Tuesday, January 3, 2017

"Boys Books"

On my local buy&sell Facebook page, I saw a post for Baby Books and Boy Books.

And I thought to myself: What the fuck is a boy book?

The baby books, presumably, are the stack that include a potty book (the only book in the bunch that could conceivably be just for boys), a Sandra Boynton book and a couple of Sesame Street books that have the titles obscured. The boy books, I'm guessing, are the others: Cars, Thomas and Spiderman.

Of course. A book that (I'm guessing) tells you how/where to pee from your genitals can be for anyone. But a book that has something manly like a mode of transportation or a superhero, that's only for boys. I mean, it's not like women and girls drive or take public transit, after all. And why would they want to read about Spiderman? A girl can't get superpowers from being bitten by a radioactive spider; that would be so unrealistic.

The monster would enjoy all of these. He loooves Thomas. He doesn't know what Cars is, but he is a big fan of anthropomorphized vehicles as a general category. He likes Spiderman well enough (although, in the world of superheroes, Spiderman is a distant 3rd behind Superman and Batman). But, just to clear it up, for anyone who might think otherwise, NONE OF THAT IS BECAUSE HE HAS A PENIS.

Let me break it down:

He loves Thomas because a) Thomas is a train and we live relatively close to the train station; b) His Dad likes trains; c) His aforementioned enjoyment of anthropomorphic vehicles; and d) The biggest reason, he has two Thomas books. Books are are the best things in the monster's world and a character that appears is a book is, to him, infinitely better than any other.

He loves cars because a) Mr. Wolfman and I (you know, the parent without a penis) both love cars. We collected them as kids and started collecting them the Monster. He has about 30; and b) They have wheels. Wheels are cool. He loves faces on cars because... he's creepy? I don't know what's up with the faces, but I'm pretty sure it has more to do with him being two than it does with having an XY chromosomal makeup.

And he passingly likes Spiderman because I found a bag in the shape of Spiderman's head about a year ago and bought it for him. It has a zipper and it's sparkly. He loves zippers. He loves sparkles. It may also have something to do with Spiderman being red and blue, which were his favourite colours until he discovered purple. Spiderman, incidentally, also has eyes and at 16 months old, when he got this wonderful bag, eyes were one of the few body parts he could name.

I know this was an individual post and not a marketing campaign, but this mindset, this divide between boys and girls, is exactly what every industry has been shoving down our throats for (at the very least) my entire life. We're told not just this is for boys and this is for girls, but actually tricked into believing this is for boys because they like it better, this is for boys because girls wouldn't be interested. Gendered nonsense exists because the market demands it, not because products and marketing create a demand.

I think campaigns like Let Toys Be Toys,  Let Books Be Books and Let Clothes Be Clothes are so important. Not just to get producers and marketers to change the way they operate, but to get parents to think about why they buy what they buy and why they teach their kids what they do.

Obviously, I don't have a problem with what are often considered boy books or characters or toys. My son, as I've mentioned, adores a lot of things that would fall into that category and I'm happy to buy him the things he likes. But I'll be damned if I let either of my boys believe for a second that they have special rights to superheroes, tools, sports, the automobile industry or carnivorous animals* just because of what's in their underwear.

*except cats, 'cause they're for girls. Obviously.

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