No, even closer.
Yes, that's good.
Here's the secret: I don't believe that books for boys exist.
No, no, hold on. I believe that boys will read books. But I don't believe that books are made specifically for boys. There also aren't girl books. Actually, books aren't gendered at all.
But there seems to by this myth in our society that boys can only read books that involve characters with similar dangly bits (even if not every boy has dangly bits). But girls can identify with people with dangly bits, even though they don't have them themselves, and are never told it's okay to not want to read something because of the gender of the protagonist.
Elizabeth Vail wrote a beautiful piece for HuffPo entitled, "The Legacy of Katniss, or, Why We Should Stop 'Protecting' Manhood and Teach Boys to Embrace the Heroine." It's stunning and amazing and you should read it.
Last time I checked, half the population on earth is female. So saying "having a female protagonist" is a trope is on par with saying "having a human protagonist" is a trope, or "having a protagonist who inhales oxygen and ingests organic matter to live" is a trope... The response to this increase in female-centric stories shouldn't necessarily be to call for more male-centric stories to "protect" manhood. Perhaps the response should to be change the marketing and social depiction of such female-driven stories to focus more on their storytelling and less on their gender. I'll be the first to admit that the prevalence of YA cover art depicting girls in flowing prom dresses is doing neither side of this argument any favors.
But what she touches on without ever specifying is the favored treatment of men in the genre. We constantly hear complaints about how YA is female-driven. Yet half of the New York Times' YA bestsellers list the first week running was written by men. Over half of the books are still told through a male point of view.
We automatically tend to say the male point of view is the stronger one. The lack of male characters in a book is abhorred, but if a book only has one female character, it goes fairly dismissed. Femininity can only be seen as weak - even though there are plenty of traditional female characters that have more strength in their pinky fingers than some men do in their entire body.
It really annoys me that, as a culture, we're telling girls that they have to read through a man's point of view but telling men that it's okay not to relate to women. We're indirectly delegating women to an otherness while men are always near and close and human and in power.
I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to note that women, from a young age, are required to consider the reality of the opposite gender’s consciousness in a way that men aren’t. This isn’t to say that women don’t often misunderstand, mistreat, and stereotype men, both in literature and in life. But on a basic level, functioning in society requires that women register that men are fully conscious; it is not really possible for a woman to throw up her hands and write men off as eternally unknowable space aliens — and even if she says she has, she cannot really behave as though she has. Every element of her life — from reading books about boys and men to writing papers about the motivations of male characters to being attentive to her own safety to navigating most any institutional or professional or economic sphere — demands an ironclad familiarity with, and belief in, the idea that men really are fully human entities. And no matter how many men come to the same conclusions about women, the structure of society simply does not demand so strenuously that they do so. If you didn’t really deep down believe that women were, in general, exactly as conscious as you, you could probably still get by in life. You could probably still get a book deal. You could probably still get elected to office.
When recommending books, I try not to segment by gender. I segment by story type - romances and action and science fiction and fantasy. I give them based on what I think they'll like in terms of story. Their gender, and the gender of the characters, shouldn't matter.
Fighting gendered ideas is going to be on ongoing struggle, and I don't like the fact that we have to do it to begin with; it means that, because of something that is out of my control, my opinions or the opinions of some of my favorite characters will be dismissed because of a sex organ or a gender identification. That's stupid. It's silly. It's nonsensical. It's our society.
But we get the chance to fight it, in how we recommend books and how we talk about them. Let's stop talking about the fight for boy's books and the myth of the weak female character and instead start talking about good books and about how everybody can kick ass, regardless of gender.