A U.K. newspaper over the weekend announced new restrictions on books it will review, saying it will no longer take a look at any books that are specifically geared for girls or boys only.
The move by the Independent’s literary editor Katy Guest came after publishers Parragon — which distributes some Disney books — and Usborne announced they will no longer publish books specifically titled “for boys” or “for girls,” in response to the online campaign “Let Books Be Books.”
“There are those who will say that insisting on gender-neutral books and toys for children is a bizarre experiment in social engineering by radical lefties and paranoid ‘femininazis’ who won’t allow boys to be boys, and girls to be girls. (Because, by the way, seeking equality of rights and opportunities was a key plank of Nazi ideology, was it?) But the ‘experiment’ is nothing new,” Guest wrote.
Guest argued that toy companies and book companies are not giving people more choice by segregating content according to gender but are “convincing children that boys and girls can’t play with each other’s stuff [and are] forcing parents to buy twice as much stuff.”
To Guest, books that are very specifically geared to boys or girls are “letting them down” by pigeon-holing them. As the Let Books Be Books petition put it:
Children are listening, and take seriously the messages they receive from books, from toys, from marketing and the adults around them. Do we really want them to believe that certain things are off-limits for them because of their gender? They’re not ‘getting it wrong’ if a girl likes robots, or if a boy wants to doodle flowers. These artificial boundaries turn children away from their true preferences, and provide a fertile ground for bullying.
Just like labeling toys for girls or boys, we think these book titles are limiting and restrictive. It’s time that publishers Let Books Be Books and leave children free to choose their interests for themselves.
Megan Perryman with the campaign explained to the U.K.’s the Guardian that the petition isn’t about banning books but “letting books speak for themselves without labels indicating who can read them.”
For these reasons, Guest announced that neither she nor the any section of the Independent will review “any book which is explicitly aimed at just girls, or just boys.
“Any Girls’ Book of Boring Princesses that crosses my desk will go straight into the recycling pile along with every Great Big Book of Snot for Boys. If you are a publisher with enough faith in your new book that you think it will appeal to all children, we’ll be very happy to hear from you,” she wrote.
As for books that are beloved among readers without a gender-specific sway one way or another, Guest pointed to works like “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins and the “Harry Potter” series by J.K. Rowling.
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