The Gender Agenda book coverI needed to get some NetGalley books read and reviewed to keep my 80% reviewed status (which publishers see and which you’re recommended to have in order to win more books). So I decided to go for the oldest one on my shelf, rather shockingly downloaded in June 2017 (so far older than the oldest book on my physical TBR, but younger than some of my other Kindle books). Of course, it was then great and I wished I’d read it earlier, mainly because of the book it took as its inspiration!

Ros Ball and James Millar – “The Gender Agenda”

(06 June 2017 – NetGalley)

This was very excitingly based on Marianne Grabrucker’s “There’s a Good Girl” which was an amazing book published in the 1980s which I absolutely loved, the diary of a woman raising her daughter and noticing all the instances of her gender being referred to and policed by society. In fact, I seem to no longer have a copy of this book and had to re-buy it; I must have lent it to someone years ago! Grabrucker contributes an introduction, which is lovely, talking about when she gave a lecture but everyone wanted to ask her about her book.

So in this, a UK couple (male-female) are raising a boy and a girl and decide to tweet a diary of all the examples of gender-related talk, activity and policing from their children and those around them, and themselves. They are not immune to getting things wrong and are not perfect, for example noticing they always refer to ungendered animals as ‘he’ (I realised I do this too, and will try to stop, especially in front of children). Also they find you can be too perfect, for example in a discussion with a friend who never refers to a girl’s appearance when talking to one (something I try not to do, too) having it pointed out that sometimes we adults do like a compliment on our appearance. In addition, by denying their daughter pink things are they saying it’s not OK to like things that are aimed at girls, so are girls’ things inferior? So it’s all complicated and they admit that.

The first half of the book is made up of their tweets, with some expansion, and you see how they become part of a community already out there and gather more community around them. Then we get some articles and blog posts and a transcript of an interview with the authors, some of which, it has to be said, goes over the same ground. There is a risk when making a book out of tweets or blog posts that you get repetition and a lack of flow, and I think it might have been a better idea to integrate some of these pieces, even though the articles were written after the tweets. There are good appendices with lists of gender-stereotype busting and equality based books and films.

It was sad to see that they find the same expectations and issues as Grabrucker found. They do try to offer solutions and give positive things one can do, and it’s a thoughtful and thought-provoking offer with just those few flaws in the structure.

Thank you to the publisher, Jessica Kingsley, and NetGalley for sending me this book in return for an honest review.