Saturday, July 14, 2007

Dangerous Book for Boys

My mother bought our sons a copy of The Dangerous Book for Boys when she was in Britain a while back, when it was a huge best seller over there. It's a great book, full of the kind of stuff I spent all my time with when I was a kid: codes, treehouses, constellations, paper airplanes, ancient history, magic tricks. But hey, wait! I was a girl! And the book specifically states that it's for boys. Was I some kind of weirdo? Nope, not even a budding lesbian. All the girls I played with liked to build forts and go karts, pretend to be spies, and send flashlight messages between our houses. I also liked unicorns and sewing. (Okay, I loved unicorns.) But it's just plain not true that certain kinds of fun are "hard-wired" into one gender or another. One wonders why some adults want to tell girls and boys what kind of fun they should have, just because of their gender.

I don't want to make too much of a big deal out of this. Clearly part of the book's appeal (and marketing success) lies with its being politically incorrect. But why not make it "The Dangerous Book for Kids"? Sure, no one's stopping any girl from reading the book, and I know I read a lot of old "boys' annuals," but how many grandmas out there will buy this book for their grand-daughters? Damn few. And how many girls will crack it open, have a few moments of delight thumbing through it, and then have the sinking feeling that actually, the book is not for them so maybe they ought to go look at something else?

It's hard to believe that after all this time, we're still telling girls these kinds of lies. It is damaging -- it's crushing -- for them to hear this stuff all the time: that they should like clothes and gossip and that smart, serious stuff (ancient history!) is for boys.

Anyway, The Dangerous Book has staked out so much kid-fun for boys, I can't help but wonder what's left to go into the Dangerous Book for Girls, if that ever happens. Maybe tampon crafts?

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