Judging from the comments and other posts at Babble about the family that won’t say whether their third child is a girl or boy, it’s clear the family is on to something. Our kids subjected to preconceived ideas about what it means to be a girl and what it means to be a boy from birth (from before birth, even).
Countless studies have shown that — baby in a blue onesie gets called strong, same baby in a pink onesie gets called precious and sweet. It comes from adults, traditions handed down, whatever. And it comes from marketers. I’ve ranted in this space plenty about it, a favorite example being Target ads that featured boys squirting water guns and girls squealing with delight.
So I feel something like a broken record to call out yet another company for sexist sales tactics, but I’m going to anyway because (1) it’s important and (2) this time it was my kid who pointed it out to me.
Not to pick on Scholastic, but the final book order form of the year included a page called “SeeSaw’s Favorite Boys & Girls.” Boys books on the left side (green background), girls books on the right (pink/purple … sigh). There’s a Classic Boys Chapter Books Pack and a Classic Girls’ Chapter Book Pack. Boys get Runaway Ralph, The Chalk Box Kid (never heard of it) and Encyclopedia Brown. For girls, there’s Charlotte’s Web, Pippi Longstocking and Ramona Quimby Age 8.
The boys is billed as “three page-turning classics you won’t want to put down!” and the girls gets written up as “three of the all-time best chapter books — ever!”
True. All of it! Except for the part about these books being gender specific. I loved Runaway Ralph and the Encyclopedia Brown series. So did my husband. I’ve never really cared for Charlotte’s Web (I know!) but plenty of kids — both genders — have been really moved by it. Pippi Longstocking isn’t just a girl’s book, either. That girl’s a freak and kids know it.
So why the division?
I know our kids are very, very used to having things packaged to them in this way — appealing to their gender. Making boy/girl packs boosts sales no doubt. It’s only from years and years of pointing it out to my daughter that she caught the boy’s pack thing. But I think it’s a real disservice to our kids to let it happen uncommented on. I know Scholastic has money to make — and this is what kids look for. But only because we’ve taught them too.
There’s nothing stopping me from ordering the boys’ pack for my daughters, I realize. But what’s frustrating to me is that the message is plenty clear to them. My years and years of lectures may have made my girl more aware that this is how she’s thought of in the marketplace, but the message that she is first and foremost a girl still gets through in other ways.
Mercifully, The Great Brain series never shows up, so I get to market those to my kids (I still have my copies from childhood). One girl down, one to go with those. I loved those books as a little girl and never once thought I was crossing some sort of line — or making a statement — by reading them. I’m not sure that’s what it feels like for my kids (0r yours).
So, to the genderless kid in Canada and his/her very motivated family, I love what you’re doing. Maybe Scholastic will tailor a special Classic Genderless Chapter Books Pack for little Storm.
Photo: ginavinevetto via flickr