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Sexism and Men's Issues:

Euo will do!
I'm probably showing my age or something... but, when I was at school and learning to read... it was all boy's stuff. tongue

Things about cricket, rugby, going out into the bush, the boring, everyday scenarios and the occasional, overly girly stuff thrown in as an obvious sop (which I hated)... that kind of thing. Boring as all hell, when the really bloodthirsty stuff like myths and legends were not Christian enough to be covered unless they were thinned down to be just as boring as going shopping. tongue

Seriously: myths and legends of the world. There's something for everybody and enough fridge horror and heart-warming to keep everybody glued to the seat, whatever their gender. [lol]

edited 9th Oct '12 2:36:30 AM by Euodiachloris

"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
 1402 Loni Jay, Tue, 9th Oct '12 2:45:20 AM from Australia Relationship Status: Pining for the fjords
Yeah, I don't know if I'd agree that there aren't any books for pre-teen or teenaged boys. We had a fair amount of them in my library; and as a matter of fact our book club seemed to be mostly boys.

Then again, I don't remember ever having 'the magic of reading' pushed on us in high school. We just read the books because they were on the curriculum and we had to do assignments on them, nobody tried to make us like them.
Be not afraid...
[up]I was talking more about late elementary than high school. We didn't have any of that stuff later on either. I'm thinking the age group 10-14 where they're too old for children's books but most aren't up for adult literature yet.

[up][up]Time may be a factor we're talking late 90s early 00s for me. Also being in different countries also matters. "the boring, everyday scenarios" are usually presented as more interesting for girls, and that matches what I saw as well.
 
 1404 Drakyndra, Tue, 9th Oct '12 3:01:32 AM from Somewhere
Her with the hat
Oooh, I can answer this one!

Just the other day someone investigated if there really was a bias in Young Adult books towards girls.

Answer: Going by a sample size of awards nominated YA books since 2000 (since checking every book in the last 12 years is nigh impossible), the answer is... not really, no. There are more male protagonists than female, and while there are slightly more female authors, it isn't by a huge margin.

Personally, I'd argue that the real problem is the social acceptance of reading in young boys: it's one of those things that just isn't seen as "cool", so a lot of boys refuse unless forced to. I agree with Kzickas on this - a lot of it's down to anti-intellectualism and the whole "boys should think sport > everything" attitude.
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I don't think young adult fiction (i.e. kids books) by female authors are necessarily unappealing to boys, either. Animorphs is written by a woman, (at least until the 25th book or so) and that series is about a group of teenage shapeshifters who fight a guerrilla war against evil alien brain slugs trying to conquer Earth. (great series, BTW)

I agree that it's a more of a problem with the attitude towards boys reading and doing other "nerdy" things, rather than a lack of fiction aimed at them.

edited 9th Oct '12 3:16:59 AM by Talby

[up][up]I don't think that article actually says anything very relevant here because I never mentioned the gender of the protagonists. Like the writer of that article I don't believe that protagonist gender is the source of the difference in boys and girls interest in reading. Finding whether there is a difference in the books being interesting to boys and girls is almost impossible to divorce from the difference in interest in reading so it can't really be investigated directly. I guess we could see if there are some books that are as popular with boys as girls (or more popular) and try to get some more like those into schools.

One possible explanation for boys being less engaged by stuff aimed at children is that child care is traditionally seen as feminine which could create an association between things of interest to women and girls and that of interest to children.

[up]Aimed at is not the same as "of interest to". The later requires authors to write what boys want to read not just what the authors believe boys want to read or should want to read.

edited 9th Oct '12 3:28:59 AM by Kzickas

 
Euo will do!
Myself, I think it's a bit much to suggest "well, the teachers are woment, ergo... they're teaching women-interest things". tongue

That's like blaming the primary school teachers for being women, when men prefer to go into secondary or tertairy educational posts, rather. Or, you know... just avoid teaching, full stop, to steer well clear of the the whole pedo-hunt culture. tongue

My point is: there are a lot of factors to consider. And, most of them are to be found outside the classroom.

edited 9th Oct '12 3:33:59 AM by Euodiachloris

"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
I think you misunderstood me. I suggested that the link between women and child care creates a link between women and children in the minds of everyone which could make authors writing for children end up unconsciously writing for women.
 
 1409 Iaculus, Tue, 9th Oct '12 3:37:27 AM from England
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
One possible explanation for boys being less engaged by stuff aimed at children is that child care is traditionally seen as feminine which could create an association between things of interest to women and girls and that of interest to children.

Wait, what? Stuff aimed for children is stuff aimed for children, not stuff aimed for parents or babysitters (beyond, of course, the odd bit of Parent Service). That's some really weird logic there.

And even if there was a slight bias towards female-friendly content (which as a heavy reader since the age of five, I sincerely doubt - for a bit of anecdotal evidence, it was slightly harder to find the girly stuff in my school library), there are billions of books out there, and even if only about forty per cent of them are for guys... well, you can see where I'm going here. It's not like the average boy is going to run out of things to read halfway through Year Six.
Freedom of speech includes the freedom for other people to call you out on your bullshit.
Euo will do!
I'd've thought they'd be trying to write for the children, myself... And, considering the raft of legislation you have to go through to produce books to be used in the classroom, I'm fairly sure bias like that would be found. <shrugs>

The number of things you have to keep in mind when writing for kids these days is... frightening. Reading level is not the only thing you have to balance. <sighs> It takes a certain degree of skill to write anything that isn't as bland as the paper it's printed on. tongue
"When all else failed, she tried being reasonable." ~ Pratchett, Johnny and the Bomb
@Iaculus: The only books in our school library that seemed aimed at boys were a few that involved soccer. I definitely think that children's books are aimed at children, but that doesn't help if the people making them have a wrong impression of what children like.
 
 1412 Iaculus, Tue, 9th Oct '12 4:28:22 AM from England
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
[up]Then assuming you didn't miss the boys' stuff (libraries are pretty big places), and that we're not operating off too narrow a definition of 'boys' stuff' (I doubt anyone would call the Harry Potter series, for instance, unreadably girly, despite it being written by a woman), the problem is distribution, not creation. The books are out there, it's just a matter of what your library chooses to stock. My junior school (age 7-11) library, for instance, had everything from Willard Price to David Eddings to Brian Jarvis to Michael Crichton, with folks like Dick King-Smith for the younger readers, and that's just scraping the surface (IIRC, we even had some Tom Clancy - Red Storm Rising rocked my little eleven-year-old world).
Freedom of speech includes the freedom for other people to call you out on your bullshit.
[up]The harry potter books I would definitely have accepted as aimed towards boys, but they weren't there.

"The books are out there, it's just a matter of what your library chooses to stock."

Exactly, and this discussion was started by me referencing an argument that these books were missing from schools. Maybe your school is representative, maybe mine is. I don't know.

edited 9th Oct '12 4:34:25 AM by Kzickas

 
 1414 Gabrael, Tue, 9th Oct '12 6:24:48 AM Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
A Polar Bear Named Gabrael
I spent a few years as a book employee. There are literally millions of young adult books, most of which are pretty gender neutral. There are a few that happen to appeal more to boys depending on local culture, like Hugo, the Alex Ryder series (by Tom Clancy), Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Cirque du Freak, and a few others. But I had girls who bought these too.

Now a note on school libraries, I've taught seminars in both Wales and America, and I was able to see a bit of the grade school in both areas, only as a student in America though, plus what I've learned since my son started Kindergarden this year:

Different school districts have restrictions on what is deemed acceptable to certain age groups and certain subjects. Especially since budgets are being cut, there isn't the money to restock books the way they would probably like.

For example, the Lord of the Rings Trilogy wasn't available until 8th year for check out. Robert Jordan was banned even in high school due to a few "sex scenes" (the writer said they had sex). More parents over here at least in the South are really restricting what is "safe" for their kids to read. And in our school system, one parent with a big enough mouth is enough to have it banned for the majority.

So more traditionally female enjoyed series like the Saddle Club, Babysitter's Club, and Beverly Clearly's work can get past censors easy. But even a series like Legends of the Guardians can be taken off the shelves. Fear Street, Goosebumps, and whatnot were banned in my school library period.

Which is annoying to say the least because I was the girl bringing my Dad's Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Tom Clancy to school to read at a young age. I had a teacher confiscate my copy of the Shining because I was 12 and "shouldn't be reading such filth". I made the office call my father who was on patrol at the time. I still don't know what my dad said to that principal, but all I know is he walked me back to class and told my teacher to never take a book from me again.
 1415 Iaculus, Tue, 9th Oct '12 6:39:57 AM from England
Pronounced YAK-you-luss
[up]If you'll excuse the pedantry, the Alex Rider series is by Anthony Horowitz, who also does several other YA series and stand-alone books.

Come to think of it, the way male and female readers (especially children) are pigeonholed into liking different things, and how society reacts to those different things (i.e., girls' books being seen as safer and more acceptable, but also tamer and duller), is a topic in and of itself.

edited 9th Oct '12 6:49:55 AM by Iaculus

Freedom of speech includes the freedom for other people to call you out on your bullshit.
 1416 deathpigeon, Tue, 9th Oct '12 6:59:31 AM from Bread, It Is Bread that the Revolution Needs! Relationship Status: One True Dodecahedron
Kaspar the Friendly Spook
If I have kids, which might not happen since I don't trust my parental skills, or if someone close to me, such as a partner, family member, or friend has kids, which is highly likely, I'll get the kids both "boy" and "girl" books, regardless of gender. Not only will it be good for the children to have a wide range or reading material, it would help them make a better informed choice as to what sort of stuff they would enjoy, rather than merely being pigeonholed into books for one gender or another, and I feel like that would be an effective way for a parent to fight gender stereotypes in their own household.
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 1417 Drunk Girlfriend, Tue, 9th Oct '12 7:15:24 AM from Castle Geekhaven
I'm curious if the problem isn't with the amount of books written, but with which books are "banned".

If stuff like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter (which appeals pretty evenly to both genders) is banned while things like Twilight (aimed predominantly at girls) is allowed, then yeah, you're going to see a bias.

I don't have time to look into it further today, because I have to leave here in a bit, but it would make some sense, considering that anything that isn't fluffy tends to be challenged.
"I don't know how I do it. I'm like the Mr. Bean of sex." -Drunkscriblerian
 1418 Gabrael, Tue, 9th Oct '12 7:43:03 AM Relationship Status: They can't hide forever. We've got satellites.
A Polar Bear Named Gabrael
[up][up][up] thanks! Didn't realize I slipped up there!

[up] DG, you're spot on, especially in America.

 1419 Besserwisser, Tue, 9th Oct '12 8:27:02 AM from Planet of Hats
When it is about schools banning books affecting boy's interest in reading, that is just annother problem with censorship. One would thinks books would be mostly unaffected by that, a medium old enough to not count for New Media Are Evil but when the mere mentioning of sex is enough to ban a book in high school there is definitely something wrong.

 1420 Karalora, Tue, 9th Oct '12 9:31:00 AM from San Fernando Valley, CA Relationship Status: In another castle
Manliest Person on Skype
Another factor here might be the cultural taboo against boys liking anything "girly." Boys are treated with suspicion when they read books with female protagonists, or sometimes even female authors. There is no similar taboo against girls reading "boy" books. So if you have a collection of 20 books, where:

  • 5 are by male authors and have male protagonists,
  • 5 are by male authors and have female protagonists,
  • 5 are by female authors and have male protagonists,
  • and 5 are by female authors and have female protagonists,

At best 10, and possibly only 5, will be seen as "suitable" for boys to read. But no one will bat an eye at a girl who reads all 20.
As much as boys being unwilling to read anything girly it's that people who make media for boys expect girls to be interested too so they will include some peripheral demographic appeal, while the ones writing for women aren't expecting boys to be interested so they don't. It's an evil spiral.

You can see the same thing with entertainment for adults too.
 
 1422 Karalora, Tue, 9th Oct '12 9:53:35 AM from San Fernando Valley, CA Relationship Status: In another castle
Manliest Person on Skype
Are you saying there are very few "pure boy" books because the authors throw in, let's say, romantic subplots to snag female interest? But the reverse doesn't happen, so there are plenty of "pure girl" books?

I'm not an expert in the current state of YA literature, so maybe someone can help me out—what are some examples of "boys' interests" vs. "girls' interests"?
 1423 Trivialis, Tue, 9th Oct '12 9:53:47 AM from contemplation
Happiness
Wait, I don't see a strong taboo against boys reading books by female authors, or even female protagonists. I've read books, both classics and prose, by female authors.

There might be issues towards boys reading "girly books" like how some people see Twilight series or teenage diary type books, but that's probably because such category is marketed more visibly.
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 1424 Heavy DDR, Tue, 9th Oct '12 10:45:25 AM from Central Texas
What's Gravity Falls.
At least when I was kid, J.K. Rowling being a girl was a big deal and part of why I dropped the second book halfway through. Granted I was in the second grade, and a "rival reader" was picking on me the entire time, but still.

At the same time, there were also a lot of kids (including myself shortly before being made fun of) who were dressing up as Harry Potter for Halloween after the first movie came out. So I think I was a rare case in my area.

Another aspect to think of is that a lot of books deal with mental intrigue, not really action or fighting or other considerably-male oriented interests. So even if a book doesn't have a huge romantic plot thread to it, the default is that it appeals to girls, because it's "probably about emotions" or something. I dunno, kids are stupid I guess.
I'm pretty sure the concept of Law having limits was a translation error. -Wanderlustwarrior
 1425 Rocket Dude, Tue, 9th Oct '12 11:08:57 AM from AZ, United States
This hat doesn't fit!
@Kzickas: What you said on the last page is also related to a bigger problem: more and more teens are turning away from the classics, seemingly because they have to read them in school and are associating them negatively with the school experience.

On the other hand, it's necessary to get the youth to read the classic texts, but we clearly cannot force it on them.
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