A new UK campaign makes me want to switch countries. It’s called Let Books Be Books, which is a nice way to say “Just let people decide what they want to read without pressure from anyone else”. Let Books Be Books is part of a larger group called Let Toys Be Toys, an organization that fights gender-stereotyped toy marketing.
This movement asks publishers to remove gender labels from books. They don’t want to see any more pink-glitter covers with the words “For Girls Only” stamped on the front. They’re tired of seeing book titles tell girls to steer clear of dragons and battle scenes.
I support it based on the simple fact that when I think reading makes you a better person. And when you limit your interests because someone else tells you that you should, you’re not living up to your potential. What if you miss out on a story that could change your life? Every time a book is dedicated to a certain gender, I cringe and mourn the tragedy of a lost experience.
Gender-based marketing tends to reinforce a bullying culture. Go ahead and Google “books for girls” or “books for boys” and see what you come up with. It’s fascinating just to look at the differences in cover art, much less the titles and subject matter. It makes me sad to think that boys might miss out on Eleanor & Park or Cinder and girls might never read Stormbreaker or The Hobbit, all because someone might say, “But that’s a girl book!”
Maybe one of the reasons men appear to be from Mars and women seem to come from Venus is because women only read books marked “Venus” and men only grab things labeled for “Mars”. But who cares? Marketing is just a fancy way of telling people what they want. Why not let the books speak for themselves by marketing them to the entire population?
Imagine a world where everyone reads everything and it helps them understand the people around them better. I’ve never thought about my writing as “for girls”, even though I haven’t written a male protagonist in about ten years. And as a reader, I will read just about anything that’s well-written. So instead of writing a book that is only for a certain gender, why don’t we just create people readers want to hang out with?
What do you think? Are publishers wrong to market books specifically by gender?
Michelle grew up reading a lot of books that, looking back, were definitely supposed to be for boys. The only permanent damage has been a voracious reading appetite and a tendency to love action movies. She blogs at Beyond the Trope on Mondays (this Wednesday post is an exception).