12 July 2017

Gendered Journaling

This is from the opening of Henry Reed, Inc., written by Keith Robertson and published in 1958.

This is a journal, not a diary. Diaries are kept by girls and tell all about their dates and what they think of different boy friends. My mother says that men keep diaries too, that the most famous diary in the world was kept a long time ago by an Englishman named Pepys. That may be so, but when I read about pirates and explorers and sea captains they always keep journals, so this is going to be a journal. It is going to be a record of what happens to me this summer in New Jersey.
And this is the opening of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, by Jeff Kinney, as first published on the FunBrain website in 2004 (later published on paper in 2007).
More than four decades and a wave of feminism separate the two books, but both young male narrators insist, “This is a journal, not a diary.”


Glenn Ingersoll said...

I remember wondering to myself whether I should term my personal record a diary or a journal. I had certainly picked up the femming of "diary" so partly decided to call it a diary because I wasn't gonna pushed around by no gender bullshit. Besides, "journal" seemed so generic. It means lots more than a daily record.

Interesting that in the very first lines of "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" the protagonist disclaims the word "diary," being as the title for the series (and the movies made from it) is very prominently "Diary of ..." It's a very popular series. Maybe the title is doing its part to re-gender the word.

J. L. Bell said...

From the start Kinney imagined Diary of a Wimpy Kid as an object that Greg got saddled with: his mother bought the blank book labeled “Diary,” and his older brother scrawled the rest of the title on it.

That series’s closest and most successful imitator, Dork Diaries, also uses the D word. I wonder if that narrator, who’s female, says anything about the gender implications of the label or the habit.