“”When I was about 20 years old, I met an old pastor’s wife who told me that when she was young and had her first child, she didn’t believe in striking children, although spanking kids with a switch pulled from a tree was standard punishment at the time. But one day, when her son was four or five, he did something that she felt warranted a spanking–the first in his life. She told him that he would have to go outside himself and find a switch for her to hit him with. The boy was gone a long time. And when he came back in, he was crying. He said to her, “Mama, I couldn’t find a switch, but here’s a rock that you can throw at me.” All of a sudden the mother understood how the situation felt from the child’s point of view: that if my mother wants to hurt me, then it makes no difference what she does it with; she might as well do it with a stone. And the mother took the boy into her lap and they both cried. Then she laid the rock on a shelf in the kitchen to remind herself forever: never violence. And that is something I think everyone should keep in mind. Because if violence begins in the nursery one can raise children into violence.””
— Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, 1978 Peace Prize Acceptance Speech (via withoutawarning)
I don’t know if rape jokes encourage rape culture. I don’t care. You still shouldn’t tell them.
Statistically, if you have told a rape joke to a group of more than five people, one of the people you told it to was a rape survivor, possibly of multiple rapes. They will not necessarily disclose this to you; rape apologism is endemic in society and most rape survivors are cautious about whom they tell. Some may even be too ashamed of their rape to admit it to anyone, or because of rape-minimizing narratives like “men can’t be raped” and “I consented to oral, so I couldn’t have been raped” may not admit it even to themselves. The fact remains: if you’ve told dozens of rape jokes in your life, then you have almost certainly told a joke that minimizes or trivializes rape in front of a survivor.
And if you put as your Facebook status “I totally raped at Halo today” for your two hundred Facebook friends to see, statistically, you have just reminded thirty-three people of one of the worst experiences of their entire lives.
I wrote a big long post that I just deleted because I know people will get mad, so I think I’ll break it down into bite-sized chunks.
1. There are boy books and there are girl books.
2. How do I know this? Because publishers enforce this idea with their covers, and by publishing around 95% girl protagonists, a figure I made up just now but which is probably accurate. Walk into any YA section and see dozens of girl’s faces staring back at you, sometimes with dresses, sometimes with flowers, maybe a girl staring down forlornly into a dark pool and seeing her own face, or something.
3. Publishers do this because most YA buyers are girls. And most of them are adults.
4. Publishers do this because they’re appealing to the largest segment of the market.
5. Boys like to read, too, but there aren’t enough of them. Because they’re playing Xbox, or Playstation if they’re a noob.
6. Boys will be ridiculed for reading a girly book. I was. It is a fact of life. It will be this way for a long time. Saying it shouldn’t be this way does nothing.
7. Boys like fantasies too. Don’t get it twisted: We want to be the hero. There aren’t many books at that age where we can be the hero.
8. Pretending boys and girls aren’t different, and don’t like different things, is, quite frankly, weird.
9. Pretending publishers don’t see that girls and boys like different things, and don’t choose books that will appeal to the largest buying audience, is weirder.
10. Publishers will not suddenly start putting out more books that boys might relate to, because the readers simply aren’t there.
11. That’s all right. They will find what they like. They’ll just have to look a little harder, or jump up to adult.
12. I hope you have a great day!
EDIT: After posting this, I realized my title is kind of misleading. There are also books that aren’t really boy books or girl books, but ARE just books. My problem is that people pretend like the majority of YA isn’t targeting girls.
But… just because it’s the way things are and always have been done by industry leaders doesn’t mean it’s right or healthy, or that it shouldn’t be challenged by those both within and outside of the industry.
This issue has much bigger implications.
If I replaced the words “boy” and “girl” in Dan’s post with “black” and “white”, respectively, it might be more glaringly obvious that this is a problem in the industry and society that needs to be addressed.
If I replaced the words “boy” and “girl” with “homosexual” and “heterosexual,” it might be more glaringly obvious that this is a problem in the industry and society that needs to be addressed.
If I replaced the words “books” and “publishers” with “jobs” and “companies,” or replaced “books” with “acceptable roles within the family unit,” it might be more glaringly obvious that this is a problem in the industry and society that needs to be addressed.
So please trust me when I say that gendering books (and toys, games, movies, videogames, colors, etc.) is a problem (and not simply because it renders transgendered kids nonexistent).
Any time we start dividing readers into groups by social- and culturally-dictated “opposites,” and accepting it as simply “the way it is,” or worse — using the default “but that’s how they make the most money” justification — we’re adding to the problem, reinforcing stereotypes and diverting attention from more important considerations, such as:
Okay, this is how it’s been done in the past. How can we move forward in a new, more inclusive, more supportive way? How can we encourage the natural curiosity and sense of unbiased exploration inherent in all children (before society starts bashing it out of them) so that they can be empowered to pick up any book, to connect with and root for (or despise, if that’s the case) any protagonist, whether or not that protagonist fits socially constructed gender, race, cultural, socioeconomic, sexual orientation, religious, or any other prescribed characteristics shared by the reader? How can we foster reading in a safe environment that discourages mockery and isolation? How can we introduce readers to people who are different from them so that in life, we can introduce people to people who are different from them?
I don’t have the answers, but it’s an important discussion. And I guarantee the solution isn’t more market segmentation and segregation.
“I am going to be rather hard-nosed and say that if you have to find devices to coax yourself to stay focused on writing, perhaps you should not be writing what you’re writing. And, if this lack of motivation is a constant problem, perhaps writing is not your forte. I mean, what is the problem? If writing bores you, that is pretty fatal. If that is not the case, but you find that it is hard going and it just doesn’t flow, well, what did you expect? It is work; art is work. Nobody ever said it was easy. What they said is: “Life is short, art is long.”—Ursula K. Le Guin (via writingquotes)
White guys are so proud of their ability to be not offended. When one of them tells a rape joke or uses a racial slur, they wink and pat themselves on the back and give endless attaboys for their superior skills in being not offended. They decry the “politically correct” society they find themselves in and look down on anyone who has the lack of fortitude to be offended by anything.
Of course, what allows them to be not offended at rape jokes and racial slurs is that they are not targeted at them. For white guys, these are fun toys to play with; while for much of the rest of the world, they are tools of violence and oppression. Not just relics of the past, but very much alive and well today. So, then, the magical quality that allows these guys to remain so aloof and above-it-all is, quite simply, privilege.
And if you want to watch hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance in action, simply bring up privilege to these not offended white guys and see how fast and hard they become offended. Privilege is a concept so simple and obvious that most social scientists take it as axiomatic, but the mere mention of it gets these guys worked up into a rage. They’re so proud of their ability to be not offended by oppressive language and stereotypes, but they’ll be damned if you point out why. Funny. It’s almost as if they are the beneficiaries of systems of oppression and want to subtly encourage those systems so as to continue benefiting, while simultaneously stifling all mention of those systems, so as to mollify their fragile egos and underused consciences.
But by all means; continue to congratulate yourself on your superior ability to be not offended by oppression and cruelty.