Shannon Hale, YA author extraordinaire and writer of many strong female heroines, recently had a very thoughtful post that I encourage you to take a minute to read:
To summarize, Hale points out the strange acceptance of boys being mean/cruel/unkind to girls as a way to show that they like the girl and the scary kind of precedent that sets. Hale was adamant that it stop with her–that her daughters learn that it wasn’t ever okay for a boy to be mean, pull hair, bully and be rude under the guise of “liking” her.
And then I picked up the Bulletin Center for Children’s Book’s review of a new chapter book mystery series** which cheerfully (with exclamation points) celebrates that the rival boy treats the heroine miserably because he likes her. It reminded me of Hale’s post and made me pause as I considered putting an order in for that book. Reading other reviews I find phrases like “finds out why he’s been bullying her” and “learns how boys show affection in fourth grade.” Considering I am being asked weekly for books on bullying, dealing with bullies, and moving on from a bullying situation (for crying out loud I have a book list on the subject), I have to ask if this is a valuable addition to my print collection.
I can understand that children, at times, don’t know how to relate to each other. I’m well aware that boys can be very different from girls. I know many men to whom I cannot begin to relate, understand, empathize with, etc etc. However, that holds true for a nearly equal number of women, and I would allow neither men nor women to mistreat me because we had difficulty relating to one another.
We can’t on one hand actively seek to end bullying in schools and among children and on the other equally active hand, tell boys it’s okay to bully and girls that it’s okay to accept bullying as a way to show affection.
So let’s change the standard of boys mistreating girls as a way to show affection and let’s find literature that at least doesn’t glorify it.
**I haven’t linked the book because I haven’t actually read it and the reviews don’t make it clear if there is some parental intervention for the bullying behavior or at least acknowledgment that it is inappropriate.