How I respond to offensive material

Looking through the pile of new books at work I found The Dateable Rules: A Guide to the Sexes and at first glance it was pretty cool. One side is about boys, the other about girls. The first section for girls discouraged them from obsessing too much over their weight which seemed ok. Then I flipped to a list of things you need to be “dateable” on the guy side.

The fact that God was in every point put me off a bit, because I have issues with religion and don’t like that all of the books about puberty, sex and dating for teens has been highly contextualized for religion. I’m of the mind that telling teens not to have sex because God doesn’t want them to is a lot less responsible and effective than teaching them about STDs/STIs, birth control and sexual health issues. So anyway my back was up when I saw “God” thrown around every few words.

What really upset me (I wish I brought the book home so I could quote word for word) was a point that argued men are “not emotional like opposite sex” and this was a good thing because (and I paraphrase because it’s not in front of me) “conquering, dominating and going on adventures are manly, not for the timid and are part of being dateable” or some such nonsense that definitely had the word “conquering”.  I can’t believe a book this recent is advocating for conquering and saying men must be the stereotypical strong, brute to attract women.

Since the male list was outlandish I looked for a similar section in the female section. I was horrified to find a point that argued “dateable women know when to ‘shut up’ and don’t monopolize the conversation”. It actually said women should shut up.

I am so glad I look through our new books, because if someone was looking for a book about dating for teens and I saw this on the shelf, with its cute doodles and point form lists at the beginning of chapters I would have handed it to them as a possibility, but now it’s not something I would recommend unless someone said they specifically wanted a strict Christian and old-fashioned book about dating that upheld traditional gender roles.

So as a librarian, instead of screaming “burn the book”, marking it as damaged, or stealing it from the library, as I know people have in the past to censor material they found offensive, I:

  • put in a suggestion for purchase for the opposite view
  • filled in a collection gap form for SECULAR books about sex and dating aimed at teens, when I found that my searches did not come up with much
  • recording the title so I’ll remember my impressions
  •  wrote this rant

Am I over-reacting or under-reacting?

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