When I was around nine or ten, I loved Judy Blume’s books. Super Fudge was one of my favorites. I remember playing sick so that I could sit with my stack of books and read them all day long.
I remember reading ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET? when I was just on the cusp of understanding sexuality. I was old enough to know that these things were serious, scary business, but young enough to still find it all hugely funny. I laughed when the girls said their little chant to increase their bust size. It gave me a greater understanding of what girls go through. But I didn’t really understand it. It was a book I read and discarded.
Then I read THEN AGAIN, MAYBE I WON’T. It tackled puberty with the same care and sensitivity that ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET? did, but I could relate to the main character. The book spoke to the experiences that I, as a boy, was going through. Suddenly, I felt like I wasn’t the only person in the world going through these things, being afraid of them. I read that book a hundred times.
Boys and girls experience the world in different ways. They each need books that speak to those experiences. Judy Blume proved that a man doesn’t have to write a “boy book” for it to be effective.
When people call for books that speak to boys, they’re not trying to diminish the role of books aimed at girl or at female writers. They’re not saying that the experiences of girls are somehow less important than those of boys. All they’re saying is that boys need to know they’re not alone. They need to be able to see, through eyes like theirs, that they’re going to be okay.
Denying them that isn’t a victory for feminism, it’s a defeat for us all.