A book called Girls Only! How to Survive Anything, published by Scholastic, has recently come under fire for being, as one Amazon commenter put it, "unbelievably sexist." That commenter, A.M., continues, "While the Boys Only counterpart to this book provides all kinds of interesting tips to actually surviving real dangers, like "How to Survive a Snakebite" and "How to Survive a Whiteout," the Girls Only book offers such tantalizing survival tips as "How to Teach Your Cat to Sit," "How to Pick the Perfect Sunglasses," and "How to Spot a Frenemy." Pretty bad, yes.
Update: Credit where credit is due! Jackie Parker, a teen librarian in Seattle, is the one who called out the series initially on her blog, Interactive Reader. She wrote in her post recounting the boy and girl chapter titles, "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."
Since we're particularly tuned into this sort of inequity on the Internet, there have been a wave of angry online responses and blog posts about the books. Responding to the commentary, Scholastic issued the following statement:
Many readers have expressed concerns about our How to Survive Anything titles, and we want to thank you for your passionate responses. The two titles have had very limited distribution to date, and no further copies will be made available.
In response to that have come the inevitable comments that that's not enough, that the publisher should do more, that this isn't a real apology, and so on. And you know what, sexism should be called out and prevented; we should note these problems and work to fix them; and we should confront those who perpetuate the problems. But often when we confront sexism or any other "ism," especially on the Internet, we simply rail at whoever we can find to lay blame on and, sometimes, our outrage becomes as wrong-headed as the issue itself. In the outrage-and-shaming of whoever we deem the perpetrator, we forget to talk about what good they may have done, or what good exists. There are, in fact, many books featuring role models for girls (and boys, too!) that we should be praising. We asked a number of book-lovers and publishing houses what they felt were the most pro-girl reads on their shelves and in their stockrooms. Consider this your badass addendum to our previous compendium, "The Greatest Girl Characters of Young Adult Literature."