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To opt out is to ignore

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
2 min read

Kate Taylor writing in The Globe and Mail on The Independent’s decision to not review books that are targeted at one gender:

If you don’t ever review the Thea Stilton series, a pink-covered spinoff from the successful Geronimo Stilton series (about the adventures of a literary mouse), you never get to discuss why targeting the stories about the female character exclusively at girls is an offensively limiting move. Old media still largely ignore the genre fiction, video games and animated franchises that make up our kids’ daily diet in favour of literary fiction and movies for grownups; we need to write critically about youth culture more often, not less.

I agree because let’s face it, the problem isn’t going to go away unless we speak out about it. Gender stereotyping, especially for young girls, is horrendous. And it runs far deeper than the girls must wear pink and boys must wear blue rubbish.

Naturally, I’ve become more aware of the issue since becoming a parent. Go to any supermarket or shop for children and you’ll be amazed at how explicit the gender divide is. Kids really are force-fed the notion that hey, you’re a boy so this is for you (vehicles, dinosaurs, guns), and you’re a girl, so you’ll be wanting this instead (clothes, rainbows, ponies). That boys and girls even have their own sections is a travesty.

I have identical twin boys and they’re almost 18 months. Last week, me and my wife noticed that other boys their age have started wearing more ‘grown-up’ clothes, like trousers and shirts. We wondered if we should start dressing our boys the same.

Then we thought, no, they’re 18 months old. They love animals, dancing, dolls and nonsense. Everything going and nothing in particular.

In the end, we asked ourselves the question: if they could choose their own clothes, what would they wear? Trousers and shirts that make it harder to move because the material has no give? Or those awesome all-in-ones with the fish, the sharks, the pandas, and the flowers on them?

I think it’s great that The Independent recognises the issue of gender bias in the book world, and not reviewing gender-targeted books has brought the problem to people’s attention. But if things are to change, the media and publishers need to speak out loudly and often. To opt out is to ignore.

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I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.