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Are picture books gender specific?

Discussion in 'Children and Young Adult Books' started by susanhermanross, Apr 7, 2011.

  1. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    As a children's author, I get very frustrated when adults look at my books and say, "That's a girls' book. My son/grandson likes trucks, hockey, etc." It's like saying boys don't have a right to like the colour "pink". (One grandparent actually told me her son wouldn't allow her to buy books with the colour pink prominently in them.)

    Two of my books feature a sheep named Violet. Although Violet is, obviously, female, she has very gender neutral adventures. I marvel when people say the books are for girls without even reading the story.

    I do not believe that young children's reading experiences should be limited to gender specific books. Children should be exposed to all types of stories to expand their vocabulary, interests and experiences.

    When I was first thinking of self-publishing I talked to someone who had worked with a publisher. He had written a hockey book for children with the main character as a girl. They made him change the character to a boy, which of course, ruined the entire point of the book. He was not a happy camper. It is narrow thinking such as this that makes children think that they have limited choices in the world. Girls can play with building blocks. Boys can play house. Women can be architects. Men can be stay-at-home dads. Gender no longer determines who we are and what we can be. It shouldn't determine what we can or can't read.

    Any thoughts on the subject? Do you find people buy "boy" books and "girl" books or books that look fun and entertaining for any gender?
     
  2. tartan_skirt

    tartan_skirt New Member

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    I like to think that the books I read as a young child were pretty gender-neutral. Lots of 'Topsy and Tim', 'Mr Men/Little Miss', and random other storybooks with both male and female characters. With the divide in a series like the Mr Men/Little Miss books it's easy for a parent to say 'Oh, only the Little Miss books are appropriate for my little girl', but it's all nonsense. People should be smart enough that they can choose independently of gender-appropriated colours, names, and symbols. Though I've got to say, 'Gender-Neutral Adventures' sounds like a pretty awesome children's book, especially for those parents who just don't know how to pick a book for their kid. ;)

    I don't think children should read only the books that seem to be aimed at their gender, and thankfully there are been authors that have written books that have no real aim in mind. Books for really young readers such as 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar' often have no gender agenda as they are meant to be purely educational. But when they outgrow this stage of reading, books seem to change into works of social education, showing girls and boys separately enjoying the pastimes which society has labelled acceptable for each.

    One book which I would recommend if you want to see a challenging of gender stereotypes in children's fiction (granted, it isn't a picture book though) is The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler by Gene Kemp. It does it in a very clever way, and is a good example of a nice "****-you" to gender-appropriateness in kids books.

    I guess it's all down to what a publisher thinks will sell best. A book about a boy playing hockey will cause less controversy in a mainstream market and thus will probably be bought by more parents who believe in strict gender divides. A book of a girl playing hockey will appeal to a niche audience, but may cause a conventional reader confusion and disgust (sad, I know). But what the publisher and author miss out on is covering that gap in the audience, that not only lets people question their own gender standards, but also satisfies a need for books that some parents already demand (the smart few who know that just because a girl likes to play with trucks and army men doesn't mean that she's weird or different). A book about a boy playing hockey is just another book about a boy playing hockey; it can never be something more profound as it's just another boy playing sport book. I think society still has a long way to go, but it's only through people actually being able to publish how they want to that ideals change. (Incidentally, if you haven't read this blog post already, you might want to. It's things like this that get the ball rolling, however people respond to it.)

    Also, to the person who wouldn't let their boy read pink books, you should probably share this link with them: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink? | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine It's a bullshit rule, that's what it is.
     
  3. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    Re: Genders

    That was a great post! Thanks for your input. I really appreciate the time it took you to write your response.:star5:
     
  4. tartan_skirt

    tartan_skirt New Member

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    No problem. I'm just finishing up on a Children's Literature course at the moment as part of my undergraduate degree and I find it an interesting subject. :) I'm quite glad I came across your post as it made me realise that if anything gender related comes up in the exam next month I'm pretty much set as I've got plenty to argue. :p
     
  5. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    Wonderful! If you need more ridiculous comments re gender from parents let me know. The sheep just happens to be a girl! The story is genderless.
     
  6. jyotisharma

    jyotisharma New Member

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    Looking at almost 6,000 children's books published between 1900 and 2000, the study, led by Janice McCabe, a professor of sociology at Florida State University, found that males are central characters in 57% of children's books published each year, with just 31% having female central characters. Male animals are central characters in 23% of books per year, the study found, while female animals star in only 7.5%.
     
  7. sparkchaser

    sparkchaser Administrator and Stuntman Staff Member

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    From here: Study finds huge gender imbalace in children's literature
     
  8. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    Glad I wrote two picture books with a female animal as the star. Violet, the sheep, has all sorts of adventures!
     
  9. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    Author Signing

    I was promoting my Halloween book about a rather impolite witch who only wants Kit Kats. A grandmother said her grandchild's a boy so it's not suitable. I, naturally, disagreed. Since when do boys not read books about witches because they are female? Since when do boys not like books just because the main character is female? These are picture books. THEY ARE GENDERLESS. I wish people would stop stereotyping children.
     
  10. abecedarian

    abecedarian Well-Known Member

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    Would she deny her grandson such stories as Anna's New Coat, My Great-Aunt Arizona, and Blueberries for Sal just because the MCs are girls? That's just wrong.
     
  11. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    It boggles my mind.
     
  12. mmyap

    mmyap Member

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    I know this topic is specifically about picture books but I wonder how these same people would react if you asked them if they only read books with the main character being the same gender as them. Kind of like, "What book are you yourself reading right now, Ms. Jones?" "I am a big Agatha Christie fan and I am reading Murder on the Orient Express."

    "But Ms. Jones, isn't that a "boys" book. Shouldn't you only be reading Ms. Marple books?"

    Maybe the would realize how dumb this concept is.
     
  13. susanhermanross

    susanhermanross New Member

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    I like that idea. Thanks.
     

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