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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Gender, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity

guest bloggerBack in June, Laura Reiko Simeon wrote about how race is handled in Swedish picture books. We’re thrilled to host Laura again as she sheds light on how Swedish picture books handle gender and gender-ambiguous characters.

You sit down with your favorite 4-year-old to read a sweet, wordless picture book featuring a little duck swimming down the river. Quickly, without thinking too hard, what pronoun do you use to describe the duck? Do you say, “Look at him paddle past that shaggy dog!” or “What does she see in the sky?”

If you were like the mothers in a 1985 study, you would use masculine pronouns for 95% of animal characters with no gender-specific characteristics. A follow-up study from 1995 examined children’s use of pronouns and found that by age 7 they had absorbed and were repeating these same gender stereotypes. Listen to those around you: has it changed much since then?For children who may not yet be aware (1)

In the US, Sweden is widely regarded as a leader in gender equality, although many Swedes still see a need for greater progress. Meanwhile, our own biases are apparent, for example when we consider gendered toys. Compare this 1981 Lego ad, with its blue jeans and t-shirt-clad girl to the pink-infused products targeted at girls today. As with other social issues, picture books reflect concerns in society at large – but how they’ve done so is dramatically different in the US as compared to Sweden.

Some American picture books encourage acceptance of kids who break free from gender restrictions: Charlotte Zolotow’s William’s Doll, Cheryl Kilodavis’s My Princess Boy, and Campbell Geeslin’s Elena’s Serenade, among others. The point of these stories is that a character is acting in opposition to gender norms, but for children who may not yet be aware that they’re “not supposed to” do or like certain things, these well-intentioned books could introduce self-consciousness.

What have largely been missing from English-language picture books are deliberately gender-ambiguous characters that are neither being bullied nor defiant. They just are. Rather than focusing on the consequences (good or bad) of pushing against societal restrictions or elevating the rebel as cultural hero, they turn the focus on the reader. Do we feel uncomfortable if we don’t know someone’s gender? Why? Do we make assumptions about gender based on what someone is doing or wearing? Why?

We do have some characters – e.g. the diverse, roly-poly infants in Helen Oxenbury’s delightful baby books – that are non-gender specific, but they tend to be in simple, relatively plot-free books for the very young. They are distinct from the Swedish picture books in which pronouns are cleverly avoided and characters send deliberately contradictory gender signals. My earlier post about

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Kivi and the Monster Dog

Swedish approaches to ethnic diversity introduced the concept of not making difference the problem. There is a similar philosophy at work here.

The Swedish Institute for Children’s Books publishes annual “Book Tastings” that identify trends for the year’s publications. The theme for 2012 was “Borders and Border Crossings,” and one border was gender: not just sexual orientation or gender roles, but the concept of gender as an identifier itself.

The anti-bias publisher OLIKA has published several titles of this nature, but the one that made the biggest splash was Kivi and the Monster Dog by Jesper Lundqvist, the first children’s book to use the gender-neutral pronoun, “hen.” (In Swedish, “hon” means “she” and “han” means “he.” First proposed in the 1960s, “hen” was mostly used in academic research and hipster neighborhoods of Stockholm.) In this funny rhyming story, a small person, Kivi, wishes for a pet dog and ends up instead with a demanding beast that runs amok.

Åsa Mendel-Hartvig and Caroline Röstlund write about Tessla, a preschooler clad in gender-neutral clothes and boasting a mop of brown hair. In Tessla’s Mama Doesn’t Want To! and Tessla’s Papa Doesn’t Want To!, the child, in an amusing role reversal, creatively cajoles badly behaving parents into leaving the park, washing their hair, waking up on time or going to work.

interior page from Pom and Pim

interior page from Pom and Pim

Pom and Pim by Olof and Lena Landström may be the only Swedish gender-neutral book that has been translated into English. The first in a series, it features an adventurous toddler, Pom, who sends mixed gender signals: a boyish-sounding nickname, sparse curls, a long purple sweater, and a little pink toy (Pim). The story is told without pronouns, yet two professional American reviewers assumed Pom was male and referred to the character as “he.”

In Maria Nilsson Thore’s Bus and Frö Each on Their Own Island, two gender-ambiguous animals reach out from their lonely islands to become friends. One is shown variously smoking a pipe and knitting. In Jonatan Brännström’s The Lightning Swallower, we never learn the gender of the narrator, who is terrified of thunderstorms.

The Lightning Swallower

The Lightning Swallower

These books make a reader consider what markers are “masculine” or “feminine” – and why. They don’t dictate what you “should” do – rebel or conform – or offer value judgments about those who do either. In English-language books, feisty heroines reject traditionally female pursuits as “boring” (what about those girls who do love sewing and cooking?) and boys are persecuted for their love of pink and dolls (making these preferences seem risky to express). With their gender-ambiguous characters, Swedes have tilted the lens slightly and given us a whole new perspective through which to consider this topic. Can we change the terms of the discussion instead of framing everything in terms of binary gender categories? Where could that small but crucial shift take us?

Laura SimeonThe daughter of an anthropologist, Laura Reiko Simeon’s passion for diversity-related topics stems from her childhood spent living all over the US and the world. She fell in love with Sweden thanks to the Swedish roommate she met in Wales while attending one of the United World Colleges, international high schools dedicated to promoting cross-cultural understanding. Laura has an MA in History from the University of British Columbia, and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Washington. She lives near Seattle.


Filed under: Diversity 102, Diversity, Race, and Representation, Educator Resources, Guest Blogger Post Tagged: gender, gender roles, gender stereotypes, picture books around the world, sweden

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2. Diversity Defined

Diversity is a really hot topic in the Kid Lit world these days. At the recent SCBWI International Conference in LA, hundreds of people attended a panel about diversity and a chat afterward. You hear the word being tossed around all over the place, and sometimes I wonder if everyone is talking about the same thing.

Blame it on my days in high school debate, but I always like to define our terms when talking about something that could mean many things. When I think about children's books/literature, I think of diversity coming in three ways.

First, there is a diversity in authors and illustrators. From what I've seen, the Kid Litverse is full of a diverse cross section of authors and illustrators. Dozens of various ethnic and racial origins are represented. Just off the top of my head I can think of Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Native American artists in every age level of our industry. I know many LBGTQ authors and illustrators, men and women. I know some of almost any religious affiliation. Sure it could always be a higher number, which is I think where the discussion starts. It's not that publishers don't want diverse authors and illustrators, nor do they discriminate. Talent is talent. It seems to me the challenge is encouraging, mentoring, and training more people, letting them know their voices are necessary and welcomed. There are many ways we could do this--scholarships for under-represented groups to attend conferences/schools/events, mentoring programs, and contests. SCBWI is on the forefront of this, offering a wide variety of opportunities for everyone, and some special programs for under-represented groups.

Second, there's diversity in the publishing industry. As we all know, the publishing industry does not always embrace change very fast. But there are publishers out there--Lee and Low comes immediately to mind--that particularly focus on diversity in their publishing program. Plus, with the rise of self-publishing, access is there for anyone of any age, gender, ethnic or religious background. The discussion continues into the blogosphere, where there are numerous blogs and other resources where diversity in literature is the frequent topic.

Third, we're talking about diversity in the characters portrayed in children's books, and this is where the discussion can get heated, but I also find it the most interesting. White, middle-class characters have dominated children's literature for decades. But, as we all know, kids come from all sorts of diverse backgrounds, skin colors, religions, genders, sexual identities, and economic status. In the last few decades, we've seen a few more characters of color, particularly in picture books, which is terrific. And in the last decade, we seem to be getting more ethnic backgrounds represented in novels, too. I think we need more LBGTQ characters.  I'd love to see more characters with metal illness, handicaps, autism spectrum syndrome, ADHD. More characters from around the world. Not just Americans with different colors of skin, but different cultures from all over.

Here's where I think things get challenging when we talk about diversity. Who's writing or illustrating these characters? Some people feel strongly that the author/illustrator come from an authentic place in presenting these characters, by which they mean, I think, that only a Native American can authentically write or illustrate a Native American character, for example. I would love to see more people writing characters from their authentic experience, but I also don't think we need to limit ourselves.

Writers and illustrators have always portrayed characters outside of our own experience. We write about historical figures, when we never lived in that time period. We write fantasy, when we've never fought a dragon. It is possible to write characters that are outside your own personal realm of experience. That's why research is so useful and important. I am currently writing a book set during WWII in which one of the main characters is a Japanese American girl. I am Caucasian, so how can my character be authentic? Lots and lots of research. I have another WIP that includes a Native American character. I may not be Native American, but I grew up in a town just outside one of the nation's poorest reservations, and I had daily interactions with Indians both on and off the reservation, so I think I have a fairly authentic grasp of their struggles and issues, even though they are not my personal struggles and issues. I am a female, but one of my latest books is in first person from the point of view of a teenage boy. Again, I live with my teenage son, so I have a pretty good picture of his male voice and viewpoint. I have written gay characters, lesbian characters, and more. Because, basically, I think there are some universalities about our human experience that allow us to imagine and put ourselves into the shoes of people who might be different from ourselves by focusing on what unites us.

To me, this stance isn't a cop out. It's an acknowledgement that an African-American author, for example, is in the best position to authentically portray an African-American character. However, if that author wants to write about a white, middle-class character, I have no problem with that. If he is a good writer, he should be able to manage it. And I think if I do my homework, I can manage to portray an African-American character if I want to. And I want to portray diverse characters. I hope we all do.

I'd love to hear what others think about this.

For more information about diversity in children's literature, check out the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which just recently announced its inception as a 501-c3 non-profit organization.

And look for our Boise SCBWI conference next April, where we plan to focus on diversity in children's literature.


by Neysa CM Jensen
Boise, Idaho

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3. Does YA Challenge or Reinforce Gender Stereotypes?

You may have remembered a few months ago, I begged for responses to a long thing about gender and stereotypes and then a few weeks later I begged for responses to a shorter one. HUGE THANKS TO ALL OF YOU FOR GIVING ME RECS OF WHAT TO READ AND THINK ABOUT AND/OR DATA TO QUOTE HERE! 
This was for a level two project, also known as a higher project qualification or HPQ. We got to choose anything to research and come up with a 2000 word essay on it.  It was finished in February 2014, and came back with an A* :) 
Anyway, I chose to write about YA and how heavily gender stereotypes feature in it. A googledoc of this essay can be found here; the essay is uncut here, but there you can find the whole bibliography, and results of the shorter surveys. 
What do you think? Does YA challenge or reinforce gendered stereotypes, or is it changing? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Does Young Adult Fiction challenge or reinforce gender stereotypes?

Introduction
Gender stereotypes invade every aspect of life. From the moment a child is born and pronounced a boy or a girl, they will have the trappings of gender thrust upon them.  However, by the time they are teenagers, they will have started questioning these, and many other things about the world around them.   Literature written for teenagers, also known as Young Adult literature (YA), addresses many issues such as grief, bullying, drugs, suicide and rape. However, in my years reading a wide range of books on the market, I have not found many books that prominently challenge gender stereotypes, unless it is one of the few with a main character on the transgender spectrum. I have also often thought about the more general representation of gender throughout YA-the characteristics, traits and ideas attached to characters of different genders. In my time as a book blogger, I have also grown to know the methods of marketing YA literature, and I am going to analyse these, and if and how gender plays a part in these.  Gender stereotypes are rife throughout all forms of media, not just young adult literature. But as teens question and explore life, and are influenced by the media they consume, the books they read challenging or reinforcing gender stereotypes will help form their ideas that will stick with them throughout their lives.


My Research                                                         
The majority of my research involved reading and rereading many books on the YA market. As the selection is much too large for me to read in its entirety, I selected major books and book series in the YA category, and books with protagonists that challenge gender stereotypes. I have also drawn on books I have read previously and have stood out to me as reinforcing or challenging gender stereotypes. To gain an idea of other peoples’ opinions on gender in YA, and the gender distribution of those involved with it, I conducted an online survey, read blogs and articles by readers and authors, and directly asked authors, both in person and over the internet.
Do major YA books feature characters that conform to gender stereotypes?
Stereotypes placed on women in everyday life include being emotional, passive, flirtatious, and dependant. Examples of passive and dependent women in YA include Bella (Meyer, S., 2005) and Nora (Fitzpatrick, 2009). Girls challenging this view a major feature in YA, as seen with Katniss (Collins, 2008) Celaena (Maas, 2012) and Tris (Roth 2011). However, as these girls are, in-universe, challenging the norm of women being submissive and obedient, it could also be said that these books reinforce the idea of most girls being weak.  Even in these worlds, reinforcing the passive, romantic female adds value to their character; in The Hunger Games, Katniss’s worth increases when she has a boy-kissing Peeta earns her gifts to survive in the arena, and when presenting her as victor, she is made to look “like a girl. A young one. Fourteen at the most. Innocent. harmless” (Collins, 2009, p431), compared to the independent, fierce fighter she was in the arena.  Katniss’ conformity to traditional feminine stereotypes is further reinforced when her story ends not with the end of the revolution, but her marriage to Peeta and her raising children (Collins 2010).  Another common idea attached to female characters in YA literature is the idea that they need to have a romantic relationship with a boy, or possibly two, being in the centre of a love triangle. Not only is this heteronormative, it reinforces the idea that a woman must be dependent on someone, often a man, an idea that feminists have spent years trying to combat. 
Boys also fit into one of a few major stereotypes. There are ones such as Four (Roth, 2011), Jace (Clare, 2008), and Gale (Collins, 2009), heroic and adventurous, who are providers, and independent when they are not tied in to romantic relationships. There’s the dark brooding immortal supernatural creature such as Edward (Meyer, S., 2005) and Patch (Fitzpatrick, 2009), who conform the idea that men do not share their emotions very well. There are also emotional and non-aggressive boys such as Peeta (Collins, 2008), who also challenges stereotypes by being skilled at “feminine”, creative activities such as painting and cake decorating, and Simon (Clare, 2007), Charlie (Chbosky 1999), Dash (Cohn and Levithan, 2011), and all of John Green’s protagonists. These have become so common in young adult literature that they are becoming a stereotype in themselves. However, as these boys do not conform to traditional views of men, they can be said to challenge stereotypes.
Some stereotypes grow in popularity due to high sales of a book that features it. Twilight (Meyer, 2005) is responsible for the popularity of vampires, paranormal romance and, unemotional boys with ordinary but special girls, selling one million copies  in two and a half years in the UK (Alexander, 2009), and the series selling over 100 million copies worldwide (Sellers, 2010). Strong girls fighting against a dystopian system have exploded in the wake of The Hunger Games, which has sold over 65million copies across the trilogy (Scholastic, n.d.) in the US alone.   Books with such a large audience will majorly reinforce any gendered stereotypes, as examined above, contained within them.
How are characters challenging gender stereotypes presented?
For a category of literature with such a wide appeal, the amount of characters challenging the stereotypes in their everyday life is surprisingly small. Within the small, slowly growing, selection of queer fiction, trans* and intersex representation is negligible, with only two books featuring trans or intersex main characters published by mainstream publishers being published in 2013 (Lo, 2013a), and 7 (4% of 167 books featuring queer characters) featuring trans characters in a decade by “the big six” and three other major US publishers (Lo, 2013b).  Agender and nonbinary-gender characters are practically non-existent, unless mentioned in passing. The erasure of characters who, with their gender expression, challenge cisgender norms, aids in the reinforcement of the gender binary and attached stereotypes. 
Cisgender characters challenging their gender stereotypes have often been girls attempting to pass as boys, for example Deryn from Leviathan (Westerfeld, 2009), Polly from Monstrous Regiment (Pratchett, 2003) and Jacky from Bloody Jack (Meyer, L., 2002) to gain freedom, owing to the repression of women in their respective worlds .  Rare are characters challenging gender stereotypes in contemporary settings, although over the past few years, the selection has been slowly growing;  for example Jesse from The S Word (Pitcher, 2013)  and Eleanor and Park (Rowell, Eleanor and Park, 2012)who challenge gender stereotypes by the way they dress,  and Ben, who takes up knitting, a conventionally feminine hobby, and ends up enjoying it, becoming the “only male knitter to have ever attended” the English Knitting Championship (Easton, 2014, p227 ). These help to challenge perceptions, both in-universe characters’ and readers’.  What also helps challenge stereotypes is characters being supportive of these characters, for example Megan Hooper (Easton, 2014) and Angie (Pitcher, 2013). However, as the characters challenging stereotypes for them to support are few and far between, their effectiveness at challenging stereotypes is   limited
Do covers reinforce gender stereotypes?
The marketing of a book is based mainly around a cover. Books aimed at boys often feature darker colours used in a more aggressive way, explosions, weaponry and technology, reinforcing the stereotype of boys being violent, active and dominant.  Covers on books targeted at girls often feature a girl in a long flowing, especially in paranormal romance, even if the dress is not relevant to the plot at all, for example Gena Showalter’s Alice in Zombieland (2012), possibly because the stereotypical girl has through her life, in the words of Stacey Whitman, been “romanticizing…the fairy tale, including all the pretty things to wear.” (Wan, 2013).  All these tactics used by publishers’ art departments reinforce gender stereotypes to do with the perceived audience of the book, and have the added effect of unnecessarily gendering genres and stories. The colour pink will also mark a book as girly, regardless of the content. An example of this is What’s Up with Jody Barton (Long, 2012), which features a bright pink cover, off-putting to boys, despite the fact that the main character is a teenage boy. Over time, book covers that are more gender neutral than others have emerged. Examples include the US first editions of The Hunger Games series, the Divergent series, and certain editions of John Green’s novels, particularly Penguin’s 2012 editions. Features of these covers include block colours, symbols, a lack of cover models, whose gender will assumedly influence the gender of readers, and no suggestion of romance.
Gender stereotypes in book covers may also be influenced by the author. In May 2013, prolific author Maureen Johnson (2013a) tweeted “I do wish I had a dime for every email I get that says, “Please put a non-girly cover on your book so I can read it. – signed, A Guy”, then challenged her 77000 followers to take any novel, imagine that the author was a different gender to what they are, and redesign the cover accordingly (2013b). This activity was performed on books from all genres, but you can see stark cover design differences by author gender. Books with female authors were given symbols in place of people, and books with male authors were given people in place of symbols. The altered cover designs reinforce the lack of emotion often associated with men, and the gentility often associated with women. Johnson (2010) also suggests that “female stories are consistently undervalued, labelled “commercial,” “light,” “fluffy,” and “breezy,” even if they are about the very same topics that a man might write about”.  While books will be marketed on merits such as content and tone as well as the author’s gender, this labelling of women’s work and the Coverflip exercise shows that gender stereotyping is still, to some extent, present in the publishers’ marketing departments.

Are reading and writing gendered activities?
Genres are heavily gendered. Romance is seen as a feminine genre, due to the idea that women are emotional. Contemporary is also seen as a feminine genre, with the exception of John Green novels, as many contemporary books heavily feature romance, even though they also deal with harder issues. Thrillers, action and science fiction are seen as male genres, due to the stereotype of men being intellectual, active, and technical, which can lead to women using initials when publishing in these genres, which reinforces these stereotypes.  Dystopia is a gender neutral genre; however many dystopian novels with female authors have a stronger romantic subplot, while dystopian novels written by male, or initialled, authors emphasise the control and destruction of the regime.
Women are often said to dominate the YA market. At first glance in a teen section of a bookstore, you would think so, and in my survey, 75.3% of the writers were female, but when it comes to bestsellers, it’s the men who win. In 47 weeks, two women topped the New York Times YA list for five weeks total (Jensen, 2013a), and at no point, women have had more than 4 books in the top 10.  This seems strange considering that 75% of the authors on a selection of “Best of” lists in 2013 were female (Jensen, 2013b). The reason why more male-authored books have higher sales figures despite critics believing female-authored books are better are unknown; but it could be partially due to the idea that women are less likely to produce quality product.
The use of gender concealment reinforces gender stereotypes. Louisa May Alcott, Marian Evans and the Bronte sisters all used pennames to conceal their gender, (Anderson, 2011) in a time when women had strict restrictions on control over their rights, property, and money. The author who is often credited with kick-starting YA as a genre, Joanne Rowling, used initials J.K. to avoid a negative impact on marketing to male readers.   Women who take on initials in modern YA include J.R. Johansson, S.J Kincaid, D. J McCune, and S. D. Crockett. They may use initials because they are all writing from male perspectives, and may not be taken as seriously as a woman, or because their books are not heavily romantic, as would be expected from a woman, and these two facts would impact the sales of the book based on the preconceptions about the book based n the gender of the author. Men taking on initials was common in classical literature, for example J.R.R Tolkien, T.H. White and J.M. Barrie, however I can only find two modern male authors using initials- M.T. Andersen, who wrote Feed, a science fiction novel, and T.S. Easton, who wrote Boys Don’t Knit. Easton, who uses pseudonyms, also wrote My Year in Agony and  My Summer on the Shelf, two books about a girl who becomes the school’s anonymous Agony Aunt, under Lara Fox, a female pseudonym, (Easton, n.d.), and Haven, a thriller, under his full male name, which reinforces the gendering of genres. 
A Canadian survey (Katz & Sokal, 2003) found that 24% grade 2 boys found reading feminine.  A recent survey conducted by the National Literacy Trust found that  56.8% girls like reading “quite a lot” or “very much”, compared to 43.9% of boys (Clark 2013), and a survey carried out by the Canadian Council of Learning  (2009) found  girls outperform boys by 23 points in reading tests. That reading is feminine activity is reflected in the fact that, of the 149 people I sampled,  84.6% of the readers were female,  84.7% of the  book bloggers, people publishing book reviews to the internet,  were female, and 80% of the workers in publishing were female  (see appendix).
There are many possible explanations for this. One is the fact that reading is not seen as a “masculine” activity-it does not require physical exertion, is not technically challenging, and often invokes emotion. Another reason may be that “as the majority of the teen publishing industry is female, boys see reading as a female activity, and are put off by it”, as suggested by Darren Hartwell (personal communication, 31 January 2014). I believe that a major factor is the androcentricism in society, combined with marketing. Jacqueline Wilson, writer of books for children that cover topics that affect many children, such as abuse, divorce, grief and mental illness, said that she had been told in the past that the books had to be pink because “it would sell “twice” as many copies among girls even if it put boys off.”  (Bingham, 2013) This attitude is effective at upholding the stereotype of pink for girls, blue for boys.  In the same interview, Wilson  then “I do think that with books a boy is going to have to feel really quite confident if he is going to be seen in front of his mates with a book that is bright pink because it is immediately code for this being 'girlie'.”  Bluemle (2012) says “We steer kids—no, we steer boys—away from stories they might respond to from a very early age.” Wilson and Bluemle are referring to the stigma that society places on boys who do “girly” things, even while accepting girls who do “boyish” things. Due to the majority of  books  being believed to have “girly” covers, as 88.5% respondents believed most books have covers aimed at girls, covers not only unnecessarily gender a book, they also gender reading as a whole.

  

Does YA challenge or reinforce gender stereotypes?
The aim of every author is to tell a good story, with an intriguing plot and fully developed characters. Many authors don’t go out of their way to include or avoid stereotypes. However, being ways of quickly conveying information about a character or situation, it is inevitable that stereotypes will appear in any form of fiction. The aim of this report was to examine whether or not gender stereotypes are reinforced by young adult literature as a whole. The extent of this research is limited by the fact that I am unable to analyse every book on the YA market, and that people have different ideas of stereotypes relating to genders; however, I believe my research has given me a good overview of the market. My findings  have led me to believe that gendered stereotypes have grown in popularity due to high sales of books  featuring these idea, and waves of similar books riding on their success perpetuates them, as seen in the dystopian and paranormal romance genres, which are full of romantically dependent girls and protective boys.   Gender stereotypes are also reinforced by the marketing of a book, which is influenced by both the content and the author’s gender, and is expressed in a book’s cover and words used to promote it. As the selection of YA increases week by week, characters that challenge gender stereotypes are slowly gaining visibility, and as attitudes towards queer people change and we see more and more, gay characters, in time, maybe we will have a full range of characters, both trans* and cisgender, challenging stereotypes .  However, as the market stands, I believe that YA fiction as a whole does reinforce gender stereotypes.




Reference list
Alexander, J., 2009. Twilight: Book breaks sales records, The Telegraph, [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/6590249/Twilight-book-breaks-sales-records.html[Accessed 13 February 2014]
Anderson, D., 2011. Nom de Plume-YA Lit and Marketing. Faith and Feminism. [blog] 31 May 2011. Available at: http://diannaeanderson.net/blog/265[Accessed 17 February 2014]
Bingham, J., 2013. Dame Jacqueline Wilson challenges publishers to halt the pink tide, The Telegraph, [online]. Available at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/10039848/Dame-Jacqueline-Wilson-challenges-publishers-to-halt-the-pink-tide.html  [Accessed 11 February 2014]
Bluemle, E., 2012. He Won’t Read Books About Girls. Publishers Weekly Shelftalker.  [blog] 5 April 2012. Available at: http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/shelftalker/?p=5713  [Accessed 3 February 2014]. 
Canadian Council of Learning, 2009. Why Boys Don’t Like to Read.  [online] Available at http://www.ccl-cca.ca/pdfs/LessonsInLearning/02_18_09-E.pdf[Accessed 18 February 2014]
Chbosky, S., 1999. The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  New York: Simon and Schuster
Clare, C. 2008. City of Bones. London: Simon Pulse
Clarke, C., 2013. Children and Young People’s Reading in 2012. [online]. Available at: http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/assets/0001/8829/Young_people_s_reading_2012_-_Final.pdf) [Accessed 8 February 2014]
Cohn R, and Levithan, D., 2011. Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares.  Richmond: Mira Ink. 
Collins, S., 2009. The Hunger Games. 2ndEdition.  London: Scholastic.     
Collins, S., 2010. Mockingjay.  2ndEdition. London: Scholastic. 
Easton, T.S., 2014. Boys Don’t Knit. London: Hot Key Books. 
Easton, T. S, n.d. YA Books. [online]  Available at: http://www.tomeaston.co.uk/#!books/cee5 [Accessed 14 February 2014]. 
Fitzpatrick, B., 2009. Hush Hush. London: Simon and Schuster
Jensen, K. 2013a. On Cover Flipping.  Stacked Books, [blog] 9 May 2013. Available at: http://www.stackedbooks.org/2013/05/on-cover-flipping.html [Accessed 2 February  2014]. 
Jensen, K. 2013b. "Best of 2013 YA" List Breakdown, Part 1.  Stacked Books, [blog] 10 December 2013. Available at: http://www.stackedbooks.org/2013/12/best-of-2013-ya-list-breakdown-part-1.html  [Accessed 20  February 2014]. 
Johnson, M., 2010. Sell The Girls. Maureen Johnson, [blog] 22 September 2010. Available at: http://www.maureenjohnsonbooks.com/2010/09/22/sell-the-girls/ [Accessed 10 February 2014]
Johnson, M. (@maureenjohnson), 2013a, “I do wish I had a dime for every email I get that says, "Please put a non-girly cover on your book so I can read it. - signed, A Guy", [Twitter], 6 May 2012, Available at: https://twitter.com/maureenjohnson/status/331444327278587904[Accessed 2 February 2014]
Johnson, M., 2013b. Let’s Do the Coverflip. Maureen Johnson, [blog] 6 May 2013. Available at http://maureenjohnsonbooks.tumblr.com/post/49786559615/lets-do-the-coverflip[Accessed 2 February 2014]
Katz, H., and Sokal, L., 2003. Masculine literacy: One size does not fit all. Reading Manitoba, 24(1), 4-8.
Lo, M., 2013a.   LGBT Young Adult Books Published in 2013. [online] Available at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ApI5exYREuAwdEFXUC1hUTRJQXBuZmQ4Q01nZnJkMFE&usp=sharing#gid=0  [Accessed 21 January 2014]. 
Lo, M., 2013b.   LGBT Young Adult Books 2003-13: A Decade of Slow But Steady Change [online] Available at: http://www.malindalo.com/2013/10/lgbt-young-adult-books-2003-13-a-decade-of-slow-but-steady-change/ [Accessed 21 January 2014]. 
Long, H., 2012. What’s Up with Jody Barton? London: Macmillan
Maas, S. J., 2012. Throne of Glass.  London: Bloomsbury
Meyer, L., 2010. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy.  Boston: HMH For Young Readers
Meyer, S., 2005. Twilight. UK Edition. London: Atom. 
Pitcher C., 2013. The S-Word.  New York: Gallery Books
Pratchett, T., 2003. Monstrous Regiment.  London: Corgi    
Roth, V., 2012. Divergent.  New York: Katherine Tegan Books. 
Rowell, R. 2012. Eleanor & Park. London: Orion Books
Scholastic, n.d. The Hunger Games|Scholastic Media Room. [online]  Available at: http://mediaroom.scholastic.com/hungergames [Accessed 4 January 2014]. 
Sellers, J., 2010. New Stephanie Meyer Novella Arriving in June. [online]. Available at; http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-book-news/article/42636-new-stephenie-meyer-novella-arriving-in-june.html[Accessed 4 February 2014]
Showalter, G., 2012. Alice in Zombieland.  New York: Harlequin Teen. 
Sokal, L. et al, 2005. Boys will be “Boys”: Variability in Boys’ Experiences of Literacy. [online]. Available at: http://ajer.synergiesprairies.ca/ajer/index.php/ajer/article/viewFile/550/537 [Accessed 15 February 2014]. 
Wan, M., 2013. An Insider’s Take on Cover Story. Forever Young Adult. [blog] 23 August 2013. Available at: http://foreveryoungadult.com/2013/08/23/an-insiders-take-on-cover-story/ [Accessed 11 February 2014]. 
Westerfeld, S. 2010. Leviathan. London: Simon and Schuster Children’s Books


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4. Five facts about women’s involvement in organized crime

Women are involved in many organized illegal activities, albeit in small numbers. Editors Rosemary Gartner and Bill McCarthy of The Oxford Handbook on Gender, Sex, and Crime have compiled important information about women’s involvement in organized crime. Here they’ve adapted some information from “Organized Crime: The Gender Constraints of Illegal Markets” by Valeria Pizzini-Gambetta (Chapter 23).

(1) Most organized crime falls into one of two distinct types – illegal industries and mafias — both of which are dominated by males. Illegal industries supply illegal commodities through networks that vary in shape and size according to the circumstances of the trade. Mafias are club-like groups defined by ritual entry, a territorially-based hierarchical structure, and the supply of extra-legal governance to illegal markets. Both types of activity have been dominated by men, but there are many historical examples where women also participated, particularly in illegal industries.

(2) There is historical evidence of mixed-gender groups of criminals. Several mixed-gender groups of criminals roamed the Netherlands and the German territories in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Some pirate groups in the Far East were also mixed-gender marauding communi­ties. In the early nineteenth century, Chinese pirates were ruled by the widow of their late general for several years. They formed a nation at sea, in which junks were gender-mixed, with female captives and family members on board. Buccaneer and pirate communi­ties in the Caribbean golden age were essentially gender-exclusive; nevertheless, a handful of women entered the world of sea piracy through love relationships, cross-dressing, and kinship.

(3) Female entrepreneurs have been involved in running illegal businesses in the modern period. Marcellina Cardena, Marie Debrizzi, and Stephanie St. Clair were part of the gender and racial blend that animated gambling in Harlem until the 1930s. These so-called “bankers” needed only cash and a network of policy vendors to conduct illegal gambling. They hired other women to go door to door to take dime bets in exchange for a small percentage of the win from both bankers and winners. Women have also played important roles in the drug trade. In Latin America, Eva Silverstein (arrested in 1917), Sadie Stock (arrested in 1920), and Maria Wendt (arrested in 1936) were part of international rings of traffickers that imported opium and its derivatives from China and Mexico for export to the United States and Europe. More recently, Mahalaxmi Papamani and her network of Tamil female neighbors managed an important share of the drug retailing market in Mumbai in the 1980s.

(4) Although less common, women have also formed gender-exclusive crime groups. The “Forty Elephants” was an all-female group that flourished in the shadow of The Elephant and Castle male gang in London throughout the nineteenth century and well into the 1950s. The young women of this group specialized in shoplifting in the West End. Their sorority was hierarchical and a “queen” was in charge of distributing targets among the group members.

(5) Women often play “traditional” female roles in organized crime. Women have been relatively less involved as active offenders in mafias; instead, traditional female roles remain the most important resource for this type of organized crime. Intelligence gathering, turf monitoring, and hiding illegal commodities or weapons are tasks that can be accom­plished as part of women’s ordinary daily routines. In most groups, women are trusted auxiliaries in a number of capacities at times that are critical for the functioning of the group’s operations.

Headline image: Person in the Shadows with handgun, on natural wooden background. © Alexei Novikov via iStockphoto.

The post Five facts about women’s involvement in organized crime appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. What Were Girls Like?

I am JulietThree recent YA historical fiction novels by Australian women (all published by HarperCollins/ABC Books) inhabit times when girls had to bend to the influence of men and were comparatively powerless.

The Raven’s Wing is Frances Watts’s first novel for teens. It is set in Ancient Rome where fifteen year-old Claudia is strategically offered in marriage several times. Making an alliance which can best help her family is paramount. Primarily a romance, the book addresses Claudia’s growing awareness of human rights (here through the fate of slaves) which interferes with her sense of duty and makes her a much more interesting character than the docile cipher she is expected to be.

I am Juliet by Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French, is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. French’s Juliet is a fleshed-out focal character. Superficially she shares some of Claudia’s privileged lifestyle features: attended by maids who wash and dress her and apply her makeup; elaborate meals; and protection behind high walls. Medicinal and other herbs and plants are a feature of their times; and Juliet and Claudia both face imminent arranged marriage, but are aware of a dark man in shadows. Their stories, also, contain a story within a story.

Jackie French has reinterpreted Shakespeare previously – in her excellent Macbeth and Son which grapples with the nature of truth. She has also addressed the role of women in history, perhaps most notably in A Rose for the ANZAC Boys

Ratcatcher's Daughter Issy, the thirteen-year-old protagonist of Pamela Rushby’s The Ratcatcher’s Daughter, doesn’t share Claudia and Juliet’s privileged backgrounds. Set in a well-drawn Brisbane of 1900, Issy’s father is a ratcatcher during the bubonic plague. Issy is offered a scholarship to become a teacher but her family refuse it due to lack of money. The issue of the poor’s inability to take up opportunities that the rich assume is reiterated throughout the novel.

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter and I am Juliet include background notes about the historical period and other points of interest.

 These three books unite in their exploration of girls who are prepared to defy tradition to control their own lives, where possible, in spite of general lack of female empowerment. I hope that this really was possible and is not just a revisionist interpretation.

It is interesting that this crop of YA historical novels has appeared now. Are these authors finding a story-niche or reflecting current concern? Although surely girls today, particularly in a country such as Australia, are more fortunate in their freedom and choice. The Raven's Wing

 

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6. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 6

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics covered this week include book lists and awards, diversity and gender, growing bookworms, the kidlitosphere, parenting, reading, writing, publishing, schools, libraries, and summer reading. 

Book Lists and Awards

Britain's best-loved children's book? Winnie-the-Pooh | @TelegraphArts reports on survey http://ow.ly/xD0ld via @tashrow

Stacked: Get Genrefied: Magical Realism in #yalit http://ow.ly/xAi0O @catagator

Barbro Lindgren Wins Lindgren Prize, reports @tashrow at Waking Brain Cells http://ow.ly/xD0Kb #kidlit

The 2014 Lambda Awards have been announced, via @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/xAhdg #yalit

Four-and-a-half books about the Rwandan Genocide, list from @bkshelvesofdoom who would like other suggestions http://ow.ly/xD0ST #kidlit

Predictions for the 2014 NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books from @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/xxfyQ #kidlit

Stacked: Making a List & Checking it Twice: Bucket Lists and More in YA (a microtrend) http://ow.ly/xxf8c @catagator #yalit

A solid list | The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books from @fuseeight http://ow.ly/xAhPD #kidlit

The Top Ten Books I Never Wanted to Read (But I’m Glad I Did) by @emilypmiller3 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/xtAzp #kidlit

2014 Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards | via @tashrow http://ow.ly/xx9Od @HornBook #kidlit

Everead: 10 Books to Read to a Kindergarten Class, plus some tips, from Alysa Stewart http://ow.ly/xxhf2 #GrowingBookworms

Who knew that there were 12 Picture Books about Theater for Kids? Erica @momandkiddo has the list! http://ow.ly/xxd6W

Lovely start to the week: Sink Your Teeth into a Sweet Read: Books about Candy, from SSHEL blog http://ow.ly/xx9Wh #kidlit

Diversity + Gender

At The Uncommon Corps, Marc Aronson addresses how we can help encourage girls in math + computer sicence http://ow.ly/xD2ki

Guest Post @CynLeitichSmith | Varsha Bajaj on Reading Across Borders & Cultures http://ow.ly/xD1AG #kidlit #diversity

For #WeNeedDiverseBooks @MsYingling shares a list of #kidlit since 2000 w/ focus on Hispanic culture http://ow.ly/xD1d9

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, The Panel & Musings on Diversity Discussions from Tanita Davis http://ow.ly/xAghx + #KidLitCon plug

Overview of #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel at BEA 2014 by @sdiaz101 in @sljournal http://ow.ly/xABg1

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Announces New Initiatives at BEA, reports @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/xASXN

Growing Bookworms

DadsReadHow and Why You Should Help with the #DadsRead Campaign — @ZoobeanForKids http://ow.ly/xDeEV  #literacy

Announcing the launch of @ReadingTub Recommendations newsletter - Just in Time for Summer | Family Bookshelf http://ow.ly/xD0xR #kidlit

Judy Blume: Parents worry too much about their kids are reading, @TelegraphArts http://ow.ly/xATfj via @PWKidsBookshelf

A quite useful addition to the @SunlitPages Raising Readers series: Nonfiction Early Readers http://ow.ly/xAAwp

Growing up in home w/ lots of books + being read to as a toddler have biggest impact on school readiness http://ow.ly/xx7mN @librareanne

The Reading Teacher by Emily Rozmus @rozmuse @nerdybookclub http://goo.gl/XN4Yeh  #growingbookworms

Kidlitosphere

Lots of #kidlit news at Morning Notes: Sit on a Book Edition — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/xD2X1

Always full of interesting tidbits: Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth “mum mum” — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/xtAQf

48 Hour Book Challenge: A Call for Diversity from @MotherReader http://ow.ly/xAgt4 #48HBC

Good to see countdown to this weekend's 48 Hour Book Challenge @MotherReader | Who is participating? http://ow.ly/xxcvB #48HBC

Much deserved! Celebrating @MotherReader With a Donation to @FirstBook from @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/xxfWI

Miscellaneous

Have a Productive Day! | @tashrow links to 2 recent articles about improving personal productivity

Fun! Disney Parks Are Hiding These 35 Secrets From Us...And You Probably Never Noticed! http://ow.ly/xtAlX via @escapeadulthood

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Round Up of SLJ Day of Dialog 2014 at BEA from @roccoa @sljournal http://ow.ly/xAB4D

Words to live by! RT @donalynbooks "@rikkir77 @JensBookPage Just read every day and let the rest take care of itself!"

How Wordless Picture Books Empower Children | SLJ Day of Dialog 2014 | Sarah Bayliss @sljournal http://ow.ly/xABxJ

Interesting ideas for reinventing the bookshop to attract people to physical stores in @intlifemag http://ow.ly/xxegk via @medinger

On the autonomy that came with being given permission to read the once-forbidden Harry Potter books http://ow.ly/xx9lv @NPRBooks

12 Quotes From Roald Dahl for Book Lovers @mashable via @tashrow http://goo.gl/8ogjKN #kidlit

Parenting

I loved reading Ami's plan to give her kids a relaxing, time-filled summer vacation at bunkers down http://ow.ly/xxb7C

This post on Building Trust by @lochwouters in response to @NPRBooks piece, resonated with me http://ow.ly/xxhrb

Schools and Libraries

Helping if "kids can discover books that mean something to them, that sink in and stay with them" @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/xAhp9

On the importance of audiobooks for teachers + in the classroom by Kristin Becker @KirbyLarson http://ow.ly/xAh3v

I'm enjoying @MaryAnnScheuer series on #CommonCore IRL. Today: Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5) http://ow.ly/xxdxq #kidlit

Summer Reading

Age-selected, updated lists for Building a Home Library from @CBCBook @ALALibrary + @alscblog http://ow.ly/xDfNK  #SummerReading

Parents: Here are links to Free #SummerReading Resources for the Whole Family from @Scholastic http://ow.ly/xAdbf

SummerReading-LOGONice little roundup of #SummerReading Resources, including links to @Scholastic lists from @365GCB http://ow.ly/xxaln

How to Get Kids Hooked on Nonfiction Books This Summer | @MindShiftKQED http://ow.ly/xtBFJ via @tashrow #SummerReading

Things I wish people knew about #SummerReading from @greenbeanblog http://goo.gl/0OYULU

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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7. Sunday Musings - Gender and Reading - Gendered Reading

By Copyright by Fritz W. Guerin, St. Louis. [Public domain]
Gender seems to be perpetually in the air in the world of librarianship and children's literature.  I have been in this field for a while now and have worked in some different settings, but my setting of well over 10 years now has been in a school.

Over the past month or so I have been paying more attention than usual to our collection, gender and circulation.  I first started off simply with a post-it and two columns.  Each time a student would check out a book, I would mark off the column with the gender identification.  Every day the results would be similar.  The boys and girls in my school check out a similar amount of books.

I then decided to utilize the catalog software. (Anyone who knows me knows that I *love* running statistics!) I started off looking at the top ten patrons (those with the highest number of check outs) for the month, then I ran it back to the last 9 months of the school year.  The results?  Out of the top 10 patrons, 7 of them are boys.  Open the stats up to the top 50 patrons and the gender mix gets closer - 26 girls and 24 boys make up our top 50.

I have many thoughts about the why of this.  We have 4 librarians shepherding our students through their years at school.  Our early childhood librarian is a man, so one of the students first looks at what a reader looks like is Jesse.  We are very mindful about the books we share with our students, and we try incredibly hard to make sure there is a variety with characters who are diverse in all sorts of ways.  When we find stereotypes, we talk about them with the students.  We don't go in for the "Girl's Read" "Guys Read" variety of booklists or book talks.  In fact, two of my favorite anecdotes about assumptions helped make me more aware of my own gender bias after being steeped in this girls vs boys culture my whole life.  We have a boy who is a super reader, and he mostly (to my knowledge) was a reader of graphic novels.  He pretty much read everything we had for his age group by the time he was done with 4th grade.  At the end of the year, I ask the students to reflect and I ask them their favorite title.  His favorite title of all time?  The Penderwicks by Birdsall.  We also had a group of middle school boys who quietly came into the library and methodically checked out every single Clique book.  They didn't hide them, read them out in the open, and felt no shame along the way.

It's really up to the adults in the room to set the tone and fight against the pink and blue tide.  Create a reading culture, make sure you are not perpetuating the stereotype by handing boys sports books and girls friendship books.  Highlight books that get outside of the gender box.  Remember, there are no such thing as boy books and girl books, no matter what some marketing departments might say.

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8. Roundup of Diversity-Themed Links I Shared this Week

DiverseBooksCampaignNormally on Friday I do a post that rounds up article/blog post links that I shared on Twitter over the previous week. But as I was working on my roundup for this week, I discovered that, what with the whole #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign and all, I had shared a LOT of links related to diversity. So I decided to pull those into a separate post. There's a lot here to absorb. I hope you all find things of interest. Also, please note that MotherReader's 48 Hour Book Challenge this year (the 9th annual) will focus on the reading of diverse books. 

Links on Diversity + Gender

18 Adorable Reasons #WeNeedDiverseBooks | selected @leeandlow shared @buzzfeed http://ow.ly/wq7Ix via @compelledtoread

A Rambling Rant on Race and Writing | @lisayee1 at Red Room |"Do not presume -- but do dare to imagine." http://ow.ly/wvKNK #diversity

Let the Handsell-Off Begin: Booksellers Take The #GreatGreeneChallenge http://ow.ly/wDQXc @PublishersWkly #kidlit #WeNeedDiverseBooks

A success! ReedPOP Adds diversity BookCon Panel in response to #DiverseNeedDiverseBooks campaign http://ow.ly/wDQtA @PublishersWkly

Good stuff on encouraging girls in math | @Girlstart, STEM, and a Surprise from @varianjohnson http://ow.ly/wDvla #GreatGreenChallenge

Because books are mirrors, some of @RIFWEB favorite images from the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign http://ow.ly/wBgLj

Our kids’ grey matter is neither pink nor blue – when will book publishers realise this? @katyguest36912 @Independent http://ow.ly/wyJZb

YA #LGBTQ Novels Where the Focus Isn't Coming Out - list from @NinaTyndall at Small Avalanches http://ow.ly/wt60B #diversity

Writing as Feminist, Mariko Tamaki @NerdyBookClub I try not to write about chars that are white + straight by default http://ow.ly/wt4tX

squeetus: Thoughts on whether white writers can write non-white characters from @haleshannon (who has) http://ow.ly/wvJ0H

Paying Attention to #Diversity | Recent link roundup @medinger http://ow.ly/wt4no #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Great resource @cybils blog: Diverse Book Recommendations from Cybils titles for #WeNeedDiverseBooks http://ow.ly/wt4Eg

LGBTQ & You: How to Support Your Students as a librarian | @sljournal http://ow.ly/woc5p

Program #Diversity: Do Libraries Serve Kids with Disabilities? | @sljournal http://ow.ly/woc0D

5 Cultures #Kidlit Readers Can Explore for #WeNeedDiverseBooks @jendonn @5M4B http://ow.ly/wqst0

#WeNeedDiverseBooks …and What We Can Do About It, an action plan from Becky Levine http://ow.ly/wqrZl

My most favorite sci fi and fantasy books with diversities of various sorts from @charlotteslib http://ow.ly/wqqOw #WeNeedDiverseBooks

Presenting Lenore creates a #WeNeedDiverseBooks categorized Review Archive http://ow.ly/wqqGM @lenoreva

#WeNeedDiverseBooks diversity campaign goes viral, thoughts + images from @Devas_T at The Brown Bookshelf http://ow.ly/wqqp8

Putting your money where your mouth is at Biblio File: Diverse Book Reading List http://ow.ly/wqpA4 #WeNeedDiverseBooks

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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9. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: April 25

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. We are light on book lists this week, but heavy on events (World Book Night, Children's Choice Awards, National Poetry Month, etc.). 

Authors

Author Tanita Davis on why she's supporting the ALTERED PERCEPTIONS anthology in support of author Robison Wells http://ow.ly/w84Wy

squeetus: What do writers and mental illness have in common? Why @haleshannon is participating in Altered Perceptions http://ow.ly/w6a6N

Book Lists

A Tuesday Ten: Speculative Environmentals | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/w5qyf #booklist #kidlit

11 Jewish Folktales for Kids from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/w00w3 #kidlit #booklist

Diversity + Gender

Diversity in #KidLit: 7 must reads from @rosemondcates "you can find the uniqueness of each character while relating" http://ow.ly/w83Ej

A Diverse Dozen in #yalit http://ow.ly/w03aO #booklist @diversityinya

CCBlogC: Same Old Story: The Stats on Multicultural Literature http://ow.ly/w3xrF #diversity

Heartening post @Freakonomics on father/daughter initiative to encourage McDonalds to not make gender assumptions http://ow.ly/w3z6C

"it’s our job to represent humanity in literature. And humanity is #diverse" | @haleshannon on "Neutral characters" http://ow.ly/w02g2

Boys, Reading and Misogynistic Crap | @tashrow takes on Jonathan Emmett's recent Times of London piece http://ow.ly/vZZz1 #literacy

Events

World Book Night (tonight!) and a Proper Celebration of the Day of Shakespeare’s Birth — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/w5qiK

Voice your choice! Voting for @CBCBook's Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards is open through May 12: http://ccbookawards.com #CCBA14

SFW-logo-with-2014-dateIs anyone participating in Screen-Free Week 2014, May 5-11? | @CommercialFree Childhood Campaign http://ow.ly/w3wZw

Can you commit to 20 min of reading as a family for 20 days? #Read20@jendonn @5M4B is taking @Scholastic Challenge http://ow.ly/w01Qd

Celebrating Earth Day: A focus on Molly Bang's science picture books (ages 4-10) from @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/w01jW #kidlit

Poetry Challenge for Kids {Week 4} from @momandkiddo for #NationalPoetryMonth http://ow.ly/vVOlL

Growing Bookworms

Teaching Kids How to Take Care of Books - @growingbbb http://ow.ly/w8451 #GrowingBookworms

7 Book-Related Things I’d Like to Destruct by Here Comes Destructosaurus author Aaron Reynolds | @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/w5qdK

Another well-put reminder: "All books are worthy of being read. Just let kids read" by @mentortexts @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/w00Ld

Study finds mothers share rich Information when Reading Picture Books (narrative and non) reports @tashrow http://ow.ly/w815v #literacy

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

"No matter how long a book has been out, the first time you read it, it’s new to you" Michael Guevara @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/w84sR

Parenting

Literacy, families and learning: Fifteen Creative Ideas to Try During Holidays from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/w5qNy

Schools, Libraries, and Homeschooling

12 Big Ideas About Homeschooling from @PenelopeTrunk @escapeadulthood http://ow.ly/w82ci

Growing Our Reading Community: Learning from Older Readers (on reading buddies) by @cathymere http://ow.ly/w02Cw

"the books our kids want to read, and the books we want to share", Mumbai school librarian @ShirinPetit @KirbyLarson http://ow.ly/w82HQ

The joy of sharing (recommending) books, by Hong Kong Academy teacher librarian @tgaletti @KirbyLarson http://ow.ly/w8349

Going to the #Library Gives You the Same Boost as Getting a Raise! | @tashrow Sites and Soundbytes http://ow.ly/w80sz

Depressing | Modesto to Replace School Librarians with Teachers in response to #CommonCore http://ow.ly/w3vKt via @PWKidsBookshelf

Common Core Flip-Flop: Gov Cuomo Changes Mind About Using #CommonCore Results For Teacher Evaluations | @sljournal http://ow.ly/vUiip

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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10. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: April 18

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. There are a few more than usual, as I was traveling late last week, and then had a big burst of catch-up links on Monday and Tuesday. Lots of links this week about diversity and about libraries. 

Book Lists and Awards

RT @tashrow James Patterson wins the 2014 Chicago Tribune Young Adult Literary Award. http://buff.ly/1l1S0Yk #kidlit

Make 'Em Laugh: Gut-Busting Picture Books That'll Have 'Em Rolling in the Aisles | @FuseEight for @NYPL http://ow.ly/vUt6f #kidlit

Booklist for Easter from @cjfriess | Favourite picture book bunnies http://ow.ly/vPivI #kidlit

Chapter Books for the New Chapter Book Reader | @ReadingWithBean http://ow.ly/vPhZO

20 Books for Tween Boys Reading Up » Children's Book Reviews by @StorySnoops http://ow.ly/vPjw7 #kidlit

So You Want To Read Middle Grade: #Nonfiction for Middle Grade by Sarah Albee @greenbeanblog http://ow.ly/vPfr1 #kidlit

15 Adorable Children's Books For Your Little Architect from @buzzfeed via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/vPsvr #booklist

A fine list: 22 Great Non-fiction Books for Boys (& Girls) from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/vPgjr #nonfiction #kidlit

The top 10 most frequently challenged books of 2013, from @GuardianBooks + @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/vN1Bm #censorship

Great Books About Eggs and Chicks | @sljournal #booklist http://ow.ly/vMQAl #kidlit

Diversity + Gender

We Need Bigger Megaphones for #Diversity in #KidLit | "Why aren't more people" speaking up? @catagator @bookriot http://ow.ly/vPeKy

Becoming More Diverse – A #Library Journey by Crystal Brunelle @librarygrl2 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/vVOsw #diversity

Shattering the Multicultural Myth of the Market. Let's go, urges @MitaliPerkins http://ow.ly/vUtir #yalit #diversity

Diversity in young adult literature: Where's the 'Mexican Katniss'? ask #yalit authors @cnn http://ow.ly/vMQMW via @PWKidsBookshelf

Stacked: TeenGirls Reading: What Are They Seeing (or Not Seeing)? asks @catagator http://ow.ly/vUsRL #yalit

Men: let us know about female characters you admire | @GuardianBooks campaign #LetBooksBeBooks http://ow.ly/vPgUg

Boys Read Girls (Let Books Be Books) @bookzone http://ow.ly/vPgIy via @charlotteslib #kidlit #gender

RT @ElisabethElling "Are Teen Girls Seeing Themselves Reflected in What They Read?" #yalitclass http://feedly.com/e/YKzivZyN

Sigh: "Being male still seems to present an advantage when it comes to recognition, prestige, and awards" in #kidlit http://ow.ly/vMRKY

eBooks / Online Reading

It’s an #Ebook World for Young Readers 13 and Under Says PlayCollective Report | @sljournal http://ow.ly/vVO9q via @tashrow

RT @tashrow Serious reading takes a hit from online scanning and skimming, researchers say – Washington Post http://buff.ly/1qkngTN #reading

Author @MitaliPerkins is proposing once a week Device-Free Day. Are you in? http://ow.ly/vN1m3

Events (inc. National Poetry Month)

TBD2014BannerSupport @readergirlz Teen Literature Day & "Rock the Drop", @CynLeitichSmith @melissacwalker http://ow.ly/vUsyl

5 Great Poetry Collections for Kids #NationalPoetryMonth@jenndon @5M4B http://ow.ly/vVNQZ

10 Ways to Get Kids Excited About #Poetry by @smozer at @KirbyLarson blog http://ow.ly/vPjjb

Forgiving Buckner by John Hodgen, #poetry @missrumphius | "Can baseball be the true harbinger of spring?" http://ow.ly/vPiKz #redsox

NationalPoetryMonthPoetry Challenge for Kids {Week 3} from @momandkiddo http://ow.ly/vPiro #NationalPoetryMonth

Kidlitosphere

This post made me happy + sad| Children’s Literature Online at a Glance: A Look Back at Friends Long Gone @fuseeight http://ow.ly/vN1Um

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Lovely! The Top 10 Reasons Why I Can’t Stop Reading Children’s & Young Adult Literature by @EsMteach @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/vPhG5

Growing Up As an Only Child, Fictional Characters Were My Siblings | @BookishHQ http://ow.ly/vMS12 via @PWKidsBookshelf

Dare to Disturb the Universe: Madeleine L’Engle on Creativity, Censorship, Writing + Duty of #kidlit | @brainpicker http://ow.ly/vMRsK

Schools and Libraries

This is interesting | (Much of) Parental Involvement (at school) is Overrated @NYTimes Opinionator http://ow.ly/vPqwg

Shanahan on #Literacy: How Much In-Class Reading? (On reading aloud and silently in the classroom) http://ow.ly/vPhhi

How VA Middle School Librarian + Book Club Raised Funds to Provide 15k Meals for Students in South Sudan | @sljournal http://ow.ly/vUhW5

Thanks to NBA Star LeBron James, Akron Public Schools Has One of the Largest E-Libraries in Country | @sljournal http://ow.ly/vUh45

12 ways to Save Money at Your Public #Library from @AboutKidsBooks - Borrow Kids Books eBooks Audiobooks DVDs http://ow.ly/vRqJ3

Betsy @FuseEight has set up a very cool #Literary Salon @NYPL on Podcasting Children’s Books w/ @KatieDavisBurps + more http://ow.ly/vRq7K

RT: AboutKidsBooks: 6 picture books about libraries and librarians and 1 article about how to save money at your public library. http://abt.cm/1hHgTtt

What you should do to help libraries in crisis (instead of holding a spontaneous book drive) — @lizb http://ow.ly/vN2ar

Think libraries are dying? Think again @cnn shares #library photos and reports on their enduring popularity http://ow.ly/vPb68

Reasons why you should be taking your child to the #library from @HuffPost + @tashrow http://ow.ly/vN1ru

In Arizona, After Girl Scouts’ #Library Project Set on Fire, Public Support Pours In | @sljournal http://ow.ly/vMQqc

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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11. Why do we believe these things? - John Dougherty

Image © LostMedia
Ever since the beginning of my involvement with the publishing industry, I’ve had the suspicion that its thinking is full of ‘accepted truths’ that are, in fact, not true. My suspicions are growing.

One of these so-called accepted truths - shall we call them SCATs for short? - is the idea that “boys won’t read books with a girl as the central character”. I was involved in a conversation recently where this was asserted as fact.

- Hmmm, I said; but is that true? After all, boys read Mr Gum, and the hero of those books is a girl.
- Yes, came the reply, but it’s sold on Mr Gum himself.
- The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe? It’s Lucy’s story, really. If there’s a central character, it’s her.
- Yes, but there’s Peter and Edmund and Susan, too, so it’s a gender-balanced story.
- Northern Lights?
- Yes, but Pullman’s exceptional, isn’t he?
- The Hunger Games?
- Well, sometimes a book comes along that just breaks all the rules.

…and so on. 

Interestingly, the person who most strongly made such statements also quite blithely said that their company does no marketplace research; they just trust in instinct & experience.

This is not to denigrate anyone involved in the conversation; they’re all good people who have achieved much in the world of publishing, and it was a privilege to talk to them. But it did get me wondering - is there in fact any real evidence to support the idea that boys won’t read books about girls? Or is it simply an unfounded myth that has gained traction and now won’t let go?

On the same day, I responded to a tweet from the inestimable Let Toys Be Toys campaign about their Let Books Be Books initiative. They’re building a gallery - which is here and growing; do take a look - to challenge this idea. Examples there, and others I’ve spotted or thought of since, include:

  • Alice in Wonderland 
  • The Silver Chair
  • Matilda
  • the Sophie stories
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • A Face Like Glass
  • Peter Pan & Wendy (interesting, isn’t it, that since Disney the title has been shortened to Peter Pan, when really it’s Wendy’s story?)
  • The BFG
  • Mr Stink
  • the Tiffany Aching books
  • The Story of Tracy Beaker
  • Sabriel
  • Fever Crumb

And there are more. Does anyone honestly think boys won’t read Geraldine McCaughrean’s wonderful The White Darkness or Not The End of the World? Is Tony Ross’s Little Princess really rejected by half the toddler population? Does the possession of external genitalia truly impede enjoyment of The Secret Garden?

Then I started thinking about my own childhood reading. I was a very insecure boy, bullied by my classmates, and gender-shaming was one of their weapons. I learned early on that anything that marked me out as insufficiently masculine was to be avoided. So did that mean I didn’t read “girls’ books?” Nope. I just read them in secret. I rather enjoyed Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl and St Clare’s series, for instance, and Pollyanna; and truth to tell if gender wasn’t signified on the cover in some way then it didn’t even occur to me to ask if the central character was a boy. The two things that sometimes stopped me from reading books about girls - or being seen to read them - were:

  1. the fear of being shamed
  2. being given the message in some way that these books were not for me

In other words, there was nothing about either me or the book that made us a poor match. It was external pressure that got between me and those stories. And despite what my classmates would have had you believe, I don’t think I was a weirdo.

This isn’t the only SCAT that restricts young readers and the adults who write for them. Malorie Blackman recently challenged the idea that white children won’t read books starring characters from minority backgrounds. And where did we get the idea that children won’t read about adult characters? Have we forgotten how successful Professor Branestawn was in his day - or that children are happy to read about King Arthur’s knights, or Heracles, or Superman? 

Do we really believe that children are so closed-minded as to only want to read about characters like themselves? Do we honestly think so little of them? And if we think it true that children need characters to be like them even in age, colour and gender before they can identify with them, why are we happy to give them stories about rabbits and hedgehogs and guinea-pigs, about water-rats and moles and toads and badgers? Is there any sense at all in the assertion that a boy will identify with a different species more readily than with the opposite sex? That a white child will happily imagine himself to be a dog or a pig, but balk at imagining himself as black? 

We need to challenge these SCATs. They’re bad for books; they’re bad for readers; they’re bad for our society. So thank goodness for Let Books Be Books. Thank goodness for Malorie Blackman. Thank goodness for those people who are prepared to say, “Is there any actual evidence for that?” - and let’s agree to be those people ourselves.

And if we ever feel unsure of our ground, and wonder if maybe the SCATs are right, let’s remember a film industry SCAT recently reported by Lauren Child. Let’s remember that she was told a Ruby Redfort film was out of the question, because a female lead in a kids’ film is box-office poison.


And let’s remember that the highest-grossing animation of all time is now Disney’s female-led Frozen.


_____________________________________________________________

John's latest book is Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers (OUP)

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12. Is our language too masculine?

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As Women’s History month comes to a close, we wanted to share an important debate that Simon Blackburn, author of Ethics: A Very Short Introduction, participated in for IAITV. Joined by Scottish feminist linguist Deborah Cameron and feminist psychologist Carol Gilligan, they look at what we can do to build a more feminist language.

Is our language inherently male? Some believe that the way we think and the words we use to describe our thoughts are masculine. Looking at our language from multiple points of views – lexically, philosophically, and historically – the debate asks if it’s possible for us to create a gender neutral language. If speech is fundamentally gendered, is there something else we can do to combat the way it is used so that it is no longer – at times – sexist?

What do you think can be done to build a more feminist language?

Simon Blackburn is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. Until recently he was Edna J. Doury Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina, and from 1969 to 1999 a Fellow and Tutor at Pembroke College, Oxford. He is the author of Ethics: A Very Short Introduction.

The Very Short Introductions (VSI) series combines a small format with authoritative analysis and big ideas for hundreds of topic areas. Written by our expert authors, these books can change the way you think about the things that interest you and are the perfect introduction to subjects you previously knew nothing about. Grow your knowledge with OUPblog and the VSI series every Friday, subscribe to Very Short Introductions articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS, and like Very Short Introductions on Facebook.

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The post Is our language too masculine? appeared first on OUPblog.

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13. LAST RESORT

I wrote a picture book over a year ago. I love it. But it has never felt “right” to me. I’ve revised countless times. My kids are tired of hearing me read it outloud. And my critique partners are ready to put it to bed. But still… it felt like something was wrong. I didn’t…

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14. Petition to Stop Gender-labeling Books


The UK based organization Let Toys Be Toys has started a petition on Change.org to ask publishers to stop gender-labeling books. The image above shows how such labeling can send a powerful message to kids about what's important: beauty for girls and intelligence for boys in this case. Granted, this image is an extreme example, probably selected for its provocative nature. But any gender labeling, even less provocative examples, limits children's choices and perpetuates gender stereotypes. Please take a few minutes and sign this petition.

Here's a great article about gender labeling on the Let Toys Be Toys website.

As a child, I always preferred books with robots, aliens, and adventure over cupcakes, flowers, and handbags. Books should expand children's horizons, not limit them.

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15. Let Books be Books by Keren David

Beautiful Girls...Brilliant boys? 
I'm on deadline, so this post will be brief. In fact I'm over deadline, and I've reached the gibbering stage of madness where words and storylines are swirling around my head in such a bewildering fashion that I despair of catching them all. 
So, let me quickly commend the Let Books Be Books campaign to you and urge you to sign the petition, which calls for children's publishers to take 'Boys' and 'Girls' labels off colouring, activity and sticker books.
As the campaign says: '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.'
I'd go further and ask that publishers think carefully about all the books they publish for children of all ages and ask if gender specific  covers are really necessary.  Too often the message goes out to children that books about girls are off limit to boys, and vice versa. That adventure and action is for boys, and relationships are for girls. That a 'pink' book written by a woman is somehow not serious. 
The book that I'm struggling to finish is about love. It's about love from a boy and a girl's point of view. It's also about expectations and freedom, including the freedom to love who you want.  My hope is that it'll appeal to all sorts of readers, and I have great confidence that my publisher will  market it accordingly.
 Do you feel that marking books for 'girls' or 'boys' helps to write and sell them? Is it inevitable? Or can this campaign just be the start of real change in the world of children's books? 

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16. Gender and the ALA Awards


QUIZ: ARE YOU READY TO WRITE A CHILDREN'S PICTURE BOOK?
  1. How many pages are in a typical children’s picture book?
  2. Who is the audience of a children’s picture book? Hint: It's not just kids.
  3. Are there restrictions on the vocabulary you use in a picture book?
  4. Do I have to write in rhyme? Do manuscripts written in rhyme sell better?
  5. Do EPUB books have to the same length as printed books?
Don't start writing that picture book until you know these crucial concepts. GET THE ANSWERS HERE.

The Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, Siebert and other awards for the best books of children’s/teen literature were announced recently. And every year the question of gender bias is raised. Overwhelmingly, the industry is dominated by female authors/illustrators, yet the awards go to male authors/illustrators.

This year the Caldecott went to 75% male illustrators, with the winner a male.
The Siebert is 20% male, with the winner a female.
The Newbery is 40% male, with the winner a female.
The Siebert is 20% male, with the winner a male.

Except for the Caldecott, it seems the awards are spread out.

Considering the possibility of gender bias–which is generally skewed toward male authors/illustrators, it’s interesting to read this article by Lilit Marcus, who spent 2013 only reading female authors. She was accused of being sexist, reverse sexist, and misandrist. “One Flavorwire commenter dismissed the significance of focusing on female authors and announced that he would only be reading books by authors who were tall.”

And yet, many readers are now contacting Lilit and asking for recommendations for women authors.

I wonder what it would look like to only read women’s fiction and nonfiction for a year. What picture books would emerge as winners? What middle grade novels would you champion? What YA novels would rise to the top? What if you spent the next year only reading men’s fiction and nonfiction? What would you learn from each year’s experiences?

Do you feel that the world of children and teen publishing carries gender biases? Where do you see it most?

Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Children's Literature.

Winner of the 2014 Newbery Medal for Distinguished Contribution to Children’s Literature.



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17. VIDA at AWP



One of the most interesting discussions I saw at the AWP conference was one sponsored by VIDA, with editors and writers talking about the results of VIDA's 2013 count of female and male writers in various publications. This year, they were able to offer a particularly revealing set of graphs showing three year trends in book reviewing at major magazines and journals.

The only report of the discussion I've seen so far is that of VIDA volunteer Erin Hoover at The Nervous Breakdown (although I'm sure it was covered by Twitter when it happened). Hoover gives a good overview of the panel and the issues. I took lots of notes, so will here add some more detail to try to show how the discussion went.

After introductory remarks by moderator Jennine Capó Crucet, the first responses were made alphabetically by last name, and so two men began: Don Bogen, poetry editor of The Cincinnati Review, and Stephen Corey, editor of The Georgia Review. Bogen noted that, inspired by VIDA, he'd done a count of the poetry published by CR during his 7-year tenure and discovered to, really, his surprise that he'd achieved parity between male and female writers (or at least male and female bylines). How had he managed to do this unconsciously, he wondered? The best hypothesis he had was that he seeks real diversity of experience and point of view in poetry and has eclectic taste — indeed, the only poems he said he's not particularly interested in are ones that reflect his own experience. He noted that certainly the idea of parity depends on where one is counting from, as particular issues of the magazine would go one way or the other, and he tends to organize blocks of poems in between other genres in each issue in ways that have sometimes been balanced but also sometimes been entirely female or entirely male. Many times, too, he said, he does his best to read blind, paying little to no attention to a byline, and has often discovered that material he thought was "male" or "female" had been written by someone of another gender. Thus, the magic of literature.

Of the panelists, Stephen Corey seemed perhaps least comfortable with the discussion. His initial statement was simply a set of questions. (I think I managed to write them all down, but may have missed something.) When we talk about gender balance, he asked, are we talking about balance in submissions? In page counts? (Does a 30-page story count the same as a 1-page poem?) Should reviews be counted the same as poems, essays, or stories? Do you want an editor to read your work with gender in mind? Should a publication put out a call for more work by males or females? Should a publication put out an anti-call against one gender? When you read, do you care if what you read is by a man or a woman [audience: YES!], and should an editor care?

After Corey, E.J. Graff said so many interesting things I had trouble taking notes. Here's what I wrote down:

  • The count is an example of why all English majors should take a course in statistics. Graff: "I wish I had!"
  • The submission gap is enormous. With opinion pieces, women editors solicit women and are often turned down or need more time, whereas men often say yes and offer to get the piece done very quickly (important for current events).
  • Men continually send pitches after rejections, women don't.
  • Structural acculturation. We have to overcome our own socialization — and not just in terms of gender. The audience, for instance, was overwhelmingly white.
  • We must make our own choices conscious because many of our prejudices are unconcious. Graff pointed to the Implicit Association Test.
  • For students, there is a dramatic shift between the world of school and the world of work. It can be difficult to learn how to promote yourself. Men tend to do this more comfortably than women, because it's generally more socially acceptable for men.
  • Make a posse. Promote yourself and your group. Start a movement or magazine. Challenge each other, help with drafts and careers, but as a group move each other forward.
  • When lesbians and gay men started working together in the 1980s, there were many difficulties, suspicions, and prejudices. To overcome these difficulties, many groups decided on a shared leadership structure that required equal power sharing between a man and a woman rather than just one leader. Why not do that with more prizes, editorships, groups?
Katha Pollitt (a personal hero of mine, and one of the main reasons I went to the panel) then offered her perspective, particularly as someone who has a long career as a poet and essayist, as well as a former editor with The Nation. Because I love Katha Pollitt, I tried to write as fast as she talked, and so here are my notes from her initial statement:
  • Some editors are quite conscious, others not at all — and some of the latter group are women. They can be very far away from consciously considering the issue, they can be very far away from any sort of balance, and yet still think they're doing great (and thus not need to become conscious).
  • As VIDA has shown, raising the issue can, sometimes, make change.
  • At The Nation, the front and back of the magazine are totally separate. In front, the subject areas (politics, news, current events) and speed of weekly publishing means the editors have settled on "go-to" people who they know are very reliable — maybe not the best writers, but they turn in clean copy on time. These editors would need to make the time to seek out new, female experts who are reliable. Some places have made such an effort — Alternet and Mother Jones, for instance.
  • You have to think about it (make the issue conscious) because we have to compensate for elements in the culture.
  • There are too many women trying to write in too few subject areas. Look at how many women are writing about Girls! Women should try to cultivate interest and knowledge in areas outside those seen as "feminine" or "women's issues".
  • If you're not getting submissions from women, you have to ask why. Why would a woman throw herself at your wall?
  • Most op-eds are solicited. Most slush piles aren't even read by an editor. Slush is not where the problem lies.
  • Things are fairer at newspapers. They have unions and must follow anti-discrimination policies.
Then the discussion moved on to questions and comments from the audience. Again, from notes, which may distort some things simply because I couldn't write fast enough. (I'll offer some summary and response at the end.)

Q: Is gender-identified subject matter more or less appealing? Also, racially-identified? Etc.
Don Bogen: An experience can be gendered, but not to the writer. Surprised plenty of times to discover the gender of a writer whose byline was indeterminate. The otherness of the imagination is important.

Q: 99% of news is what is seen to be traditionally male. Much of human life is dismissed as female.
E.J. Graff: It's worse than you know! The Global Media Monitoring Project statistics are horrifying. Women in the news are usually victims or family members ("the wife of", "the mother of", etc.). These create our implicit biases. Though, as Katha Pollitt said, there may be a good amount of female bylines in newspapers, the top editors and the columnists tend to be male.

Q: Wal-Mart has a huge effect on the economy because it is so large, and so getting Wal-Mart to change practices can have a massive ripple effect. Is there a Wal-Mart of the literary world that we should focus on trying to change?
[Some laughter, cross-talk]
Another audience member: The Wal-Mart is in the room. Unsubscribe from magazines you don't like the numbers for, and let them know. Let Harper's know. Let The New Yorker know. Don't let your subscription lapse silently — it's important that the magazines know why you are leaving them, and what it would take to get you back.

Q: Why is the literary world so obsessed with dudes from Brooklyn?! I don't want "women's literature", I want literature. Even when women are put forward, though, they become invisible.
Pollitt: Yes, why when Jonathan Franzen writes a book is everybody else suddenly invisible? Can Karen Russell get the same amount of notice? She should, but does she? It's a problem of publicity. Some women get attention. But does the attention last? Will it last? Can we make it last? The writers are there, the quality is there, the publicity is not.

VIDA volunteer: Feel empowered. Email magazines. Use knowledge to use your money and time well. VIDA is 10 volunteers. You are many. Vote with your dollars.

VIDA co-founder Erin Belieu: Most of the media reports on the count frame the story as, "It still sucks." And it does. But there's more to it than that. Many places say they need a comment from people such as New Yorker editor David Remnick if they're going to run a big story, but the editors of the highest-profile magazines won't talk, and so the story is not seen as journalistically significant. Behind the scenes, though, there is concern. One well-known female fiction writer gots calls from multiple editors when the count was released this year — the publications were embarrassed, and they wanted this writer to contribute. She didn't have any short fiction available and also didn't want to be the token female, so she gave the editors the names of 5 other writers who might be able to give them something.

Q for Katha Pollitt: Is there a perception among editors that there are female and male subject matter? Is more male subject matter being covered?
Pollitt: War, politics, etc. — these are not "male" subjects! More women are killed by war than men. Women's lives are deeply, intimately, and constantly affected by politics. These are human subjects. The New York Times has two male columnists who started out as food writers, a subject often associated with women. Get to know a lot about something interesting in a less crowded field and you will have an easier time getting published.

And then time ran out.

The take-away message was, as Erin Hoover wrote, consciousness. The world we live in is structurally biased against equality, and as people who live in this world, if we don't consciously work toward increasing equality, we will unconsciously contribute to inequality.

I love the idea that we could follow Don Bogen's lead and try to read and publish eclectically, seeking experiences and representations outside of our own, and thus achieve equality. But I don't think it would work. I expect he's an outlier and his example would be difficult, even impossible, to replicate. Worse, a stated interest in diversity might be used as cover. I think too many publishers and editors could just say to themselves, "Hey, we're nice, tolerant, liberal people who sorta like, you know, value that diversity thing. Yeah. We'll be equal," and then go right on reinforcing the status quo. I actually would prefer that someone just say, "I couldn't care less about equality," and not pretend.

Let's go back to Stephen Corey's questions. They're good for discussion, but I think they're problematic overall. With regard to page lengths and genres, etc., it's really not that hard to compare like to like, and VIDA, for instance, offers statistics in various breakdowns (books reviewed, reviewers, etc). The "overall" stats that VIDA provides are useful as a way to view the problem generally, but yes, there's a difference between a 200-word review and a 10,000-word article. The general view is useful, though. We're not to the point where distinctions necessarily say a lot. The trends are so bad that getting too specific is pretty much a waste of time. Maybe in the future it would be an interesting exercise, but right now the information is pretty damn unambiguous and shameful. As Don Bogen showed, there's plenty of reasons for an individual magazine issue or section of an issue to be dominated by women or men, but once you step back from individual issues and sections, once you increase the data set, then consistent, significant inequality speaks for itself.

Do we want editors to read our work with our gender in mind? I've never assumed they wouldn't. I'd love to live in a world where my gender presentation was irrelevant, but I don't live in that world, and pretending I do just reinforces a status quo I loathe. My name is Matthew and I physically present as male; that affects people's perceptions of me consciously and, especially, unconsciously. How much does that matter to any one editor? I assume a bit (at least), unless they want to give me multiple results from the Implicit Association Test showing that they are utterly unaffected by gender ... at which point I might assume they don't entirely care about my apparent maleness. Otherwise, I'm going to assume they're living in the same swamp of associations that I am.

Should there be a call made for more of one gender, or against another? Oh, please. This is a question better left to concern trolls. I can just imagine the sort of call that would go out: "Dear Womens: We don't know any female scribblers. Please submit to us so we can see if you know how to write. Thanks!" Or, even better, "Hey guys! These feminazis are doing their thing and we're afraid it might hurt our reputation in this politically correct environment, so please cut it out with the submissions for a while. Once we've published some girls, then we can get back to the real work."

More interesting to me is the question: Do you care about the gender of a writer you read, and should an editor care? The audience loudly affirmed that they care about the gender of writers they read. For me, this is a similar sort of problem to whether I care about if an editor knows my gender when I submit writing to them. In an ideal world where gender is as meaningful as handedness or eye color, a writer's gender for me would be an interesting and inconsequential detail. But I don't ever expect to live in such a world. Human culture has been and continues to be meaningfully and significantly affected by gender. To not care about a writer's gender in such a world is to not care about something that meaningfully and significantly affects that writer. So yes, I notice the gender of writers I read. I care about it. The world does not just naturally drop a nicely balanced group of male, female, and genderqueer writers on my readerly doorstep. The world makes it easiest for me to read white male writers who use the English language and publish with major publishers. I make the conscious effort to seek out others. (Among the books I'm currently reading: Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin; The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates; The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde; Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde by Alexis De Veaux.) If I want to know about the world outside of my own experiences — and that really is why I read — then I have to pay attention to some of the categories the writers I read fall into. It's why I got interested in African literatures, even before I ever traveled to Africa. I can't imagine not reading such work now. Not for reasons of political correctness or some other overloaded scare term, but for purely selfish reasons: my life is richer and more interesting with such writings in it than not.

So it's probably not surprising that I think editors should notice and care, because otherwise the structures of our culture are going to notice and care for them, and will replicate the dominant status quo.

The most important thing to come out of the VIDA count, though, is a desire from editors, writers, and readers to actively fix the problem. This, it seems to me, is VIDA's real message and value. Here are the stats. If you don't care about them, then don't care about them. (You're an asshole, but maybe you're okay with that.) If these numbers shock, dismay, annoy, or even just vaguely bother you, then do something. If you're an editor, seek out female writers and work to make sure your venue is not one that posts various signs saying, "GIRLZ KEEP OUT!" (Hint: If you publish mostly male writers and seriously wonder why non-males don't submit more to you, you're behaving like an oblivious dunderhead.) Be conscious, put forth some effort, and don't start whining for cookies because you did what you should have been doing all along. If you're a reader, let the VIDA count guide you. Tin House, Poetry, and Threepenny Review are three magazines that have deliberately tried to get their numbers to be better, and they're three great magazines well worth your support. There are others, too, and will, I expect (I hope!), be more. If it matters to you, speak up with your voice and your writing, with where you submit work, and with where you spend money. We can be proactive.

And remember E.J. Graff's advice: Make a posse. Promote yourself and your group. Start a movement or magazine. Challenge each other, help with drafts and careers, but as a group move each other forward.

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18. The Sleeping Lionesses Awake...


That's the way it feels to me lately. The issue of gender in librarianship, especially as it relates to those of us who work in youth librarianship, has been sleepily in the background for a long time.

A number of issues that have cropped up recently have brought the subject back to the forefront and women and men are standing up and saying, "Whoa! Wait! Stop!" "Let's back up here and get real again!". It feels as if powerful people who have long been sleeping are once again awakening and looking around - and want to claim -or reclaim -some power that has long been lost or trivialized.

Part of the discussion has been in the blogosophere; part on twitter and part on a librarian group on Facebook, Think Tank. What started in a somewhat rancorous way is building to something slightly different - an open and honest exploration of the roots of discourse on gender in librarianship. People are talking, exploring and sharing.

Kate Kosturski over at Librarian Kate blog has written two posts in the last few days tracing the scholarly research on gender and librarianship (here and here) and they are fascinating.  Her part 3 will be on youth librarianship as it relates to gender issues.  Please read the posts and consider sharing your experiences of gender bias in youth work with her at librariankate7578 at gmail dot com. I think we need to read more.

I can imagine the research is might thin on this topic. Other than recent blog posts , some of which I cited in my last post,  I have seldom read of youth librarianship and bias issues in my almost 40 years in the business. What there is probably was probably published in small presses and gathered in the marvelous Alternative Library Literature anthologies (edited by Jim Danky and Sandy Berman) of the '80s through early part of this century.

I, for one, am glad we're waking up to have this discussion.

Image: 'Open wide.....'  http://www.flickr.com/photos/66164549@N00/2884630721 Found on flickrcc.net

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19. Masculine/Feminine Rhyme: Who Knew?

Just when you thought it was safe to break out your rhyming dictionary (or start running all your rhyming endings alphabetically through your head), someone tells you there's gender to contend with in the rhymes you write. What's up with that? After all, the last time you paid any attention to linguistic gender was Spanish class in the ninth grade---or was it when you ordered that beer during Spring Break in Puerto Vallarta?

No matter. The last place you thought gender would be an issue had to be rhyme, right? Well, fear not. It's not quite as problematic as you may anticipate. In fact, except that someone back in the day must have thought structural endings and sounds ought to be classified according to gender, it's unlikely that anyone would even notice. But just out of curiosity, it might be fun to try and sleuth out who among the ancients decided gender was important---and why.

So, where did the whole gender in rhyme thing originate? Did the early Chinese rhymers grapple with gender in their day? Although some of the oldest surviving Chinese poetry contains lyric aspects, because the written language is character based, any gender association to poetic form may be difficult to tease out. Left with that uncertainty, is the male-female poetic structure primarily western in origin? Could it simply be a non-functioning, vestigial "leftover" from Old Latin which etched its subtle tracks on the English language as romantic entanglements ebbed and flowed across Europe?

According to one source in the English Department at Carson-Newman College, (http://web.cn.edu/kwheeler/lit_terms_R.html) the word "rhyme" itself originates "from Old French, rime meaning 'series,' in turn adopted from Latin 'rithmus' and Greek 'rhythmos'." Given some of the other gender assignments in Greek and Latin, might we ascribe gender features to the rhyming verses penned by the early Greeks and Romans?

No doubt, the definition of gender in rhyme could probably be argued until the cows come home, with a break taken only for milking before the debate starts again. As is true with virtually any sorting out of why words in any language might be classified as masculine versus feminine, rhymes are no different. One thing seems clear: at least in English, gender in rhyme seems to have little or nothing to do with the gender rules found in some romance languages.

That is, whether a line of verse in English ends in an "a" or "o" or other gender laden vowel or consonant, doesn't really matter as much as it does in the Spanish language. And speaking of word endings, despite its compromise value in the Italian language, the use of a neutral vowel (such as the letter "i") at the end of the plural form of both masculine and feminine words is not a gender-driven issue in English rhyme. But you have to admire the logical recognition of not being able to sort out gender in groups.

In the French language, the definition suggests line ending words which end in "e" are feminine and those that don't are masculine. Some sources also refer to "e" endings and unaccented ending syllables as being weak. Although I was a French major in college, I'll leave the "why" of those "differences" to others who know far more about the origins of the French language and who don't mind getting their shins kicked.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, although the reasoning might be debatable, the rules regarding gender in English rhyme are remarkably clear. According to the Collaborative International Dictionary of English, a female rhyme has a rhyming set in which the rhyming lines end in double-syllable words (ego, amigo). A male rhyme, on the other hand, is one where only the last syllable in the line endings agree (stand, demand). No doubt you have noticed the difference in where the stress is placed---keep reading.

The definitions are extended slightly in Brande and Cox (A Dictionary

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20. Retirement plans and the sexes

By Rosemary Wright

Greenwich pensioner by Whistler 1859. Source: Library of Congress.

In 2011, the oldest Baby Boom workers reached the age of 65 — an age that more than 60 million Baby Boomers will reach by 2030. The issue of retirement weighs particularly on women, who are likely to outlive men and therefore have a longer period of retirement to finance.

In the study “Paying for Retirement: Sex Differences in Inclusion in Employer-Provided Retirement Plans,” I turned to the Baby Boomers to determine whether this new generation of women were well-prepared with retirement benefits. Is the retirement gap between Baby Boom men and women narrower than for older retirees? Are women still dependent on a husband’s retirement income for security in old age? To look at these differences, I examined a large sample obtained from the 2009 Current Population Survey for the differences between Baby Boom men and women’s inclusion in retirement plans, as well as predictors of inclusion in these plans.

The results of the new study showed a significantly higher percentage of women than men (68.4% vs. 65.2%) worked for an employer who offered retirement benefits. A slightly higher percentage of men than women (92.4% vs. 91.1%) were included in their employers’ retirement programs. Overall, significant positive predictors of working for an employer with a retirement plan were sex (women more likely than men), employment in a core industry or in a primary occupational sector, educational attainment, and government worker status (government workers more likely than non-government workers). On the other hand, significant negative predictors were minority status (minorities less likely than non-minorities), age (older workers less likely than younger workers), having children younger than age 18 (those with children under the age of 18 less likely than those with no children under 18), and immigrant status (immigrants less likely than non-immigrants).

Minority status and educational level were the only two predictors for which there was a significant sex difference. Minority women were less likely than minority men to work for an employer with retirement benefits. As educational attainment increased, men were more likely than women to work for an employer providing retirement benefits.

Significant positive predictors of a worker actually being included in an employer’s retirement program were age (older workers more likely to be included than younger workers), employment in a core industry or in a primary occupational sector, educational attainment, marriage (married workers more likely than non-married workers), and government worker status. Minority status was the only significant negative predictor of inclusion (minority workers less likely than non-minority workers to be included).

There was only one variable with a significant difference between men and women: government employment. Female public employees were more likely than male public employees to be included in their employers’ retirement programs.

Two major good-news stories emerge from this study. First, a much larger group of workers is included in an employer’s retirement plan in this study than received pension benefits in earlier studies. This reflects the expansion of the types and availability of retirement benefits available to workers today, and is a good sign for retirement security as Baby Boom workers begin to retire. Second, there was only one predictor for which the likelihood of being included in a retirement

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21. Anti-metheus


I haven't hated a movie as much as I hated Prometheus in a long time. It is a movie that screams for mockery.

Some of my favorite writings on it so far...

Nick Mamatas:
In the grim meathook future of this film, corporations rule the planet, CEOs rule their corporations on whims, and women wear naught but Ace bandages as undergarments, the poor sexy sexy things.

Kameron Hurley:
In the world of Prometheus, we all came from white dudes, who went around seeding the universe with their magical, life-giving sperm.

Genevieve Valentine:
One of the saving graces of the psychosexual terrorization in the Alien franchise is the leveling of the gender playing field – the rape threat they represent is omnipresent and sexually indiscriminate. But not in Prometheus! Thanks, Prometheus.

Richard Brody:
Which is to say that, despite the lack of intentional humor, lots of things in the movie are laughable, from the giant tiki-head of primordial power or the flying cruller that threatens humanity to the cumbersome pseudo-mythology that blends Sunday-supplement science with the kind of puffed-up archetypes of genesis that would have embarrassed Wagnerian epigones—and which Scott’s proud earnestness renders all the more ridiculous.

Also, the production design and cinematography are dull and repetitive, the plot is little more than a videogame script (and thus about as much fun as watching somebody else play a videogame), the characters are all idiots and stereotypes who spout pseudo-profundities they apparently picked up from Fortune Cookies of the Gods, and Guy Pearce is stuck in Dustin Hoffman's Little Big Man make-up for no apparent reason. (I liked Michael Fassbender's performance, though. He seemed like a refugee from an incomparably better movie, A.I.)


(Even though the movie is ploddingly predictable, if you haven't seen it and want to predict every plot turn five minutes ahead of time yourself, don't read on.)

And let's not forget Charlize Theron as the Ball Busting Career Woman With Daddy Issues, Who Might Be A Lesbian — I mean, Robot — a character who finally gives in to the propositions of the Hunky Black Dude Who Will Make Her A Bit More Hetero — I mean, Human — Just Long Enough For Us To Imagine Them In Bed Together. It's not enou

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22. Mo-metheus


I had no intention of ever writing anything ever again whatsoever about Prometheus, or even mentioning the movie ever again in my life, but I just read two great pieces about it, so can't resist sending attention to them. (One links to the other, in fact.)

First, Elaine Costello's amazingly rich, provocative, nuanced, thoughtful, beautiful stream-of-theoryness wonderings about the film — about its economies and genders and races and religions, its unsaid saids and said unsaids. ("...which reminded me that the spaceship is a military-industrial [and so imperial-colonial] apparatus...") Here's just a tiny taste of an extraordinary tapestry:
What I wonder about is this: if David really can be read as an anti-colonial and anti-corporate saboteur, why does this progressive message, this transgressive messenger, still have to wear the most Aryan body imaginable? I’m aware that casting an actor of color as the android character would have made the slippages that David animates, between subordinate-saboteur, product-producer, and particularly colonial-colonized, perhaps more difficult to represent. (Though not necessarily; you can have Idris Elba imitating Peter O’Toole, why not? I would have watched the hell out of that, actually, can you imagine how fucked up and interesting that would be, the commentaries you could make on the reversal of racial drag, etc.) What I’m trying to say is that it is still impossible for mainstream Hollywood film to imagine a person of color in a role as potentially complex and subversive as David’s. A character of color who could be plotting to destroy the imperial-corporate complex he was created within, and is forced to work for? That would be too radical. Which is to say, that would be too real.

Idris Elba once said himself, “Imagine a film such as Inception with an entire cast of black people – do you think it would be successful? Would people watch it? But no one questions the fact that everyone’s white. That’s what we have to change.”
Subashini at The Blog of Disquiet picks up on some of Costello's ideas, and others, offering particularly interesting interpretations of the movie's use of body horror, its apparent nihilism, and Idris Elba as the One Black Dude:
I do think that having acrimonious feelings towards the film is the actual point—the film seems to be a stand-in for a certain segment of humanity and its imperialist, ruinous ambitions, though like most films coming out of Hollywood this seems to coexist with its appreciation of capital, technology, and involuntary/reproductive labour. That in itself doesn’t make it inherently unlikeable, not at all. But as Susan Sontag wrote in “The Imagination of Disaster,” “Science fiction films invite a dispassionate, aesthetic view of destruction and violence—a technological view,” and perhaps it’s the nihilist technological determinism of Prometheus that is inherently unsettling. Perhaps it’s this utter lack of meaning in the movie that is its meaning, and consequently the source of my loathing. Maybe a part of me just wants machines and people to get along? I’m not sure.
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23. July Eureka Moments

School’s out, I’m no longer sick, and the blog is no longer down! In honor of the evolving focus of this column, I’ve changed its title and broadened my scope. But don’t worry; I’ll still be trolling the various databases for hard-hitting research, too. The first month of summer is usually the busy one, in which students are still finishing school, are already in summer school, or have begun to embark on busy summer adventures, like camp and travel. So the ideas I’m offering you are a bit more low-key or focused on the librarian, rather than the patron, since I gather that your patrons are not exactly in the mood yet for anything that requires a lot of commitment.

  • Last weekend, PostSecret put up a (trigger warning) postcard from someone who dislikes being labeled intolerant for saying that certain types of people are, maybe, hypocritical about oppression. That made me think of a tumblr I found once upon a time called Oppressed Brown Girls Doing Things, whose tagline, “Because we’re still oppressed,” is awesomely readable in a multitude of ways. You might just find this fun to read when there’s a lull in your day, but I know I’d love to see some of these posts find their way into a collage on a library wall, a bookmarks list on a library computer, or into the meeting of any group that meets in your teen room. While the content ranges from NSFW language to sarcastic gifs, the blog also brings up a lot of pertinent points about what it means to be a woman of color.
  • While definitely NSFW, I have to share this music video based on a Jay-Z and Kanye West song whose title I won’t put here. Two Brooklynites re-set the song to be all about how hard it is to be a cool, reading girl who can’t find a guy to keep up with her tastes or pronounce Proust correctly. If you have an advisory group or teen book club that meets, you might show the video to spark a conversation about what it means to be “nerdy,” who the video is aimed at, or what it means to take a genre so known for its subculture and turn it on its head by making it about something usually so “uncool.”
  • Judith Butler is widely known for her groundbreaking works on gender identity and the idea that gender is a social construct that is performed by members of society, not a biological, unchangeable aspect of a person like eye color. It is Butler’s ideas that so many feminists, media critics, psychologists, and other professionals grapple with when trying to understand how images and stereotypes in the media affect self image and self performance, as well as how damaging it can be to force someone to perform normatively. But in a fascinating ethnographic study, Olga Ivashkevich discovered that young pre-teen girls are much more willing to play with body representation, drag, and non-normative physical ideals than many researchers think. The girls Isvashkevich studied drew each other as various vegetables, allowing them to skew various parts of their bodies, and other anecdotes in the article reveal how even something as obviously “damaging” as a Barbie doll can lead girls to experiment in cross dressing, mutilation, and more. If you and your children’s librarian colleagues have been searching for a way to reach tweens, as well as younger teens, this might be your in. Try leaving a box of Barbies, paper dolls, fashion magazines, or other objects that support alteration and creation on the body, as well as relevant clothing items and art supplies, with a note explaining that patrons are welcome to experiment with the box and maybe even reflect on what they’ve done by taking a digital photo and writing about it for the library’s blog, or s

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  • 24. Readercon 23

     
    Last week's Readercon was among the best of the many I have attended, for me at least. Inevitably, there wasn't enough time for anything — time to see friends, time to go to all the various panels I had hoped to go to, time to mine the book dealers' wares... Nonetheless, it was a tremendous pleasure to see so many friends and acquaintances again, as well as to be immersed in such a vibrant community of people who love to talk about books.

    I've been on the Programming Committee for Readercon for the past two years now, which changes my experience a little bit, because I find myself paying closer attention than I did before to how the panels end up working in reality (after we on the committee have puzzled over their possibilities for a few months) and to how people on the panels and in the audiences respond to them. (Note: We're actively trying to expand the invitation list to Readercon. If you have any names to suggest [including yourself], please see here for more info.)

    I don't love being on panels myself, because I don't really have any confidence in my ability to say anything beyond the banal in an extemporaneous situation, but I was on a couple this time, and though I don't think my contributions were anything memorable, there were some good moments. (More thoughts on panels and the current discussion of gender parity on panels at cons below.)



    The two panels I was on were both on Saturday morning, which turned out to be less than ideal for me because I hadn't gotten to sleep until sometime after 2am (having been part of a long and wonderful conversation with Eric Schaller, Jeff VanderMeer, and Michael Cisco), so I was pretty exhausted. The first panel was on John Reider's excellent book Colonialism and the Emergence of Science Fiction, with the other panelists being Robert Killheffer, Darrell Schweitzer, Vandana Singh, and, as leader (that is, moderating participant), Andrea Hairston. I thank the gods of scheduling that Andrea was the leader, because her skills at moderating are a wonder to behold. I wouldn't have been leader of this panel for anything, because not only is there a potentially controversial topic, but it's the sort of topic that is wide open to unproductive tangents — for instance, it may bring out the history geek in participants or audience members to such an extent that they can't help demonstrating how much they know about exactly what happened in 322 BCE and how that is what really explains the Berlin Conference. There was a bit of this, and Andrea brilliantly brought the conversation back toward things that could be more effectively discussed in the hour we had without making the person who just couldn't help talking a lot about the Romans feel entirely squashed. (If he did, he didn't behave as if he'd been squashed.) I find it hard to stay on track during panels myself, so always appreciate a moderator who can moderate without humiliating.

    I'm not sure we were able to really say anything beyond what the book itself already says, but we affirmed that its analysis is provocative, powerful, and generally convincing, and if we succeeded in sparking curiosity about the book in one or two other people, then it was a success. (Copies seemed to be selling well at the Wesleyan University Press table in the dealers' room.)

    After the panel, Andrea

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    25. Women and Girls - Power or Not?

    Kelly over at Stacked just wrote a powerful post on being a woman and speaking your mind. If you haven't already, head right over and read it. I'll wait for you. *quietly scrolling through tweets*

    Ah, good. You're back. Kelly has a couple of, oh, ten or twenty cogent points, eh?  She is speaking truth to power - and to us.

    The issues of gender and power, girls and power and the destructive subtlety of people speaking and working against women who wish to be themselves and self-directed has been a lifelong concern of mine. As a young fire-brand librarian I was active in Women Library Workers, a feminist library network and support group that now is in an embers stage of it's existence. I have stood down from much of my active work but I have never believed for a nano-second that we are in a "post-feminist" age.

    My partner is a guy with a voice pitch that is slightly higher than encountered in most guys. He has spent considerable time on the phone in his jobs. When men on the other end of the phone mistakenly think they are talking to a women, to a man, they are patronizing, dismissive, abrupt and sassy. When the person on the other end thinks my partner is a man, he is treated completely differently.  This has been a conversational topic between us for over thirty years. "Post-feminist age," my eye.

    When Kelly talks about the expectations that men and women have for women and girls I hear her talking. As I commented on her blogpost: "I was reminded of a photo going around FB where Jada Pinkett Smith was asked why she let her daughter shave her head. Pinkett Smith wrote, 'The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power, or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit, and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes, and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.' "

    This spring I attended a wonderful and enpowering unconference at UW-Milwaukee called "Out of the Attic and into the Stacks: Feminism and LIS". Lots of students and lots of old-guard feminist librarians. It was great to be around that living timeline of  feminist librarians. One question that came up from the students to the vets was, "How do you bring feminism into your work?"

    This is what I said: You bring feminism into your work every day in every way. By making sure that you purchase and display materials that highlight strong women and gentle men; that open up the hidden contributions of women and that highlight girls as strong and not just frilly.  You do programs that empower girls but also don't shut out either gender. When girls come in to your library, you compliment not their hair or clothes but tell them they are looking strong or tall or smart today. The messages that we give - no matter how small - matter.

    We need to stand strong together on these issues of women and girls and power. It does make a difference and will make a difference for decades to come. But we have to commit to doing the support every day in every way.

    Image: 'Superherohttp://www.flickr.com/photos/51336161@N02/5416260011 Found on flickrcc.net

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