anghara (anghara) wrote,
anghara
anghara

Male Order Books...

It all started here, in a blog entry where author Hannah Moskowitz addresses what she calls "the boy problem" in YA.



In her opinion, in current YA we have:

1) STEREOTYPED boys.

She seems to think that boys in YA have been reduced to four basic types: The Gay Best Friend, The Best Guy Friend (who then often turns out to be THE ONE and the major romantic interest for the all-conquering heroine), The Bad Boy, and The Nerdy Boy, whom she describes as "...(usually, remember usually, we're talking about usually) the only boy you will ever find as a main character. If you find a male POV, it's usually him. He's geeky but never pimply, nerdy but always in a socially-proficient, sarcastic, endearing way."

If you combine her stereotypes and produce a character, is that still stereotyping? In my own YA books I have a number of male characters - none of them are MAJOR protags, granted, Thea is, and she's, you know, a GIRL - but in her immediate circle of friends she has Terry (computer geek + best guy friend + potential The One down the lien maybe sort of kind of) and Ben (slightly nerdy, definitely sarcastic and endearing, beset guy friend with a potential crush hinted at but in the end she goes for Terry instead) - and further afield she has Beltran and Diego de los Reyes (definite Bad Boy, there, but mitigated by circumstance). With more grown-up males brought into the fold, she has Humphrey May (the bigwig at the Federal Bureau of Magic - all right, not remotely romantic interest, I mean EW he's three times her age, but he's an enigmatic character who's both friend and cold exploitative bastard at once...) and - how about this - the ULTIMATE geek, Nikola Tesla. Whom she does "meet" as a boy, briefly. But once again - strong secondary character in the book, not the protag, but where's the stereotype?

In other words, I think Ms Moskowitz may be oversimplifying. Or else just reading the wrong books. The ones that aren't necessarily dissing boys by stereotyping them, but are just being badly enough written for that to become an issue. And if we're talking stereotypes here, can we start with the great original boy stereotype of them all, and the one which is omnipresent out there both in books of yore and certainly some current offerings, where the boy character (and often the protag) is the all-conquering hero who mows down all obstacles in his path...? How come THAT stereotype didn't find its way onto Ms Moskowitz's list? At NUMBER ONE?...

2) SANITIZED boys. I have to confess this point seems a little fuzzy in the original - and I am not WHOLLY sure what Ms Moskowitz is getting at here.

3) STRIPPED BOYS OF SUBSTANCE - "...and we did it to empower girls. Somehow, the message "girls can do it too" became "only a girl can do it," and men became the weaker sex in YA." Er, what?

She goes on (with my comments interspersed IN CAPS),

"Where are the epic fantasy trilogies with male main characters? SHE NEEDS A LIST? REALLY? Harry Potter isn't YA, people, stop pretending.HARRY POTTER DEFINED YA FOR AN ENTIRE GENERATION. IF SHE IS SAYING THIS AND BELIEVING IT THEN SHE IS USING "YA" AS A MOVING TARGET, AS IT TURNS OUT TO BE CONVENIENT FOR HER. BUT, AS IT STANDS, THAT STATEMENT IS JUST FLAT NOT TRUE. When, since Eragon, have boys gotten to save the world? IF "ERAGON" IS THE YARDSTICK FOR YA FANTASY GOD HELP US ALL. IT'S A BOOK WRITTEN BY A TEENAGE BOY WITH A MAMMOTH MARTY STU AS PROTAGONIST... Where is the Melissa Marr for boys? WHAT, EXACTLY, DOES "MELISSA MARR FOR BOYS" MEAN...? Where is--yeah--Twilight for boys? UNH. I'M LEAVING THAT ONE WELL ENOUGH ALONE THANK YOU... Where is the science fiction that boys loved in YA, and we just assumed, for some reason, they were fine with losing when they turned 14?WHY THE HECK ARE THEY "LOSING" IT? BOYS WHO READ SCIENCE FICTION DON'T READ "SCIENCE FICTION FOR KIDS". THEY READ *SCIENCE FICTION*. AND THERE'S PLENTY OF IT OUT THERE WHETHER OR NOT YOU ARE MALE OR FOURTEEN YEARS OLD.

Oh yeah--they're over there in adult fiction, and that's where the teenage boys are going to be, too. AND?... I WAS HAUNTING THE GROWN-UP SHELVES IN MY LOCAL LIBRARY WHEN I WAS TEN. YA AS SUCH IS A RELATIVELY RECENT MARKETING NICHE, NOT SOMETHING IT IS ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL FOR TEENAGERS TO HAVE TO GO THROUGH BEFORE THEY ARE PERMITTED TO BECOME "FULL" RATHER THAN "YOUNG" ADULTS. IF TEEN BOYS ARE HAUNTING ADULT SF SECTIONS, MORE POWER TO THEM.

Boys in YA are rubber walls for our 3D female characters to bounce off of. They're props for girls to throw around to show that they're the stronger sex.ER...WHUT...?

And I get that we need to empower girls, people. I get it. But how many books about girls do we need before we can consider that a job well done?"AND AS FOR THIS STATEMENT... IT HAS LEFT ME A LITTLE... SPEECHLESS. SHE THINKS THAT BOOKS WITH GIRLS AS PROTAGONISTS ARE SOMEHOW BEING WRITTEN... TO A QUOTA...?

Ms Moskowitz finally does say one thing that I absolutely agree with:

"Boys. Shut up and read YA. The books are there. There aren't enough, we're absolutely sorry. But they're there. Stop insisting they're not."

The point here being, children, READ. Boy or girl. It's a BOOK. It's a STORY. It's about some of us all of the time, and all of us some of the time. But the books are there, and if you aren't reading and saying that you aren't reading because it's "a boy's book" or "a girl's book" that's just reaching for the first lazy excuse that comes to hand. Melissa Marr doesn't write "for girls", and if those boys who like well-written books would try reading them they might find that out.




The first is here. I'd go read the whole thing, it's worth it, go on, I'll wait -

- and now you're back, here's the salient quote from that particular post, for me:

"Which allows me to move on to what the heart of the boys-in-YA debate is really about, and the underlining belief system of Moskowitz's post: That by writing about girls, by empowering girls, we have somehow managed to disempower boys through a lack of representation or quality of characterization. And in believing this, can we go back to the boys now, please?"

How did this become an either/or question, a zero-sum equation?

Why is it so threatening to the male half of the human race if the "girls" have stories of their own?

The second response, by Tamora Pierce, is here, pithy and eloquent as always, and again, go read the whole thing, I'll wait -

- and here's what Ms Pierce says about the matter that resonates with me:

"I wrote this because in some ways I am part of Hannah Moskowitz's problem, the rise of female heroes, and I thought that she ought to know my side of it. I'm not trying to start a fight with her because I do respect what she wrote. I just figure I owe it to her to explain where I come from as a main proponent of the issues she discussed.

I don't recognize Ms. Moskowitz's four boy stereotypes as she describes them completely in my books. Two of my bad boys do have things for two of my girl heroes; the first one also has a collection of ears from his first career, and the second was murdering his way to the top while she was caught up in a riot. As to the stereotypes Moskowitz describes, author Theodore Sturgeon said, "94% of everything is s**t." Harlan Ellison's corollary is, "Sturgeon is an optimist."

When I talk to guys about my books, I don't talk about the girl hero finding her strength of character or finding romance, if she does. I talk about the fight with the centaur, or the spy work necessary for a revolution. I talk about learning to joust and referring to it as "flying lessons." I talk about walking into a rich merchant's office and finding his head hung in the wrappings of his turban from the chandelier. I talk about stealing battles from the battle of Little Round Top in the American Civil War, or basing a character on the first recorded serial killer of children. If guys know they'll find good stuff in the book, they'll take off a cover they think is too "feminine." "

In other words, it's a story. About ALL of us. SOME of the time.

I, too, am part of Hannah Moskowitz's problem. I write strong women. I do not do this because I feel as though it is incumbent on me to fill a gap or a hole in literature somewhere, or because I am myself a woman and thus need to pay my dues to my sisters (or in the case of YA, I suppose, my "daughters"), or because I hate men, or because I have ANY sort of agenda at all. I write stories. I write stories which have protagonists. I write stories which have protagonists who are rounded members of their species, human or not, rather than pandering to "girl" or "boy" sensibilities. I do not write violence for the sake of violence (for instance, gratuitous battles which might "draw in" the boys) or romance for the sake of romance (for instance, hanging an entire paranormal world on a somewhat oogy obsessive relationship as I find the main coupling in "Twilight" to be, personally, which might pull in the girls). I don't write for girls OR boys - I write for readers. Readers who are at an age, at last, where they are becoming aware that the world consists of both male and female polities, and that books exclusively for one or the other are excluding half the human race from the get-go.


In today's days of fast food and microsecond attention spans, reading is a problem across the gender spectrum, really. Kids who grew up on texting are unlikely to suddenly sprout an appreciation for the more languorous literary kind of writing - but that isn't a boys' problem any more, or at least not JUST a boys' problem. It's the generation. They want it fast and they want it now. And quite honestly... this is not a problem that the approach of "going back to the good old boys stories, and stop focusing on the wimmin" is going to solve.

We must get our kids to read, teach them to love reading.

ALL of the kids. Not just the boys.
Tags: philosophical discussions, rant
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