Thursday, June 07, 2012

Sexist Much?

Boys Only: How to Survive Anything!
Table of Contents:
  1. How to Survive a shark attack
  2. How to Survive in a Forest
  3. How to Survive Frostbite
  4. How to Survive a Plane Crash
  5. How to Survive in the Desert
  6. How to Survive a Polar Bear Attack
  7. How to Survive a Flash Flood
  8. How to Survive a Broken Leg
  9. How to Survive an Earthquake
  10. How to Survive a Forest Fire
  11. How to Survive in a Whiteout
  12. How to Survive a Zombie Invasion
  13. How to Survive a Snakebite
  14. How to Survive if Your Parachute Fails
  15. How to Survive a Croc Attack
  16. How to Survive a Lightning Strike
  17. How to Survive a T-Rex
  18. How to Survive Whitewater Rapids
  19. How to Survive a Sinking Ship
  20. How to Survive a Vampire Attack
  21. How to Survive an Avalanche
  22. How to Survive a Tornado
  23. How to Survive Quicksand
  24. How to Survive a Fall
  25. How to Survive a Swarm of Bees
  26. How to Survive in Space
It's full of practical information in comic format. Don't try to cut a snakebite and suck out the venom, even though you see it on TV. Use warm, not hot, water for frostbite. Here's how to make a solar still to gather water in the desert. Surrounded by forrest fire? Dig a ditch and curl up in it facedown. Cover yourself with a wet blanket. Etc.
Girls Only: How to Survive Anything!
Table of Contents:
  1. How to survive a BFF Fight
  2. How to Survive Soccer Tryouts
  3. How to Survive a Breakout
  4. How to Show You're Sorry
  5. (and chapter 3 is where we no longer care about "survival")
  6. How to Have the Best Sleepover Ever
  7. How to Take the Perfect School Photo
  8. How to Survive Brothers
  9. Scary Survival Dos and Don'ts
  10. ("don't throw things or yell at your ghost. it may react badly.")
  11. How to Handle Becoming Rich
  12. How to Keep Stuff Secret
  13. How to Survive Tests
  14. How to Survive Shyness
  15. How to Handle Sudden Stardom
  16. More Stardom Survival Tips
  17. How to Survive a Camping Trip
  18. ("fresh air is excellent for the skin")
  19. How to Survive a Fashion Disaster
  20. How to Teach Your Cat to Sit
  21. (are you #$&^%*@ kidding me?)
  22. How to Turn a No Into a Yes
  23. Top Tips for Speechmaking
  24. How to Survive Embarrassment
  25. How to Be a Mind Reader
  26. How to Survive a Crush
  27. Seaside Survival
  28. (don't wear heels. tie your hair back. sunglasses add glamour.)
  29. How to Soothe Sunburn
  30. How to Pick Perfect Sunglasses
  31. Surviving a Zombie Attack
  32. How to Spot a Frenemy
  33. Brilliant Boredom Busters
  34. How to Survive Truth or Dare
  35. How to Beat Bullies
  36. How to be an Amazing Babysitter
If any of you are planning to go back in time, note that this girl would have preferred (and still does) the boy version of survival. I just don't think "How to Handle Sudden Stardom" quite counts.

UPDATE: So that happened.


Kelly Jensen said...

Unabashedly so, even. Gross.

Leila said...


So stupid.

Wait. How come boys are more likely to deal with a vampire attack, while girls are more likely to deal with a zombie attack?

Sarah said...

And this is a real thing that stabs me in the gut. What are we even teaching kids today??

Jackie said...

oh, on the scary situations page for girls, they recommend girls don't show off their earings to vampires.

Kelly Jensen said...

Leila raises an excellent question, and Jackie, is it because earrings can be sparkly?

Jackie said...

A zombie attack is THE ONLY thing that appears in both books, but the treatment is pretty different.

Boy version: How to shelter, what zoms are attracted to, check strangers for bites/potential infections, use sausages to distract, blend in by ripping clothing, drooling, roaring, smearing dirt, head shots are the only way to kill.

Girl version: How to spot a zombie, zombies are not like dogs, and can't be trained or hypnotized. "If a zombie corners you, outwit it. Pretend to be a zombie, too. If you can drool, even better." The end. No tips on out to outwit. No instructions on killing or any of the "useful" bits from the boy version.

Jackie said...

If you show a vamp your earrings, you're making your neck vulnerable.

Jackie said...

I might also add, at no point that I noticed in the girl's book is there any opportunity for ziplining. Certainly not ziplining with a pink cell phone.

Sarah Stevenson said...

Leila, I had the same question you did. How come only boys get to learn to escape a vampire attack? Jeez.


Jordyn said...


This is not cool. Apparently boys get to survive all sorts of wild-wild-west type SERIOUS SITUATIONS but the girls just get to survive... life. And Disney-Channel-style fantasies like suddenly becoming rich.

Jackie Parker said...

Sarah (aquafortis), don't you know, girls are supposed to MARRY the vampire. Why would we want to escape him?

Jordyn, I was particularly pleased that we got TWO chapters on becoming rich and famous.

Vee_Bookish said...

Shoot them.

iefgh said...

I just puked in my mouth a little.

Alexandra K said...

I KNOW. When we noticed these at the bookstore I work at, we complained to the publisher's rep and promptly returned them.

Jen Robinson said...

That rots. That's all I have to say.

PJ said...

This... makes me want to grab a group of female bad-asses and put out our own book of ass-kickery.

DWR said...


Angela in Seattle said...

I think I'll buy one of each, tear the covers off and use a Sharpie heavily on the title pages. I have four daughters. It all sounds like useful information, after all. If I had boys, I'd do the same.

Dan Purdue said...

I think the first thing to teach girls (and boys) is that just because a book says "Boys Only" (or "Girls Only"), that doesn't stop you reading it. If you're interested, read it.

That would be a far more useful life lesson than any amount of sleepover tips or advice on dealing with werewolves.

Liz B said...

"I think the first thing to teach girls (and boys) is that just because a book says "Boys Only" (or "Girls Only"), that doesn't stop you reading it. If you're interested, read it." To be honest? That's what we've been doing for decades. It would be nice if in 2012, we didn't have to constantly teach people "only" means "beat down the door, don't accept it."

Lalitha said...

Profoundly disappointed that such blatantly sexist material is being published for kids. I agree that the "for boys only book" seems a bit more appealing to readers because it stresses independent thinking and agency.

Honestly, books like this are part of the reason we have the ALA's Amelia Bloomer Project, which annually highlights books with significant feminist content.

Bethany said...

I especially like how the girl is shown ziplining, but she’s still able to talk on her pretty pink cell phone. Because, y’know, she’s a girl, which means her phone is more important than watching where she’s going. Also note that despite the fact that ziplining is featured on the cover, there is no How to Survive Ziplining chapter. (What exactly does How to Survive Truth or Dare cover, might I ask? I wasn’t even aware that was such a major concern for girls.)

James Taber said...

This looks more like "Boys Only: Be a Badass" and "Girls Only: Try Not To Be So Dumb."

Was this a school publishing project where they chose from whatever the kids wrote and made it into a book, no matter how stupid? Because this reads like something my classmates and I would've written in grade school.

"How to Turn a No Into a Yes" and "How to be an Amazing Babysitter" look especially heinous. Though "How to Beat a Bully" might be good, if it's a literal interpretation of that title.

TheDingo said...

All of this is very... upsetting? Not sure if that is the word I am looking for here, but you would expect Scholastic of all people to know better.
The worst part is the fact that there is a "How to turn a no into a yes" chapter. That is really creepy, especially from a preteen book.

So creepy all around, super creepy rape chapter. Tsk tsk Scholastic, tsk tsk.

Unknown said...

Well, of course girls don't need to know how to survive the boy things, because if they are in trouble, the boy knows and he will rescue her, right? Isn't that what every girl wants?

Literary Kitty said...

This genuinely made me feel sad :(

Unknown said...

I have three boys. My boys could certainly use some of the girl lessons as well. They could use a lesson in how to say your sorry and how to survive shyness along with a few more of the "girl" things that actually happen to them in real life. But no the boys are supposed to be focused on hypothetical situations that may never occur. I do remember learning about quick sand as a kid but have never had to use the knowledge.
Thanks for sharing this though because not having girls, I may have just picked up the boy book from my kids because it looks interesting not realizing that I was contributing to the problem.

ali said...

So... This was something written in 1946 or something, right? And now that I've read the table of contents I'm going to do a Google search and find out that some old Christian rich white guy released this book in the '40'S and we're all going to have a bit of a dark laugh because of those stupid unenlightened sexists back in the day who thought boys got to do all the ass-kickery and the only use for girls was getting dates and looking pretty, but it's a good thing it's a little better now, haw haw haw, right? Right? R...
*Checks Amazon*
Publication Date: May 1, 2012

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Ruby said...

Mind if I link this post in my blog? Just wrote a post about the huge "boy's books" vs. "girl's books" thing. These two books are excellent examples.

kevkev said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sam @ Parenthetical said...

@Jen -- Exactly. I would argue that most of the girls' stuff is more "practical" than the boys' for adolescents. (Assuming the advice doesn't suck, of course.) How to Survive Embarrassment, a Crush, Tests, and a BFF Fight? That's one day in the life of most of my female students. And it's a day in the life of boy adolescents, too; we just never talk with them about how to deal with any of it. Boys are supposed to get over that stuff without a second thought.

This is sexist b.s. in both directions.

Liz B said...

Sam's point is perfect. It is BS in both directions; and it sends the wrong message to both boys and girls. One book could have easily been "school only" (it seems to be more social / school situations), another "outdoors only" etc rather than gendering the list.

Anonymous said...

How f-in' sexist! shame on you, Scholastic!

Anonymous said...

Both seem awesome to me, I kinda want to buy a set for my self so I can have all the info JUST IN CASE

Anonymous said...

Good for you!

Anonymous said...

Isn't this just fiction? What's the big deal?

Anonymous said...

If they weren't labeled "Boys" or "Girls" and rather labeled "Social Situations" and "Outdoors Situations" it wouldn't be so upsetting.
Boys and girls would find information in both books beneficial.
Except things like "How to Survive Truth or Dare"...that just sounds silly.

Jackie Parker said...

Ruby, go for it!

Anon 6/08/2012 3:05 PM, no, these actually aren't fiction. They are non-fiction. And honestly, go check out Ruby's post to get some idea about why it's problematic for fiction, as well.

Ruby said...

Thanks! xxx

Zara said...

As a mother of 2 girls, I'd rather they kick T-rex ass than have perfect sunglasses.
On a more serious note, I'm really bothered by the 'Turn a No into a Yes' bit. It just seems so... wrong? I can't quite find the words for how I feel about these books. It might have been published in good fun, but I think they send the wrong message both ways.

Unknown said...

Ok. At the risk of being bashed by the girls on this I'm going to comment. These are comic books. They are designed to sell. They are obviously not designed as true survival manuals (even though I'm sure some of the tips are actually useful in real world scenarios). Content such as how to survive vampires and zombies.. or surviving in space sort of demonstrates the silliness here and makes it obvious that these are not true survival manuals. That said the content is geared toward interests of their target audiences. Yes we have to generalize a bit to accommodate targeting specific consumers. But I don't see anyone yelling sexist because you see more tampon commercials when watching soap operas or athlete's foot spray and Viagra commercials during the classic car auctions or football. I'm not saying this isn't sexist.. But I am saying that I don't think there was an intention to be so.. Just an intention to sell books to a target audience... 12 year olds.. with content that would typically interest a young boy or girl.. in general. Its not a problem that we market Babries to girls and Transformers to boys. So why is it problem to sell tips on parachuting to boys and dealing with emotional issues to girls? I don't know about you.. But I know way more men that have jumped out of a plane than women.. and I know way more women that care about how to look glamorous in sunglasses than men.
The reality is that in a disaster situation most women are not going to take the lead on survival... they are going to look to men to guide them. And as a man when I'm in a social situation that requires me to be tactful I'm going to look to a woman to guide me on how not to risk embarrassment. I know it's an ugly and sexist assessment, but I think we should just come to terms with the fact that IN GENERAL men and women have different interests and thus focus on different areas of expertise. I am not saying either is any less capable or should be offered less opportunity to focus where they want. Girls should buy the boys survival comic if the content interests them.

Misha said...

Okay, looks like a bloke gets to be the first to respond to this, John.

While I agree that what have you outlined is (VERY BROADLY SPEAKING) a map of the facts as they exist, that doesn't make it LESS problematic. The situation you outline is a basic interpretation of the social construction of gender that we live with these days. That is exists (and is, thus, part of the social/commercial structure) does not make it "good," though. Heck, quite the opposite. It is actively harmful, especially to women (or, in this case, girls).

And the biggest problem here, as many commenters above have mentioned, is that BEYOND the fact that these books are gender coded - a fact which is exasperating but, as you say, not entirely unexpected for sales purposes - but that they are specifically labelled as being for boys or for girls ONLY. Therefore, boys are not allowed to have feelings and girls are not allowed to wrestle T-Rexes. Those are ONLY for the other gender.

And there's always a bootstrap problem to the question of commercialism and normativity. At this point in late capitalism, it's almost impossible to say which came first, the market as it currently exists or the marketing that made the market that way. But just because they are doing it to sell product does NOT make it right. Nor does the fact that children (or adults) are ignorant of the negative effects it has.

Misha said...

(Woof... wish I could go back edit that...Still, the idea should get across.)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Carr,'re going to bring up tampons as a response to this sexist crap? Seriously? And you're going to go on at length?

And you're going to conclude the girls figure out how they are being socialized and just choose something else? And you're going to do that as a thinking adult?

In general, yu're right, it's a sexist assessment and not very useful.

Unknown said...

Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, I didn't bring up tampons. I brought up tampon commercials as an extreme example of a gender marketed product to illustrate a point.
And yes I will conclude that everyone men and women figure their society out and choose whatever they want. I managed to break out of societies gender assignments for me. I have raised a child alone, for 17 years now. For a man, let me tell you, what an uphill battle that is. I take responsibility for my choices, and make sure I do what I believe is right despite what my retail overlords have instructed me to do. If someone or some group tries to decide for me what I am and how I should behave, I pay no attention. Own your destiny too. These comic books are petty children's fiction. And some people find comfort in traditional gender roll assignment. Your real fight (which I support) is with someone else.

Unknown said...

It's people like you who have made folks afraid to say "Merry Christmas" anymore. You who wants to take choice off of the shelf because it doesn't agree with your particular values. You are the one weakening people. If any woman feels like they aren't on equal footing with men.. Then do me a favor and man up. Because being a man means forcing your way forward to get your crap done. It means not placing blame on others for the way you behave. That's the footing you have to achieve before I will consider you an equal, whether you are a man or a woman.

Anonymous said...

@JohnCarr. A lot of women have, in these comments, said they would prefer the boys survival guide as would I (a lady). That's point number one.

Point number two: this is a form of socialization. By putting feelings solely in the domain of women, they're saying to men that they're not allowed to feel. That having crushes and being embarassed is a woman's thing. Seeing as boys are human too, it's not a great thing to say.

It's bad for women too. It's taking away their autonomy. A woman doesn't need to sit idly by while men are in charge of survival. That's ridiculous. What would a woman do if she had to go to space without a man or survive frostbite without a man around? Just die? Women can do and have done these things too, it's not solely a male domain. Just like being bullied or taking tests is not solely a woman's domain.

The point is that this book reinforces traditional gender roles that are, at their core, harmful nd against the reality of human nature. These kind of books socialize children. It's simple psychology. When boys and girls are trying to define their roles in life, they look to authority figures. Maybe teachers, maybe parents, maybe the media (of which this book is a part). If they get stupid messages like these ones then that's the message that's gonna stick: men don't feel and woman can't survive things. Both are flawed premises and we shouldn't be teaching our children these things.

Point three: why is this gendered in the first place? If boys were really interested in the book, they wouldn't need a label to tell them so. If a girl was interested in the book, she wouldn't need one either. Quite frankly, by labeling them, they're cutting out the other 50% of the market who might also be interested in zombie attacks or advice on crushes. It's silly.

Unknown said...

Right on. I don"t think removing choice of pety fiction from the shelves is the answer. For some people gender roll assignment is comforting. Even if you disagree it's no reason to remove it. Teach your kids who to be. Don't leave it in the hands of comic books. Shame on the people who want to force their value structure on everyone else's children.

Anonymous said...

How to Turn a No Into a Yes

It's too much to hope that this chapter is about teaching girls about the dangers of ruphies.

Anonymous said...

@John Carr - 9:25: "It's people like you who have made folks afraid to say "Merry Christmas" anymore. You who wants to take choice off of the shelf because it doesn't agree with your particular values. You are the one weakening people."

It sounds like you think that this kind of oppression only goes one way, and is equal in severity; that the majority doesn't do this to the minority, or that it happens to both sides just as badly. A lot of people have been bullied, shamed, or in some cases even murdered for challenging the social status quo. Or just by being what they are (homosexual, black, muslim, etc). Unless, that is, you think minorities generally use their disadvantages as a cheap way for social gain/pity, or you believe that minorities rather just wallow in victim mentality forever than actually live their lives. So why are blacks/homosexuals/atheists/muslims, etc. the target of hate crimes, and not white/straight/Christians? Same with more women than men raped/battered in general (outside of prison).
Also, do you really think that the severity of minority oppression is equal to being sensitive about saying "Merry Christmas"? The former can actually be life-threatening, while the latter is merely a matter of convenience.

John Carr: "Then do me a favor and man up. Because being a man means forcing your way forward to get your crap done. It means not placing blame on others for the way you behave."

You know, telling a woman to "man up" sounds very problematic and sexist. It's like living responsibly and for yourself is directly linked to the male gender. And again, women who do "man up", act aggressively, and break societal norms are often labeled mentally imbalanced, a bitch or lesbian-in a derogatory way; there's a sexist double standard. It's just like the phrase "having balls", which associates real bravery with physically having testicles (then again, transmen are not particularly admired by society for actually having balls, are they?).

Also, it seems like you think social discrimination can be so easily overcome if women and other minorities just put their back into ending it (funny that the American presidents before Obama were all white men, and never had their citizenship seriously questioned).

Anonymous said...

@John Carr:3:26: "I don"t think removing choice of pety fiction from the shelves is the answer. For some people gender roll assignment is comforting. Even if you disagree it's no reason to remove it"

That's easy for you to say when you're not part of the minority. You (and probably your best buddies) don't live with their social disadvantages, nor experience the discrimation they do. For a lot of white people, the current racial status is comforting. For a lot of straight people, the current heterosexual status is comforting. So are people protesting against racism and homophobia also whiny/unreasonable? Also, can't the people comfortable with gender roles, etc. make their own choice what to read/not to read? Your criticism is pretty one-sided.

"Teach your kids who to be. Don't leave it in the hands of comic books"

That's assuming kids (and more importantly, teenagers) listen and believe every word their parents say (short of abusively belittling ones), and that schools/societal peer pressure/popular media have little to no influence in shaping what they grow into.

John Carr: "Shame on the people who want to force their value structure on everyone else's children"

So why is criticizing books online for their arguably sexist nature-ONLINE, IN ONE'S OWN BLOG-worse and more imposing than mass-marketing sexist ideas? That's very double standard regarding free speech, isn't it? And again, people can CHOOSE what to read/not to read themselves, including the choice to adhere to sexist gender roles. If a person is genuinely interested in improving gender equality in society, they'd actually speak out against mass marketing this kind of stuff, or at the very least, criticize it. I guess you personally can't be bothered or inconvenienced to do so.

the becca said...

Since it's been 6 months since the outcry ... and "apology" (, these titles didn't jump out at me when our library's Juv. Non-Fic buyer handed me an order which contained them.

Despite Scholastic's claims that "no further copies will be made available", that apparently did not extend to recalling the titles from the two largest distributors of books in America. (They're also still readily available in Europe, as well)

So I've got one copy of each for our circulating collection. It won't take too much to convince my collection manager that this kind of thinking doesn't need to be influencing our community's youth; still, it seems like a ball-drop on Scholastic's part.

No new copies are being made, but they are still very much available to bookstores and libraries. Hopefully, they are not being sold as clearance titles through the school market!

phlebotomist said...

Well, the post went viral pretty quickly, and Scholastic has pulled the books. Honestly, if they hadn’t been divided by gender, I don’t think it would have been that big a deal. Maybe the girls’ version could be marketed as school survival, for everyone.phlebotomy education MS