Thursday, March 3, 2011

Listen how PPLD B listin'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 3, 2011 at 10:55 AM

In the well-intentioned struggle to spread the rewards of reading, Pikes Peak Library District is pandering to a pretty low common denominator, and reinforcing some boring — if not negative — stereotypes.

At the East Library (5550 N. Union Blvd.), at the end of a couple bookshelves, are fliers that list suggested books grouped under a common genre. When you are an institution of prominence, must you resort to “It’s a Girl Thing. Hip Lit for Hip Chicks” and “Manly Lit”?

Librarys chick (left) and manly book lists arent politically correct.
  • Library's "chick" (left) and "manly" book lists.

The list for "chicks" has an animated girl in the background showing side boob and having half her face covered by some sexy hairstyle. Every tenth trashy book listed has clip-art of a single high-heel shoe next to it. The back — another chick, with more damaging shoes.

It’s just disappointing. The best works of women’s fiction (and presumably the majority) have story arcs where women learn that superficiality and materialism were pitfalls that hindered their goals.

The “Manly Lit” flier? Its heading is bookended by clip-art images of two flexing arms.

Curious, I called Sydne Dean, the associate director of administrative services, and manager of the East and Penrose libraries.

When I mentioned that there's baggage associated with the word “chick,” she replied, “There is?” She then read the definition Wikipedia has for “chick lit” and said, “It’s a pretty basic term.”

Since she's speaking from the city’s grandest library, I have to wonder whether she'd consider referring not to Wikipedia but to Dewey decimal number 305.420973 B493S, which points to the book Sexism in America: Alive, Well, and Ruining Our Future, by Barbara J. Berg, Ph.D.

Berg writes, “Terms such as chick flick and chick lit categorize and diminish women. [Chick] conjures up a person who is flighty, vacuous, passive, overly emotional, and dedicated to finding romance at all costs. And the fact that women, along with men, have embraced this term doesn’t make it any less derogatory, only more worrisome.”

Asked to take a look at the manly list, Dean guessed, “Manly, is that like tools or something?”

Dean noted that the library is always open to fielding recommended reading-list ideas. So here's one: Don’t cartoon the lists. Like a good salad, it shouldn’t need the dressing.

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