Today’s extensive coverage of the latest book related crusade, the ‘Let Books Be Campaign’ made me nod in exuberant agreement. At last someone speaking up about the ridiculous sexist nature of our children’s books. Boys like trains, girls like fairies? Could it be that girls like trains and boys like fairies?
However, one quick scan of my children’s book case and I see a prominent demarcation; half girly – ponies, rainbows, rabbits; and one half overrun with diggers, pirates and dinosaurs who poop planets. But do I care?
Well, no actually. Not in the least. I am perfectly content with my five-year old daughter reading ‘Evie the Magic Fairy Pixie Dancing Sparkling Pony’, as I am with my four-year old son, digesting his encyclopedic texts on 19th century steam trains. They both listen to their stories with wide-eyes and questioning tongues. I’m not about the say to my son, “Right then sonny, time to listen to the one about the ballet dancing poodle who paints his nails mauve and lives in magic Froo Froo Land.”
What’s important to me is whether my children enjoy their stories and how their imagination develops accordingly. Each night I ask them both which story would they like me to read and it’s not always entirely predictable. Some nights, my daughter will stare at her brother’s picture book about modern transport and others she will ask for Rapunzel. It matters not in the least to me.
Girls and boys are different. They are not the same beast with different private parts. Boys are born with more testosterone than girls (I think) and for anyone with a husband whose penis has prodded them in the back whilst they breastfeed their newborn child will testify, male and female needs are different.
However, don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting we adhere to societal stereotypes in the Twigg household. Not at all. I can quite often be heard telling me daughter that, whilst she could be a princess one day, she could also be a doctor. Or a pilot. Or a CEO of a football club. If she wanted. Her choice. My son loves to dance and my husband and I happily sit and watch him perform his rendition of Swan Lake as the Tangled soundtrack plays in the background.
Although I admire the aims of the Let Books be Books campaign, I’m not sure whether urging publishers to quit labelling books as ‘for boys’ or ‘for girls’ is a tad simplistic and naïve. I can’t be certain, but I’m willing to take a punt that a pink, sparkly sticker book for girls will sell considerably more copies that a neutral-coloured non-gender specific sticker book with unicorns, dollies and puppies AND cars, robots and hammers.
As a writer of children’s books (ok, I’m writing my first one!), today’s news leaves me a little confused. One side of me wants to make my heroine asexual, rambunctious and tom-boy like but I worry that publishers won’t be able to sell another deliberately PC book about a chopsy female. Aren’t you bored with Disney’s constant flow of animated heroines who are slim, big-boobed, and pretty BUT have massive balls too? Yaaawn! Can you see my dilemma?
I do not think my choice of bedtime story will restrict my children’s future career options nor make them oppressive, intolerant individuals. Until such a time, I won’t limit my daughter’s aspirations to activities labelled girly; I will surely indulge her penchant for fairies, princesses, pink shit and glitter. Equally, my son can dress up in his sister’s skirts but I’m happiest when I see him shooting people in the street with his plastic pirate pistol, bam, bam, bam!