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Book Binding

Much as one knew it would happen when the massive bookstore chains eliminated their independent competition, I still find it shocking to discover books increasingly ostracized from the shelves in favor of notecards, magazines, soap and various trinkets. In our local Borders, sociology and feminist texts have been quietly relocated from their place nearby politics and history to a niche in on the second floor, back corner. But what has me really disturbed was from the children's section. On one side, a sign read: children's books for boys, on the other: children's books for girls. Shades of Lawrence Summers! Had the 1950's returned while I slept? What possibly would be of interest to little boys that is not shared by little girls in this day and age? Well, the girls' rack had some picture books and a series of Amanda Learns to Be Obedient or somedamnthing. The boys' rack, on the other hand, consisted largely of adventure books and various classics, including The Wizard of Oz and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials which two are notable in that both their protagonists are young girls.

While it's nice to think young boys continue to enjoy the exploits of at least fictional spunky heroines, it is sad to think that segregation is again rearing its ugly head to shut young girls off from assertive role models. This may seem quibblingly small now, but it portends large and nasty things down the road. Restricting access to creative and expansive self-imaging tools during the greatest developmental period of the human mind does enormous damage to the psyche. As Bruno Bettelheim noted, myths and stories help present, surface and resolve, in disguised form, the real issues that confront children as they begin to grasp the world around them. It does not behoove our society to deny large portions of that maturation opportunity to fully half of its members.

Imagination and yearning are part of what distinguish our species, but they do not distinguish between male and female. Let's not start this again, shall we? Really. Been there, done that: bad thing.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2005 10:00 pm (UTC)
That's weird as well as alarming. If I had to gender-stereotype books, I would have said that The Wizard of Oz was pretty girly.
Mar. 3rd, 2005 06:16 am (UTC)
I agree. I also think Johnny Tremaine was pretty girly despite its boy protagonist, presaging the non-threatening male teen idols of the latter half of that century, I suppose.
Mar. 18th, 2005 07:39 pm (UTC)
i am too astonished to formulate a response at the present... but i will... might post it here, but probably will have to dash a letter off to borders.

i battle this ALL THE TIME here in the south. i can open the damn door for my ownself, thankyouverylittle. and i'm no lady; how dare you!

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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