Score! Scholastic Responds To Outrage. Sort Of.

Most companies bury their heads in the sand, ostrich-like, when things like this happen.

Jun 11, 2012 at 9:30am | Leave a comment

So you know how one time Scholastic published some sexist books?

Yeah, it's fresh in my mind as well; the “boys only” version of “How to Survive Anything” featured all kinds of adventure-time excitement like shark attacks, avalanches, tornadoes and whiteouts. Girls, on the other hand, got frenemies, picking the perfect sunglasses, truth or dare, and of course teaching their cats to sit.

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No girls allowed!

It turns out the Internet got pretty mad about that! A Twitter search for Scholastic was turning up some very zesty stuff:

Amazed these are books published today, and not 20 years ago...Dear @Scholastic: Can you please explain why boys don't need to know how to survive embarrassment or shyness?...File under: The Worst. @Scholastic, seriously?...I honestly can't tell you how angry these sexist books make me. Could you give a response?

Most companies bury their heads in the sand, ostrich-like, when things like this happen. They think that if they ignore it long enough, the problem will go away, and then the whole Internet gets riled up like a swarm of angry bees, and there's usually crying before bedtime. This attempt at a PR strategy seems to be widely accepted even though companies see it happen to their rivals all the time and you'd think they'd be taking notes on how it's not actually the greatest of ideas. 

Scholastic, to their credit, actually responded. With, uh, this:

...we want to thank you for your passionate responses. The two titles have had very limited distribution to date, and no further copies will be made available.

So, uhm, yay, I'm glad they're not going to be distributing any more. That is good. I'm also glad that they are listening to consumers. Clearly Scholastic is on top of their social media strategy.

However, this is a kind of...lacklustre apology in terms of actually acknowledging why consumers were upset. Let alone admitting guilt; some sort of statement of apology about the fact that they made it through the acquisitions and editorial process would have been nice.

We are thanked for our feedback, which is excellent, but I'm not really feeling the love here as a supplier of said feedback. I actually kind of feel like I'm at a meeting and someone just basically tried to placate me with the good old “thank you for your feedback” line. 

Which, you know, I was actually just telling someone to use in a contentious meeting where someone was being unreasonable and derailing the whole discussion. So I'm pretty accustomed to seeing that line used to shut someone down.

Loved, too, the touch of promotion at the end inviting people to discover other books for young readers.

“Thank you for complaining, perhaps we can interest you in buying some of our other products.”

Props to Scholastic for responding quickly to the discussion. Fewer props on the less-than-heartfelt response. I'm glad the books won't be widely distributed, and I hope that Scholastic thinks twice about publishing these kinds of books in the future. It would be excellent to see Scholastic discussing the fact that this was a valuable lesson for them; maybe they could take a suggestion offered by a number of our commenters and publish one compendium of useful survival tips for all genders! 

Posted in Issues, apologies, sexism