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Author Topic: Books and Gender
Gaffer
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Apparently, in children's literature, stereotypes are flourishing. Boys are adventurous and bold while girls are portrayed as innocent and naive. This article http://www.kidsource.com/education/gender.issues.L.A.html basically sums up the situation in children's books as seen by many in the literary world.

quote:
Numerous studies analyzing children's literature find the majority of books dominated by male figures. For example, Ernst (1995) did an analysis of titles of children's books and found male names represented nearly twice as often as female names. She also found that even books with female or gender-neutral names in their titles in fact, frequently revolve around a male character. Many classics and popular stories where girls are portrayed usually reflect stereotypes of masculine and feminine roles. Such gender stereotypes are prevalent not only in mainstream children's books but also in Newbery and Caldecott medal winners. Children's books frequently portray girls as acted upon rather than active (Fox, 1993). Girls are represented as sweet, naive, conforming, and dependent, while boys are typically described as strong, adventurous, independent, and capable (Ernst, 1995; Jett-Simpson & Masland, 1993). Boys tend to have roles as fighters, adventurers and rescuers, while girls in their passive role tend to be caretakers, mothers, princesses in need of rescuing, and characters that support the male figure (Temple, 1993). Often, girl characters achieve their goals because others help them, whereas boys do so because they demonstrate ingenuity and/or perseverance. If females are initially represented as active and assertive, they are often portrayed in a passive light toward the end of the story. Girl characters who retain their active qualities are clearly the exception (Rudman, 1995). Thus, studies indicate that not only are girls portrayed less often than boys in children's books, but both genders are frequently presented in stereotypical terms as well.

The whole Newberry and Caldecott awards thing really shocked me. In your experience of reading books has this been true? Have you read any great books lately in which the characters aren't stereotypical of their gender?

What shocks me even more is that I can't think of one right now. No, wait, there's Twelfth Night by out good ol' friend Shakespeare--Viola certainly doesn't behave like the stereotypical woman of Shakespeare's time. I can't believe it took me that long to find one. Hmm.


Posts: 356 | From: Phoenix--name that plurally | Registered: Dec 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Lynne
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Good topic, although I don't have too much to add.

Glancing over my bookshelf of my favorite kid/young adult books, a large number of them contain strong, atypical female characters. They're not all exactly great literature, but the women and girls in them aren't stereotypical. (Of course, I've got several other shelves full of children's books that aren't favorites, and I think a lot of them do have elements of gender stereotyping in them.) So books with characters that break gender roles do exist -- there just apparently aren't enough of them.

I just finished up a really good book with a very atypical female character, though. It's Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and although it's for adults, it's got a great female character named Hunter who's, well, a hunter (and a very good one at that) and very tough.

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To the rational mind there can be no offense, no obscenity, no blasphemy, but only information of greater or lesser value.
-- Jennifer Diane Reitz


Posts: 266 | From: Portland, Oregon | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Laughs_Wisely
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I have similar objections with most Disney movies. Female character is strong, independant, wise, right up until the very end, where she a.) isn't involved in the thrilling climax at all, b.) is harmed somehow so she won't be involved in the thrilling climax, c.) stands on the sidelines of the thrilling climax.

I HATE it when that happens...

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Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
( Tr. "I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head." )


Posts: 140 | From: Saskatoon, SK, Canada | Registered: Feb 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
PoetgirlNY
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I can think of a few good children's books with strong female characters pretty easily. Harriet the Spy, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Ramona (I think, I never liked those books, but they seemed to be about Ramona, who was not a typical girl-figure). I know there are more, but I most go to the dentist now. Ick, I really really hate going to the dentist! Didn't someone here once say something about the gynecologist not being as bad as the dentist? Well, I'd soooooo much rather be going to the gynecologist now.

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*Limes Are Sublime*


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Rizzo
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Laughs_Wisely: What are you talking about? The thrilling climax is when the Disney heroine gets married!
Posts: 582 | From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada | Registered: Aug 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Laughs_Wisely
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Rizzo: D'oh! I almost forgot! Thanks for reminding me.

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Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.
( Tr. "I have a catapult. Give me all the money, or I will fling an enormous rock at your head." )


Posts: 140 | From: Saskatoon, SK, Canada | Registered: Feb 2001  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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