When we read Saundra Mitchell’s blog post “The Problem Is Not the Books,” we heard the beautiful sound of a slate shattering somewhere off in the distance. Saundra has graciously allowed us to re-post this piece from her blog. And now, with great pleasure, we bring you Saundra’s delightful smackdown on this NYT article.
“The Problem Is Not the Books”
The NYT bleats the alarm, omfg, what about all the boys who don’t have books to read?!
And I quote Michael Cart from said article:
“We need more good works of realistic fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, on- or offline, that invite boys to reflect on what kinds of men they want to become.”
To which I reply, those books already exist. Women have for centuries managed to read material written by men, about men, and still walk away being able to figure out how those stories apply to them. To be fair, we had to, and in many cases, continue to have to.
News flash: the only markets in which women dominate literature are romance and YA. All the rest of it is predominately male and male-oriented. Somehow, though, James Patterson and John Grisham still manage to be bestsellers– because women are reading their novels.
The problem that needs to be fixed is not kick all the girls out of YA, it’s teach boys that stories featuring female protagonists or written by female authors also apply to them. Boys fall in love. Boys want to be important. Boys have hopes and fears and dreams and ambitions. What boys also have is a sexist society in which they are belittled for “liking girl stuff.” Male is neutral, female is specific.
I heard someone mention that Sarah Rees Brennan’s THE DEMON’S LEXICON would be great for boys, but they’d never read it with that cover. Friends, then the problem is NOT with the book. It’s with the society that’s raising that boy. It’s with the community who inculcated that boy with the idea that he can’t read a book with an attractive guy on the cover.
Here’s how we solve the OMG SO MANY GIRLS IN YA problem: quit treating women like secondary appendages. Quit treating women’s art like it’s a niche, novelty creation only for girls. Quit teaching boys to fear the feminine, quit insisting that it’s a hardship for men to have to relate to anything that doesn’t specifically cater to them.
Because if I can watch Raiders of the Lost Ark and want to grow up to be an archaeologist, there’s no reason at all that a boy shouldn’t be able to read THE DEMON’S LEXICON with its cover on. My friends, sexism doesn’t just hurt women, and our young men’s abysmal rate of attraction to literacy is the proof of it.
If you want to fix the male literary crisis, here’s your solution:
Become a feminist.