AIBU to believe that this is a self-perpetuating cycle?

(63 Posts)
KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 13:08:12

Went to DS's school - received a booklist for over the summer which is split according to year and gender...

Looking at the books for DS's year group I see that the books "recommended by girls" have a mixture of girl AND boy protagonists whilst the boys' books are all about ... well.. boys.

Glancing around, the kids were dutifully reading from the list ascribed to their gender and I know that DS will likely be too embarrassed to pick one from the girls' side (although his favourite is on there) as they have hand in a review.

All this in mind:

AIBU to think this just perpetuates the cycle of girls reading about/watching boys but not vice-versa?

AIBU to think the school shouldn't have done this?

& AIBU to choose for DS myself - 1 about a boy, 1 about a girl and 1 about both?

I realise that's a lot of AIBUs!!

kim147 Thu 04-Jul-13 13:10:40

DS won't read a book which features girls in despite best efforts. We went to see Brave but I don't think he appreciated the message.

BasilBabyEater Thu 04-Jul-13 13:11:22

I think YANBU about any of the 3 dilemmas you pose.

God schools are shit on gender issues aren't they.

God they are shit.

In can't believe they're still doing mindless shit like this.

How shit.

That's all I can say really!

KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 13:20:39

Thanks Basil - it IS mindless shit isn't it!! And when I saw the list I had to snap into meditation-i-will-not-scream mode because I was with DM who wouldn't see the harm and think that I'm overthinking.

I love coming here to see I'm not overthinking.

Kim, sorry about DS not proper loving Brave. It is such a brilliant movie isn't it? I've seen it so many times, just for me....blush

kim147 Thu 04-Jul-13 13:29:17

I was in a rage last week. I was working in a nursery and the children wanted me to read a book in the book corner.

I had a girl and a boy next to me. The boy picked a book showing the boy as a hero rescuing a girl and being all "heroic".

The girl then picked a pink Princess book where the girl obviously gets rescued by the strong prince. The boy went away when the girl chose that book.

I really wished their had been more books to choose from.

kim147 Thu 04-Jul-13 13:29:58

there not their blush

Crumbledwalnuts Thu 04-Jul-13 13:30:10

That's crazy - why do they even do a segregated book list? Completely ridiculous in this day and age!

I am coming out as a strident anti-overthinking ist

But you don't need to over think that to see the mindless shittyness of it.

If it were me, I would ask to speak to the head about the message they thought this was sending.

Why not obvious point alert just have a list?

KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 13:34:26

Aaagh - I'm just looking through the book list - one of the girls' books seems really funny and the kind of thing DS would enjoy but it's in pink which he wouldn't read in a million because he'd be too embarrassed and mark him out for ridicule if he took it into school....

aaaaaghhhh - WHY OH WHY?!!!

WoTmania Thu 04-Jul-13 13:36:36

Oh FFS <seethe> why? Why Why Why? Why not just have one reading list that the children can pick from? Why segregate? Gah!!!!!!!!!


Write and complain. Idiot people (not you, them)

WoTmania Thu 04-Jul-13 13:36:58

<may possibly have the rage today angry>

KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 13:58:59

I know Wo! But I don't want to be seen as troublemaker cos it's a new school.... blush I'm soft I know..

I have however successfully ordered 3 books that are a mixture. Kernowland: The Crystal Pool, Millions and Hostage - hope they're

Now all I have to get DS to do is to read them, a trial at the best of times!!

KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 14:02:18

Just read your "strident anti-overthinking ist" Buffy grin it's the rest of the world who "underthinks" things.

It most certainly is. Idiots.


grimbletart Thu 04-Jul-13 15:20:01

Some things are such bat-arsed wankery that it makes you despair.

Down with bat-arsed wankery!

<pumps fist>

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 04-Jul-13 16:11:17

I'm with the strident anti-overthinking brigade. grin I would write to complain. angry

DS1 said that his three favourites series of books are by women (though main characters are still male hmm). He also likes Judy Moody books - main character is a girl!!

YoniBottsBumgina Thu 04-Jul-13 19:49:57

How old is he? Maybe we can make a whole new list which you could present to the school? grin

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 04-Jul-13 20:58:30

Write to school: you are so happy that DS has been so happy in school etc etc, but you've notice the list! Surely it has not been the school's intention! Gendered lists limit the children's imagination. Surely this has been an accident! For example, school XXX down the road has a marvellous reading list (need to research here) and it's not gendered. And you yourself have found several books that are cross-gendered/gender-neutral which DS loves which you would never have found if all books were classified by gender! You know that the school is committed to gender equality and you are looking forward to working in tandem towards it! smile

(Sorry, idea stolen from the let toys be toys campaign, and I've written a letter just like that too to a toy shop ...)

In my vast experience of, ahem, one instance of talking to school about unintentional gender stereotyping, I found that that they hadn't even realised that what they had done was a problem.

This, for those that remember, was the play where the word "pussy" was used as a joke throughout and the boys sang a song about how to get girls (but watch out because they want equality and will make you do housework!).

School were fine, they thanked me for alerting them to the problem.

kim147 Thu 04-Jul-13 21:13:40

Schools are bad at unintentional gender stereotyping. Like who gets to tidy up and who moves the heavy apparatus. Lining up in girls and boys.

I'm certainly much more aware in my practice from what I've read on MN. In fact, MN has made me see teaching in a whole new way and from a very different perspective.

<I am sure I would have made for some interesting threads on MN as a full time teacher grin>

UptoapointLordCopper Thu 04-Jul-13 21:19:47

I think there was a section in Delusion of Genders about classifying children as boys and girls - they did an experiment just classifying two classes of children randomly as the blue group and the red group. In one class they just left it at that, and in the other they made a big deal of it, like lining up in red and blue group. In the end they found animosity between the groups in the class where the distinction was emphasised. This is what we are doing to our children ... Makes me feel a bit sick ...

Takver Thu 04-Jul-13 21:25:45

Jesus, that is insanely crap in the 21st century. I really think you do need to say something. DD goes to the most out-in-the-sticks rural primary you could think of, and I genuinely can't imagine them doing this (in fact AFAIK all dc had to read every book on each shelf before being 'promoted', rainbow magic, beast quest, every pink'n'sparkly or macho-tastic one of them, regardless of sex).

I agree gentle tact is needed (rather than my friends WTAF reaction when we were shown a new logo at the PTA meeting with girl carrying book & boy carrying football grin ), but you can't let it pass, surely.

TheDoctrineOfAllan Thu 04-Jul-13 22:28:58

If there's war between the sexes then there'll be no people left.

Or between the red and blue group, but it doesn't scan so well sad


CoalDustWoman Thu 04-Jul-13 22:42:45

And still, we get people arguing about nature not nurture.

Society is fucked. We are going backwards at a great rate of knots. We seem to be in a bizarre situation where the laws are such that sexual discrimination is outlawed, but the outward forces towards gender determinism in childhood is greater than before the laws came in. I was a pup in the 70s - it seemed to be better for kids then, didn't it?

I despair. What the fuck happened? Why did "books for girls" and "books for boys" even get thought of as a concept in 2013. How limiting! Please raise it. We want our following generations to be well-rounded, don't we?

KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 22:43:08

Well it's a new school (transition day) so don't want to be awkward but I might have word with teach in September saying "DS was really worried that he'd done a book from the girls' list. He thought it wasn't allowed. Surely you didn't mean that. " kind of thing.

Honestly it is such a backward arsey status quo thing to do, especially after they'd given us this baloney about challenging ourselves and going outside our comfort zone.

What's wrong with people??!!!

KaseyM Thu 04-Jul-13 22:48:42

"but the outward forces towards gender determinism in childhood is greater than before the laws came in"

Loving that coaldust!!! The timing is so coincidental don't you think? Just when women were getting laws to give them a chance we get this big fat thumb of biological determinism squashing us down again.

Feels like a conspiracy sometimes. confused

Perhaps you could offer them a reading list as well?

Male teachers:

Delusions of Gender

Female teachers:

Delusions of Gender


Crikeyblimey Thu 04-Jul-13 22:50:28

Ds brought a letter home from school the other day about an author visit to school and the option to buy a signed copy of the book.

The letter refers to this visit being for year 5 boys. I asked him why only the boys and he said "the girls have had their visit".

The author is female but writes books for "boys" with male protagonists.

I am so cross about this blatant segregation sad. Why couldn't both boys and girls attend both book readings?

I was going to just leave it but I think, after reading this thread, that an email is needed.

Grrrrr sad

CoalDustWoman Thu 04-Jul-13 23:24:07


This isn't even a straigh down the line feminist issue, ffs. (Unless being a feminst means being someone who believes in something other than strict gender-roles. Or is that a rad fem in backlash terminology. I think that's for another thread.) It's about people. And not boxing them in. This harms all of us.

It's fucked up. Big Style. This is something that the MRAs should be on board with too.

fuzzpig Thu 04-Jul-13 23:29:56

I would be extremely pissed off if we got a book list divided by gender. What bollocks. YANBU.

I can't imagine my DCs' school doing that though. So far they've seemed pretty hot on stamping out any sexist talk by discussing views as a class ("boys can't wear pink" etc)

I would quite like a t-shirt with "down with bat-arsed wankery" on it.

ithaka Thu 04-Jul-13 23:31:06

We had a newsletter from the Primary School asking Dads to come in and help with landscaping the playground. I went in and complained - especially since one of the mums is a landscape architect who has done a lot of work for the school voluntarily - what a slap in the face for her. I don't mind being THAT mum.

The HT was unpleasant & defensive to my face, but to be fair did apologise in the next newsletter.

fuzzpig Thu 04-Jul-13 23:31:31

OMG crikey just read your post about author visit! Am lost for words shock well apart from to say yes, write that email!

CoalDustWoman Thu 04-Jul-13 23:47:44

What is wrong with people? How hard is it to s

And folks ask - why do women not want to do the "hard" jobs? And say there's no barriers. So, there's no barrier put up when Dad's are asked re landscaping when there's an expert on hand, who happens to be a woman? What of a bunch of blokes turn up and so does she, as someone with a skill in this area? What kind of reception will she get?

Questions, questions, questions.

CoalDustWoman Thu 04-Jul-13 23:55:38


How hard is it to say "parents"? Or divide books into "adventure" or "animals" or whatever? What is it that makes the gender divide so easy? And the traits of each gender so easy to divide in stereotype?

It baffles me. I share my interests, book-wise, with 4 people in the main. My mum, my dad, my brother, my mum and a female friend. It's a veritable Venn diagram. My Mum is quite stereotpical in her book choices i.e. they are of the exclusive female genre. The others are more wide-spread. But the non female-aimed books are largely seen as "male" books. Because they are not female-orientated. It's quite fascinating. I am about to have a holiday with my folks. They have masses of time on their hands, so I am going to challenge my Dad to read some women-orientated books. Any suggestions?

nooka Fri 05-Jul-13 00:13:46

My children (boy and girl) mostly read the same books. ds is as happy to read about girls as boys, although he did complain recently that one of the books me and dd really liked and were suggesting for him had the blurb on that back about a girl wanting to do something and not being allowed and why couldn't we find something a bit different. It was a bit sad because it was a quite small part of the book, which was excellent. He obviously feels it's time to read books about guys breaking the gender barrier instead smile

I'd be very peeved at the school. We have a 'Battle of the Books' thing here, which is age group only (they have to read set books and answer questions on them).

UptoapointLordCopper Fri 05-Jul-13 08:01:20

I blame it on all those pseudo-scientific male-brain/female-brain nonsense. Perfectly reasonable people say "ah but boys and girls are different" and proceed to entrench the gender stereotypes. How can they not be different if we do this to them!? It drives me potty-mouth potty.

Buffy - like your reading list!

Lavenderloves Fri 05-Jul-13 08:09:33

I have one girl and a boy, i try to keep the princess type books to a minimum. ( they rarely have good stories)

Good stories are much better imho and they both enjoy them together.

Phineyj Fri 05-Jul-13 11:48:41

How about one of Marina Lewycka's books for your Dad, Coaldust? (not sure if I've spelt her surname right).

Phineyj Fri 05-Jul-13 11:49:25

Crikey I did spell it right! Go me!

MyHumpsMyLovelyBabyBumps Fri 05-Jul-13 14:44:30

yanbu isn't it more effort to make 2 lists confused

LeBFG Fri 05-Jul-13 14:57:13

From teaching in the UK about 8 years ago I remember there was a lot of crap about learning styles (brain based pseudoscience) and hip right-on-ness about being 'inclusive'. So, engaging black boys in reading and getting asian girls in sport etc by playing to their interests. This naturally led on to the girl/boy inclusiveness....leading, naturally enough, to this style of gender-based reading lists. Very few people were standing up at the time to say: let's challenge the children. Girls might on average want pink princess stories but exposing them to other stuff they might discover they in fact prefer adventure stories. This is reminiscent of how schools were wedded to the chocolate and coke machines (which they were making bucks out of) and refused to stock healthier stuff because it never sold. Course, now they only stock healthy stuff and, lo, the kids buy and eat it hmm. Schools are crap.

LeBFG Fri 05-Jul-13 14:58:36

Sorry, I meant to say (the point , doh) that this is an example of tragic overthinking not underthinking.

fuzzpig Fri 05-Jul-13 15:52:56

OP out of interest can you give some examples of what books are on the list? I might look out for them at work (library) and see who borrows them.

We don't shelve things by gender BTW. We do have a spinner thing where we put the series like beast quest etc.

Am I imagining it or is this vast tide of huge series a relatively new thing? I remember my DSD, now 15, going through a phase of reading all the rainbow fairies books when they were quite new. I don't remember there being much like that when I was younger apart from Animal Ark (yawn) and goosebumps (yay! grin). Now there are loads of these series. Some aren't even written by one single author, I was quite shocked when I found out about writer bank things.

Anyway, I think these books do so well as there is the argument that any reading even if it is 'trash' is better than none. Which is true. But I also agree with the view I read recently that actually racing through series like RF/BQ etc is really more like 'consumption' than reading and that maybe it is better to slow down and read fewer books but better quality... but then who's to say what is quality anyway? Maybe some of the older books we now think of as children's classics were once thought of as trash too? I don't know.

Sorry, I'm rambling now blush. DD just turned 6 and isn't reading chapter books herself yet, and I've only read her a few but I like the fact that due to my job I get to choose at the moment! We've read 2 Jill Tomlinsons, George's Marvellous Medicine and are now partway through Paddington. Coming up next, The Worst Witch grin DD has occasionally brought home a RF book from the school library but seems to have just flicked through and admired the covers/character names (eg her friends' names), she's not really bothered about hearing the stories. Whereas she gets very excited when I bring home a chapter book I've chosen for our evenings together. I don't suppose that will last forever though.

There were things like the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew and the Three Investigators, fuzzpig, unless you're much older than I am. I used to love the Hardy Boys.

KRITIQ Fri 05-Jul-13 17:50:07

Coal Dust, you are right. At the risk of sounding like the old fart that I am, there genuinely wasn't this compulsory heteronormative gender conformity business with books, toys and games back in the 70's.

From about 3rd grade onwards (age 8) we read books as a class - both boys and girls. I remember reading ones with girl protagonists (e.g. Blue Willow, Island of the Blue Dolphin, all the Laura Ingalls Wilder ones, Charlotte's Web, etc. and some with boys like Tom Sawyer, Old Yeller and My Side of the Mountain. They were pretty crap with regard to cultural diversity, which was a failing (but not surprising in such a homogeneous, rural community in the US,) but I honestly don't recall any pressure on either boys or girls to read "only" books targeting their gender.

However, at Uni, I did a post grad literature course one year when I had a few hours spare in the timetable, which was taught by an author of children's books that were popular in the 50's and 60's. She suggested that if you want commercial success in writing for children, make the main character male, as girls will read about both genders but boys are less likely to. I remember feeling pretty outraged by that idea and started reflecting on the predominance of male characters in everything from cartoons to children's books. But honestly, it was nothing like it is now.

Just wonder where it is all leading, this indoctrination (for that is what it is.)

fuzzpig Fri 05-Jul-13 21:51:39

Ah yes didn't think of them (I'm 26 BTW grin) were they huge series? I guess I thought of them as proper stories as mysteries have to have a plot of some description. Rather than the endless 'Alexandra the Royal Baby Fairy' etc hmm

Mind you I have always been what would be described as a 'tomboy' so maybe I just automatically assume negative things about such books. I just cannot bring myself to think of RF etc as 'proper books' is that bad?! <snob> blush

fuzzpig Fri 05-Jul-13 21:53:59

And yes, indoctrination indeed. That is what it feels like. As though it is just a matter of time before DD falls into the trap of "I must only read pink sparkly books". confused

If you ever have to read one of Darcey Bussell's sodding magic fairy bbc allerina books you would beg to be allowed to read a RF book instead (probably. I've never actually read a RF book, but they can't possibly be worse than DB).

There were 58 Hardy Boys books (though they've written more now), 64 Nancy Drews (ditto) and 43 Three Investigators titles. In comparison there are 72 Beast Quest books available today.

fuzzpig Fri 05-Jul-13 23:18:34

Wow I had no idea there were that many nancy drew etc! shock

Argh, YANBU at all. I remember having A Word when DS brought home a book which was so horrifically explicit about the gender divide we didn't read it - the whole plot was how awful girls were and how ridiculous their interest in pink sparkliness was: gender war for 6-year-olds.

Wuldric Sat 06-Jul-13 00:47:55

I'm going to go against the grain here (and it's not because I'm not a feminist. I am in fact a card carrying feminist).

The trouble is that boys lag behind girls, when it comes to literacy. I spent a fortune on books trying to get DS to read. DD was not a problem. She devoured books and still does. DS just ... doesn't. I used to read with him nightly, until he was about 9, and tried my hardest to let him lead as to what he would like to read. I bought 1001 tasty little books designed to get boys a-reading. None of it worked.

I worried about this endlessly. I still do now that he is a teenager. His marks in maths/physics/chem are to die for. English? Pedestrian and disinterested.

It was a huge effort. The school were massively helpful. He goes to a boys school, thankfully, where they make a real feature of boy-centred learning. I think that means they teach in 5-minute bursts so not to tax their limited concentration spans.

They are wired differently, boys.

DD never did any of the Princess shit, btw. But there is a reason that there is a girl's reading list (pretty much everything) and a boy's reading list. There really is.

But the impact here will be to put a boy (the OP's DS) off reading books that, until he encountered this list, he really enjoyed.

And the most that can be said is that on a population level boys lag behind girls in literacy. The average girl will have slightly higher literacy skills than the average boy of the same age. But there will be plenty of boys who are ahead of the average girl of the same age in literacy, and plenty of girls who lag behind the average boy. Lumping all the girls (those ahead of the average boy and those behind; those interested in fiction and those who prefer non-fiction; those who like action thrillers and those who enjoy sparkly princesses) together and saying "here's your reading list" (and the equivalent for the boys) is just silly. There are far more sensible ways of dividing up the list - e.g. "If you like sport you may enjoy reading... If you like dragons and quests you may enjoy reading... If you like fairies and magic you may enjoy reading..." so that you are giving an an accessible entry point to the lists based on individual interests and literacy level. That's got to be better than doing it based on external genitalia and some generalisations about populations.

There's virtually no evidence that boys and girls are innately wired differently, by the way. But the human brain is plastic and when boys and girls are socialised differently it'a no surprise that statistical differences emerge (although even then on most traits the average difference is very small).

EduCated Sat 06-Jul-13 02:11:46

But Wuldric, that's your son. His disinterest in reading may not be because he's a boy. He might just not like it.

I adore reading, my DMV used to have to wrestle books out of my hands to make me sleep/eat/wash/do anything. My DSis, on the other hand, has never enjoyed reading. I think she owns about 3 books to my 300.

So which conclusion do I draw? That girls are good at reading or that they just don't like it?

Or might it be that we're just two people with different personalities?

nooka Sat 06-Jul-13 02:24:22

Both my children live their lived with a book to hand, and the biggest compliant from school last year for both of them was that they weren't paying attention because they were reading. They are both very unusual among their peers. I suspect that the fact that I love reading, and in particular I love reading children's books has been a fairly large factor in their turning out as bookworms (maybe there is a genetic component, my whole family are very book orientated). We probably have at least as many teen/young adult books as adult ones, and although I've not been able to persuade them to read all my favourites I've sure tried very hard!

LeBFG Sat 06-Jul-13 12:36:30

Boys are behaviourally different to girls (whether some of that is genetic is another debate). All agree however that the brain is hugely plastic in relation to stimuli. The problem with pandering to the 'boys are only interested in x' is this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. IME boys and girls copy what they see around them. If mum/dad doesn't read this sets things up badly. If all their english teachers are women, this continues the problem.

Takver Sat 06-Jul-13 19:47:02

"Boys are behaviourally different to girls (whether some of that is genetic is another debate)."

That's great unless you happen to have a girl who would appear according to all the behavioural stuff to be a boy in disguise . . .

Which genuinely can be a big issue at school because some (thankfully not all) teachers are so carefully looking out for these behavioural differences that they don't pick up a problem if it presents in a child of the 'wrong' sex. (been there, done that, got the t-shirt and an - eventual - referral)

KaseyM Sat 06-Jul-13 21:04:40

It's not that I'm bothered by whatever behavioural differences but they're not absolute are they? Why this need to tell kids what they're gonna like without letting them make their minds up.

And the whole boy thing is so nasty. Poor DS absolutely adores Tracy Beaker. He lives and breathes it but now he's gonna see them on the girls' list and start thinking "maybe I shouldn't be so into them if they're for girls". And we all know how boys are about girl stuff. Touch it and be teased.

And why? What's the point? I hate it.

Boosterseat Sat 06-Jul-13 21:58:26

angry at the schools approach here, DS is at a boys school and books have always been an excellently gender balanced, I was pleasantly surprised.

DS loves the Secret 7 books and I despair at Anne, he is old enough to grasp the generation gap so it does make for a jolly good larf grin

I'm going to read him Mallory Towers next, they really are brilliant books.

OP, as a short-term measure can you just retype and re-sort the list before letting your DS see it?

KaseyM Sun 07-Jul-13 07:09:44

Thanks Toll. I have got it covered though- I ordered the books myself. He doesn't think it's unusual that I've done this because he is dyslexic and very reluctant to read and so I'm always buying him books to motivate him.

It doesn't usually work but he seems to be really enjoying the first one: "hostage" by Malorie Blackman. It does say that it is dyslexia friendly and he's whizzing through it - bless him - it is hard for him.

Booster-Mallory Towers is brilliant!! I can still remember when Daryll lost her temper grin

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now