Shannon Hale was doing a book tour when a little boy rejected her book because it was titled 'Princess Academy' which was 'girly.'
Misogyny is ingrained in boys from a very young age and consequences of the same last an entire lifetime, affecting not just their lives but also that of everyone around them. Shannon Hale, a best-selling author, has realized how early kids are boxed and categorized which can have lasting consequences. Hale often meets with people as part of her book tours, both individually and in group settings, and learned that most people come with preconceived notions about her and her book, without having ever met her or read her books, reported Bored Panda.
One incident that really shook her was when she met a group of kids from grades 3-8 as part of her book tour for 'Princess Academy,' her third book. That's when many teachers said boys were averse to reading the book because it had the word 'princess' in it, which was 'girly' as one kid put it. Hale was left shocked by the hate instilled in boys towards girls at such a young age. “So many teachers have told me the same thing. They say, ‘When I told my students we were reading a book called PRINCESS ACADEMY, the girls scream, 'YAY!' and the boys shout, 'BOOOOO!'" she recalled in a Tumblr post.
The teachers added that after reading the book, the boys like it as much as or sometimes even more than the girls do. When she asked kids why they booed, they pointed to the title, specifying, “Princess!” She was a little taken aback. "A smallish 3rd-grade boy on the first row, who I find out later is named Logan, shouts at me, 'Because it’s GIRLY!'" The force in his voice alarmed Hale. "The way Logan said 'girly'…so much hatred from someone so small. So much disdain. This is my 200-300th assembly, I’ve asked these same questions dozens of times with the same answers, but the way he says 'girly' literally makes me take a step back. I am briefly speechless, chilled by his hostility. Then I pull it together," she wrote.
She decided to get to the root of the disdain for the word princess. “'Boys, I have to ask you a question. 'Why are you so afraid of princesses? Does a princess live under your bed and sneak out at night to try to suck your eyeballs out of your skull?' The kids laugh and shout 'No!' and laugh some more. We talk about how girls get to read any book they want but some people try to tell boys that they can only read half the books. I say that this isn’t fair. I can see that they’re thinking about it in their own way," she writes.
She says Logan was skeptical and reasons why. "Because a princess is a girl—a girl to the extreme. And girls are bad. Shameful. A boy should be embarrassed to read a book about a girl. To care about a girl. To empathize with a girl. Where did Logan learn that? What does believing that do to him? And how will that belief affect all the girls and women he will deal with for the rest of his life?" she wondered.
Funnily enough, Logan was drawn by the story and stayed back to talk to Hale. He was the only boy to stay back. "He didn’t have a book for me to sign, he had a question, but he didn’t want to ask me in front of others. He waited till everyone but a couple of adults had left. Then, trembling with nervousness, he whispered in my ear, 'Do you have a copy of that black princess book?' He wanted to know what happened next in her story. But he was ashamed to want to know. Who did this to him? How will this affect how he feels about himself? How will this affect how he treats fellow humans his entire life?" she wrote. "Adults are the ones with the weird bias. We’re the ones with the hangups, because we were raised to believe thinking that way is normal. And we pass it along to the kids in sometimes overt (“Put that back! That’s a girl book!”) but usually in subtle ways we barely notice ourselves," she added.
She then explained how much damage it does to men. "We think we’re asking them to go against their best interest in the name of fairness or love. But that hatred, that animosity, that fear in little Logan, that isn’t in his best interest. The oppressor is always damaged by believing and treating others as less than fully human. Always. Nobody wins. Everybody loses," she wrote before adding that we can uncondition toxic masculinity one day at a time.
Some of Shannon Hale's other work includes 'Real Friends,' 'Best Friends' and 'Friends Forever,' and multiple award winners like 'The Goose Girl' and 'Book of a Thousand Days.' You can follow her on Tumblr, Twitter, and her website.