2014/15 Course Rep Philip Mills tackles this week’s newsflash with a look at Ladybird’s recent strategy to drop gender-specific books.
In this week’s issue of The Bookseller, one article struck me as particularly interesting. It considered the age-old topic of gender stereotypes.
This has been bubbling a way for a little while now and it all started with the campaign Let Toys Be Toys – which then gave rise to the launch of a sister campaign: Let Books Be Books. The major instigator behind this is the news that Penguin imprint, Ladybird, has said that it will not be printing books specifically “for boys” and “for girls” anymore.
A spokesperson from the company said: “At Ladybird we certainly don’t want to be seen to be limiting children in any way.”
Now, this is in no way an attack on Ladybird books because, as they’ve made it clear, the books they produce that are gender specific number a mere few (Ladybird Favourite Fairy Tales for Girls and Ladybird Favourite Stories for Boys) and currently there are only six titles out of hundreds that are in print which follow the gender specific titling.
The story was met by a variety of comments:
Great, so we can no longer choose for ourselves if we want to buy a boy’s or a girl’s labelled book.
There are only 6 books in the hundreds that Ladybird print that are for boys / girls, so it’s hardly a massive decision and will make very little difference.
Here, we see two sides of the story. One is that consumers’ choice is taken away, making them feel like they’re losing control on what they can and can’t buy. On the other hand, there are those who are quite happy to have this right taken away as, to them, it won’t make a huge difference.
I have mixed feelings about this apportioning of blame; I think it is all too easy to direct criticism at the publisher, but it’s tough for them to strike the right balance. They’re trying to please the Let Books be Books Campaign (if they didn’t they’d presumably be the subject of critique), but then they’re criticized anyway for being perceived as removing rights from the consumer.
This is very much a topic which is open for discussion, but my current opinion is that I personally agree with the gender-specific titles being abolished. Perhaps it is a one less right for the consumer to have, but it does creates great opportunities for children no longer to be forced into reading stories tied specifically to their gender.