Thursday, June 21, 2007

Male and Female, New and Old - Thoughts on the June CSFF Blog Tour

Hi all:

I'm a day past the official CSFF tour, but whew!, this month's sure has sparked a lot of discussion. Great work, Sharon, for writing a piece that's so discussion worthy!

I have two thoughts on the general hoopla:

  1. Male readers don't like reading stories that star female characters.

    Jason was the first I saw to comment on the gender divide, and his post prompted me to comment as well. I don't have time to do a lot of research, but a quick Google brought up a Washington Post article called "Why Johnny Won't Read," which contains this quote:

    "Moreover, when given choices, boys do not choose stories that feature girls, while girls frequently select stories that appeal to boys. "

    And here's an interesting though not recent discussion from a children's listserv called "Boys Don't Read Girls' Books? People explore some reasons as to why this is the convention of our readers."

    And even scholarly studies have shown this to be the sad (IMO) fact. Here's the abstract of a journal article called "Children's Responses to Stories with Male and Female Characters:"

    The sex of the main character was varied in six children's stories which were then read by fourth, sixth and eighth graders. The children answered four questions about the stories. Both boys and girls responded more positively to the questions Would you like to be (character's name?) and Would you like to do the things (character's name) did? when the main character was a male. Boys preferred stories about males, and this preference increased with grade level. A preference for stories about females was marginally significant only for the older girls.

    While these examples all refer to children, the reading preference seems to continue into adulthood if this month's CSFF Blog Tour is any indication. Pretty much down the board, the men in our group either didn't like or gave gender-qualified reviews for The Restorer. I don't remember all this gender talk happening, for example, with Karen Hancock's male-starring The Return of the Guardian-King in April's CSFF tour.

    The reason I wrote that this is a sad fact earlier is that I wish our society had gotten over this male is primary (hero/main character) and female is secondary (sidekick/mate) mentality a long time ago. We may have come a long way, baby - but apparently not far enough ...

    Why is it that guys expect gals to embrace Lord of the Rings, for example, with its "fellow"ship of 9 persons from 4 different species WHO ARE ALL MALE. Can't one of these species, whether it's elves, dwarves, or hobbits be enlightened enough to believe females can have adventures, too? Now I do know several women who absolutely love LOTR for the language, the descriptions, etc. They appreciate good writing no matter the gender of the protagonists. Would that more and more male readers can embrace this approach.

  2. New endeavours are always risky because there are always people who want things to stay the same.

    Both Sharon and her publisher have talked about hoping The Restorer brings a new readership into the fantasy realm. The CBA readership is primarily female so if this majority gets into fantasy, it could be great for the genre as a whole by creating more titles. (Wayne Thomas Batson made this assertion in his great blog on Tuesday.)

    Sure, in some ways The Restorer is "fantasy lite" in that it's a hybrid of chick lit style with fantasy elements. But sometimes you need to wean people into a new genre sip by sip. I think Sharon Hinck's The Sword of Lyric series may turn out to be just the right formula to nourish this new audience into becoming full-fledged, die-hard fantasy fans.

Congratulations again, Sharon, for being brave enough to try something new. You've certainly gotten people talking!



everlastingscribe said...

Nicely said! And it really is a shame that gender is an issue over this book. Makes me wonder if there'd be so much of an issue with a female protagonist if the author was male. Alton Gansky has a mystery series that sells really well for us and protagonist is a woman, and mainly men purchase that series. Terry Blackstock's Cape Refuge series sells well for us too and both men and woman can't get through her books fast enough, and her protagonists are female.

hrh said...

Thanks for your comments! Glad to hear some female protagonist series are selling well ... and to both genders!

Justin B. said...

I actually quite enjoy reading about girls who kick butt. I actually really like girl heroines that are a bit on the tomboyish side. Like Gwenne from Door Within. Madeleine is though my fav. female character of any book, I like her even more than Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter.

hrh said...

Thanks for stopping by, Justin!
And good for you that you enjoy reading about female heroines. Cool!