I recently had a discussion with someone about what type of books we want to be publishing during our careers, and I said I wasn’t hugely keen on Children’s but preferred teen and Young Adult fiction. I said I prefer fiction for adults, but I don’t mean dodgy erotic stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey (the less said about that bizarre hit, the better!) of course, I mean General Fiction which is not for young people or children!
It’s so easy to be misunderstood, especially as in the film industry “Adult films” means porn.
Books and films can warn of containing “adult themes” and “explicit content” and say they’re not suitable for younger audiences, but I’m afraid that many young people have been exposed to and/or actively seek out the bad stuff. I myself sought to rebel in my teens by buying the music with explicit lyrics (because, let’s face it, the spots of silence or bleeps get really irritating after a while!), by watching the films for an older age rating, and read adult fiction. I was curious, which is something most teens can relate to in the search to find out what sort of person we are, to find out what life is like as an adult, and to satisfy our craving to learn more about the world around us.
Of course, as an teenager we feel neither like a child or an adult, but we are young enough to use it as an excuse to feign ignorance and innocence if things get difficult, but we can pretend we are grown up and want adults to take us seriously.
The weird thing is that girls try to look older when we’re teens so we can be treated like adults and get into clubs or be found attractive by boys and men, but later on we just want to look young forever and not get old. I look back at my teens and think how awful it was that we tried to be sexy and how inappropriate it was that we did this at what seems to me such a young age, too young in fact. I wasn’t as bothered about my looks and my actions as my peers, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t think it was cool to smoke or wear loads of make-up and sexy clothes. I just read books about teens struggling to find their way in life and watched TV shows like Friends. I kept my dignity because I was careful about how I behaved (most of the time anyway!) after reading about when things wrong for people who make mistakes. I still managed to have fun though!
The reason I bring this up is because it was on the news today that a large percentage of young people have seen porn before they were 14, and it’s affecting their sexual relationships. A lot of people come into contact with by accident – I did once and it was horrible – or are forced into it by their peers, and quite a few, mainly boys, look for it deliberately. The article and more information can be found on the BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/26927580. These inappropriate and unrealistic videos can damage how you see and treat both men and women, and more needs to be done to combat these attitudes and to show young people how real relationships are meant to be.
Sexism is everywhere you look these days, and current generations are forced to grown up quicker than than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Famous people aren’t helping, with their desire to run around semi (or fully) naked in music videos, making sex tapes which are then leaked (or deliberately shared) for all to see, and we are shown images of these people who look like models and which we aspire to look and be like because they have perfect hair/nails/skin, are slim and beautiful and have a seemingly perfect relationship with another beautiful person.
I follow a campaign on Twitter called @EverydaySexism which retweets stories of people being treated in a sexist way or shows images which are clearly sexist. It’s shocking what people think they can get away with these days. There is a website where you can read people’s stories and even submit your own about sexism: http://everydaysexism.com/. There is also a book about this as well, now available from shops like Waterstones: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/laura+bates/everyday+sexism/9895753/
“Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates (via Waterstones.com)
I also recently became aware of a campaign called “Let Books Be Books” which tries to stop children’s publishers putting “boys” and “girls” labels on their books and to let children pick whatever books they want to read without being subjected to gender-bias. This is important because otherwise children will grow up thinking that they have no choice but to read, for example, “girly” pink books about ballerinas, or “boyish” books about tractors and trains.
This campaign leads on from the original “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign about stopping people marketing toys specifically at boys or girls. To find out more, go to the website: http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/letbooksbebooks/.
“Let Books Be Books” should also apply to other genres, especially as I’ve recently learned that some books by women are still being marketed as “chick lit” even though they are not, and that they sometimes have a cover with naked women on it or something typically “chick lit” appropriate, instead of a more serious cover which matches the content and true genre of the book.
Sexism is just unacceptable! But with the use of sex everywhere these days, using sex to sell things, and old-fashioned attitudes about men and women, even in this day and age where women can vote and do anything they want, we are still still subject to sexism, whether it’s in books, films, or even just in everyday life.
What do you think of these issues? Let me know!