My default assumption when I read something like this is that it must be an automated spam message, because the way my brain works makes it really hard for me to believe something like this could actually be addressed to me specifically (no false modesty here, just a horrifying glimpse inside my head). But on the off chance that it actually is real, I wanted to acknowledge it - because I know it can be hard to reach out like this; and because I have days when I wonder what I’m doing, putting massive amounts of words on the internet. And in days like that, a small message can make a world of difference. So dear anonymous: if you’re not a spammer, thank you so much.
Please! How is making books more accessible to the “weaker (reading) sex” going to endanger girls? This library is merely trying to change the perception (among boys at an image-sensitive age) that reading is somehow “less manly” than other activities.
Except that I don’t see how measures like this even begin to deconstruct the notion that reading is “less manly” - on the contrary, they subtly uphold it. Instead of normalising reading for boys and girls alike, they reinforce the idea that “normal” boys don’t read if there are no bells and whistles involved; that they all “naturally” required special measures like this to even consider picking up a book. These solutions fall under what researchers have called “recuperative masculinity politics”: instead of telling boys that it’s okay to like books, that it’s okay to read for fun, that it’s okay to have interests that fall outside what society deems “manly”, they assume you have to make reading “manly” enough, or else no self-respecting boy will ever come near it. It would be far more useful to let boys know that they don’t need to constantly worry about whether or not what they enjoy is “for boys” - and yes, that’s a huge battle, but it has to start somewhere, and librarians and educators can make a huge difference. The thing that always seems to be overlooked when these policies are discussed is that not all boys are the same. Not all boys are in fact interested in traditionally “manly” things. And what message does this send out to the boys who aren’t? Do we really want the library to become yet another place where they’re reminded that society at large doesn’t consider their gender performance appropriate?
[FTR, I didn’t address what these policies communicate to girls because several commenters had already done so; obviously I don’t think this is a lesser concern. I also find ideas like this excellent as long as they’re not marketed in gendered terms. And no, saying “it’s for boys, but girls can also go in the cave! And those unmanly boys too, I guess” doesn’t count - there’s a steep social cost to deviating from normative gender performances, especially at this age. This comment is basically my MA dissertation in a nutshell.]
I’m going to continue to read books based on my interest, not on publisher categories. I’m going to continue to read widely across all genres. I’m going to read for a variety of reasons: for windows and mirrors; for escape and for safety; to be reassured and to be challenged; for entertainment and for information.
I will not be ashamed of my reading choices (or, for that matter, my TV or movie choices) because someone else has drawn a line an arbitrary line in the sand about what people “should” and “shouldn’t” do in their personal reading and viewing lives. While I’m at it, other things that won’t be the subject of judging: music, games, sports — well, you get the idea. I’m no better or worse than the person who loves fashion or football, and to say I am because I read books is, well, shallow.
Heck, if all you want to read is adult literary fiction? That’s fine, too! Just as there’s no reason for me to not read young adult books, there is no reason for you to read them. Read what you want.” —
Liz B being awesome (as per usual).