An interruption to #RevisionFest2013 has been called to bring you the following diatribe:
This morning I was flexing my fingers, getting ready to dive into the mountain of revisions awaiting me, when I saw a tweet float by in my stream. And I couldn’t let it go without comment. (And yes, the reason I was on Twitter was to state that #RevisionFest2013 had begun.) Normally, I watch tweets float by and can let them go, even when I feel the person is expressing a viewpoint different to mine. Because that’s what makes the world turn. Every person is entitled to their opinion and are free to express it. Just as I am free to disagree … which is what I did in this case, as you can see from the tweet conversation to the left.
The tweet that started this rant (in case you have difficulty reading in graphic form): Here is the book poster I have in my room. “Books everyone should read.” I’m done with most of the “non-girly” ones. I did try to let it go, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me. I’m not going to rehash my response on Twitter, but two things bothered me about the post. First — the obvious issue with “non-girly”. It is 2013 and we still haven’t gotten beyond denigrating things because they are associated with girls. Which is depressing for us as a society. When roughly half the population is disparaged for something out of everyone’s control, because not one of us chose to be born a girl or boy, and for those who might think I’m on a “man-hate” rant … I hear almost as much gender disparagement from women as I do from men. It’s what we’ve been taught. And it’s time to break through the barrier and realize regardless of whether born male or female, what matters is what we accomplish with our lives.
Am I saying there are no differences between men and women? Certainly not. There are differences. What I am saying is the differences don’t make one better than another. Why don’t we refer to things as boyly, since we have no problem classifying things as being girly? And back to the books, I have never seen a book with a gender. Ever. The purpose of a book is to be read. Period. They don’t come with a security system designed to only allow the “right type” to read them. No one has to go through a certification process aimed at determining whether the book is the “right” material for them. Whether they are worthy of reading it. Nor should there be a capricious determination based on genetic sex on whether the book should be read.
And how do we categorize books for targeting a specific sex anyway? Start with the protagonist? If male then it’s for boys … if female, it’s for girls? Where does that leave us with books like Animal Farm and Watership Down? Do we assign the pigs to the boys pile and the rabbits to the girls (because obviously bunnies are fluffier than pigs, so more girly, right?)? And what in the world do with do with Winnie the Pooh, that silly ol’ bear? Boys, because Pooh Bear belongs to a boy? Oh, but wait, stuffed animals are more a girls realm, aren’t they? (In case you missed it, sarcasm is dripping off those words.) Newsflash! — Books don’t care whether you are a boy, a girl, the abominable snowman, or an alien. Books are there to be read by anyone who finds them fascinating.
The second thing that bothered me about the post was the pride it showed in having read most of the books. Having read the majority of the books on the poster IS an accomplishment, and one any person should be proud to make. And yet, instead of making a simple statement of pride, it was tarnished by forcing stereotypes onto a list of great books. Which is sad.
Update: The educator did come back and state the quote was from a student. And left the question of Pride and Prejudice? I did respond it was not apparent in the initial post the quote was from a student. And I still take exception to the thought that books are gender specific. If we take a gender specific approach to reading, we’d all be much poorer for it. Books classified as being for boys or girls hurts society as a whole by not only perpetuating stereotypical roles, but cutting readers off from a wealth of experience.
Click the picture below to bring up the poster of titles.