September 27, 2010

Scholastic Books Encourages Girls to Seek Glamour and Boys to Seek Adventure

What year is this? 1880? 1922? 1957? 1963? 1978? 1982? 1997? 2010?

Well, according to the titles, it could be any of those years because not much has changed. Gender socialization is alive and well, folks. My former student, Jessie, wrote this after coming across more of the same:

As I was browsing Costco’s book section, I came upon the following: The Boys’ Book of Adventure: Are You Ready To Face The Challenge? & The Boys’ Book of Greatness: Even More Ways To Be The Best at Everything followed by The Girls’ Book of Glamour: A Guide To Being a Goddess & The Girls’ Book of Friendship: How To Be The Best Friend Ever.

Isn’t it lovely how Scholastic Books is publishing books that enforce gender-segregation (complete with “girl” and “boy” colors) which essentially maintain: little girls should be solely concerned with physical appearance and maintaining a relationships. Is adventure and greatness not suitable for little girls? I flipped through each of the books and found sections on “How to dress like a celebrity even if you’re not one” and “How to tie knots”. Guess which one was for little girls.

We often begin projecting socially constructed gender expectations on children before they’re even born, decorating the nursery in a specific color scheme. As soon as that child enters the world, the color codes, pierced ears, head bands on nearly bald heads and other clothing items designed for infants erect the gendered foundation that will provide the template for much of their lives. Add in toys, books, cartoons and video games and that foundation sprouts a framework for their identity, their relationships with others and  their world view. Throughout this process of gender socialization, beauty (with a disturbing increasing emphasis on “sexiness“) and relationships are emphasized for girls while independence and adventure are emphasized for boys.This trend continues well into adulthood through various agents of socialization, primarily the mass media which advertises normative masculinity and femininity.

Boys and men could learn a thing or two about cultivating and nurturing relationships. Enough with the lone adventurer- lets raise sensitive, strong and emotionally attuned boys and men. Simultaneously, beauty and relationships aren’t enough for girls and women. We need to redfine girly, offering our girls intellectual and physical challenges beyond the vanity and devalued emotional work.

We have much to gain from offering a full range of choices to boys and girls and valuing them equally.

For a fantastic video that re-imagines the Bronte sisters, see Step Aside Princesses, Here Come the Boomerang-Throwing Bronte Sisters.

Photograph courtesy of Jessie T.


  1. Dear Melanie,

    We read your blog post with interest and wanted to reach out and respond directly. At Scholastic, we’re dedicated to offering a wide selection of books in order to meet kids where they are. We try to offer titles that appeal to every reader, including books that are interest specific, and of course, books with strong literary, historical, and scientific merit. Many of our books, for example the Harry Potter and The Hunger Games series, have female and male characters in all types of roles. In fact, Harry could give me friendship advice any time and Katniss is one of the toughest girls I know!

    We believe that every child should be able to choose and own the books that interest them. Choice builds literacy confidence – the ability to read, write and speak about what they know, what they feel, and who they are. And because not every book is right for every child, we encourage parents to take an active interest in their children’s reading choices.

    Thanks for continuing this dialogue!

    Ivy from Scholastic

    Comment by Ivy — September 28, 2010 @ 8:20 am

  2. […] Feminist Fatale takes on Scholastic books for encouraging gender stereotypes in children. […]

    Pingback by The Round-Up, Sept. 28, 2010 « Gender Focus — September 28, 2010 @ 9:49 am

  3. I am compelled to respond to the infuriating response from Scholastic. “Meeting every kid where they are at” Seriously? Is a 6 year old girl naturally at a place of “The Girls’ Guide to Glamour?” There is a problem here. Scholastic is giving the false impression of choice. I do not see choices here in these books. Certain ones are designated for girls. Certain ones for boys. Choice would be to offer “The Girls Book of Greatness” alongside the others. This is the greed of marketing, plain and simple. Not some innate sense of equality and education on Scholastic’s part. I am sorry, their response just doesn’t fit the bill. My dollars will not be going to this company.

    Comment by Nita — September 28, 2010 @ 10:21 am

  4. So not impressed with the response by Scholastic. Yes, it’s important that kids read, but I don’t buy that kids are only interested in reading stereotyped views of how they should behave. I don’t buy that there aren’t little boys out there who don’t want to read about friendship, or little girls who want to go on adventures. They aren’t offering “choice” – they’re just pandering to gender stereotypes. Thanks for the post, Melanie!

    Comment by Jarrah — September 28, 2010 @ 11:50 am

  5. […] This is a don’t. […]

    Pingback by how not to use social media if you are a big dumb company — September 28, 2010 @ 2:22 pm

  6. That is so much fail! That isn’t a response,that’s rambling nonsense!

    Comment by Cleo — September 28, 2010 @ 11:34 pm

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with Nita’s comment, real choice would mean offering “The Girl’s Book of Greatness” alongside the boy’s book would be real choice. AND—AND, add “The Boy’s Book of Friendship” too! Our young men, most of all, need to be taught that relationship is indeed where “it is at” and that what comes more naturally to females should be held up as an admirable capacity, value and skill to be emulated. Relationship determines how we treat each other and the Earth, and who can say that we do not need to improve this! Scholastic books will not get my money and I will spread the word to others.

    Comment by Vajra Ma — September 29, 2010 @ 11:14 am

  8. I’d like to add one other observation–“guide to being a goddess” is an insult to Goddess spirituality, to the 40,000 years plus of spiritual insights and practices that come from a deep, comprehensive understanding of human consciousness and the matrix of life. It’s like publishing a book called “Guide to Being a God” of “Guide to Being the Entire Universe”. How dumb-downing and arrogant can can you get. This dumbing down aims to disempower girls and women from the female embodiment of the divine, an embodiment which threatens male-domination and the global patriarchal/corporate structures based on greed, disconnection, repression of women and the poor, ignorance, war, and gain. This frilly little pink book is insidious, as is its blue boy counterpart on “greatness” (read “global domination”).

    Comment by Vajra Ma — September 29, 2010 @ 11:29 am

  9. I find it ridiculous how this company has the guts to say it offers “a wide selection of books in order to meet kids where they are”. I am a mother of two little girls and I would want them reading a book of greatness and the most disturbing part is that it is labeled only for boys. It is sad to see that this company is labeling and stereotyping children since an early age. Guess what books won’t be on my daughters’ book shelf? Thanks Melanie and your former student.

    Comment by ElizabethP — September 30, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  10. I am so relieved to hear my exact sentiments echoed back at me so eloquently.

    -Melanie’s former student (Jessie Thorpe).

    Comment by J. Thorpe — October 1, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

  11. Thanks for all of your amazing comments! @Vajra- you bring up really important points.

    Comment by Melanie — October 3, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

  12. Wow, I clicked the link to this page and I am impressed, “Ivy’s” comment sounds real convincing and nurturing, however each and every single person who commented after didnt fall for it, its great to see people awakened. However I wish there were more male insights incorporated in this discussion forum, I am in solidarity with all the women/mothers, and definitely agree there ought to be a more opimistic approaches for the childrens reading choices, also “Melanie” were those books on the shelves at eye level, so folks can walk by and check it out??

    Comment by Reginald Patterson — February 29, 2012 @ 7:38 pm

  13. Years ago, when my son was still an infant, I bought a copy of “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” I loved it and I knew this was a book I wanted to share with him when he got older. Then “The Daring Book for Girls” came out. I went and took a look at it, because I was thinking of it for a gift for my nieces.

    For some reason, they defined daring as Fortune Telling, how to make Cootie Catchers and friendship bracelets, Yoga, and how to put your hair up with a pencil.

    Needless to say, I put the book back and bought them a copy of the Dangerous Book for Boys. Because THAT book contained useful information and skills that they actually might USE sometime in their lives.

    (Oh, and the new Double Daring Book for Girls? Tic-Tac-Toe, Dying your Hair with Koolaid, Decoupage, Dream interpretation, and how to dance the waltz.)

    Comment by Elizabeth Schechter — June 8, 2012 @ 7:10 pm

  14. You know when I was a kid in 1970s Britain I had a book of Adventure Stories for Girls (pretty standard adventure stories except the protagonists were female) and a Cookbook for Boys (I’m female) – which I think was the only cookbook for kids my parents could find when I started causing chaos in the kitchen with my attempts to cook. In the case of the cookbook it was a fairly standard – if simply written – cookbook that had ‘for boys’ on the front to stop boys thinking it was ‘girly’.

    In some ways those books were still gendered – you shouldn’t need to specify that way – but at least they were trying to break the gender roles.

    So a book series like this is dodgy in the extreme and feels more like a step backwards for me. 🙁


    ps: My parents were pretty cool and never had a problem buying me either ‘girly’ or ‘boyish’ presents I asked for unless they disapproved of them. I wasn’t allowed toy weapons or one of those makeup head things for example. It didn’t help – I just improvised or borrowed my friends.

    Comment by Becka — June 9, 2012 @ 4:36 am

  15. […] Feminist Fatale takes on Scholastic books for encouraging gender stereotypes in children. […]

    Pingback by The Round-Up, Sept. 28, 2010 | Gender Focus – A Canadian Feminist Blog — February 9, 2013 @ 11:30 am

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