You know what genres I wish I read more of? Sci-fi and Fantasy.
Growing up, I was never really interested in those types of books. I think subconsciously I always thought those books are for boys. I read the “girly” books growing up, those that would be labeled as chick lit in the adult fiction world.
No one told me explicitly that I couldn’t read those books, and no one told me I had to read the books I did end up reading. I think it was something about the covers that I chose. The books I read in middle in high school were about white, suburban, teen girls having white, suburban, teen girl problems. I did read some “urban fiction” as well, just not as much.
Meanwhile my white guy friend, John, was reading those books as thick as the bible with dragons and cats on the cover. Those books never really called out to me. They didn’t really seem like they were for people like me (even though I was still reading books that weren’t necessarily made for “people like me”).
At the same time, my best friend, Octavia, a little nerdy black girl with glasses (and I mean this in the most affectionate way. When I first saw her, I thought she was the coolest person I had ever met, and I immediately wanted to be her friend. I made a good choice because we are still friends to this day), wasn’t afraid to read those books. She was (and still is) really smart and I think a part of me also thought I wasn’t smart enough for those books as well.
I would occasionally dabble in fantasy and sci-fi, but only when it was white teen girls as the protagonist (see Gail Carson Levine books and books like The Hunger Games). Actually, that I think about it, I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi. But again, it was only if they were masked by white teen girl stories. Or books my best friend was reading (if they had white teen girls in them).
I think the only exception to the white teen girl rule was The Maze Runner series. At that time, I was really into MTV’s remake of Teen Wolf and cutie patootie Dylan O’Brien was going to be in the movies, so I wanted to read the books. I think an attractive lead will get me to watch just about anything. I know I use that criteria to pick which superhero movies I watch. Judge me all you want. This is how I was socialized as a teen girl and still as a woman.
I was just reflecting on why I never read sci-fi and fantasy growing up and what was it about those types of books that didn’t appeal to me. I kept coming back to the notion that in our society, men and boys are socialized to like math, science, and history (I remember telling my mom I was thinking about changing my major to history and she told me that was a manly major…). Women are socialized to like romance. The difference between a sci-fi or fantasy story for men or for women is the presence or absence of a love story (or more than likely, the whole existence of a strong, female character’s is reduced to the man she’s in love with).
And the Koolaid we consume is strong, y’all. I do often get bored with sci-fi and fantasy without romance. My tastes are expanding, so maybe there’s hope for me.
Give me some recommendations so I can break out of this gendered reading box!