Many years ago, when my daughters were very young, I had dreams that they would do boyish things. I suspect these dreams are normal for a father of girls, but I'm not sure on that. I would picture them playing football with me, being into cars and music and generally escewing lots of "girly" things in favour of the more masculine activities.
Now, roughly ten to twelve years later, I've succeeded in achieving my dream. If you define success as achieving nothing like you set out to do that is. Both the girls are firmly in the feminie camp. Their interest in the more boyish side of things extend to K being heavily into music and A being heavily into drums and it's highly debateable when they're "masculine" things anyway.
When I cast my mind back I do recollect that it was when they were young that I gave up on the whole idea anyway. At even pre school stage they began to play with "traditional" female toys. Things like dolls, cookers and kitchen things and the like. I noticed that they were getting much of their stimuli and the desire to play with those things from outside influences like TV and their friends.
It was all well and good me trying to get them interested in football and cars but everything they were exposed to demonstrated that they were boys' activities and that little girls should be doing other things. It was a lesson to me that the defining of traditional roles of the sexes starts so young and is hard to battle against.
Yet I'm not immune to it, as I unwittingly proved to myself the other day. I was browsing at some slighty trashy books in a shop and felt the urge to buy something that would be easy to read and gentle on my mind. If you know me you'll understand that, for something to be gentle on my mind, it's got to be pretty damn simple. A huge font, a plot that's a bit simpler that that story about the girl and the three bears and the porridge and some pictures of drums is my definition of easy reading.
I chose a couple of books and that night began to read one of them. It was a book about a family of private investigators told from the persepctive of their twenty eight year old daughter, also a private investigator. She (the narrator) is single and goes through boyfriends like a Jones goes through spliffs. The book has a story of sorts and is interlaced with details (of the emotional sort) about the many romances of the heroine. The top section of the front cover of the book is pink, the bottom section is a lighter shade of pink. The back cover is rather prettily done in the same colour scheme.
By now you may have spotted what I hadn't; it's a girls' book. Pure and simple.
I started it the night I bought it, the blurb had said it was funny, witty and full of side splitting insight. After a few chapters I'd come to the conclusion that I hadn't made up my mind yet. After a few more chapters I thought it was mildly witty but there was no need for me to wear my whale bone corset as I read it. I stuck to the regular one.
I had the girls with me one day and K, who's always interested in everything, looked at the book and grimaced.
"Dad, why are you reading this?"
"I just fancied it"
"But it's a girls' book" she said indignantly.
Her statement irked me somewhat. As if I'd go out and buy a book written for girls by mistake.
"Why do you think that?" I asked feebly, already feeling that feeling, the one where someone tells you something you'd known all along but you hadn't quite grasped it and yet, when they tell you, it's so obvious that you want to argue a bit to prove your point, particularly when it's your twelve year old daughter doing the pointing out of the obvious bit.
"Well didn't you read the blurb?"
"Of course I did, but why?"
"Well didn't you spot that the reviews are from womens' magazines? And the book's pink."
She had me there. Like a bat out of Belgium it hit me. I had bought a book written for women. It was too late though, I needed to know what was going to happen. I continued to read the book, being careful where I took it and who might see me reading it. I finished it last night and felt nothing. It had a nice happy ending, always good for my reading pleasure, but it dealt with things that men just aren't well versed in. Things like emotions, periods and undoing bras without looking.
It made me think about books and writing and target audiences. Most books are written to appeal to both sexes; male and the other one. But there are some that are written for men to read, mostly written by men. There are others that are written by women for women, like this one.
As I was saying to Frenchy the other night, it would have to be a brilliant man who could write pretending to be a woman. The likelihood is that a man writing as a woman would give away little clues as they went along, little signs that they're not as smart as they think they are.
Then again I reckon the average woman could have half her brain removed, do a couple of lines of coke and still write something that makes her sound like a highly intelligent man.
What do you think?