For Girls Only

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.

Danaerys Targaryen   Scout Finch   Amy Dunne

Danaerys Targaryen (A Song of Ice and Fire series, George R. R. Martin)
Scout Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee)
Amy Elliott Dunne (Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn)

Katniss Everdeen   Hermoine Granger   Alice\

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)

Matilda Wormwood   Lyra Belacqua   Coraline

Matilda Wormwood (Matilda, Roald Dahl)
Coraline (Coraline, Neil Gaiman)
Lyra Belacqua (His Dark Materials trilogy, Phillip Pullman)

Elizabeth Bennet   Jane Eyre   Lisbeth Salander

Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë)
Lisbeth Salander (Millennium series, Stieg Larsson)

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.

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23 thoughts on “For Girls Only

  1. MUCH AGREEMENT. I mean, as a girl, I gobble up any and all sorts of (good) books, and I assume that boys feel similarly. (Although the book blogging community where I frequent is rather female-dominated … hmmm.) And lovely, lovely examples.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I completely agree. The book blogging community is dominated by women but I love when male bloggers are open and want to read books like Jane Eyre, which is considered to be for females.
        Great post!
        P.S I’m doing a giveaway if you like to enter x

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally agree. At a boys’ school it’s not very accepted or cool to love reading let alone read a book that may be aimed at girls or have a mainly female domination. I wish everyone could just love literature for literature. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Liam! I just wish people would stop and, like, for once be slow to hand out judgement. This, however, is a product of piles and piles of “traditional” perceived gender roles and biases. And it’s on us to speak up and, in our own little ways, fight to change this. Who is your favorite female character?

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  3. I AGREE! NO BOOKD ARE “JUST FOR GIRLS” OR “JUST FOR BOYS”. That drives me absolutely insane when that happens. I read the CHERBU series by Robert Muchamore when I was younger and it’s pitched as “books for boys” and that’s so offensive. I loved them. I think society is becoming more aware that we shouldn’t have this walls and boundaries between genders and that’s fantastic, but we have a loooooong way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed! A looooooong way indeed. And it really is something that we are making a mark though, if little by little. It we continue this progress, imagine how the world will work in a couple of decades.

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  4. This post deserves a standing ovation. In my class, I’m practically the only boy who avidly reads while the others are into sports, video games, etc. And I am completely okay with that. What I’m not okay is when they start discriminating me for reading and loving a novel. It’s weird how society especially here in the Philippines thinks.

    Reading is for EVERYBODY. Books are for ANYBODY who wants to read them.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I read Shannon’s post too and I wish everyone would read it and realize its importance. Labelling books as ‘For Girls Only’ is exactly why some genres are read by too few boys. We need to stop putting books (and honestly, almost everything) in boxes and teaching everyone to keep their minds and hearts open.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I totally understand where you’re coming from. I’ve never experience this since I am matter-of-factly a girl. I’m also in an all girl school so I don’t have much guy friends who read books like I do. It’s kinda stupid when you judge a boy from reading cuz I kinda find it hot when I guy reads because they omit that classiness. HAHA If the genre action, were only for boys, I’m going to lose it. Most books have action now so they’re actually trying to push buyers away and then the whole sales will just utterly drop. Great post!

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    Liked by 1 person

    1. Did you just make an allusion that I’m hot? I know, I know. Thank you Chyna! *Winks.* But srsly. Thank you for the comment! I’d like to think that gone were the days that action (in general) is For Boys Only but, alas, there are still who cling to that opinion. BUT we must admit, things have shifted recently, and will continue to do so, I believe. We’re in an equally frustrating and fortunate time, barriers are breaking, sure, but we still got a loooong way to go.

      PS. On the flip side of your situation, were you ever given the sideways glance for reading a specific book? If so, what was it? I’m curious.

      Like

  7. I think there’s a definite drop-off point where girl protagonists are concerned. A lot of the books you mention feature a child protagonist – an age where femininity is not a threat yet because girls haven’t learned what that term means yet. And often these girls are written as androgynous or frumpy (Scout, Hermione, Matilda)

    Then they hit puberty and WHAM! That boundary is definite. And Hale’s books are in this kind of in between zone.

    I’m not sure that Austen/Bronte are quite removed from their gender stigma yet – in the only Victorian lit class I have taken, there was only one guy.

    And aside from those, almost all the other examples are from action/thriller genres. Because reading a book about a girl is okay if it also contains violence and explosions, which also make the female characters a little more masculine. The Hunger Games deals with this really well in some ways, like the emphasis on Katniss’ love life in intrusive ways and her objectification across Panem when she’s on screen, especially in that dress and she awkwardly twirls around…

    This ended up rather lengthy, maybe I should make it into a post, haha. Glad you brought up this issue though – I also saw the tumblr posts you allude to and it is heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thank you for this, Shannon! Clearly, you are more insightful than I had been in this matter. Yeah, I totally agree with the Katniss assessment. And yes, just heartbreaking. Especially the boy who waited for the crowd to dissipate!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. YES YES YES AND YES. ALL THE CHARACTERS AND ALL THE THINGS YOU SAID. I mean, I was actually reading this article last month (no idea where it went) but this writer was talking about how frustrated she was, because yeah, she was making money, but she hated that all her books were getting put into the “Women’s Fiction” of the bookstore—not because of the content, but because she, the author was a woman. Which isn’t right at all.

    Like you mentioned, I think this really takes away from boys and men, if they think that women’s fiction is different, or if it’s “stupid” that they like something that a girl wrote or if it has girl characters who aren’t made of cardboard and Elmer’s glue. I mean, guys are going to be working alongside, marrying, serving, and merely living with women every day in their lives, so it totally makes sense to me that boys should get to and enjoy reading about awesome ladies in literature.

    Also, I mean, if girls can read “guy books” and still be girly, it makes no sense that the reverse would suddenly be true. I read about as much “Captain Underpants” as can be healthy for a first-grader and yet here I am.

    I super loved this post, though… Hooray for awesome female characters/authors and the guys who love them. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s absolutely absurd to make assumptions about boys not liking a “girl” book or vice versa. Can’t we all just read whatever the heck we want and not stereotype or make others feel bad for liking it? Honestly. My little brother and I are constantly giving each other recommendations for books with male AND female protagonists. Some of his favorite books are the Zita the Spacegirl and Smile graphic novels featuring, you guessed it, GIRLS. *sarcastic gasp of horror* I’ve also written books that, if we were stereotyping, would be incredibly girly. It’s a middle-grade trilogy about unicorns featuring a cast of mostly female characters. He loves it.

    Some of my favorite books are the Percy Jackson series. Percy’s a boy, there’s action and adventure, there’s blood and war and all sorts of “boy” stuff in it. I still like it. Why wouldn’t I? It’s a great series!

    Blargh, stories like that make me mad. Books should offer safety and comfort. You shouldn’t feel like you have to hide what you’re reading.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First, let me give you All The Hugs, Kate, for liking The Great PJO Series!! Next, because you and your brother are bookish AND awesome!

      I feel like “[feeling] like you have to hide what you’re reading” equates to having to hide a part of you that is just as wonderful. In an ideal world, this sad reality doesn’t exist. But this is not an ideal world. So it is on us who care to make the reading community as safe as we can make it. Safe for everyone to feel good with what they read, to feel good about themselves.

      Like

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