KYD Advent Calendar

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Young Adult literature

Who run the book world? GIRLS!

by Danielle Binks , June 17, 2014Leave a comment

A Little Pretty Pocket Book

It’s no wonder boys aren’t reading – the children’s book market is run by women.’ So claimed the headline of an April article in The Times.

*Cue Liz Lemon eye-roll*

UK children’s author-illustrator Jonathan Emmett is concerned about female ‘gatekeepers’ in all aspects of publishing – so much so that he has written a 24-page report for COOL not CUTE! on the topic. His argument boils down to the assertion that ‘the output of the picture book industry reflects girls’ tastes far more than it does boys’ and… this bias is exacerbating the gender gap between boys’ and girls’ reading abilities.’

Who run the (book) world? Girls! … at least according to Emmett, who talks about how all aspects of the industry are overrun with women: from publishers, to editors, librarians, judges, and reviewers (no mention of how many publishing houses are owned by male CEOs, though, or of the gender ratio of Editorial Directors). As an author-illustrator himself, Emmett has first-hand experience with this gender gap: ‘For the first 15 years, every single editor I worked with was female. In the last two years I’ve worked with two male editors, one of whom has now left the industry.’ He is also concerned about imbalance at the point of purchase, estimating that, ‘95 per cent of picture books were bought for children by women’.

It’s no secret that the publishing industry is largely female-dominated, and in 2010 Publisher’s Weekly wrote a lengthy article questioning the gender imbalance. The article raised similar concerns to Emmett’s – namely, that the perception of various roles in the publishing industry as inherently ‘female’ or ‘feminine’ (this harks back to the stereotype that ‘boys don’t read’) could create barriers which might prevent men from entering publishing. However, Publisher’s Weekly addressed the publishing industry in broad terms, whereas Emmett objects to female-dominance in youth literature.

In Emmett’s report, one very important aspect is not discussed – the acknowledgment of women’s long and illustrious history in children’s literature.

British publisher John Newbery released the first children’s book in 1744, but we wouldn’t even have modern day children’s literature if it weren’t for the 18th century women who helped to shape it.

Women like Anna Laetitia Barbauld – an English poet, critic, editor, and children’s author who changed the way children’s books were printed, giving them wider margins and larger text size so as to be more accessible to young readers. She is also credited with popularising the informal dialogue between a parent and child, and her 1778-1779 book Lessons for Children was one of the first examples of graduated readers; becoming more challenging as the reader progresses.

Sarah Trimmer was a writer and critic of British children’s literature. She released a periodical called The Guardian of Education (1802-1806),which helped to define the readership and was the first publication to write serious reviews of children’s literature.

Ellenor Fenn was inspired by Barbauld’s work, and was one of the first authors to differentiate between reading ages. She also designed toys and games that promoted educational, interactive, child-centred play between mothers and their children.

There are many more to mention, and probably a few women who have been overlooked and their names long since forgotten.

I sympathise with Jonathan Emmett’s arguments and frustrations, which speak to a very real problem (even if it stems from gendered stereotypes). But he fails to acknowledge that historically the gender imbalance in children’s books has been the inverse of what he points to.

In 2011, the most comprehensive study of 20th century children’s books ever undertaken in the United States found a bias towards tales that featured men and boys as lead characters (even animal characters tended to be male). The study found that ‘males are central characters in 57 per cent of children’s books published per year, while only 31 per cent have female central characters’. Though no similar study has been undertaken in the UK or Australia, it is likely similar trends would be found in our youth literature.

So what is the solution to this problem? Jonathan Emmett claims, ‘there’s a lot of ground to cover if picture books are to match the boy-appeal of other media. But they can match it and even surpass it providing they are made a lot less cute and a lot more cool.’ I would hate to see the book industry try to match the ‘boy-appeal’ of, say, the film industry (which has a significant gender problem too, FYI). Instead of trying to tip the scales in favour of one gender or the other, we should strive for gender balance in books for young people (which means no more gender-specific books!).

Rather than blaming the book industry for being so feminised, and wondering why reading is not seen as ‘manly’, let’s acknowledge that a lot of this comes down to issues with perception and adherence to stereotypes. The best way to combat this is for children to be inspired by the gender-non-specific reading habits of their parents. As award-winning children’s author Emilie Buchwald once said, ‘Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.’

Danielle Binks is a Melbourne-based blogger, editor and aspiring writer of young adult fiction.

ACO logo




9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

tumblr_naod7i6Sj61tk49ymo1_1280

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part Two): Film, Music, YA Literature, Pop Culture

In the second of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in film, music, young adult literature, and pop culture. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

057212e0462005b9_Thumb

Kill Your Darlings

Best of 2014 (Part One): TV, Books, Technology

In the first of a two-part series, our brilliant Killings contributors highlight their top cultural moments of 2014 – in television, books and technology. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »