s because boys are resistant to reading girl books. And girl books are marketed as girl books. Not saying should or would or anything. I’m too jaded to talk about the equitable world fantasy people like to yammer about. I’m merely answering the question of why we have to ‘sell’ a girl protag to young boys. It’s because so many books with girl protags are aimed at girls instead of the wider audience. When that changes and the marketing changes you’ll likely see a shift.

    It’s the same with adult fiction. I don’t read women’s stories that are all about women’s stuff and that’s okay. Those books aren’t for me, they don’t speak to most guys really. I’ll throw 50 Shades of Grey into that pile since it’s popular right now. I do get miffed when people talk about how poor or bad that book is. I think it slights ladies a bit, treats them like a popular book with women can’t possibly have any artistic merit…but again I try not to get too riled up. I try to find my happy place inside where everyone loves each other. 🙂

    I don’t expect ladies to be all jumping up and down about last year’s Godslayer/Godbomb story line in the Thor comic. Or Ron Jeremy’s latest biopic. Or Conan. Or Superman.

    You will, of course, have a lot of overlap but we shouldn’t get all high horse because boys don’t like girl stuff. As long as they’re reading I’m good with it. I give kids comics all the time. The new Ms. Marvel was a HUGE hit with my nieces, but not nearly as big as The Hulk. As they get older though they’ll likely appreciate Ms. Marvel more because it talks about teenage girl issues (like boys, body changes, image, chastity, etc…)

    I guess some people think this is a problem. Not letting boys go to the Princess book assembly is pretty lame, obviously that’s an issue, but beyond that I just shrug. Let people like what they like. Perhaps I’m too jaded. I just see taste as a thing, the way of the world, a neutral thing, I try not to judge taste as good or bad. I guess it’s hard…

    Ramble ramble. …:-p

    EDIT: It should be noted that both of the series I’m writing have female protags, but feminist issues (however we define those) are not part of the stories at all. Though I guess a princess marrying a slob for his soldiers in order to protect her family is a bit of a ‘lady story’ but I don’t think anyone will notice it as such. I don’t think it’s an empowerment tale or anything…it’s more about riding a giant bear around and killing baddies. Ha!

    • I’ll throw 50 Shades of Grey into that pile since it’s popular right now. I do get miffed when people talk about how poor or bad that book is. I think it slights ladies a bit, treats them like a popular book with women can’t possibly have any artistic merit…but again I try not to get too riled up. I try to find my happy place inside where everyone loves each other.

      If you’re going to use a story to support your opinion (which I agree with 100%), you probably shouldn’t use a badly written BSDM erotica novel with an abusive male “love” interest that, in any other setting, would have been arrested for his actions if he weren’t a billionaire.

      • That bad huh? I couldn’t really get through it. It engages the rape fantasy in women that explicitly? Lame. Still, I try not to account for taste. Ladies like it, who am I to judge? I’m about 90% ‘bro’ and recognize I’ll never see how those books are interesting.

        Tonight I’m watching the movie though. I’ll blog/review it.

      • So why are women still reading it? Doesn’t this choice say something? Or maybe we don’t want to get into that because it’ll hit someone’s sensitive third rail.

        • I have no problem getting into it, Bill. 🙂 It’s pretty simple. Rape/forced seduction is one of the top sex fantasies among US woman according to studies by both the Kinsey Institute and Master and Johnson.

          There’s some evidence that more power women get in society, the more prevalent the fantasy becomes. It’s the female equivalent of the dominatrix fantasies that many men with high-pressure lives have. This fantasy is a psychological way of releasing responsibility for sexual behavior while still maintaining control.

          Add in another favorite female fantasy, Cinderella, and you’ve got the recipe for catnip for women.

          Unfortunately, it’s the proverbial catch-22. Women still aren’t allowed to express any type of sexuality in Western society without being condemned. Add in the fight for civil rights, and stories like FSoG stir an uproar. It’s not just men who have to deal with the current PC environment.

          Before anyone gets their panties in a wad, these fantasies do not apply to every woman. They are simply two of the more prevalent.

          Here’s an article from the Kinsey Institute (2011) that discusses the phenomenon.

          http://kinseyconfidential.org/deal-rape-fantasies/

          [Edit to add: For most people, fantasy is just that. The acts aren’t necessarily something they would do in real life. It’s no different than the desire to tell off your boss, but you don’t because you know you’ll get fired.]

          • I always thought that the female rape fantasy thing was due to the fact that every member of Generation X grew up watching women get tied up and tortured in some way. From Penelope Pitstop to Wonder Woman, every single female icon in the media was tied to some train tracks by a wicked man, or to a conveyer belt with a chainsaw on it, or something like that. Kids TV was the worst. And since in the UK 50% of the children’s TV stars that I grew up watching turned out to be pedos…I’m glad Jim never fixed it for me O.O

            Although, the control element of psychology is also tied in strongly to BDSM. The subs are always the powerful people regardless of their gender.

            I often wonder how much of it is control and how much of it is culture/media driven.

          • That particular fantasy was around way before our time, Claire. When certain things aren’t approved by society, folks find ways present their thoughts in subversive ways.

            Haven’t you ever wondered why Shaggy and Scooby-Doo always had the munchies? 😀

          • That makes sense, and it would explain kids TV. Don’t get me started on Captain Pugwash lol.

    • There are stories with female protagonists, and stories aimed specifically at girls. It’s the latter that boys aren’t much interested in, for obvious reasons.

      As a boy, I read my sisters’ girls comics, partly because I read everything I could get my hands on, but also because they had interesting stories; usually about getting into trouble at boarding school, solving crimes they ran into while horse riding, or something along those lines. Had they been about Princess Fairy shopping for the perfect pink dress, I probably wouldn’t have.

      Similarly, the kids’ books I read (Arthur Ransome, Enid Blyton, etc) had many girls as characters, but they were just aimed at kids, not at girls or boys specifically.

      My limited experience with girls’ stories these days would seem to imply they’re far more Princess Fairy than they used to be. And the books seem more gender-segregated than they were.

    • I don’t expect ladies to be all jumping up and down about last year’s Godslayer/Godbomb story line in the Thor comic. Or Ron Jeremy’s latest biopic. Or Conan. Or Superman.

      Picks jaw up off floor. I expect male reviewers to talk about this stuff, but most of all reviews, squee, analysis, and social media about it that I run into is by women and girls. Conan is more guys, but Thor? Superman? You gotta be kidding me.

      • Joseph Bradshire

        Oh yeah Liana? That’s pretty unexpected. I’m not really plugged in to who reviews Superman and Thor comics. Not that it means anything, those comics are predominantly read by male fans no matter who is blogging about them. Though I guess I could be wrong about that. Still, the point that some fiction has a targeted appeal is pretty clear even if you nit pick my examples.

        EDIT: Point being, it’s okay that some stuff is favored by one segment or another of society. It’s not a problem that needs fixing so that the stats look better or some such.

        • There’s always going things that shift one way or another.

          However, this was a case where boys weren’t only actively discouraged from liking something, but were forbidden from attending. No doubt it was the parents or a teacher who tried to help the one boy get special permission who wanted to attend. But pressure, whether from peers or the attitudes of the other school staff, made him feel too uncomfortable to go. That crap is what bothers me because I was told similar things at that age. It’s sexist no matter which way it’s sliced.

        • There is a strong belief by guys in superhero fandoms that they’re the bigger fans/geeks, but if you’re heavy into fandom, online fandom doing fanworks and social media are predominantly women. We get excited about it and know the storylines, etc.

          We know it’s aimed at the guys, and gripe sometimes about the idiocy of not acknowledging a huge audience.

          For example, Marvel asked which guy we wanted the next movie of. All the women said Black Widow. It won the list of most wanted.

          This idea that women aren’t big name fans in superhero comics and genres is false. It’s based on the fact that we typically fan differently.

          • Joseph Bradshire

            I’ve been in the comic book section of Barnes and Nobles and my fav local collectibles shop every other week or so for 2 years. I’ve never seen a lady buying comics. So I assumed ladies aren’t a big section of the readership. I didn’t find this bad or surprising.

            If you are saying that ladies are a large segment of the comic book market I would be very surprised. Thor? Really? Ladies are buying Thor? And Superman? Sweet.

            Maybe in my area ladies just aren’t wanting to be seen buying.

            I spoke with my comic/collectibles guy the other day about how many ladies he holds back comics for. None. He’s had no requests by women to reserve monthly titles. Dozens of men though.

            Maybe ladies are buying online more? Or is my local shop an anomaly? Or maybe they are more into the shows? I know Arrow is huge with my lady friend.

            It would be cool to find out my anecdotal experience has led to incorrect conclusions.

          • Joseph Bradshire

            As for the lack of a Black Widow movie, I’m cool with that. She’s not an interesting character to me. I’d LOVE for a She-Hulk TV show though. Lawyer by day, kick butt by night. That’d be awesome.

            Another good show would be a teen drama with Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan).

            For movies we are long overdue for a Captain Marvel (Danvers, played by Katee Sackhoff please) and a good Wonder Woman.

  10. Although gender roles in Japan are generally described as “traditional” (to be nice about it) or “hidebound” (to be less charitable), female protagonists predominate in anime, and have for decades. Anime fans don’t think twice about it. Well, actually, they not only think twice about it, they think about it constantly. Hence the huge secondary market in collectibles like figurines (“figures”) and the curious hobby of itasha.

    • I don’t think that’s really accurate. There are a lot of female characters, and a lot of great female characters. But “predominated by female protagonists”? No, I don’t think so. Most anime is still mostly aimed at a male audience. Either with a male protagonist, a group of protagonists who are mostly male, or a lone male protagonist surrounded by cute girls. There are many, many brilliant exceptions and I do think female protagonists are more accepted among anime fans, but if we’re talking averages here it’s still mostly male.

      • Granted, “predominate” in the anime I watch. But the question is, “When giving books to boys, how often do we offer ones that have girls as protagonists?” A top-20 TV list (Japan) has titles like K-on, Suzumiya Haruhi and Madoka Magica in the top twenty, and Madoka Magica in the top four.

        Clearly, titles are not being rejected by boys because of the sex of the protagonist, especially considering that in K-on and Madoka Magica, all of the main characters are female.

        And if we’re talking about features films, there’s the Studio Ghibli catalog, where female protagonists do predominate. In terms of total all-time box office in Japan, Spirited Away in first place is followed by Frozen.

        This brings up another interesting lit-crit question. The protagonist/POV character in Suzumiya Haruhi is Kyon, but the series is generally referred to by the name of the main female character. The POV character in Oreimo is male, but the character arcs all belong to the female characters.

        To be sure, genre-fiction markets are segregated in Japan, with shojo titles “aimed at” girls. But there’s no question that boys are willing to read manga and watch anime that are principally about girls.

  11. I was an avid fan of fantasy books when I was a young lad. I read any and every one I could get my hands on. Same with Sci-fi. A good number of those books had female main characters and it didnt bother me one bit because the gender of the character didnt really matter to the tone of the story.

    Those stories were still going off on quests, slaying dragons, defeating evil and so on.

    Now my daughter was briefly interested in a series of books aimed at girls. They were pink or sparkly covers on them and involved much talk of clothes, shoes, makeup, boys and lots of other such stuff that my daughter and her friends could identify with. I would have zero interest in that now and the same as a kid.

    Looking at some of her books, even with the occasional hint of action, the focus still would seem to be on the issues that matter to girls. Boys just aren’t going to have those same issues or be able to identify with them.

    The book mentioned Princess in Black seems to be more about the action and so boys would find it interesting, whereas Princess academy about a girl sent to the academy to learn how to be a princess so she can marry the prince with the usual conflicts with the ‘mean girls’ in the school… yeah, most boys aren’t interested in marrying the prince.

    • I honestly didn’t realize that male vs female protagonist issue was even a thing because, in the sci fi and fantasy I read growing up, it never was. It wasn’t until I was older and people starting talking about it that I even knew it was, and to this day it still just strikes me as… Odd.

      That doesn’t make it any less an issue in the wider world but in my little anti-social corner of the world it never was.

      • Yep, that’s my take on it too. Sci/Fant doesn’t tend to focus on the gender issue. The gender of the hero is a pretty minor detail. Surely exceptions abound.

        I read a scifi book that ended up being about a woman’s journey through mental and physical abuse. Bleck! I don’t read to be saddened. That’s not me. The book was recommended by a socially conscious lady friend, I think she was trying to expand my mind to the plight and struggle of women or whatever. I found it deceitful. Here’s a cookie, you’ll love it. Then after you take a bite it’s sugar free or vegan and you want to vomit.

        There’s a difference between having a lady lead and being a book about women’s issues. I think The Hunger Games is a good example.

        • Yep from the Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms books I used to read to some of the older scifi/fantasy stuff. The sex of the MC didn’t make much difference to the story because it just gave a different slant on the journey itself.

          As mentioned, the books my daughter read were aimed at girls and for girls. They were focusing heavily on makeup, clothes and so on as well as the issues that growing girls face. No boy would be interested in them because none of that is relevant to them.

          Not that it would be a bad thing for some of the young boys these days to have an idea of what issues girls face. I just can’t see a boy picking up a book about a girl learning to be a princess or looking at her other books, the ones focused on girls in school. The types of issues girls deal with and boys deal with are totally different.

          • Stories about makeup, clothing, and adolescent peer group drama? I doubt my wife would ever have even read books like that.

    • Wrong.

      I’ve followed this author for a while. She has a ton of boy fans and men fans for the entire series. The school just overlooked that and ostracized one of her fans because boys “shouldn’t” be interested.

      This post isn’t about the lack of interest, but rather the suppression of interest.

  12. All the propaganda in the world can’t make boys want to read stories about girls.

    • *Looks down*

      Yep, still a boy. Funny, I couldn’t care at all what the gender of the protagonist is in my stories as long as they’re interesting characters.

      Must be all that propaganda.

      • And all the propaganda in the world can’t make boys want to play dress-up games with dolls, but some nonetheless do.

        The only thing that all the propaganda in the world can accomplish is to make boys read less than girls. At that it is succeeding admirably.

        • And all the propaganda in the world can’t make boys want to play dress-up games with dolls, but some nonetheless do.

          Yes, but we played with soldier and secret agent dolls, not those girly Barbies. Barbie didn’t have a machinegun and a tank :).

          • Hey, as a grade schooler and middle schooler I played war, spy and POW with my Barbies and Nurse Julia dolls because those were the films and history books I was already starting to watch and read. My Barbies never had a girly moment unless it was right after they rescued Ken. I made a tank from a box and the right sticks made perfect guns although you have made me wonder why on earth I didn’t ever ask for a G.I. Joe or at least some Joe accessories if they had ’em, mmmmm.

        • Wait, propaganda makes boys read less? WTF? I must have missed something.

          • Quite possibly you did.

            Think of all those novels written according to the guidelines of Soviet Socialist Realism that nobody ever wanted to read either.

          • Oddly enough, I’m trying to write a pseudo-Soviet Socialist Realism SF novel right now. Though I’m guessing it would probably have got me shot if it was really written in Stalin’s time.

          • If you have not done so already, be sure to read Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream and John Calvin Batchelor’s Peter Nevsky and the True Story of the Russian Moon Landing. Although the second book is more obscure than the first one, it is even better.

          • Thanks, I’ll take a look for those. I’ve been trying to find some good examples of that kind of writing, but the real Russian ones seem hard to find even on the Internet (at least translated into English).

      • I think there’s a miscue there. There are books with female characters and books about female stuff.

    • And then those boys who refused to read any stories with girl protagonists will grow up to post jokes on Facebook about how “women are impossible to understand, har har.”

      • Joseph Bradshire

        Miscommunication between genders is the guy’s fault. If only they read the right books.

  13. Let the poor kid read whatever he wants. Don’t like what someone else reads? OK. Don’t like what someone else doesn’t read? OK.

    Think he will understand what you want him to understand if he reads what you want him to read? No. He will do something else.

  14. My 7 year old is a superhero freak. I bought him a bunch of toys figurines of the Justice League I thought he’d like.

    His first question after 5 mins of playing with them?

    Where’s Wonder Woman?

    I was pretty pleased.

    Of course, he told me in the car the other day that every girl – except Mom – was gross.

    Can’t win ’em all!

    • Enjoy the next eight or so years, ed. After that you won’t have any hot water and your entire house will smell like Axe. 🙂

      • Joseph Bradshire

        Oh gah! That body spray right? I had to ban that from my house. It helps I have breathing problems so I can make an excuse to ban body sprays, but really I just think it smells ridiculous.

  15. Go look at the book on Amazon. This woman is absolutely delusional.

    This was a small-ish school, and I spoke to the 3-8 grades. It wasn’t until I was partway into my presentation that I realized that the back rows of the older grades were all girls.

    She writes a book called “Princess in Black” targeted towards 3rd graders and is shocked – and disappointed – when the 6th-8th grade boys don’t show up? That, and she refers to this as “part of a wider problem” — ??

    I would bet that the 6th graders, never mind the 8th graders, would stage a sit-in strike if they were compelled to attend that assembly. She put the word “Princess” in the title. What the heck does she expect? The blog post is absolutely ridiculous.

    • Political correctness is like huffing oven cleaner. It makes people stupid.

    • Grade years doesn’t sound like much, but I’ve been listening to my high school-age daughter talk about the ninth graders and how immature they are. Pointing out that she was probably like them at their age was not appreciated.

    • Go look at her blog when male and female readers alike of all ages were sending in pictures of reading her books in the series. She’s not delusional. She has an established, multi-gender, multigenerational fanbase.

  16. I plead guilty, at least in my formative years. I liked The Hardy Boys more than Nancy Drew, I liked Hercule Poirot more than Jane Marple, though in my later years I liked Scarlett O’Hara one hell of a lot. The Wife of Bath, too! I still prefer male authors and male protagonists. Sorry, it is an ingrained trait I AM trying to rid myself of.

  17. I assume you guys didn’t get the Puck series, “by” Lisbeth Werner? (pseudonym). AFAIK it hasn’t been translated into English.

    Take care.

  18. I don’t understand the male/female stigmas around reading, but it can’t be related to the gender of the MC. Maybe the genre of the book though.

    Horror is the ‘boy genre’ right? I read horror all the time as a teenager. It was my favourite genre. Most of the MC’s were female. I mean, if you look at Richard Laymon’s books, nearly all of his MC’s were female.

    I do think that girls are encouraged to read fiction more than boys are though. Wasn’t it Jane Austen who said something along the lines of men read history and women read fiction:

    “I read it [history] a little as a duty, but it tells me nothing that does not either vex or weary me. The quarrels of popes and kings, with wars or pestilences, in every page; the men all so good for nothing, and hardly any women at all — it is very tiresome: and yet I often think it odd that it should be so dull, for a great deal of it must be invention.” – Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey.

    I think some things never change, especially archaic stereotypes.

  19. It seems this experience isn’t unique. Here’s Australian (male) author Will Kostakis with his view:

    http://lifestyle.ninemsn.com.au/article.aspx?id=8961973

  20. I think the archetypes matter. Throughout history, there are men who wear gowns for g. sake, who wear tiaras, who drip with lace cuffs and jabots. The founders of the USA were ridiculous in their hosiery and flounced coats and feathered hats that outdid Mme Pompedor. The pope dressed in a cassock with red shoes and there is the disgusting 6 yard long red ‘cappa de …’ whatever it is called, that Cardinal Burke likes to wear to Mass like he is head princess instead of a self named ‘prince of the church.’ There are the leather ruffles of Roman warriors and their embossed armcuffs of metal flowers. there are the fantastic phantasies of feather headdresses for the el jefe of Teotehuacan. There are the dainty diamond sandals of the kings of Judea, and King David played the tambourine right smart theysay, and the wrap around shawls of the sephardi are the same as those worn by women. No, it is not about clothing. If it were, Alexander would be a pansy a– and earrings toting Ghengis Kahn would be a sugarplum fairy.

    Warrior archetype before the say 1980s in western world, was pronounced by Freud, Jung, Rank and Adler as male. Women busted up the boy’s club in the late 70s and 80s, by saying women were also warriors, get the h out of our way. They were accused of being balabustas, but they in fact were acting as warriors. Truth is archetypally, yes, any gender can be warrior. Culturally, no. Culture is vapid in its understanding of the power of archetype and its application to all souls. The many means and flaws attributed to ‘princess’ are actually not the archetype. Princess is a title, not a huge force psychically as are archetypes that show up in dreams and in daylight, having numinous effect on humans. More so, ‘princes and princesses and stepmothers and antagonists and etc, more properly fall into categories of monstrous enchantment, enchanted obsessive, victim, warrior, orphan, redeemer etc.

    Then there are the crosssexual and the variably sexed and the androgenous protagonists who can also be part of the archetype of victim, redeemer, warrior, sycophant, ruler/warrior etc.

    I tend to thing girls are taught early on by television and advertising to think about things in a narrow scope, theiving from them their natural broad and deep curiousity, and their parents often not realizing their children are being stolen from them in spirit, right beneath their noses. I’ve rarely heard a grown woman say I wish i could be a girl again with my dolls and pink tutu and chasing boys around. More often I’ve heard, I wish I had started, done, x and y, and not been distracted by being told I had to fit in, be and look like z and q, and pretend I had no pain, and no real ambition.

    For boys, I’d say exactly the same in different terms. I wonder does anyone notice that some parents egg their children to abandon themselves to meet parental expectations, good or nil, even though parents may think they are befriending their child rather than guiding them for the rough roads ahead with quite a few days of sun and stars?

    • More often I’ve heard, I wish I had started, done, x and y, and not been distracted by being told I had to fit in, be and look like z and q, and pretend I had no pain, and no real ambition.

      Nailed it, USAF. This is the bigger problem. I was often told by my mother (not my dad though) that I couldn’t like Star Trek because no one would like me. That started when I was four.

      Over the years, add on “you can’t be better than boys because they don’t like that”, “can’t be smarter than boys”, “you need to lose weight to attract a boy”, “when are you ever going to get married”, etc.

      Now pile on the teachers at school. “Your daughter is too smart for her own good” is my personal favorite, but it’s only one of many through the years.

      Yeah, there’s a reason women are messed up. Some of us are strong enough to throw off that BS and find our own path, but some people need a little encouragement.

      • Suzan, from reading you here, I definitely dig that you are ‘too smart for your own good.’ Fly that flag. It’s a great one. Signals others of like-kind. Waving at you…

    • Suburbanbanshee

      The cappa magna or “great cape” is a survival of the big parade cloaks that used to be fairly popular among European nobles (and particularly the Irish). Basically it’s a cape with a long train, suitable for draping over your horse, and which then gives a role to all your retainers when you get on solid ground (they can carry your cape’s train).

      Cardinals traditionally wear them on certain public formal occasions, because it’s annoying to go a long way to see a cardinal, and then not be able to tell which little guy in vestments 1000 yards away is the actual cardinal, as opposed to just some guy. It also represents the cardinal’s willingness to be martyred, and conveniently makes you a highly visible target.

      Cardinal Burke wears it because nobody else was doing it, it keeps a legal tradition alive, and somebody gave him one.

      • Thanks Suburbanbanshee. I appreciate esp that you remembered the name of it.

        We might differ on Burke’s motives now that the Pope has publicly demoted him for his — well, its prob too off topic here. lol

        Thanks again. And appreciate the part about the horse, that I can see visually.

        Incidentally did anyone ever tell you you are a logical and lyrical descriptive writer?

  21. “Girl things” and “boy things” are cultural, not biological.

    When I was young, I played with toy cars (I had a massive number of Matchbox vehicles, back when they came packaged in a matchbox), collected baseball cards, played softball and tag football, and climbed trees. I also read anything and everything I could get my hands on, and often could be found way up in my favorite tree, reading all the SF, fantasy and horror books.

    My next door neighbor had Barbies, but loved her G. I. Joe dolls* much more. I didn’t care for Barbie, but Joe was awesome. He could ride my model horses!

    I tried to raise my sons as children, not just boys. I allowed them to play with whatever they wanted, and they had dolls, trucks, stuffed animals, and so on. I let them read whatever they wanted, and watch cartoons of all sorts, not just stuff made for boys. They sometimes wore pink or purple shirts. I don’t think it harmed them any.

    *You can call them action figures if it makes you feel better, but they are dolls.

    Edited to add: My father had four girls and two boys. He didn’t treat us any differently because of our gender. We girls fixed cars, did yard work and home repairs, and played as roughly as any boy we knew. We all turned out to be independent, capable, caring people.

    • ‘Girl things and boy things are cultural and not biological’?

      News flash: both have, quite literally, different biological ‘things’. And that’s only what is visible on the outside. Inside both sexes have vastly differing chemicals coursing through their bodies that result in different likes and dislikes.

      I understand your media driven desire for equality, but some biological basics should not be ignored while you peddle your ideology.

      For the record, as a male my favorite book growing up was a picture book of the musical GREASE. I think I had a thing for Olivia Newton John, or maybe John Travolta, who knows.

    • “Girl things” and “boy things” are cultural, not biological.

      That theory exploded when I became a father. From a early age, my son and daughter settled into the expected roles. The boy played with guns — he made one out of legos when he was three — is inherently mechanical and definitely masculine. The girl adores fashion and was wowed by Orlando Bloom.

      Blame TV? Can’t. We didn’t have cable, and a limited diet of DVDs (it was interesting to note they rarely wanted to watch them, even though we had plenty of family-friendly movies and animated features to watch).

      Now, I’m not saying that they’re locked into gender roles. To preserve their privacy I won’t go into details. Nor am I saying that boys should always be boys and girls should always be girls. But it’s not 100% nature or 100% nurture. It’s different for every person. And behavior can be modified according to what goes on in the family (we expected everyone to learn how to cook, and to cook for themselves, for example).

      But children are not a blank slate that society writes on, and not everything that is written remains. I learned that watching my children grow up.

      • Historically speaking, men who acted like women were unlikely to have kids; either they wouldn’t get any women, or they’d be eaten by the first sabre-tooth tiger they came across. Less true on the female side, as men who acted like men would make babies with anything, but women who went off hunting rather than looking after their kids wouldn’t have many surviving descendants, as the sabre-tooth tiger would have eaten the kids by the time they got back.

        So, if there is any genetic basis for behaviour, there’s clearly a strong evolutionary pressure for male and female behaviour to diverge.

      • That’s reasoned Bill. Thanks. And I agree having boys, now grown, in our family. Id say however, that the depth of aggression and daring is often in our girls too, though I have to say, loud noises as in blowing things up, seems mostly to the boyish heart, lol.

        I’d also add that vonClausewitz, the great war strategist whose incisive and brutal tropes are still taught at military… considered himself an artist of ‘moral’ ideas about war. Tough and ready and yet had this odd idea -to some- that war had a philosophical [psychological] aspect that had to be understood, what some would attribute to feminine nature of inquiry into feelings, fears, angers and etc. Interesting world we live in.

  22. Funny story. My immigrant parents, being both frugal and not entirely versed in the cultural nuances of American elementary school, would without fail buy me the most girly school supplies. I’m talking Hello Kitty and Lisa Frank. I had purple unicorn folders and sparkly pencils. They bought these because they were on sale and could get all their shopping done for me and my sister in one trip to the store. The girls thought she was a rock star. The boys thought I was…something else.

    Honestly, I didn’t feel ashamed. I felt like I was supposed to feel ashamed, but instead was annoyed that people kept staring at my damn folders (and asking me about my bright yellow Mork & Mindy lunchbox and matching Thermos, which was a hand me down). I didn’t pick the stuff that I was using. It’s what I had, and I had to make do with it. After a few years, I found that I didn’t really care anymore. And others didn’t care either. They had better things to do, and my parents saved some cash. Everyone won.

    I think that it’s bad enough that publishers push the notion of gendered reading. It stems from high up, with executive editors, and pervades all the way down to how agents look for new clients. It’s a double shame when a school prevents students from having a really cool experience with an author who wants to encourage them, simply because they’re boys and not girls.

    • Umm. The publishers publish what sells. Can you change the reading public? More women read novels than men. Women like to read about women. They like to read books that let them identify with the heroine and dream a little (or whatever happens in 50 Shades). Probably men do the same sort of thing with the books they favor.

      So blame it on the readers!

      • What does this have to do with the comment, or the original article?

      • So blame it on the readers!

        The readers don’t know what is in their own best interest. They need enlightened experts to make decisions for them. These experts will decide what attitudes and ideas are acceptable and lead to perfection of society. The experts will then attempt to control the production and consumption of books.

        God Bless the experts, for they shelter us in their wisdom.

    • I love that story R.

    • I’m so sorry, Reinhardt. I would have loved the Hello Kitty stuff. My mother, being a card-caring racist, wouldn’t let me because it came from Japan. If we’d gone to the same school, I would have traded with you in a heartbeat.

  23. From various postings I have seen on multiple venues over the last few months, I have a spculation that the GamerGate controversy is beginning to spread beyond games.

    • The internet has made it a lot easier to air grievances and old wounds that have festered for too long. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

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