(via To Write Is To Live Forever on Tumblr) I had never heard of Shannon Hale before today, but now I'm absolutely interested in seeking out and reading her work. She writes young adult fantasy and adult fiction, and she posted this on her Tumblr late last month:
When I do book signings, most of my line is made up of young girls with their mothers, teen girls alone, and mother friend groups. But there’s usually at least one boy with a stack of my books. This boy is anywhere from 8-19, he’s carrying a worn stack of the Books of Bayern, and he’s excited and unashamed to be a fan of those books. As I talk to him, 95% of the time I learn this fact: he is home schooled.
There’s something that happens to our boys in school. Maybe it’s because they’re around so many other boys, and the pressure to be a boy is high. They’re looking around at each other, trying to figure out what it means to be a boy—and often their conclusion is to be “not a girl.” Whatever a girl is, they must be the opposite. So a book written by a girl? With a girl on the cover? Not something a boy should be caught reading.
This is the kind of thing that the gender binary does to people -- this is a great example of the ways that sexism hurts boys.[1. In case any Men's Rights Activists stumble onto this post, no, I'm not arguing that men are more/equally/similarly oppressed than women. The problems men face in a sexist culture are best addressed by fighting for the social equality of women and breaking down the rigid gender norms of "manliness" and "femininity".]
The idea that boys aren't supposed to like 'girly' books, shows, or other narratives means boys are de facto not exposed to strong female characters, good female role models, and whole values-sets that don't mesh with the ideas of 'boys writing.'
I strongly recommend reading the whole post, because it's kind of tragic and very, very important.