In case you missed it, singer Shakira shocked the world by admitting her sons, aged 9 and 11, hated the Barbie movie, finding it emasculating. She further knocked the public for a loop by saying she agreed with them – “I’m raising two boys. I want ’em to feel powerful too [while] respecting women. I like pop culture when it attempts to empower women without robbing men of their possibility to be men, to protect and provide.”

We are in an all-or-nothing era. Women are great. Men are evil. Democrats are X. Republicans are Y. At least that’s what the loudest voices are telling us. Some of those voices are the movie producers. Some are “journalists.” Others are book publishers. Five minutes strolling through a bookstore or through a publisher’s upcoming list, you will be inundated with books for all ages featuring strong, female characters. Great! I’m all for strong females.

But what about the boys? Yes, they can read these books about the strong, spunky girls, and many do. But with the emphasis today on readers wanting to “see themselves on the page” shouldn’t a decent portion of new books also feature male protagonists? Or will today’s young boys have to be satisfied reading books from a past decade? As an author, this concerns me. As a mother, this makes me angry. I would never want my sons or my daughters to feel ‘less than.’ To uphold one, must we tromp on the other?

Though my most recent book featured a ‘strong female protagonist,’ my next work features a 12 year old boy as the main character. I’ve been querying agents for many months and hearing next to nothing. Is it because my book is about a boy, and right now, the push is for girl books? Possibly. Of course, it could be my writing or the plot or the voice. But I can’t help wonder if the minute an agent sees the word, ‘boy’, she or he presses the reject button.

I admire Shakira for voicing her opinion, as unpopular (or “shocking!”) as the media would have us believe it to be. Her words may be the first to put a tiny crack in the all-or-nothing, strong-or-stupid bubble in which we’ve been encased these last few years. Respect and admiration for all – is that so much to ask?

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