* Surviving IN SPACE.
* Surviving IN THE DESERT.
* Surviving BEING BITTEN BY VENOMOUS REPTILES.
* Surviving YOUR SUDDEN AND INEVITABLE POP STAR LIFE.
A little context for you, because context is to my crankiness as the Great Pumpkin is to the Sacred Patch: yesterday was Wednesday, better known around these parts as "Seanan goes to the comic book store" day. We went to the comic book store. I picked up my books (new issues of The Boys and Hack/Slash, new trades of Chew and American Vampire), and prowled the shelves, looking to see what else had arrived.
In the "family friendly" section, I found two books I hadn't seen before: Boys Only How To Survive Anything, and its natural mate, Girls Only How To Survive Anything. They were, naturally, somewhat pink and blue, but I don't have a moral objection to pink, and if they were going to be all gendered about things, I supposed having "gender appropriate" colors made sense. I picked up Boys Only and flipped through it.
Surviving disasters, natural and man-made. Surviving conflicts and accidents and on the space shuttle and monsters. Surviving, you know, shit that can kill you. Works for me. I put down Boys Only and picked up Girls Only. Where I learned to survive...
Breakouts. Becoming a pop star (and the inevitable carpal tunnel from signing all those autographs). Saying I'm sorry (with homemade lip balm). Identifying a frenemy. Surviving, you know, shit that generally doesn't leave you dead.
Can you guess when I started seeing red?
Now look. I get that we're a culture that thinks boys and girls should always like different things, and that we start reinforcing that from a very early age. I get that to some degree, on average, boys and girls do like different things. It's by no means universal, but things like the Brony movement aside, you do have gendered majorities for many activities and interests. Fine. But you know where that breaks down? When we tell girls, through implication, that they shouldn't know how to survive in the desert. Knowing how to handle, gasp, pimples is so much more important.
Not every girl needs to know how to deal with venomous reptiles, just like not every boy needs to know how to base jump. Because of differing interests and activities, I could have believed as much as 40% deviation between the books. Teach the boys how to tie a tie, and the girls how to fix runs in the nylons, fine. It's cisgendered and assumes so much, but it makes societal sense, if you're dividing the books by gender (and I'm almost in favor of that, just so that they don't give all the action illustrations to boys, and all the pretty or panicked illustrations to girls). Understand that gendering is problematic and try to be reasonable.
But we are talking 95% deviation. The only activity they had in common? Escaping from a zombie. Because...fuck, I don't know. Because zombies are the only truly gender-neutral threat in the world, apparently. Deserts only fuck you up if you have a penis. Frenemies (how I hate that word) only endanger your reputation if you have tits. But zombies? Man, they will fuck you up, no matter what you've got.
I hate this increasing insistence that boys and girls are alien species, coming together only to do icky romance dances of ickiness, and make more boys and girls to never understand each other at all. Girls can like snakes. Boys can like looking nice for dates. And that doesn't mean a damn thing but "we are all individuals, we will all like and want and do different stuff."
At least we're all allowed to know how to fight zombies.