Girly Man

Did everyone catch The Problem Is Not the Books (via FB Claire Legrand) on Saundra Mitchell’s blog last Saturday? It was in response to this New York Times article basically saying that boys are reading less because YA books are being written for girls. It’s one of those head scratching “huh?” statements that makes no logical sense. And you’d think more guys would see this because we are, after all, supposed to be the more logical ones.

So, according to the NYT article,  if I’m the average guy, this is what I’d say to a YA author, “Your books aren’t manly enough in their look and content. Take that chick off the cover and put some more action and other manly things in your book. Then I”ll at least consider it.” Obviously that’s about as ridiculous as it gets, but I swear that’s what I was hearing while reading it.

Saundra goes on to explain that what we’re really talking about is sexism. Somewhere along the line, reading became a girly thing to do. It’s important to understand this point because THAT is the reason so much YA is marketed towards girls. It wasn’t that the publisher decided they only wanted girl readers. Boys stopped, girls continued and the publisher marketed to the available readers. Simple math. Believe me, if they could figure out how to duplicate Harry Potter and sell books to all sexes and age groups, they’d do it in a blink. The publisher isn’t sexist.

We are.

Even though we live in a man’s world, it’s ironic that girls are the ones with more choice in what they like. Girls can read their romances and cozy mysteries PLUS a techno thriller. Girls bake and clean, but handy with a hammer too? We’re talking one cool chick. Now reverse it for dudes and what do you get? You guessed it, we’re talking one gay dude.

That sucks.

Is there something wrong with me because I’m a total Gleek?

Is there something wrong with me because I bought Teenage Dream? (And let’s all admit that Snoop Dogg was on California Gurls so guys could have an excuse for listening to that song)

Is there something wrong with me because I think sports are boring?

Is there something wrong with me because I recently found out I like reading romance?

Hope not because that’s the tip of the iceberg for my problems.

I’m not sure what the answer to all this is. I doubt sexism will disappear, so I guess the only control we have is within our own world. Any little boys I have are going to know it’s okay to like what they want to like. I can’t control how the rest of the world will react, but maybe by setting the tone at home they’ll be more prepared.

Do you think this type of double standard exists? Any real life experiences to back up your opinion?

17 comments on “Girly Man

  1. Thank you for this wonderful post. There’s nothing wrong with you – quite on the contrary.

    I read Saundra Mitchell’s post and agreed with her 100%. That NYT article was appalling. As someone who’s read tons of books with male protagonists and distinctively male experiences, I found it offensive that the street only goes one way. Like the female experience was not important enough for guys to read. Newsflash, both boys and girls should be reading BOTH.

    This is the thing – putting people into boxes doesn’t help ANYONE, not even the people that are supposedly in the better box. Gender roles restrict EVERYONE.

    Thank you for putting a more realistic spin on the “average guy”.

    • Sad but true. It’s the world we live in. It’s funny how in some ways we’ve come a long way as people and in others, nothing’s changed.

      I’m not sure how well I represent the “average” guy. Most of the guys I know are not like me, but I’m used to it now. And it hasn’t changed how my guy friends look at me. Probably why we’re still friends.

  2. I hear you, man. I myself am a 38 year old, married, heterosexual male and I too enjoy Glee, musicals, Katy Perry and, of course, reading. One of the best movies I’ve seen recently was “No Strings Attached.” I LOVE romantic comedies. And it sometimes makes me feel a bit awkward. 🙂

    Not enough to make me stop, though.

    P.S. My wife sent me to your blog as she thought I would sympathize. She was right. I NEVER comment on blogs, but I had to on this one.

    • John, that’s awesome! Thanks so much for commenting!

      I know the awkwardness. Definitely gets easier in adulthood, but in school? That can be rough for a little boy who just wants to fit in. I wish there was an easy answer for this problem. It just sucks.

  3. I am so guilty of this and know that I’m really sexist.

    I raise my daughter in a fairly gender-neutral way. Her room is painted pink and Disney Princess (hey, her name is Briar Rose), but I think I’m fairly equal about the kinds of toys and activities I encourage. She’s got dolls and trains, plays video games and tea party, she dresses as a knight at least as much as a princess–and more often she comes up with some kind of amalgamation or something just way out there. She reads comics as well as Barbie books, and her TV viewing is pretty gender neutral. When she gets a Happy Meal, we always ask her if she wants a boy or girl toy based on the toy, not how she happened to come out.

    But, you know, she’s a girl so it’s important to me that she knows it’s okay to have an interest in anything that draws her and she shouldn’t have to shy away based on her gender.

    I’d like to think that I’d be as open-minded if I had son. But I truly don’t know. I’m pretty sure my husband wouldn’t. Because, yeah, a girl who builds a treehouse is cool, but a boy who decorates it is not so much. Even though intellectually I know that’s wrong. I can’t change the fact that I’m literally shocked that my husband (the ex-Marine carpenter guy who can fix anything and doesn’t want to have to sleep under a comforter that’s too flowery) loves Glee. More than I do, I think. That shouldn’t be surprising; it’s a great show. And yet it is, proving that I have certain gender expectations.

    And what also disturbs me is that I make assumptions about my readers as well. I feel like I’m writing for a female audience and believe that there are very few men who read my work. When I don’t actually know that at all. I think the new book is “girlier” and that the male readers I do have will be turned off by it. Even knowing that it’s sexist to believe that the deepened emphasis on Joss’s and Dylan’s relationship in this book would be unappealing to men. Don’t men have relationships? Don’t men experience falling in love? So why couldn’t they identify and get into this book? But I still see it as girlier.

    • Do you think you’d be as shocked if a friend was really into Glee? Are your gender expectations for your husband different? I’m just projecting my own thoughts because I had certain “girl” expectations when I met my future wife that probably wouldn’t have mattered if she was just a friend. I don’t think that makes me or you sexist.

      I think more guys than you think would be into Joss and Dylan’s relationship. Kid me would’ve. I was into that sort of thing on TV, so I don’t see why books would be different. But I suffered from the assumption that certain things are just for girls.

      There’s also tons of action and real life stuff happening in HTC that totally appeals to either sex. I firmly believe if you aged your characters and made Joss a guy, everything else you wrote would basically work the same. And the fact that those changes would draw in a male audience is the problem.

      Everyone’s different, everyone has a different background, so in some way everyone will categorize to a degree. What I think is wrong is to make someone else feel like a lesser person for what they like.

  4. […] Andrew Mocete has a great post on YA being seen as too girly, and then goes on to talk about how his cultures see him as not manly for […]

  5. […] Andrew Mocete has a great post on YA being seen as too girly, and then goes on to talk about how his cultures see him as not manly for […]

  6. I completely agree Andrew.

    This is a touchy subject for a lot of people that has always bothered me. I love that you reference being a “Gleek”, that’s such a great example right now – I love Glee too, and boy do I hear about it when it comes up with my male friends. But, I know males online that love Glee, my brother has watched Glee, so…the problem is not with Glee, it’s with those that have a problem with Glee because of society’s expectations. I’m a girl and I’ve fallen in love with countless stories expected to have a primarily male audience – Harry Potter, Avatar: The Last Airbender…the list goes on.

    Love Saundra’s post in response to the article! Well worth the read.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Thanks, Tanya!

      The thing I appreciate Glee for is its overall message to be who you are. And that choosing so is not an easy road to go, but has its rewards. Even though many of the situations aren’t all that realistic, I get something positive out of every episode. Plus, how can anyone be against Sue Sylvester’s incredible one-liners?

  7. There is nothing wrong with you. If anything, you’re probably more man BECAUSE you can admit these things. That’s my opinion, anyway.

    The more society imposes these sexist standards, the worse off we all are. If you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of double standards.

    I’m a girl, and I honeslty don’t read many (or any) romance novels. I’m a girl, and I’m a sports fanatic! I’m a girl, and I run away from the tear-jerkers. Is there something wrong with me?

  8. My youngest son is 22, and he’s a real “tough guy”. He’s big and brawny and takes no crap from anyone. He likes guns, cars, and all the things that manly men like. And he LOVES to read. He leans toward horror and mystery, but so do I. He loves the Kindle I bought him. He’s always been a reader, so there really is hope for the young male. I think the biggest problem is that there are so many other things to do now. My oldest son, who is really kind of a geek, doesn’t read that much (although his wife does), but he plays video games a LOT. I love games, but I think there needs to be a balance between the game playing and the reading. But with computers, Wii, Xbox, etc., there’s just too much to fill your time with. And it seems that it’s the guys that are playing the games the most. I don’t know what it will take to get guys to read more. My husband reads only magazines and newspapers. Maybe all we can do is like you said…teach kids to read when they are really young, and let guys know it’s ok to like things that don’t “seem” manly.

    I know you like romance, etc., but I’ve never doubted your “manliness”. :0) Does it make me any less feminine because I really DON’T like most chick flicks? (There are exceptions, of course.) I’m kind of a girly girl most of the time, but I tend to like movies that most men like. So sue me. Hahahahaha.

    • Sounds like your sons had the option to read what they wanted and made their own decisions, which is good. At that age I read similar genres, but I always enjoyed the romantic elements in the stories I read. I assumed a romance book was all kissy kissy and sex. Not my thing. And still not my thing. But I never knew there was more to them and that I could get something enjoyable out of them. I’m sure if I told some my friends, they’d tease me about it, but not hurtful. Just guys being guys.

  9. Love this post, Andrew. That whole article just bothered me so much, and especially for the sake of men everywhere! What, men aren’t capable of reading something that isn’t engineered specifically “for them”? That’s a load of bullhockey. Most of the men I know are intelligent and mature enough to just like what they like, no matter what’s on the cover or whether it was written by a male or female. It’s just doing a disservice to men to assume that they can’t handle anything that isn’t guns, explosions, tough guys, and boobs. Excuse me, I would probably enjoy a movie that had all those things! (I mean, less so with the boobs thing but that’s just because I like dudes.) So why couldn’t a guy like a romantic comedy about FEEEEEELINGS without being judged somehow?


    The good thing is that once you’re an adult male, you can kind of say PSHAW to all that gender expectations crap and just enjoy what you like. Anyone who would give you a hard time for it is certainly not worth your time, and you don’t have to put up with them. But for the boys and young men who have to cater their enjoyment of things based on what society expects of them because they’re not a point, socially, when they have the confidence to just do whatever, regardless of their peers’ reactions — it’s just outrageous, and tragic, and insulting to everyone, men and women.

    Granted, a part of this does stem from something biological, in my opinion. Males, generally speaking and purely based on biology, process things kinesthetically — by doing and participating rather than observing and absorbing. Reading falls on the observing side of things, rather than the doing, and especially in a world that offers so many interactive forms of entertainment, yeah, most boys (especially developing boys) will most likely veer away from books and toward video games and sports without even thinking about it. Instinctively, it’s what they need and want.

    But, aside from that influence, the rest of the “guys can’t process things with a chick or flowers on the cover” thing is just silly. We might as well just say all dudes are neanderthals.


    I don’t even know if that was coherent. All I know is GRRR.

    Anyway, great post, Andrew! And, for the record, you are awesome. 😀

    • That’s thing, we CAN handle that stuff, but to say so in some people’s eyes is a sign of weakness.

      You make a great point about boys and peer pressure. When a top priority is to fit in, no many will have the courage to step outside the lines. And if they do, it’s a guarded secret. I definitely fell into that category and became an expert at blending in.

      I also think there’s a group mentality thing of liking to do what your friends are doing. As a kid I played basketball, street hockey and football because that’s what my fiends were doing. It was fun and I never felt pressured to do it, but as I got older, I lost interest.

      Most of what my nephew does with his friends is play video games and hang out on FB. Maybe if some of his friends were into reading, he’d have an interest. Maybe not. As long as he has the choice to like video games or like books or both because that’s what he likes, I’m happy.

      Oh, and thanks for defining kinesthetically. That is one LARGE word.

  10. […] can be anything, is something I know about myself and am working on. Andrew highlighted that in his Girly Man post this week. He picks up a discussion about how the issue of fewer young male readers maybe […]

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