By Taylor Pierola
To the college student, one of the major stepping stones to the “real” world is the promising experience of The Internship. The Internship is “the first job”; it’s the taste of what’s to come; it’s the hazing preceding the paid working position. Sometimes it’s menial work. Getting coffee. Making copies. Getting the mail. — Other times, if you’re lucky, you actually get to learn something worthwhile. In my case, I want to Edit.
The English major has, typically, a couple stereotypical career options: journalist, editor, and professor. More often than not, they find themselves partaking in all three at different phases of their lives. For example, me: I’m a student editor for this journal, yet I am writing this article which makes me somewhat of a journalist as well; And as an English major making my way in the world, I have finally come to that fork in my path that will lead me along that road of the oh so anticipated “Summer Internship.”
Sifting through the Craiglist writer’s job listings, “Googling” editorial assistant, intern, and basically anything having to do with publishing (because obviously as an English major I can’t get enough of books and writing), I came across a couple promising companies and publishing houses that I am planning on applying for. “Bookmarking” them on my computer so I could go back to them later when my resume wasn’t so crappy, I put those companies on hold while I dealt with my mounds of homework.
Recently, I began revisiting these “bookmarks” of mine with the excitement of a shiny new resume at my disposal and the innocent vulnerability that comes with applying for my first internship. I was then disappointed to find that a website of one of the independent publishers I am considering is extremely problematic.
For those of you who have browsed a bookstore or an online bookstore, you are familiar with the various categories that a company’s stock is organized into for easy finding. Examples of these are language, world, culture, science fiction, teen novel, children, and the list goes on. The point is, it is difficult to be non-inclusive in a book store. The sections are purposefully a little vague so that people can find what they are looking for without the confusion of too-specific categories.
Under this company’s website, I found the category “Multicultural,” which is, ultimately, a simple “umbrella title.” Under this were more specific categories such as “African American,” “Asian,” and “Native American.” The problem wasn’t in these, but in the “Other” category in which this publishing house chose to lump together all the Hanukkah and Muslim stories. Why these books did not deserve their own “Multicultural” categories, is beyond me, and the labeling of “Other,” is demeaning, delegitimizing, and alienating of these cultural representations.
Another lacking category listed in this website was the “Sexuality” section which consisted of various Kamasutras, sex games, and other books about sexual pleasure. Sexuality is more than just different sex positions. Sexuality encompasses many different things such as sexual orientation, women’s and men’s sexuality, animal sexuality, and sexual identity. The labeling of these sex books as “Sexuality” without a separate section for Gender or Women’s Studies, or other academic materials is insensitive and normative.
Furthermore, this publishing website includes a “Personalized” tab which offers customers a choice to include their children’s’ name, photo, or personal dedication in picture books. Although, a wonderfully thoughtful idea, it is presented in an extremely non-inclusive manner with the specific categories of “For Boys” and “For Girls” that have oppressive gender norms attached to them. If a customer clicks on the “For Girls” tab, they will be directed to a page with a picture of a pink book with a princess on the cover, and a blurb that offers the parent a chance to insert their daughter’s name, or customize with her favorite color and so on. In turn, if a customer clicks on the “For Boys” tab, they are directed to “boy” choices of tractor, construction, or racecar book choices.
By appropriating these choices with specific he/she pronouns and categories, this publishing house is excluding the existence of non-normative genders and non-traditional gendered interests of children in general. Personally, as a female child I hated pink and princess stories. I collected racecars and played sports. By using this binary and categorization on this website it implies that girls who like racecars or tractors or that boys who like pink and princesses are in the wrong category.
Hopefully in the immediate future this publishing house will recognize this and update their website.
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