It was Thursday, February 26th. Shannon Hale, author of the Princess Academy series, Austenland and book 4 of the Spirit Animals series, among many other titles, wrote a piece about a certain problematic encounter during her tour for her latest book, Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, on her Tumblr. And IT IS NOT OKAY.
Apparently Hale talked to a gathering of 3rd to 8th graders and halfway through her presentation she noticed that the back rows, which were populated by older students, were all girls. It was confirmed by a teacher that “the administration only gave permission to the middle school girls to leave class for [her] assembly.” What’s worse was—and, yes, it did get worse—that same teacher had a boy student who is “a huge fan of Spirit Animals” and “[she] got a special permission for him to come, but he was too embarrassed.”
It’s bad enough when a child feels that he/she must be ashamed of what he/she reads or likes. It escalates to another level of horror when adults reinforce this kind of ideology. Adults who easily dismiss and are like, “oh look. She’s a woman and her titles have the word princess on them and most feature girls on the cover, so maybe we should pigeonhole her as for-girls-only. Or no wait. We should definitelypigeonhole her as for-girls-only.” Not only do you impress—and AT AN EARLY AGE, mind you—upon these kids that boys CANNOT and SHOULD NOT like books about girls or princesses but also that the male experience is universal, which anyone can relate to, but not the female’s. This aggravates me. Because, clearly, this does not solely affect Shannon Hale—and a long list of other female authors with the same experience—but also the boys who were left out. As Rebecca Schinsky of Book Riot said in the site’s recent podcast episode, “this kind of sexist behavior also robs boys of something.” That “it’s bad for everyone. This is how another generation of boys who become men get raised thinking that their stories are different from women’s stories or that they don’t need to pay attention to girl stories.” IT IS TERRIBLE.
So naturally this had me thinking: who are the female protagonists in literature that ARE NOT “For Girls Only.” Whose being female did not stop them from being read across readers of all genders.
Here is the result (in no particular order):
Click the image for the source.
Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins)
Hermoine Granger (Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling)
Alice (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Lewis Carroll)
Who did I miss, fellow bloggers and booksworms? And what ridiculous explanation do you think the administration has for this? (Because they have to have an explanation, no matter how warped.) Do you agree that there are boy/girl books?* Sound off in the comments below!
*That is rhetorical. Really really.