Berkeley’s 8-Year-Old Book-Banner

trYou may or may not already have read about this. This summer, according to a news story that appeared last week on the website of the Today Show, a woman named Constance Cooper, who identifies herself as a science-fiction writer took her daughter, whose name was given only as KC, to a bookstore, Half Price Books, which is located in Berkeley, California, where Cooper and her daughter live. It was supposed to be a fun expedition, but, as reporter Morgan Brasfield put it, “KC became upset.”

Note to reader: this is a key word here. Upset. Plenty of eight-year-olds, needless to say, get upset all the time. They get upset because they’ve been served baked potatoes instead of French fries. They get upset because they’ve been told to clean up their room, or to turn off the TV or computer, or to go to bed. But no, KC didn’t get upset because of those ordinary kid-type reasons. Because, you see, she’s no ordinary kid. No sirree! She’s a super-kid, of the sort that super parents in super places like Berkeley, California, are raising these days by the truckload. Not to put too fine a point on it, KC got upset because, even at her tender age, she is, doubtless thanks to her mother’s magnificent parenting, possessed of a highly developed sense of justice. Hers, in short, was not an outburst of obnoxious brattiness that should have nipped in the bud with a sharp, disciplinary word, but a worthy display of righteous outrage of the sort modeled by heroes like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rosa Parks.

“We were browsing around in the bookstore, and suddenly I heard my daughter calling out, ‘Mama! You have to look at this!’” a proud Cooper testified. “So, of course, I thought she’d found something she wanted to buy, but it was completely the opposite. She was looking at two books that had made her so enraged she was actually in tears.” The books were both entitled How To Survive (Almost) Anything. But one was meant for boys and the other for girls. The boys’ book focused on surviving cool stuff like whitewater rapids, frostbite, a shark attack, a polar bear attack, a croc attack, a snake bite, an avalanche, a tornado, and quicksand; the girls’ book was full of entries entitled “How to Survive a Fashion Disaster,” “How to Survive Shyness,” “How to Survive Embarrassment,” “How to Survive a Crush,” and so on. Some of the chapters weren’t even about survival: “How to Pick Perfect Sunglasses.” I will not for a moment challenge the proposition that these books, considered side by side, constitute a pretty open-and-shut case of crude gender stereotyping – although I would hasten to add that if the books did not share a title and pretend to be a matching set, both would sell briskly enough to readers in their target demographics.

KC, if you haven’t guess already, was “upset at the sexist nature of the books.” Why should she, as a girl, be treated as somebody who’s more preoccupied with fashion, shyness, crushes on boys, and other such silliness than with all those big, scary things that might happen to you when you’re out in the wild, living dangerously, the way that both males and females should be allowed to do? So upset was KC about this terrible injustice, in fact, “that a bookstore employee took notice and asked her what was wrong.” KC – who is apparently in no need of instructions about how to survive shyness – readily explained. “After looking through the books,” recounted Cooper, “the employee agreed they were offensive and pulled them from the shelves! She said if she had seen them first they wouldn’t have been there to begin with.” Cooper, in addition to expressing pride in her daughter “for recognizing sexism and for speaking her mind,” gushed with praise for the clerk, who not only for “took action” but “validated my daughter’s feelings.” Cooper also congratulated herself for having raised her daughter “to think critically.”

It doesn’t appear to have occurred to Cooper that KC’s very reaction to the books, and Cooper’s own reaction to her daughter’s reaction, validated – to coin a phrase – the very prejudices they were condemning. Think about it: the book for boys was addressed to hardy tykes who thrill to the idea of venturing far from civilization and facing life-threatening perils; the book for girls was aimed at tender hearts that are crushed by the thought of committing a fashion faux pas. In other words, one book sought to trigger rushes of adrenalin, the other to try to cope with inevitable outbursts of helpless tears over trivial everyday disappointments – thus reinforcing the age-old notion that girls are by nature more emotional than boys, and the corollary proposition that boys should be encouraged to subdue whatever feelings they might have, while girls should be encouraged to embrace, be preoccupied with, and perhaps even cultivate theirs.

And the fact is that despite Cooper’s rhetoric about the evils of sexism, she’s plainly done precisely that. By all indications, she’s trained her daughter, as a chapter in the girls’ book might have put it, “How to Use Your Feelings to Get Your Way.” KC, we’re told, was “upset by the books”; she was “in tears”; the bookstore worker “validated” her “feelings.” KC’s own review of the books, which she posted on Amazon after the traumatic episode, also highlighted her emotional response to this deeply traumatic encounter with views differing from her own: “Do not buy these books for your daughter,” she wrote, “or it may make her cry like I did.” Forget the fearlessness and determination of, say, Harriet Tubman or Amelia Earhart or Aung San Suu Kyi or Ayaan Hirsi Ali; this is twenty-first-century establishment feminism in a nutshell: “You hurt my feelings!” “You offended me!” “You made me cry!”

The story at Today‘s website seemed to imply throughout that both Cooper and her daughter deserve a pat on the back for creating this incident and drawing outside attention to it. “Cooper,” wrote Brasfield with apparent admiration, “describes her 8-year-old as articulate, passionate and a great reader, qualities parents hope their children exhibit as they grow.” (Similarly, a Huffington Post writer, citing Cooper’s pride in KC’s ability to spot sexism and speak her mind, commented: “Perhaps next time, the How To Survive books should have added chapters on those skills, instead.”) Here’s one curious detail, however: the web page on which Brasfield’s piece appeared was in fact part of a subsidiary Today Show site called “Moms.” Not “Moms and Dads.” Not “Parents.” Just “Moms.” Isn’t that sexist? What, don’t fathers care about their kids? Brasfield’s piece actually ran under the heading “Mom Topics.” What could be more offensive, more demeaning, more profoundly distressing to a proud feminist? Is KC going to kick up a ruckus over this, too?

It should be noted, by the way, that the Today website, in an update to its story, informed readers that the Berkeley bookstore’s manager had issued a clarification: contrary to Cooper’s triumphant original report, the two offending books had not been removed entirely from display, but only transferred to a “less prominent area of the children’s section.” The manager explained: “While we certainly understand why the books upset her and commend the girl for speaking out against stereotypical portrayals of gender roles in books, I would like to stress that we are strong advocates of First Amendment rights and do not advocate censorship or removal of ‘objectionable’ books from circulation.”

Interesting. While there’s nothing in the First Amendment, of course, to prohibit a bookstore from banning any book from its shelves, the bookstore manager’s sentiment is commendable. Too bad Cooper couldn’t find time to instruct her daughter in that whole Voltaire thing about tolerating – and even defending – the freedom of expression of people with whom one disagrees, including those with whom one disagrees violently. No, Cooper, like all too many parents nowadays who consider themselves eminently enlightened (and not just parents in Berkeley, either), was too busy raising her kid to be a pint-sized commissar – an officer in the PC Thought Police. Well, such is the Brave New World we’re living in – and, even more so, the one we’re transitioning into. The future of America – and of freedom – could not be in scarier hands.

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  • objectivefactsmatter

    “validated my daughter’s feelings.”

    These people truly are insane. Yes, I’ve spent time in Berkeley.

    • southwood

      The old Frankfurt School was established in America by people like Marcuse. Wasn’t it in Berkeley, or was that where they experimented with gender roles ? Feminism of course is strongly founded on ideas of discrimination and social construct.

      • UCSPanther

        Herbert Marcuse: One of the fathers of the “Soft” totalitarianism of political correctness.

        His concept of “Repressive Tolerance” is a core concept to political correctness, and it entails stamping out dissent in the name of “tolerance”.

        • southwood

          It was win win for him and his followers. That is, if there was apparent freedom and tolerance in a democratic, capitalist country like America, that was because freedom and tolerance were being used to prop up the system. But, in the end, people were sexually repressed, and needed to be freed from all that.

          • Clare Spark

            Wrong on all counts. See “The Nefarious ‘cultural Marxists.'” Repressive tolerance was about nailing opponents who define the terms of the debate, not about intolerance. You have been snookered by frauds.

          • southwood

            No, what is wrong is that I did not check my facts. This led to my incorrect explanation. Here is what I meant:

            Marcuse’s idea of “liberating tolerance”. In the teeth of apparent common sense reality, Marcuse claimed that tolerance such as that practiced in America was repressive since it allowed any philosophy to have its say. This created no resolution according to Marcuse. But
            Marcuse offered a liberating tolerance which would restrict such a tolerance.

            Yep. Clever stuff. But evil. Pure evil.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            “In the teeth of apparent common sense reality, Marcuse claimed that tolerance such as that practiced in America was repressive since it allowed any philosophy to have its say. This created no resolution according to Marcuse.”

            Obviously tolerance should have limits. We should pursue justice as the most crucial ideal, certainly not tolerance. Context matters a lot.

            If we tolerate the view that 2 + 2 some times = 5, we’re going to have a hard time finding students that can help us with rocket science and every other physical science.

            But hey, they can study Marxist economics I suppose. That’s really useful.

          • southwood

            We have Marcuse’s restricted tolerance today. It’s called political correctness.

          • objectivefactsmatter

            Because that’s all they can get away with right now.

      • laura

        feminism turned sour. it was about voting &equal pay.

        • southwood

          The eguality stuff was a smokescreen. This, and “gay” rights, and so forth was part of the strategy of the Frankfurt School and their critical theory. Check them out.

          • laura

            there were all kinds of feminists. some radical, not all. they didnt agree on everything.

          • southwood

            I agree. There was an American feminist movement which still retained the ideal of family and had other lest radical ideas. But the real driving force came from the radicals, the Steinems and the Greers. Don’t you agree ? Now we have gender affirmative action, gender quotas in boardrooms and the gender as a social construct idea which has even filtered down to schoolkids as the article shows.

          • laura

            radicals seem to hijack all good things. even most gays dont support the crazy gay agenda. i think quotas etc are not idelogical. the gay (or feminists, islamists or what ever) pay off the polticians to create laws. for $$ anything is possible. bottom line: people believe the agendas, as they obey the higher ups.

          • southwood

            Quotas are ideological alright, as is affirmative action. It’s based on leftist ideology.

    • Gee

      Am sorry to hear that

      • objectivefactsmatter

        I’m still “recovering emotionally” but I accept that “it’s a process.”

  • UCSPanther

    Berkeley is truly a disturbing anomaly in terms of far-left politics and self-righteousness.

    As I said before, it is so left wing that it makes Nelson, B.C. (The Draft Dodger Capitol, and still heavily infested by hippies) look like a redneck town in comparison.

    • Race_Dissident

      True. But if the PC madness were confined to nut-hatches like Berkeley, or even all college towns, there wouldn’t be too much cause for concern. The reality, however, is that this behavior, these beliefs, are verging on mainstream in America. Consequently, the US is on the very threshold of becoming a hard Leftist polity.

    • Gee

      Yes but Davis, California, makes Berkeley look redneck in comparison

  • Allan_D

    I’ve been to Berkeley on May this year (2013). Hippies and punks on the streets are common. So are “herb” and hookah shops. I saw a street vendor selling patches of symbols like the peace sign and marijuana leaves. A degraded culture.

    • southwood

      An anachronistic culture too. When I see guys in their fifties who still after 40 years haven’t outgrown hippiedom I look at the pony tail, the thinning, gray locks and the earring and just think how ridiculous they look.


      An old graffito I remember reading in one of David Horowitz’s books: “Berkeley: too small to be a nation-state, too large to be an insane asylum.”

  • Avidyananda

    A revised edition of the book for girls will feature helpful tips for girls who aspire to play in the National Football League.

  • hermann

    Hey wait does KC have two mommies?

  • quillerm

    Liberals seem to lack any sense of humor, the books in question are a parody about the genders. But the leftist among us are so obsessed with making America a PC haven for liberal drones, they just won’t tolerate any diversions from their propaganda.

    • laura

      leftists lack creativity, dont get sarcasm. i have been told to leave many establishments including public school. this started @ 5yrs old. its gotton worse, now i am banned from forums, & attacked verbally. anyone w/any intelligence can see absurd sarcasm. now this little girl acted typically feminine. she needs to be taught that you cannot do that later when you have a carreer. in that case, ladies MUST act like a man! there’s a book directed to girls: “if you have to cry, go outside” by kelly cutrone. (i can also see the little girlspoint of view. if you are in a dangerous situation, you should know some survival skills. its the idiot mother who took the books @ face value).

      • quillerm

        True. It’s like living in North Korea. Leftist drones and the North Korean People Police have the same mind set. Find any diversions from Leftist Ideology and use boycotts, censorship, or AD Hominem attacks to destroy it. Remember the Rodeo Clown that dared make fun of Obama. He was to be committed into a leftist Re-education Camp and Received death threats and physical assaults. That is the difference between liberals and Conservatives. We are dealing with a sick group of people that lack any tolerance for other ideas, ideals or political views.

        • laura

          they also had clowns for clinton, etc. if they were of semi sound mind, they should have banned all clowns. @least its equal. the whole thing is stupid, just a subtle PR stunt. a “warning” to the people not to critizise our prophet, oh i mean the dear leader…..

    • 1proactive2

      Try satire on a liberal. They’re completely lost in that arena.

      • Bill Cervetti

        Hey, don’t even go there—Libs don’t even recognize IRONY, the most basic literary/social construct, which we all learned about in English class in HIGH SCHOOL!

  • jtrollla

    Well. Well. It seems this PC parent is grooming a little female Pavel Trofimovich Morozov. Mom better watch out lest the little darling denounce her to the Obamunist Thought Police.

  • Darrell Pack

    As often is the case, Bawer is a step ahead of most on these issue. Thanks

  • shmo123

    I wonder if she dresses in brown shirts.

  • Sprickoló Tömegek

    From the book:

    “How to Create a Diversion”
    “How to Turn a No into a Yes”
    “How to Handle Becoming Rich”

    She is protesting against feminist literature?

    • mkitwrk

      She objected to the crude gender stereotyping. The clerk noticed and agreed. Girls cry and vent their emotions. Boys are forbidden to do this – but one sees it more and more, in movies for example. Just “how about” it was turned around and the book for boys told them how to be fashion plates,how to survive a crush and how to survive embarrassment ,and the girls book told how to survive a shark attack, quicksand and a polar bear attack. Im female and a shark swam up behind me in 3 feet of water at the beach – fortunately it didn’t attack me , but I could have used that “males only” advice.

      • Lookatme

        Just don’t blame it on the books, the writer’s only intention was to make a living, not to insult feminist sensibilities.

      • Sprickoló Tömegek

        Heh. The “crude gender stereotyping” is the socio-cultural reality of the sexes, stupid.

        What you and your comrades do is demonize people for marketing at the present versus marketing for your absurd, nebulous utopia you don’t even believe in.

        “…but I could have used that “males only” advice.”

        Something that is obviously a joke book would no doubt have changed your entire outlook on life, the universe, and everything, huh?

      • CaoMoo

        then buy the boys book. or buy both. Or do your own research on shark attacks. Or write your own book.

      • laura

        thats true about the shark. but i think the books were satire? even if not, parents should buy all kinds of books. they should have all views. thwese views shoud be “on the book shelve”. why not? people have too much time on their hands, like the mother in this case.

  • cacslewisfan

    What a bunch of bossy cry babies. A decent mother would have said, “Don’t worry we can read any book we want! This is a FREE COUNTRY!” So pathetic! They think they are strong independent “Wymin,” but they’re just whiny, spoiled brats (the mother and the daughter). They’re so self centered they can’t even imagine that other people who hear them think they sound like total wimps! Ridiculous!

    • CaoMoo

      My grand pa always told me in such occassions of hissy fitted BS life sucks then you die. or dont cry or ill give you a reason to.

      Teach kids to get a thick skin. It will be good for them later.

    • 1proactive2

      You comment has way too much common sense to be considered by the adult-child liberal which is to say all liberals. They’re probably calling their therapists right after reading it.

  • Chris Shugart

    To hear the PC Squad tell it, these books are some kind of sexist crypto-manifesto designed to undermine gender equality. I should point out that these books are considered “graphic novels” that happen to be collector’s items. Amazon will sell you a new “Girls Only” for $4,569. A used “Boys Only” is listed at $148.66. But you have to be a normal person for that to sort of thing to occur to you.

  • Lookatme

    Is she adorable?

    I’ve received some comments on this post from people who are concerned about censorship.

    First, I’d like to reiterate that no one asked the clerk to remove the books. She looked at them, and decided they were not something the store wanted to promote—something bookstores do every day.

    Second, I think it’s important to draw a line between censorship–the government or other powerful entities restricting speech–and the individual making an impact through their actions. As an author, if a bookstore chose not to carry my books, I would be sad but that would be their decision–probably a business decision based on what their customers wanted. If an arm of government tried to control what went in my bookstore or local library, I’d fight it tooth and nail.

    What I’d like kids (and adults) to take away from the incident is that it’s good to recognize harmful stereotypes, it’s OK to speak out against them, and that even at age eight, you can have some influence as a consumer.

    That said, what this post was really about was sexism in kids’ books, and I hope it prompts some discussion on that.

    • noway2no

      LookAtMe, that says it all. Can we talk about the harmful insipid faux victim mentality inspired by room temprature IQs self-thought to be lucid?

      • Lookatme

        All I know is what she said on her page, she kind of have a very high opinion on herself.

    • Drakken

      Here let me help you out, I’ll contribute a buck for some self esteem counseling and hopefully they will give you a trophy for just showing up. Perhaps your mommy can give you a cookie to make everything all better and show you just how special you really are. Make sure you put that COEXIST sticker on your prius and sing a verse or two of kumbuya and everything will be just right and good in the world. You useful idiot femanazi’s won’t be happy until you have men so feminized and pussified that they are less than useless.

  • defcon 4

    It’s strange how these amoral liberal hypocrites can walk by women dressed in burkas and call it liberating.

    • JackyTreehorn

      Exactly. Little KC must be devastated whenever a burka clad Muslim passes by, one can only imagine the torment the little soul must be going through.

  • 1proactive2

    Hey, an adult expressing an emotional maturity level equal to that of a pre-adolescent has worked beautifully for blacks and radical feminists so let’s get the ball rolling on the remaining groups/races/cultures.

    Consider the benefits of adult-child tantrums. Blacks will burn and pillage their own communities when a jury verdict doesn’t go their way, and without fail, government money pours forth for new buildings, race preferences, and more handouts, uh, excuse me, entitlements.

    Publicly throw enough tantrums, and a government handout will most likely be on the way soon. Another freedom will be eliminated, but we have lots of them to spare.

    Gross immaturity. It’s the new cognitive map for the country.

  • guest

    this article shows the haughtiness of thought police .types.
    however ……mr bawers psychological knowledge is close to zero. males do have feelings and they have all the emotions that females have. this has nothing to do with interests and priorities. feelings like joy fear happiness sadness anger and rage etc are equally shared by both sexes and other species so lets not let ignorant stereotypes blind us to journalistic accuracy. of course boys gravitate to certain interests different than girls but boys do have as deep a set of feelings as girls.

  • ER

    Don’t you have a more pressing subject to write about ? I usually really do agree with you when you write about Islam and Europe – I live in Europe (UK) and see the negative influence of Islam here all the time, and the infuriating subservience of politicians here towards Muslims. But what on earth do you want from this woman ? Berkley and ‘Berkley types’ are the kind of people that make America better, much better, they work in top class universities and industries, such as Berkley is blessed with, they bring in foreign students who pay big money for the privilege to study there, they bring in foreigners who work and pay taxes in America, and they certainly contribute to American economy more than the idiots who voted the tea party morons into congress. Concentrate on Norway and Sweden , there you are spot on, and if there is nothing to write about, then don’t.

    • heyheythere

      I guess Mr. Bawer missed the memo about you making all of his decision for him. He doesn’t exist to write your opinions on topics you’re interested in.

  • ssohara

    I remember when I was in a bookstore as a junior high kid and saw a book on physics that interested me, a clerk came up and said something to the effect of “that’s not for you, dear”. I smiled politely at him, then turned my back on him and kept reading. It’s just not worth the aggravation of getting upset when people stereotype…

    • heyheythere

      Maybe it was above the reading/intellectual level he assumed of you.

  • ssohara

    BTW, I wonder if she would have objected to the gender stereotyping if she were a woman on the Titanic and they put her on a lifeboat while men stayed on the sinking ship because “women and children first”; except now they no longer do that on sinking ships, the new slogan is “every man for himself”. Meanwhile, the upper class feminists are happy because now other peoples’ daughters have the “right” to die in combat… though I personally hate that any one’s son or daughter dies in combat, the reality is that there are reasons that even the Israeli military doesn’t want women in front line combat positions. The reality is that women have wombs (and thus can have babies) and men have more testosterone (which makes them stronger and more aggressive) and once upon a time our society taught men to protect women and children – the Bible taught men to “honor women as the weaker vessel”… all of that is being thrown by the wayside and guess who gets hurt? The most vulnerable members of society. Upper class women in academia will be fine regardless, but poor women and their children – not so much.

    BTW, I’m a woman who has an engineering degree, I can do triple integrals in my head and sometimes I’ve had to deal with male resentment because I’m better at spatial skills, etc. And I’ve had to deal with discrimination. OK, that stinks, but men deal with discrimination, too. When I went on dates, guess who paid most of the time? The reality is that men and women are different, it doesn’t mean one is better or worse than the other, but biological differences exist. Maybe I scored higher on my math SATs than 99% of men but that doesn’t mean I have male levels of testosterone. And thank God for that. I like being a woman and I like having men in my life that are men.

  • herb benty

    Why raise ” Cathy Ashton’s” when America needs Sarah Palins.

  • glpage

    I wonder how Ms. Copper would feel if someone told her she had done a wonderful job in teaching her daughter how to be a good example of the practice of McCarthyism.

  • DebbieOhio912

    I wish I had the time to worry about such non-issues. God help us when that kid grows up.

  • Idl

    Oh for Pete’s sake….just teach you daughter to shrug her shoulders and ignore. Nobody’s forcing her to buy the books or read them. Why teach your kid to be angry and interfering?

  • ThomasER916

    I noticed the boy on the cover is not White.

    This $hit needs to stop.