About Women Being the Supreme Overladies of YA

| Friday, August 17, 2012
Today's Tune: GO!

OMG A BLOG POST! Don't get too excited... I'm probably going to drop off the map again for the rest of the month ;) But my online pal Johnny Dale asked me about my feelings on a certain issue, so I wrote a post on Tumblr about it. I'm shamelessly reposting it here.

So there have been a few articles lately (and a few articles in the past… there are always articles about this) about how ladies are ~*DOMINATING*~ YA literature. I kind of hate that word in this context? It implies force and superiority to me. IDK. I’m not going to link the articles here because I am too lazy to go look them up, but they were in the Atlantic and on Salon if you care to check them out.

In reality: yes, female persons are seeing a good deal (lol almost typed “god deal”) of success in children’s and young adult literature. Authors, publishers, and agents that represent these categories are, by and large, female. Several of the latest worldwide book franchise sensations have been ladies. This is all true. It is not a secret.

Here’s where I always get hung up: this is an arena in which stories about the female experience flourish and girls aged 12-18 are the primary readership. The reasons for this are many and all highly debatable, but there is no denying that THIS IS FACTS. Why, then, are people apparently so very surprised that the authors/publishers/agents seeing success in this arena are… ladies?

I also become very concerned that the knee-jerk response to YA being largely comprised of female stories (though far from all… I’ll get to that in a minute) is to somehow pin the lack of male readership on all these ladies and their girly-girlness. Bros and Lady-Bros: the reason there is a decline in the reading habits of boys in their teens, or that they skip from kidlit to VERY SERIOUS ADULT DUDEBOOKS, is not because of ladies and girl stories.

The reason YA is so popular to read and write among women and girls is because there was a hole in the market, and that hole has been filled. Girls and women needed stories about their youthful experience. They were desperate for them. And when they got them, they rejoiced with their wallets.

There is not a hole in the market for dudebooks, sry2say. They exist, and have existed for always. They are the books you have to read in school, the books hailed as classics and highest of highbrow literaryness. They are the genre staples.

Everyone has made the arguments about why exactly it is that boys stop reading and/or expressly refuse to pick up stories about girls, so I won’t tell you what you’ve already heard.

What I *will* tell you is that despite this supposed ~*DOMINANCE*~ of ladies in YA, when it comes to awards and “Best Of” lists, the dudes are very well represented. The Printz award, which is the highest honor a YA book can receive, has been split almost dead 50-50 between men and women. That “Top 100” list that recently came out? Forty percent male. One of the most hailed “serious” YA authors who writes highbrow literary YA? John Green.

So, sure, when it comes to uber-popular series that make the authors millions, we have a handful of successful lady authors. When it comes to “serious” work? The dudes keep their own just fine. Which should tell you something — in an arena that women supposedly rule, where the bulk of books are written by ladies, the awards and accolades are still almost evenly split between the sexes. Make of that what you will.

* Note that I am being facetious when I say “serious.” I don’t much care for implying that genre fiction is inherently less serious than literary. And this is not a slight on Mr. Green. He does good work. So do many other authors who are written off.

I don’t entirely have the energy to argue, once again, that I’m not saying that boys “don’t deserve” YA books or that I’m in favor of big mean combat-boot stomping ladies telling all the men and boys to GTFO of our YA playground. Suffice to say that is not even remotely my argument, and if you’re reading that into this post, you’re projecting.

What I *am* saying is that I don’t quite grasp all this handwringing over women supposedly squatting over YA like crotchety dragons unwilling to share their gold. There is no lack of male representation in YA, despite all the flailing to the contrary. There really isn’t. Just because there are MORE ladies doesn’t mean that we’re shutting out the boys/men. It just means that there are. more. ladies. in this. particular. area.

I mean, the fact that it is such a GIGANTIC DEAL that women are seeing more monetary success in ONE AREA of ONE PROFESSION and that this fact needs to be dissected repeatedly because it’s very important to figure out where all the dudes are? Continues to not surprise me, actually.

(I’d love to see more people ask where all the minority author/character representation is, actually. Current YA is VERY VERY STRAIGHT AND WHITE.)

And stuff. I’m happy to answer questions or further clarify my thoughts. My comments are always open, and my only rule is "don't be a jerk."


 

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