Boys don’t read Girl Books and other lies my Society Told Me

“It’s a cliché but mostly true that while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters.” (Robert Lipsyte, “Boys and Reading: Is there Any Hope?“)

Toph GIF Avatar: The Last Airbender

Oh, Fuck, not this bullshit again.

(I hear you, Toph)

I like giving my younger brother (R) books. Correction: I really like giving my younger brother books. And he loves reading, so we’re quite compatible. Well played, universe!

Anyway. The last time I took R on a book-buying expedition, it took us three hours to narrow down the choices. By the end, we were down to two options: Jo Walton’s Tooth and Claw, which I described as “Jane Austen if all of Jane Austen’s characters were dragons! Tea time meets DRAGONS” and Malinda Lo’s Huntress, which I described as “Adventure! Fairies! Hunting! Lesbian romance! More adventure! HORSES!”

(My eloquence: admire it)

At some point in R’s difficult decision, I swooped in with big-sister wisdom: “You know, I’m worried you won’t enjoy Tooth and Claw as much. Don’t get me wrong – I love it. But it’s not really an adventure story. It’s basically a family story, and about people’s relationships and marriages. Except with dragons.”

My younger brother gave me a Look: “No, but that’s what I like.”

Me: “Whazit?”

Brother: “Those are my favorite kinds of books! I like reading about families, and about how people relate to each other.”

This would be the moment I massively facepalmed.

Zuko GIF angst Avatar the last airbender


I’m a feminist. I think about idiotic gender roles a lot. I try to avoid perpetuating sexism as much as I can. I especially try to avoid perpetuating stupid gender roles around my brother. And I have always believed that there is no such thing as a “girl” book and a “boy” book.

Yet I assumed my brother would like an adventure book more than he would a family-drama book.

Because he’s a thirteen-year-old-boy.



Aang GIF Avatar headdesk

Me, to brother: “… just ignore me, I’m an idiot.”

Conclusion of the story: I ended up buying R. both books, because I am the best sister on the planet

(Yes! yes I am aware of how awesome I am! But more accolades are always welcome!).

He loved Huntress, like I thought he would. But he loved Tooth and Claw even more. He sent me an email from his vacation where he told me it was now “one of his favorite books.” And when I saw him again, he asked me if I could lend him my Jane Austen novels.

Because Tooth and Claw had inspired him to read Jane Austen.


Emperor's New Groove Boom Baby

(I really love Jane Austen, okay?)


This post is not about how gender stereotypes are incredibly difficult to unlearn – although it could be, since that is a true and important topic. Gender stereotypes are incredibly difficult to unlearn! Even for feminists! Tell your friends.

It is, as all my favorite posts are, about my brother. My brother read a lot. And as it happens, a fair number of the books he reads either a) are written by women b) have female protagonists, or c) center on “girl” issues like “family” and “relationships.”

This fact makes him the Miracle Boy Foretold By the Prophecy. Because boys can’t read girl books. Didn’t you get the memo?

[Note: In this post, I will use the term “girl” books to designate books that are USUALLY ASSOCIATED with women, either because they were written by women, have female protagonists, or tackle subjects that are coded as feminine (gossip! pink!). I don’t mean to imply that there are actual “girl” books and “boy” books. Books are for everyone! I promise! They don’t have cooties!]


“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a young boy who desires to read must be in want of a “boy” book. However little known the feelings or views of such a boy may be on his first entering  a bookstore, this truth is so well fixed in the minds of the surrounding adults that he is carefully kept away from any book with the slightest whiff of the feminine about it.”

Okay, that’s not the first line of Pride and Prejudice, BUT IT COULD BE.

One of the most frustrating myths floating around the world of reading is the “boys aren’t reading because there are too many girly books, and boys can’t read girly books because EVERYONE KNOWS boys can’t read girly books.”

Cat and bath

How Boys Feel About “Girl” Books.

And sadly, this narrative just keeps popping up out of the fertile internet ground every thirty seconds. Like zombies! Or DAISIES. or ZOMBIE DAISIES.

Robert Lipsyte’s self-congratulatory and entirely unimaginative article for The New York Times deplores the explosion of YA aimed towards girls because “while teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters.” Meanwhile, YA author A. E. Rought called female protagonists a “trope” they hoped the publishing industry would get over. Then Sarah Mesle wrote an article for the LA Review of Books where she expresses concern at the proper lack of “male roles” for boys.

Hell, just yesterday, I was treated to an article that deplored the lack of male protagonists, because the author was sick of girls who only cared about gossip and instead wanted a boy protagonist who just wanted to put gas in his car.

Apaa Flying Bison Avatar GIF

Think about your life, anonymous author. Think about your choices.



Okay, first off, I want to make sure our facts are straight. Because it is provably not true that there are no YA books “for boys.” In fact, there are still more male protagonists than female ones in YA. There are just about as many male authors as there are female ones. THESE ARE THE FACTS, PEOPLE (here is one study, among many). And it is depressing as hell that people look at women achieving parity in one field – ONE FIELD – and interpret it as men being blotted out.

Toph Earthbending Avatar The Last Airbender GIF


Let’s get to the important part.
Now that you’ve read all this “evidence” about how boys can’t read “girl” books and it’s a HUGE CATASTROPHE, OH NOES, let me remind you that my brother regularly reads lots of “girl” books.
The answer, my friends, is the Great Feminist Experiment:
Azula GIF Avatar the Last Airbender


Ahem. So. The Great Feminist Experiment.
I have known about this whole “boys can’t read “girl” books” since I was… oh, eight or so? It’s been around for at least that long. I vividly remember reading an interview of Eoin Colfer where he claimed he specifically chose a male protagonist for the Artemis Fowl series because it would attract more male readers – and female readers would just pick up the book anyway. I also remember JK Rowling explaining that she used her initials (instead of her first name, Joanne) to avoid scaring off male readers.
I knew what was up.
And when I acquired a baby brother, I decided he would be an ideal Test Subject for a Great Feminist Experiment.

By the time I was ten, I had a plan. I would make it a point to give him books with female protagonists. On his birthday, on Christmas, at random occasions – I would give him books with girls. I would give him books about girls. I would give him books by women. I would give him books about “girly” topics like family and gossip and clothes.

Not to mention books with kickass women being kickass!

Katara GIF waterbending Avatar: THe Last Airbender Waterbending

Example Chosen at Total Random (I ❤ you Katara!)

I wouldn’t force him to read them. And I wouldn’t deprive him of books with male protagonists either. I would simply make sure he had lots of access to “girl” books.

It was a deviously simple plan.

And it worked.

Tiny Fey Amy Poehler SNL GIF Bitches Get Stuff Done

Of the books my brother reads, I’d say somewhere near 50-60% have female protagonists. The first chapter book my brother ever read was Roald Dahl’s Mathilda.  His stuffed hedgehog is named “Wizard Howl” after Dianne Wynne Jones’ novel Howl’s Moving Castle. He loves Lyra from The Golden Compass. He reads Tamora Pierce and Libba Bray and Meg Cabot and Diane Duane. He will talk for hours about Robin Mckinley and the Blue Sword novels. His stuffed hedgehog is named “Wizard Howl.” Right now, his favorite authors include NK Jemisin, Jo Walton, Octavia Butler and Mira Grant.

Don’t get me wrong, the brother reads a lot of “boy” books too (one of his other favorite authors is China Mielville, and his favorite novel is Chris Crutcher’s Whale Talk). But R. has never complained about a book with a female protagonist. To him, they’re just as normal as books with male protagonists. And it would never occur to him not to pick up a book because the author was female.

And now he’s even recommending books by female authors TO ME. It was my brother who first discovered Mira Grant, and who pestered me until I read her (and I never looked back).


Azula Avatar the last Airbender GIF madness



I can’t stress how easy this “experiment” was. I mean, it was easy because I started early, before all the societal sexism could sink in. But it’s not like my brother’s Y chromosome was allergic to “girl” cooties. So whenever I read a Robert Lipsyte, say, spouting the old ” teenage girls will read books about boys, teenage boys will rarely read books with predominately female characters” line, I roll my eyes pretty hard.

You know what? I’ve got a teenage boy in my life, and he reads “girl” stuff just fine. My outlandish theory is that if boys aren’t belittled for reading books about girls, if they’re not taught that girls are lesser, if they’re not teased about cooties, if we don’t teach them to fear the feminine… they’d probably like more “girl” stuff.

Boys don’t read “girl” books because they’re taught, in a thousand small, subtle, insidious ways, that they’re not supposed to.

What if boys weren’t ashamed to read books that were coded “girly” because they didn’t think it was shameful to be a girl? (thanks, Iggy Pop!)

What if we taught them something else?

Iggy Pop

Think about it.


Quick story to wrap things up!

So, obviously I’m a feminist. And I read lots of feminist fiction. And since my brother steals all my books, he ends up reading quite a bit of feminist fiction himself.
On the other hand, I’ve never told my brother he *should* be a feminist, or that he needs to combat sexism or anything. Because I don’t want to tell him what to think.


One night at dinner a few years ago, my stepbrother started teasing my stepmother about the muscles in her arms. My father said: “Stepbrother! It’s rude to discuss women’s arm muscles.”

And I, the random feminist, replied: “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with discussing women’s arm muscles, since there’s nothing wrong with women having arm muscles. But teasing people about their appearance isn’t okay.”

My brother: “Yeah, Dad. Because you know what me and Suzanne are into? FEMINIST SCIENCE FICTION. So if you say sexist stuff, we’re going to get super-mad!”

After I finished dying of laughter, I knew that giving my brother “girl” books to read had been worth it. MY EVIL FEMINIST PLANS HAD ALL COME TO FRUITION.

Avatar GIF Avatar the Last Airbender


[No, but in all seriousness, I was super-proud of him. I mean, once I stopped laughing]

Azula Avatar: The Last Airbender

Scary Feminist Out!


1. I should note that as I got older and more aware, I also made a conscious effort to steer my brother toward books with protagonists of color and queer protagonists. Which worked out quite well!

2. I want to be clear that just because this “experiment” (such as is) worked for me, it doesn’t mean it would work for everyone. There was a whole lot of privilege and luck that went into it! Like the fact that I started when the brother was super-young. And that he turned out to love reading. And that both he and I had lots of time and opportunities to read, and were both encouraged to do so. This is not supposed to be a how-to for how to get boys to read more. Nor is it meant to be a critique of people who can’t get the boys in their life to read more. If that doesn’t comes across, let me know, and I will fix it!

3. My brother has been fully aware of the “experiment” since he was seven or eight. I promise, I’m not manipulating him behind his back. We’ve had conversations about it, where I ask whether he’s okay if I keep giving him books by women/with female protagonists and he’s like “So… you’re asking if I’m okay with you giving me books? Is this some kind of evil trick?”

4. Hey, notice all the Avatar: The Last Airbender GIFs? The Feminist Philosopher introduced me to the show, and I just finished watching it. IT IS AWESOME, and full of awesome male and female characters AND YOU SHOULD ALL GO WATCH IT. NO, SERIOUSLY, DROP EVERYTHING YOU’RE DOING AND GO WATCH THE SHOW.

Katar waterbending Avatar The Last Airbender GIF

Stop Everything and GO WATCH.

Thank you, Feminist Philosopher. I will forever blame you when I tear up at GIFs of Zuko and Uncle Iroh hugging.

Further reading: 

The Book Smugglers: The Airing of the Grievances 
The Problem is Not the Books
Gender Balance in YA awards

46 Comments on “Boys don’t read Girl Books and other lies my Society Told Me”

  1. Myriad says:

    You want to trade brothers for a bit? Maybe you you can work some magic on the GHMC.

    …seriously, though, R. is awesome. I may kidnap him one of these days.

    • Lacey says:

      I was just hoping my son grows up just like him 😛 Right now he only holds still for about 2 seconds for a book (at least at home.. I strongly suspect that, like most things that involve good behavior, he’s a completely different child at daycare…). His favorite book is one where half of it folds out into a track for a wind-up tractor. The only time I get him to really listen to books is when he’s on the potty or in the bathtub… he loves reading then 😛 He’s only 23 months tho… I figure we have time for the full-on feminist agenda!

      • Myriad says:

        Yeah, my brother can legally drink in the US, so it’s a bit late for him. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try!

      • C.D. says:

        YES on the home vs. daycare comment. Whenever my parents go in to parent-teacher conferences, the teachers are all “R. is so obedient and sweet and he never misbehaves.”
        And my parents are all: “… wait, what?”
        I mean, I love my brother, but he can be a bit of a hellion.

        Also, reading in the bathtub/on the potty is totally valid. I think that’s how I started. And the brother is known for never exiting the bathroom because he’s reading (this is actually a risk of exposing children to books. I mean, HE WILL STAY IN THERE FOR FORTY MINUTES).

    • C.D. says:

      … I’m totally warning my brother to look out for tall women with curly hair who talk about knitting and feminism and pokemon.
      And telling him he should take extra care when walking by YSP.

  2. dawnofthenerds says:

    During the summers, I run a program that tries to get kids to love reading, or at least not hate it, and the number of comments I hear from kids and parents about what they’re ‘supposed’ to read is unbelievable. Specifically, I was raving to this one woman about how her nephew had read two whole (very short) chapter books in one hour, and how he was very well behaved, which was really great, especially for the kids in this program, and she started scoffing about how he wasn’t supposed to be reading ‘trash’ books! I just about tore a strip off her, as the whole point of my program is to get kids to love reading by tying it into stuff they already love, to try and decouple reading and shame, be it because of skill level or unusual interests, and people like this are a huge part of the reason why kids end up hating reading! Unfortunately, I had to be civil, and stick to explaining the purpose of the program.

    On a slightly tangential note, it would appear that your brother (and you, I assume) and I have very similar tastes in books, and I am very intrigued by some of these authors I haven’t read yet *toddles off to the library*

    • Lacey says:

      I applaud your self control. I hope you were able to make that woman think at all.

      • dawnofthenerds says:

        Maybe? But, as it turns out, She and another child I’m assuming was her daughter were standing outside our workroom about a month later, and I saw her go through the books the girl had picked out, and very callously and dismissively discarded about a quarter of them as junk. It made me want to cry and scream and throw things, and my coworker and I ranted about how awful that attitude was for the rest of the week. Well, mostly me ranting and her nodding, but still. I honestly can’t think of a better way to destroy a child’s love of reading than what she did, especially if it was done continuously.

    • C.D. says:

      Urgh, yeah. One of my parents is really not a fan of the fact that my brother reads a ton of SF/F, and will go off on long discussion about what he’s “supposed” to be reading.
      So I sympathize.

      Also, your program sounds wonderful! In my completely un-expert opinion, that’s the best way to get kids to read – to make them discover the kind of reading they love. Not all kids want to read Dostoevsky and Dickens.

      … actually, I have yet to come across a kid who wants to read Dostoevsky. Not saying they’re not out there, but…

      • When I was 13, I wanted to read Dostoevsky. Now I’ve only read one book by him, and such books don’t interest me anymore five years later, but back then if I had got more money or his books were more findable in France second hand, I’d have bought more by him. Like I’d have done for books by Gombrowicz or Nabokov (which in the end I found more interesting than him, so I searched for his books instead.) At this point I didn’t have a library card anymore (now I’ve got one again) so, yeah. The short explanation is you need your parents’ permission for a library card and to fill lots of papers. I’m just waiting for a phase when it interests me again and then I’ll borrow his books from the library. Also we don’t read Dostoevsky or Nabokov, let alone Gombrowicz, in middle school in France (I guess in some high schools yes, I never went to one, but in my middle school we mainly read books that were originally written in french and excerpt from other books), so it didn’t feel like an obligation to read them.

  3. Lacey says:

    Oh, I so hate it when people tell girls OR boys that they can’t do something! Especially something as nonsensical as caring what gender an author or a protagonist is!

    I’ve been reading a lot of “boy” books lately – in YA, Paranormal, sci-fi/fantasy, etc, where up until now I’ve probably mostly read ‘girl’ books. Written by a woman or by a man, with a male lead of a female one, I’m actually finding ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ books completely indistinguishable. The ‘boy’ books have gossip, romantic interests, and detailed descriptions of clothing along with all the things they’re ‘supposed’ to have. ‘Girl’ books have action, death, tragedy, heroism and detailed descriptions of cars/weapons/fighting styles, along with all the things THEY’RE supposed to have. I have read extremes – say some of Meg Cabot on one end and Anthony Horowitz on the other, but most of the time I can’t really tell.

    The one thing I do have to fight my brain on is the assumption that all characters are caucasian until I read a description that states otherwise, or they have a blatantly ethnic name. Tt doesn’t bother me at all to find out that the character is NOT white (unlike a lot of dipsh*ts who were apparently upset when they find out that Rue was black), but it does bother me that my brain still makes that base assumption 😦

    • C.D. says:

      I have EXACTLY the same problem with assuming all characters are caucasian. I’m working on it, but man, it frustrates me so much.
      Thank you, white supremacist society! No, really, Thank you.
      On a tangential note, one of my projects this summer was to read YA with POC protagonists (which is sadly, a lot harder than it should be), and that has helped me with my automatic assumptions a bit. Consuming media with POC leads also helps, since I often visualize characters as actors…

  4. Dani Alexis says:

    I’m here from Shakesville, and I just wanted to say I love this post so much I’ve bookmarked it and may have to discuss the same topic on my own blog, once I can think of something to say other than “OMG THIS GO HERE READ THIS THIS THIS THIS!” 🙂

  5. RachelB says:

    *claps loudly*

    I am engaged in a similar long-term book project with my niblings, two of whom were assigned male and one of whom was assigned female at birth. I want them all to grow up feminist for so many reasons, but especially because feeling that it’s shameful to be a woman, while being a woman, is painful and hard to fix.

  6. Aaron says:

    As I’ve been reading I just got happier and happier. I also just downloaded Tooth and Claw, and might use the same pitch you gave to convince my grandfather to go read it (He LOVES Jane Austen too!). I admit I also squeed at the hedgehog named Wizard Howl. What you’ve done is amazing, and I loved reading this. I hope that when I have kids (or nephews and nieces) I can be as amazing for them. I wish I could chat with your bro and yourself.
    (Also Avatar The Last Airbender is amazing and I loved all of the gifs. You used them very well!)

  7. Lacey says:

    Glad you found Avatar – it is excellent. The new Legend of Korra is also worth watching, if not QUITE as fun. And you probably should avoid the movie if you loved the cartoon because it will break your heart how they managed to take something perfect and awesome and just make it NOT awesome….

    • C.D. says:

      Yes, I’ve been duly warned off the movie. Also, aren’t all the leads played white actors? Except Zuko?
      … which is super gross! GAAAH.

  8. ian says:

    Good article. I suspect you could say my sister was guilty of the same thing with me. Honestly though, in her case I think she was just gratified when I grew old enough to be another reader in the house. I can’t say I’ve ever chosen a book based on the gender of the protagonist, although some of my favorite characters are female (Cirocco Jones… points to anyone who knows who that is) and a Lot of the science fiction and fantasy I read is written by women. It never seemed odd to me. Good writing is good writing.

  9. Liz says:

    Your brother and my kid would get along! He has read all the Tamora Pierce books a gazillion times and his favorite book for forever was Dealing with Dragons.

  10. Completely unrelated to the post at hand (mostly because you said it all and I have little to add), the last gif, from the episode where Katara and Zuko find the guy that killed her mother? My favorite moment of the entire series.


  11. […] Boys don’t read Girl Books and other lies my Society Told Me ( […]

  12. spectralbovine says:

    This post is awesome, and its awesomeness is only enhanced by the copious use of Avatar GIFs.

    Seriously, that is awesome about your brother, and I love that he ended up introducing YOU to Mira Grant.

  13. […] Boys don’t read Girl Books and other lies my Society Told Me | Culturally Disoriented: “You know what? I’ve got a teenage boy in my life, and he reads ‘girl’ stuff just fine.” […]

  14. Julia says:

    I feel that the society is going backwards and feminists have to fight against the stream. Boys and girls books? At first I thought it was a joke. Like boys seats and girls seats, boys cutlery and girls cutlery (it’s so OBVIOUS they should be different). Boys toothbrushes and girls toothbrushes (hmmm, this is an existing nonsense). What about school books? Should we talk about “history for boys” and “history for girls”, “grammar for boys” and “grammar for girls”… why not, how is it different from the suggestion “boys and girls should study math differently”?

  15. ERose says:

    Just ask my mom. She’s a fourth grade teacher, and the book she’s hooked the most boys on in her career? Little House on the Praire.
    She reads it aloud to her class a lot to tie into their pioneer social studies unit, and everyone – girls and boys – love it. It is true that none of the boys in her class have ever seen a picture of girls in bonnets on the cover and picked up the book. It is also true that once someone – in this case my mom – gets them past the cover they love the story.
    There’s some old saying about books and covers, isn’t there? I find it hard to believe the publishing industry hasn’t heard it. Maybe it’s time publishing companies took another look at marketing strategies and moved out of the 1940s (when Nancy Drew’s authors had to fight the exact same line in order to get a girl detective into print).

  16. LongHairedWeirdo says:

    Please feel free to delete this.

    I stopped reading. Too much animation kept drawing my eyes away from the words. I liked what I read, but had to stop. Life is too short, and I can’t focus on reading when something keeps yanking at my attention.

  17. Ian Osmond says:

    Let me start this by pointing you at one of my favorite books — Wen Spencer’s A BROTHER’S PRICE. Just because I get the feeling you and your brother might like it, too. It is the best swashbuckling Western romance novel set in a matriarchal polygynous alternate world that I have ever read, and probably the best one ever written.

    Anyway, I wanted to make one correction: TOOTH AND CLAW isn’t Jane Austen with dragons; it’s Anthony Trollope with dragons. Jo Walton loves Trollope’s Victorian novels, but they’re far less believable than Austen’s work. Walton realized that people in Trollope’s books just didn’t act like humans do around male and female interactions, so she deduced that, of course, that must be because they’re NOT humans. And found that the Victorian novels were much more enjoyable when she just decided that the characters’ actions were driven by their nonhuman biology, rather than their incomprehensibly over-the-top sexism.

    I mention this because I find it interesting that one of the things that is at the root of TOOTH AND CLAW is feminist theory musings over the nature of gender relationships in fiction. It was a conscious process on Jo’s part.

    And because, if you liked TOOTH AND CLAW, you are likely to like Trollope. Trollope’s not as good as Austen — but he’s still worth reading.

  18. R_Mike says:

    I was a 13 year old young man, in ’80, when I read Alexi Panshin’s “Right of Passage”. Sadly, I was not aware I shouldn’t enjoy a book with female protagonist. I guess it destroyed my mind or something. Equally damaging where the strong female characters in Stanley H. Schmidt’s “The Witches of Karres”. I bet both of those books would damage R’s psyche as well.

    • Margaret says:

      “The Witches of Karres” is actually by James H. Schmitz, who also wrote the Telzey Amberdon novels, about a teenage telepath who becomes an intergalactic diplomat.

  19. Erica says:

    Maybe one reason boys were traditionally so much less inclined to read books about girls than vice versa was because there were so many more male authors and books with male characters back when I was little (in the early 70s). If you were a girl who loved adventure stories (and I did), you had to read books with boy protagonists, or you’d run out of reading material pretty quickly.

    I was a lot more into reading than my younger brother was. As an adult, I still am more into reading than he is. But one of my brother’s favorites when we were kids was Pippi Longstocking. Go figure.

    One thing I notice when I’m reading or watching movies with my three nieces (currently 8, 8 and 11) is they tend to get annoyed pretty quickly if there are no female characters at all in as story. So I suspect the exposure to/availability of female protagonists (or stories that at least have strong secondary characters who are female) has driven their expectations.

  20. […] This week, geek feminism didn’t really put up an original blog. Instead, they gave links to blogs to read this week, and I read an interesting one to discuss with y’all. Link:… […]

  21. […] Boys Don’t Read Girl Books, and other lies my society told me. […]

  22. […] *DO* read girl books if they’re not constantly told they don’t:… […]

  23. dothatvoodoo says:

    You are the best sister ever. T-T The idea that boys and men can’t or won’t read books by women or centered around female main characters is total bullshit. What possible reasoning could they have for arguing such an inane belief? That the “female perspective” is unrelatable? One, if the character is well-written and well-developed, it won’t matter if the main character is a man, woman, or squid. The reader will relate if he or she has ANY stretch of the imagination. We’ve done it for the overwhelmingly male Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as numerous classics filled with thoughtful, deep male characters with shallow, highly “symbolic” female characters hanging on to the periphery of the men’s grand adventures to “find themselves.” If we’ve managed to enjoy these stories despite the danger of our eyeballs popping off from rolling them so hard, then boys and men can damn well enjoy “girly” books that dare take female characters and evolve them into fully realized human beings.

    Two, what the hell does it matter if the author or the main character is a girl if the story is set in a genre someone enjoys? Fair enough, some people don’t like romance or drama… THEN GO FIND YOURSELF A BOOK THAT DOESN’T FOCUS ON THESE ELEMENTS. A book with a female main character doesn’t automatically mean she’s going to chatter on in an endless stream of consciousness about her makeup and shoes and that totally cute boy across the street. If people think that having a female protagonist in a novel automatically disqualifies it as a novel worthy of reading and analyzing, then they’ve got a scarily narrow worldview that probably considers women as less than full human beings incapable of having lives, personalities, and dreams that any other human being can identify with.

    Sorry for the tl;dr. The perspectives of these a-holes who dismiss “girly” books you shared in your post enraged me so much my brain kinda exploded. Anyway, congrats on having an awesome brother. I said it before and I’ll say it again – you really are the best sister ever.

  24. […] Feminist Batwoman wrote a fabulous essay called “Boys Don’t Read Girl Books and Other Lies My Society Told Me.” She ran a successful experiment exposing her little brother to novels about girls as well as […]

  25. John Cowan says:

    There is also the Sucker ‘Em In With The First Book Trick. See, you give your boy A Wizard of Earthsea, and the hero’s male and so are almost all the characters. I mean, there’s a Generic Witch in the beginning, and a Generic Young Female Twit, and two Generic Villainesses, one young and one old, and a Generic Sidekick’s Mom and Little Sister near the end, but all of them just have a scene or two and that’s it. Otherwise a pure blokefest. He eats it up, and learns all about masculine coming of age.

    Then your boy says “More Ged!” and you give him The Tombs of Atuan and say “Ged doesn’t come in till later, hang in there.” And by the time Ged does come in, by Ghu, your boy more involved with Arha than he ever was with Ged, since we get to see Arha much more from the inside. Everything I ever learned about feminine coming of age, I learned first from Tombs.

  26. […] Feminist Batwoman wrote a fabulous essay called “Boys Don’t Read Girl Books and Other Lies My Society Told Me.” She ran a successful experiment exposing her little brother to novels about girls as well as […]

  27. Gene Wirchenko says:

    What a wonderful and wonderfully subversive sister your brother has!

    I read lots of stuff, pretty much anything. It is a bit difficult with some authors when I walk into a new-to-me bookstore. Where do they put Charlaine Harris’s books? Yes, I read paranormal romance, but I find the genre name silly. I read good stories that have romance or not. I like Ilona Andrews’s “The Edge” series.

    Sure, women talk about silly things.

    So do men.

  28. David Goldfarb says:

    Actually Tooth and Claw is inspired by Anthony Trollope rather than Jane Austen. (Most directly by his Framley Parsonage, but in general by the idea of a culture in which Trollope’s somewhat stylized concepts about love and marriage were actually facts of biology.)

  29. […] The flashy gifs are a little distracting, but I swear, this article is worth reading. I’d say the same happened with my sons. We gave them books. All kinds of books. The books we enjoyed. The two of them like very different books, but it’s a matter of taste not gender. They don’t seem to care about the gender of the characters (or their color or sexual orientation), but give them a good story (or a bad one) and you’ll never hear the end of it.… […]

  30. […] And this is where I begin to wonder about the people behind Pandora’s algorithms. I wonder if they have fallen prey to the popular social lie that women will watch/listen to/read about men and male stories, but men won’t watch/listen to/read about women and female stories. […]

  31. […] of the solutions he proposes is for parents of sons to get past this weird idea that boys can only relate to stories about boys. After all, we don’t assume the same for girls. In fact, boy/man/male has been normaled to the […]

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