The vast majority of my friends could be categorized as “readers.” It’s pretty common these days for me to come across Facebook posts by friends requesting book recommendations, for themselves, their children, friends…. And these requests are often followed by long threads of recommendations. It’s one of the things I adore about my friends, they are always ready to lend a hand, especially in the interest of helping someone find more great things to read.
Another thing I love about my friends is their openness, inclusivity, and encouragement. I have been able to surround myself with an educated, intelligent, and active group of people who can be quite vocal around matters of race-, gender- and socio-economic inequality, among other things.
So it was kind of interesting when I “boosted the signal” on a book request from a friend, looking for fantasy stories for their pre-teen child. My friends suggested away, with some great ideas and awesome suggestions (increasing my own TBR list… as well).
Then I noticed something. No gender pronouns had been used in the original post, and I hadn’t added any of my own. Of the many responses only a few used any sort of gender pronoun. All of those used masculine pronouns.
This piqued my interest. Why the assumption that the child in question was male? Especially given that so many of my friends are females, who have been reading fantasy stories since they were young. Especially since I knew that every last one of them would encourage a young person, regardless of their gender identity, to read.
I brought that observation up.
A great conversation ensued. Some realized that they had suggested, or not suggested, certain books because they assumed the child in question was male. Some had initially had that inclination but fought it. One said she had assumed the child in question was female, due to one of the books that had been listed as an “already-favorite.” There was a variety of commentary and analysis on the issue, but it was really just a scratch on the surface of the conversation. And it’s a topic I plan to explore more.
However, I wanted to start out by opening up the conversation. I was curious what everyone else’s experiences were on this matter. Have you encountered people who think that you should (or should not) like a certain kind of book because of your gender? If asked to recommend books for a child, do you find yourself coming up with different recommendations if the child is male or female? Why do you think that is, or what influences that? And, do you fight that difference and end up recommending the same books regardless? Do you feel like some books are more suited to boys than girls? I want people to answer honestly
Let me know!
Edit/Update: The promised continuation of this exploration will be coming on July 3rd! 🙂