Does Your Gender Limit What You Read?

August 15, 2014 Discussion 22


This post was inspired by a post called You can’t have that; it’s a boy’s toy.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how most of the books I read are marketed more for girls than they are for boys. Which is totally books photo: Pink Books PinkBooks.jpg

Except, I’m curious as to why I allow myself to be limited by this. It’s not like I don’t enjoy books that may be marketed more for boys, it’s just that I tend to not pick them up for whatever reasons.

I suppose some people may just not like the genres that are marketed for their opposite genre. However, for me that’s not always the case.

Obviously there’s always going to be types of books you don’t like, but are we influenced by gender roles?

I’m not totally sure how much I’m influenced, but I know that most of the books on my bookshelf in my room have pretty pinks and purples on the covers, which are colors tied to girls.

Similarly, some of my friends or family who are guys tend to carry around books with dark browns, blues, or greens, all gender neutral or ‘boy colors’.

I think it’s a bit silly, that books are marketed to certain genders in the first place, but I can see how it may help with getting sales and meeting the ‘goal audience.’

What do you think? Do you think you’re influenced by gender roles and marketing?ย Doesย your gender limit what you read?


About Jessica

Jessica is an twenty year old blogger who lives in Michigan. She's currently a junior in college. She's a full-time student and part-time employee. She loves to read young adult fiction, especially contemporary, romance, and dystopian. Feel free to drop by and say hi by leaving a comment on one of her blog posts- she'll be sure to reply!

22 Responses to “Does Your Gender Limit What You Read?”

  1. Allegra

    As a high school librarian, I’ve found that girls read anything they can get their hands on but boys are a little more selective (guns, cars, war, death). However, a lot of books are marketed towards girls and women simply because we do tend to read more than boys and men.
    Personally, looking at my stack of “read” and “to be read” books, I see that many of them are marketed towards women, such as the Vampire Academy books (a couple nearly kissing on the cover, even though there is a ton of violence in the books) and the Matched series (girl in a dress, again, even though there is government intrigue). Even The Mortal Instruments have covers that don’t really appeal to boys, especially the last one with a couple nearly kissing (and that series is all about fighting).

    Maybe it is just that marketing folks know that boys and men tend to be more reluctant readers and therefore don’t bother with gender-neutral covers?

    I have another post where I talk about the book cover for the new Prince Lestat book. The Vampire Chronicles series should be gender neutral, but the new cover certainly isn’t.
    Allegra recently posted…On book covers and vampire fictionMy Profile

    • Jessica

      Thanks for the insight, I never really realized that boys don’t read as much (maybe because girls I know don’t read often, either, so it balanced out a bit?). I’ll check out your post! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Julie S.

    I find that I don’t enjoy books with male protags as much, probably because I just don’t relate and they don’t affect me as much. It seems most of the books marketed to females have a female main character, and vice versa. Of course, those are the ones with the pretty shiny bright covers that are obviously marketed to females. Those are on my bookshelf too, and I am drawn to them because pretty. Interesting topic. I think there are plenty of books that can be marketed to both genders, and just need a more neutral cover to be able to do that.

    • Jessica

      I actually think I’m the opposite. This year I’ve read many books with male protags and I seemed to enjoy those more. Maybe because the perspective is a bit different? That’s a good point, and I agree that some books with female leads could be a book both genders enjoy (for example, The Hunger Games). I also think that some ‘girly’ covers could scare away potential male readers.

  3. Leila

    I’m with Jessica about male protags not being as relatable (is that a word?) for me. It’s not so much the pretty covers (if they’re too pretty it actually turns me away) as the stories themselves. Although I have read some boy books recently (I Am the Weapon is one) that I loved, and some girl books that I just couldn’t get on board with. It would be nice if some covers were more gender-neutral, but the polarizing color schemes are all over now. Try finding anything with a Disney Princess on it that’s geared for boy (and if you do, let me know).
    Leila recently posted…Undone by the Duke (Secrets in Silk #1) by Michelle WillinghamMy Profile

  4. Miranda @ Tempest Books

    I think that a lot of books are just in general marketed towards girls than guys, since girls are more into reading than guys are on a whole, especially as teenagers (I mean, just think about how many female narrators there are vs. male ones!).

    But I also think that I’m probably more drawn towards “girly” covers, too. I just really like pink! I can’t help it. And also because I find that “girly” covers tend to be prettier, while more masculine covers can sometimes look boring (at least, in my opinion!).

    But while I might like certain covers more than other ones, I don’t think that I let it influence what I read too much. I look at a LOT of YA new releases and I’ll end up reading the ones that interest me, whether or not I like the cover at all. It’s more about how good the blurb sounds and/or how highly rated the book is.
    Miranda @ Tempest Books recently posted…Weekly Wrap-Up (#46)My Profile

    • Jessica

      I deem any appealing cover as pretty, whether it’s masculine or feminine, but I know what you mean. That’s a great way to think of it. I guess since more girls read, then it’s makes sense to market books toward girls, but it’s also seems a bit archaic, I think.

      I try to look at the blurbs and such use that to choose, but in all honestly, the cover is what leads me to decided which books to read the blurbs of. This post kind of ties into my other discussion about covers, LOL. Didn’t quite realize that till now.

      Thanks for commenting!

  5. Lola @ Hit or Miss Books

    I rarely read books with male POVs because they tend on boring me. I feel more connected to girls as main characters but I HAVE tried. Although, when I read M/M romances, there are of course no problems. The cover color hahaha had no effect on my choices of books read and I actually enjoy reading more serious books with great world-buildings than lights ones, which are more directed toward a feminin crowd. I hope that answers the quertion. ๐Ÿ˜›
    Lola @ Hit or Miss Books recently posted…Review of A Safe Space (Somebody Elseโ€™s Fairytale #4) by E.M. TippettsMy Profile

    • Jessica

      I really enjoy male POV books, but I understand why you might be bored. They can be very different that female POV books, so not everyone will enjoy both. I guess, it depends for me. I like male POV books that focus on growing up or overcoming things. I probably wouldn’t be as interested in a high action fantasy with a male POV, though. But that’s just me.

      I like both light reads and complicated ones with lots of worldbuilding, but it really depends on my mood. Lately I’ve been into contemporaries, so I’ve been thinking about looking for some genre based reading challenges to get me into the other genres again.

      Thanks for your input! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Sunny Smith

    I find it refreshing to read books with a male POV, or that are targeted at boys. You’re right, it seems like a lot of books, especially YA is aimed at girls, so I tend to read more “girly” books, if you will.

    I also think that if a book is really good, it goes past the aimed for audience (e.g. gender or age). Think Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.

    Interesting post!

    • Jessica

      Yeah, I guess most successful or popular books do seem to reach more diverse audiences. Thanks for stopping by! ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Connie

    I’m in quite a few Goodreads groups for YA readers, and I have to say that an overwhelming majority of the members are female–so much that our elimination games are often labeled “YA Crush” and “YA Heroine” instead of hero and heroine.
    I’ve wondered before why this is, and I’m not sure. Is it because at some point publishers/agents/someone realized that girls seem to read more and decided to market to females? Or did marketing to females cause girls to read more?
    Personally I think girls are typically more tolerant, even a fan, of romance (that’s not to say ALL girls like romance, or that no boys do, but just in general). Enjoying reading about relationships opens up a reader to many other books, which is perhaps why girls seem to read more?
    That all being said, I applaud authors/publishers/agents who try to target all genders, because I definitely think there are some awesome books out there that boys don’t pick up due to its “girly” cover.

    • Jessica

      I tried joining groups on goodreads, but end up not having time to really participate. I’ll have to schedule more time to do so later.

      I wondered the same thing! Whether or not girls read more because of the way books are marketed, or if books are marketed the way they are because girls read more? It actually seems like something worth researching.

      Personally, I think I’m more tolerant than my friends who are male and my age. Like, there are some books that are gender neutral, but they won’t read them because they SEEM too girly or because they are prejudice against an aspect of the book and because of that simply won’t even read it. And I think it’s ridiculous how terrified some guys are of being labeled as being something simply because they tolerate it. Ah, I’m feeling ranty now! LOL. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Karolina @ Bookshelf Reflections

    I don’t think gender roles and marketing limit what I read per se. When it comes to the reading I do in my free time it’s pretty much limited to Young Adult and New Adult novels. So it’s no wonder that the covers are of a certain type, as they, in fact, are designed for female audiences.
    The on,y way in which I can see such marketing limiting me is if a book’s cover is straight out aimed to attract a female audience. Put a hot dude on it? Mmmkay, chances are I won’t pick it up immediately, but if someone tells me it’s good, I might actually do it. Put ribbons on it? If they’re not pink, no prob, I’ll probably read it. The cover is pink? …. Nnnnnnope, so not picking up that book. Like ever.
    I think that has more to do with my natural aversion to anything pink, though.
    Generally I prefer covers which are darker and give off a vibe of foreboding, though.
    Karolina @ Bookshelf Reflections recently posted…Review: The Verkreath Horror by Martyn StanleyMy Profile

    • Jessica

      I totally get what you mean about the pink! Definitely not my favorite color.

      But doesn’t the fact that they’re designed for female audiences play into gender roles- and in turn limiting what you read? Since you mostly read YA or NA, and those are primarily geared towards girls, does that mean you are potentially missing out on equally awesome books that would be for more of a male audience since those aren’t as heavily marketed in those genres?

      I think that certain things being for girls or for boys specifically limits both genders in the things that are acceptable for them like. Like how you mentioned ribbons and the color pink. Other than the fact that we say and make these things for girls, what stops them from being something both genders would like? Generally speaking anyway. The book Two Boys Kissing totally got me thinking WAY too much about these types of things.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting!

      • Karolina @ Bookshelf Reflections

        Actually, I don’t think so. Just because I enjoy reading YA and NA and those genres are marketed for girls, doesn’t mean I am limited in what I’m reading. It is simply the genre I enjoy most. The fact they are geared towards girls, as you put it, is just an added bonus, I’d say. If there is a book outside of that genre that I might enjoy, I will read it. Simply because it’s not “meant for girls” doesn’t mean that the chances are slighter of me picking it up. Well, maybe a little bit, but that is simply because I haven’t found all that many books outside of those genres that truly interest me.

        I think, though, your example becomes more apparent if one takes into consideration mangas. They have clear categories regarding which ones are intended for a female audience and which ones for a male. Yet, I find the ones intended for males often more interesting and preferable, not because of the heavy sexuality satin of the female character, god forbid, but because they seem more plausible. So even though they are marketed for a very different audience, I do enjoy reading them from time to time more than the ones which actively targeted me, let’s say.
        Karolina @ Bookshelf Reflections recently posted…Blogging Reflections: On Bad-Boy CharactersMy Profile

  9. Pema Donyo

    I’m not sure if it’s so much marketed toward a certain GENDER so much as certain genres are marketed a certain way. And thrillers happen to find more of a male audience, while romance tends to find a female audience. I’d love representation of different genders as the protagonists, though! Like a female thriller hero or a romantic comedy centered around a man instead of a woman.
    Pema Donyo recently posted…Lessons learned from my first book launch + One Last Letter is going on tour!My Profile

    • Jessica

      I agree! My view on it was that I tend to read those genres that are marketed towards female audiences more than those towards male audiences. That would be nice!

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