#BoysReadGirls and the Myth of Book Genitalia

#BoysReadGirls was the hashtag that greeted me on Twitter this morning.  I had seen the rumblings for several days.  Some schools are inviting authors to speak, but if the protagonist is female, the male student body is often given a pass and doesn’t attend because, ya’ know, that’s a “Girl Book.”*  Unless it is the book is Hunger Games, because, well, Katniss. *knowing nod*  Or, Divergent.  Yeah, boys might read Divergent.

This happened recently to author Shannon Hale.  You can read her account of events here.

Apparently, The Powers that Be assume that boys are okay with reading about bad ass chicks who blow stuff up, but if they are forced to read about “normal” girls, it might somehow mess with their chromosomes and make them less manly.  Or grow breasts.  Or start crying at chick flicks.  Or something.

Nevermind that girls read all kinds of books with male protagonists without suddenly sprouting a penis, or having their voice deepen, or even simply having their eyes glaze over with boredom or the inability to relate…or comprehend…or empathize.  Because, well, it’s different for boys.  *Grunt*  *Fist bump*

I grew up reading The Great Brain books, because the child detective was wicked smart.  The fact that he was male did not detract from the story for me.  And I read Harry Potter and, while admittedly fond of Ron Weasley’s ginger hair, I did not become bogged down with the fact that he was equipped with a… erm…wand.

I also read The Diary of Anne Frank, and although breasts were mentioned in the book (although this tiny portion was removed from some editions of the book, since preteens are clearly not equipped to encounter brief references to the female anatomy in a book!) it was hardly the focus of my attention.  No, I was mesmerized by my breathless fear for the family…not references to gender or burgeoning sexual curiosity.

I read a lot.  No, seriously, A. LOT.  And never once, in all of my 42 years, have I thrown across the room and thought, “Pfft, I can’t read this $&#*&%$, clearly the writer had a penis.  Hand me a book written by someone with a vagina so I can relate!”  Nope, not even once.

Nor have I ever passed on a beloved book to a fellow reader with the recommendation, “I just know you will love it!  You can almost feel the femininity of the author.  The book simply oozes estrogen!”  *swoon!*

Nope.  Not ever.

Now, I have recommended a book due to an incredible strong protagonists, or unique plot, or amazing dialogue, or disturbing premise, or amazing imagery.  But never due to the protagonist’s private bits, and never due to the author’s gender.

My son has read The Hunger Games trilogy, and the Divergent trilogy.  He has also read The Fault in Our Stars and Coraline.  He read them before they were movies.  He read them because they were good stories; they were stories that spoke to him.  They were books that made him want to read.  And really, isn’t that what we want for our children?  To find books that speak to them and make them want to read?

So, while I don’t plan on stockpiling a hoard of books by female authors to spoon feed my son, I do plan on providing him with a steady diet of good stories.  I plan to continue to expose him to all kinds of books by all kinds of authors.  Because a good story is good no matter what the gender of the protagonist, or the author…or the reader.


* The concept of “Boy Books” and “Girl Books” is a myth.  I have read a lot of books, and I have yet to encounter a book that has sexual genitalia.  So let’s quit trying to assign gender to books, shall we?


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