Monday, September 8, 2008

Girly Books

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?


Soixante Neuf said...


Hahahaha. Oh honey. A pink book. *shakes head*

...And yet another reference to the ever-elusive Frenchy..interesting.

I wonder why it's shameful for a grown man to be reading a pink girly book and not for a woman to be reading a GQ or something.

I like GQ.


FINroD said...

I disagree mate... some of the greatest books i've read have been written by men... JRR Tolkiens -the LOTR series, TERRY BROOKS - Shannara series for example... each author has their own style of writing.. which gets you hooked to them... i dont think u can place one gender above the other... oh btw Jeffrey Archer to name another man author hehehe... ;)

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

6 - Next time I'll know better about this pink book business!

Finrod - I probably didn't make a good job of explaining my thoughts. It's not that I thnk there are no good male writers, more that I think men qwrite differently to women. Both can be good but the styles are often different.

FINroD said...

OI well isnt that wat i said hehehe.... so guess we were on the same page after all... LOL

epicurean said...

This is wit. This is brilliance. Love the last paragraph.

Tried to explain why I liked your site and not another but my comment has been deleted from that site!

BTW, I found that Douglas Kennedy writes pretty well as a woman.

nifraz said...

Hello there. well the post was interesting.. but…. what’s the big deal with it.. just becouse its written to a specific gender. Does it mean that the opposite sex cant read it? I don’t agree.. at my home my sisters are interested in watching cricket matches and i sometime spend my time watching fashion show? Hey hypothetically those are targeted other way around… same with the books...but what’s wrong about it.. coz I know one of female friend who was reading a book called all about guys? Well being the only child in her family I think she read it to understand her boyfriend better.. so what’s wrong…

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Epicurean - Thanks very much for the nice words.

Nifraz - Hello there too and thanks for your comment. I think there's nothing wrong in each sex doing things that are traditionally done by the opposite sex. It was interesting that I read this book when I feel it was clearly targetted towards women and there were so many signs about that.

I actually quite enjoyed the book. I'm definitely a man in touch with my feminine side!

Anonymous said...

Ha! Pink Books! Oh I never read those girly books, (except when the covers had fallen off my sisters books) I am all masculine books. (they are better when written by women)

Times Eye said...

just pointless discussing this

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

Times Eye - Ok, don't then!

SL Girl in London said...

Hello Rhythmic, I have to say I'm yet to evolve to be a regular blog reader, but I love reading your blogs, and they never fail to crack me up - even on a boring Monday afternoon at work - so thank you! For an example of a male author who wrote a fabulous account from a female perspective, there's Arthur Golden's 'Memoirs of a Geisha' - a white American male writing about the experiences of a Japanese turn-of-the-century geisha is at least to me, a very admirable feat, I kept re-reading the clues in the preface in disbelief. And alas, I wish my father appreciated the tom boy daughter he had without even trying to turn me into a tomboy, but obviously such fine appreciation was somehow lost on him. There is a 1963 T-bird from Cali parked down in Marylebone which stops my heart everytime I see it in a way a boy could not, and I hated dolls ever since I could remember but was made to feel I had to play with them just to be a nice girl (so my girly childhood friends could play doctor or mother or father - argh!). Keep up the great blogging and I have to say, I love SL sense of humour - so chilled out and self-deprecative but filled with effortless wit!