BOYS ARE DOGS is the YA title that garnered some attention when it was published for reportedly being sexist. Amazon’s product description is this:
“Middle-school boys act like wild animals.
That’s what Annabelle discovers on her first day in her brand-new life. Birchwood Middle School is totally different from her old all-girls elementary. In fact, lots of things in Annabelle’s life are totally different now that she’s back from summer camp. There’s mom’s new boyfriend, a new house, new friends—even a new puppy that likes to chew on Annabelle’s clothes. Well, at least the puppy comes with a leash and a training manual! If only she could say the same for the boys . . .
Featuring Annabelle’s hilarious take on friendship, boys, and her all-new life, this novel / survival guide perfectly captures the joy—and agony—of junior high school. And it might just teach you how to tame the wildest beast of all, the teenage boy.”
When Scholastic began promoting the book in 2009, I was warned that this “sexist book” might make its way into the hands of my students, and based upon the title and the summary of the book, it’s an understandable reaction. Any book that compares boys to dogs and implies that the same training methods used on puppies can also be used on teenage boys might appear sexist, except for one important thing:
Boys don’t care. And men really don’t care either.
Sure, there comes a time when boys want girls to like them, but if my wife agreed to marry me but thought that my behavior resembled that of a dog, would I care?
If a teenage boy convinces a pretty girl to accompany him to the prom, will he care that the girl attempts to use dog training techniques to improve his behavior?
Author Leslie Margolis thinks that boys are dogs?
According to my sources, that has been the general reaction by boys to this book. It’s the same reaction that girls get when they wear a shirt that says:
Boys just don't care.
In my decade of teaching, I have seen this shirt or variations on the shirt dozens of times, but not once has a boy or his father complained that the shirt is sexist or degrading.
But imagine what might happen if a boy came to school with a shirt that read:
Girls are losers. Boys are bruisers.
Girls smell. Boys are swell.
How long would it take a girl or her mother to scream sexism, and rightly so?
About half a second is my guess.
Yet boys simply ignore these shirts and go back to their kickball games.
Fathers hardly notice them at all.
And mothers continue to purchase these shirts for their little girls, failing to see the double standard that a message like this presents.
BOYS ARE DOGS might be sexist. I’m not sure. I haven’t read the book yet. But even if it is sexist, it’s unlikely that any boy in my class would care, and this is a mindset that I hope my daughter can achieve someday.
When you stop caring what other people think, the world becomes a much easier place to live.