Debate Over Gender-Specific Books Gaining Steam
Let Books Be Books, a UK campaign to end the labeling of gender-specific children's books, has been gaining momentum through vocal supporters and an online petition over the last week. As of Tuesday, the petition has found nearly 4,000 signers. Supporters of the campaign include Philip Pullman (The Golden Compass), Britain's Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, and Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman.
The campaign's goal is to ask that publishers stop labeling certain types of books as being "for boys" or "for girls." The campaign's web site makes the statement that series titles like Illustrated Classics For Boys and The Beautiful Book Of Girls' Colouring promote gender stereotypes and put certain titles out of bounds for interested children.
A few publishers have taken notice. Usborne and Parragon have both decided to no longer create new titles with gender-specific marketing. However, one publisher, Buster Books, has decided to defend His and Her books. Michael O'Mara, whose company owns Buster Books, says that gender-specific books sell:
It’s a fact of life how a very large percentage of people shop when buying for kids, do it by sex. We know for a fact that when they are shopping on Amazon, they quite often type in ‘books for boys’ and ‘books for girls.
O'Mara also cites that two of his company's "best" books are The Boys' Book and The Girls' Book, and that although nearly 4,000 people have signed the Let Books Be Books Petition, Buster Books has sold over 500,000 copies of The Girls' Book.
It should be noted that the campaign isn't necessarily looking to stop publication of any materials. It is simply asking that gender designations be left out of titles and packaging. The campaign brings an important book debate to the forefront, and a challenging one as it seems that some booksellers feel this plea pits the ethics of gender neutrality against the classic motivator, revenue.
Comment and share your thoughts, experiences, and if you have them, titles you've enjoyed despite gendered marketing pushing back.
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