Hello, dear reader, this is a rant. So there I was last Friday settling down for a nice read of The Bookseller magazine which tells me it is ‘at the heart of publishing’. I read it mainly for the gossip. In the middle of it they have THIS WEEK’S OFFICIAL UK BESTSELLERS and I thought to myself, Oh, why don’t you take a look down that lovely list while visualizing yourself on it and in the meantime enrage yourself by seeing how many times Girl/Girls figures in the title. Now why did that unfortunate thought come into my mind? Probably because I have read a few bloggers on the subject, probably because I was having one of those self-destructive sort of days when I wanted to infuriate myself. Dear Reader, this is what I saw:
2. The Girl on the Train Oh yes, I know about that one so there it is. How old is she? 10?
19. The Girl in the Spider’s Web Yup, know about that one too. How old is she? 8?
25. The Miner’s Girl Nope not heard of you and I’m mildly irritated now and I refuse to speculate on your age
39. The Woolworth’s Girls oh go away but in your 20s probably
But then, dear reader, hard on the heels of this one came yes, you guessed it …
40. The Girls The Girls?????? I mean that’s not even trying
44. The Girl of Ink and Stars* If this is a children’s book I forgive it. I think it must be. If it’s a children’s book this is quite a sweet title actually.
47. Pretty Girls Pretty Girls – you’ve just got to be f*****g kidding me.
Now then, without googling, shall we speculate about which one of these is a children’s book. I would say The Girl of Ink and Stars myself and that’s it. Now then suppose I transpose the word ‘boy’ into a couple of the titles like this:
The Boy on the Train
The Boy in the Spider’s Web
Would you think they were for adults? No you wouldn’t. You’d think they were children’s books.
So here’s the thing – at what point did publishers decide that infantilizing women would make books sell? The starting point for this is, I think, the crime novel The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo by Stieg Larsson. It’s interesting that the original Swedish title was Men who Hate Women. Ah, the W-word, at last. I wonder what Larsson would have made of the ‘dragon’ title?
The larger debating point is when does a girl become a woman? When she can first have sex? 16 in the UK. When she can first vote? 18. When she’s 21? When she brings home her first pay packet?
My mother, who was conservative and rather old-fashioned about these things, would call women in their 60s ‘girl’ but often she would attach the word ‘silly’ to the front of it. ‘She’s a silly girl,’ she would muse about someone or other, who had done something she disapproved of, usually it involved divorce. So Mum if you’re listening this is what I think. Finally, I’m with you – these are silly, silly girls.
*It’s YA it is forgiven!
So here’s the question does reading ‘Girl’ in the title of a book make you more or less likely to read it?