February 10th, 2012


Boy Stuff Strikes Again

I forced myself out of the house this morning to make a Target run, and now I can devote the rest of the day to work. I'm mad at the weatherman, though. He promised us a nice, rainy day and instead it's bright and sunny (the rain came and went overnight). How am I supposed to work under these conditions?

I may finish this pass of revisions today, but then I've already thought of some things I can do earlier in the book, so I'll probably do another pass, probably not linear this time, just hitting the particular spots, and then I'll do a good editing pass. The good thing is that I still like this book and these characters, so it's kind of nice to get to spend this much more time with them.

I don't normally get political or issue-oriented here, but something happened around here yesterday that just blew my mind. One of the big school districts in the area (not the one where I live, or I'd already have been expressing my dismay at the administration building) spent nearly $60,000, mostly supposedly coming from a federal grant (the administrators of the grant are denying they granted it, though) to take the fifth-grade boys to see Red Tails, the fictionalized movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. The girls stayed at school with substitute teachers, who had the option of showing them a DVD of Akeelah and the Bee, a totally fictional story about a girl in a spelling bee. According to the district officials, they didn't have room at the theater for all the kids, so they decided to just take the boys because they thought the movie would be of more interest to boys.

I just about exploded when I saw this story on my news feed. I know for a fact that I would far rather see a movie about fighter pilots than a movie about a spelling bee, and that's even disregarding the difference between going on a field trip to a movie theater and staying at school with substitute teachers. The very idea of spelling bees makes me twitch, but I'm a history buff and I know even my fifth-grade self would have chosen the fighter pilots over the spelling bee. How can they say boys, across the board, are going to be more interested than girls? And how can they even say it's more valuable for boys than girls to be inspired by this story? Women can be fighter pilots now, so who's to say some little girl might not see this story and develop a career ambition? And if it's about role models for economically disadvantaged kids (one of the justifications for this trip), girls need positive male role models as much as boys do.

This bizarre differentiation between "boy stuff" and "girl stuff" blows my mind. I'm about as far as you can get from a tomboy. I suck at sports, am not interested in camping (unless it's in a cabin with indoor plumbing), take ballet classes, like wearing dresses and have waist-length hair. But I love war movies. I love war documentaries. I've spent many an hour listening to veterans' war stories because I was interested and I could tell they needed to talk. My favorite color is blue and I'm not a huge fan of pink (though I am wearing a pink sweater today). You can't pigeonhole me. Or anyone, really. And telling kids that some things are for boys and some things are for girls isn't something alleged educators should be doing because it narrows their horizons.

Whew! Being on a soapbox is tiring. But since I work with little girls, this kind of thing worries me. It's okay to like both princess movies and fighter pilots, and they can be anything they want to be. It's the talent and the effort that are important, and those aren't gender-dependent.