Good to see that sexism and gender-bias in the publishing industry are alive and well. Consider the evidence. First came the slightly odd but charming DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS, which reminded me of an old book that I adored when I was young called, if memory serves, “The Big Weekend Book”, which was a thick, dusty hardback with a mottled green cover. In it there were suggestions for putting on shows, stories, puzzles, and directions on how to make stones skip across water, start a butterfly collection, and other useful things.
My son has a copy of THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS. He dips into it occasionally, although I don’t think he has quite recovered from his disappointment when he discovered that I wasn’t going to be able to knock together a tree house with hot and cold running water and a working elevator during the course of a Saturday afternoon. Such is his painful lot in life, to have an utterly useless father when it comes to the important stuff.
Anyway, the book is fun. It’s terribly old-fashioned – not quite jolly hockey sticks and lashings of ginger beer, but not far off – but that is exactly the point, and indeed its whole commercial appeal. Parents watch their children leaf through it and the accumulated guilt of all those Gameboys, PlayStations and DVDs lifts, just a little. This is what we should have been doing all along, they tell themselves – at least until their son looks up and asks if he can have a treehouse.
Of course, it was inevitable that those clever publishing types would try and replicate this winning formula for girls. Here’s where it gets perplexing, though. Did they produce THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR GIRLS? No. Take a look at the cover on the right. See? I’m curious about the distinction. Perhaps these days “Dangerous for girls” means forgetting your diaphragm or leaving your facebook page unattended, and since we are performing a collective leap back to Enid Blyton times, something more wholesome was needed. I’m probably reading too much into all this – imagine that – but the fact that girls get to be daring implies a measure of finesse that us boys are, by inference, incapable of. We just blunder off into the sunset, heroic idiots, whereas the ladies have the smarts to calculate the odds and use their heads. Yawn. It’s brains versus brawn, yet again. Well, I suppose if the publishers were trying to be old-fashioned, they were right on the money.
But why can’t girls just do dangerous things, too?