Here at Vocab Vitamins, we often glance over the bestseller lists. We recently noticed a book entitled: “The Dangerous Book for Boys” and were so intrigued that we went to the website and watched the promotional trailer. Here is where I will switch the “we” to “I”.
I, (Julie Karasik here) grew up as a tomboy through and through. I remember a distinct decision I made around 8 years old that boys get to DO more stuff, and have way more fun by running around playing sports and games and that frankly, I preferred to be a boy. In school, I was interested in science above all else, and by the end of college I had settled on my strong interest in technology for my professional pursuits. So my perspective has always been of a girl, then a woman, who felt insulted and boxed in by the typical view of girlhood and even womanhood.
Now that you know my worldview, let me tell you more about the book. It is in essence a compendium of activities, information, and how-to instruction that would be ‘of interest’ to boys. It is a work of nostalgia, bequeathing to boys the knowledge to pursue the ‘boyhood’ of the past, before text messaging, video games and tv. Some of the topics include: how to make great paper airplanes, rudimentary archery, how to play soccer, poker, table tennis, build a tree house, skip stones, make a periscope, grow crystals, make a go cart, etc.
It is a beautiful thing that the authors, who are brothers, got together and created the book that they wanted in their childhood, but never had. They centralized all the fun things that they learned from many sources, and made it a little easier to break away from the media-centric world of today’s kids.
But here is the thing. Whenever you say, something is for boys, you are also broadcasting an explicit-by-exclusion message that something is NOT for girls. Many of the subjects covered here could be great fun for girls as well as being incredibly useful for them in learning basic science, or a least the desire to experiment and do things herself. Many women have no idea how to wield a saw of any kind or properly drive nails through wood. Imagine if we had an encouraging opportunity when we were young to do so? How about an insight into basic scientific principles through play that would then make high school and college physics less intimidating?
I am in favor of celebrating boys, but not at the expense of girls. It is tragic that this book was positioned for boys only–and this is one of the main reasons it got onto the best sellers lists everywhere. I hear that there is girls version coming out! I challenge the publishers to create a book that would leave most of this knowledge intact. If they fill it with beauty secrets, that will be the ultimate insult.
My girlhood is over. I turn 30 this year. I have worked out the kinks of my perceived limitations of my gender. I love being a woman, but I still love sports with a passion and I am often tinkering with my server from the command line. Now, I am raising a little girl and I want her opportunities to be wide open.
In the latter half of the 20th century, we have made great strides in gender role flexibility. Women can be doctors, firemen, CEOs, stay at home moms, and men can be nurses, teachers, make-up artists, and stay at home dads. But much of our professional and personal potential comes from our explorations through play in our childhood. For example, when women enter computer science programs, they often feel behind since many of their male counterparts have been programming since they were children. I personally know a woman who was accepted at all the top medical schools in the country, yet spent most of her college career insisting that she was not good ‘hard sciences’. When and where did she ever learn that?
I hope that we can continue to open the horizons for all children by making it fun and acceptable to get out of the house, or at least get their hands dirty by doing–and learn science, history, woodwork, art, sewing, fishing, and everything in between.