I work with children during the summer, and it’s always fascinating to see the natural patterns of how children behave. Some things are very common amongst any group of children. For example, teams. Children can be obsessed with teams, in almost any activity where some level of competition comes into play. They want to make it absolutely clear who is on their team, or whose team they are on, and what the teams are. They will announce these points, multiple times.* And young kids will divide themselves into Boys and Girls, without any sort of prompting. Even despite prompting to the contrary.
So if your goal is to convince a young boy that a certain book or story “is for girls” and he shouldn’t try it, sadly, you won’t have work very hard.
However, I have absolutely no clue why you would ever have this goal.
I mean, even as a kid, neither a female author nor a female protagonist would keep me from reading something. Perhaps this came from the fact that one of my bigger literary influences in my childhood was my older sister. She would read something and then pass it off to me. So that would include things like Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret or the Flowers In The Attic and its many sequels.
I don’t think it ever occurred to me that I “shouldn’t” read any of those things, and that carried through with me to this day. I can’t imagine limiting what I would read based on such a thing. Are there really sci-fi fans who’ve skipped, say Xenogenesis or Parable of the Sower because Octavia Butler and her female protagonists might give them cooties?
A few months ago Maureen Johnson put together a series of how covers of certain classics
might look if the gender of the author had been flipped. Sadly… it looks pretty accurate. And covers can easily influence if people will read a book or not.**
Same goes for movies or television. Two of the best new shows I saw in 2013 were Orphan Black and Orange is the New Black***, both shows dominated by female characters. I never once felt like these shows “weren’t for me” or some nonsense like that. They were amazing work and I cannot imagine ignoring it because a women were at the center.
So, I’m really, honestly curious: who out there is honestly not reading or watching something because of the gender of the author or the main character? And if so, why?
I really want to know.
*- Also: kids repeat themselves. A lot.
**- I’m not immune. Heck, I love Julie Kenner’s Demon Hunting Soccer Mom books— not to mention Julie Kenner personally, as she is one of my heroes– but I don’t think I can get myself to read her Shadow Keeper books with covers that are all faceless, shirtless men.
***- I claim no credit for this, as I read it elsewhere, but if Orphan Is The New Black — a show in which Tatiana Maslany plays every character in a women’s prison — was something that could exist, I would think it was the best show ever.