I think my biggest problem with genderisation of books is that I just don’t ‘get it’. This may have something to do with having a mildly autistic brain which doesn’t understand a lot of things, and according to this unscientific BBC quiz I have a perfectly average male brain so I really don’t ‘get’ girly-ness either.
I follow a lot of people on Twitter who post about everyday sexism and most of it is geared against women, but it does work both ways. I consider myself a feminist, and I believe part of this is to uphold the equality of the sexes therefore (for example) adverts where men are portrayed as being incapable of certain tasks that women can do easily is as sexist as women being portrayed as sex objects and both ideas need to be scrubbed out of everyday normalcy. I also believe in freedom of speech and support everyone’s right to an opinion; where is the line between ‘a bit of fun’ and ‘a serious problem’?
Despite all the negative sexism against women in the world, women (in the western world at least) hold a lot more power than men when it comes to genderisation. Women can wear trousers or skirts; women can play with trains or dolls; women can wear jewellery or not, have long or short hair, wear makeup or not… In general a girl who plays with trucks is not considered something less than a girl, or any more likely to prefer members of her own gender in relationships; but a boy who plays with dolls is steered away from such things because it’s not manly and he’s bound to turn out gay. Although why a person’s sexual preference is a problem is a whole other rant.
Both genders get an unfair deal when it comes to characterisation in fiction. The female leads are just looking for Prince Charming to look after them (no personality required); and the male leads have to be tough and emotionless. Fortunately there are thousands of books that break this mould and give us well-rounded, independent and individual personalities (male and female). But it’s still a hard sell to convince boys to read books with a female lead because of the inherent sexist beliefs that have permeated their upbringing.
Then there is marketing. If you work on the assumption that the average family is made of two children, one male and one female, then in order to sell more books (toys, clothes, toiletries, bedding, yogurts…) it makes perfect sense to market certain things as “girls” and others as “boys” because the proletariat are mindless drones who buy into the pink and blue genderisation of everything aren’t they? Hmmm…
I don’t understand this either. I don’t believe anyone is inherently mindless. I do believe that the aim of any government is to make mass schooling into a system that produces mindless drones but I don’t believe it’s worked yet. So where does buying into genderisation seep into mass consciousness? Why do marketers answer the genderisation question with “It’s what parents have asked for”?
I don’t have any answers, only questions. It’s something I think about regularly and plan to explore and write about more than I currently do. Carmen at Rhino Reads writes far more eloquently than I, and I thoroughly recommend her post on The Gender Game.