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Sexism in children's books.

(40 Posts)
DoItToJulia Fri 25-Jan-13 19:49:45

I'm thinking of The Tiger who Came For Tea. Daddy saves the day.

Any others?

CaseyShraeger Mon 28-Jan-13 12:39:16

When I read Miffy to the DCs, Mrs Rabbit (in pre-Miffy days) goes off to do some job involving a basket and vegetables rather than being a housewife while Mr Rabbit goes to work. There are advantages to children's not being able to read.

I'm getting more concerned about non-fiction these days, to be honest -- DS (and the DDs in turn) is getting a lot of science stuff at school themed around famous scientists but they are all men. So I thought, fair enough, I'll make sure we have some children's biographies of female scientists around at home to redress the balance. Very little is available -- there are several children's books about Jane Goodall, some on Rachel Carson, a couple on Wangari Maathai, but most others are out of print (and those three all do "soft", feminine-appropriate, biological sciences around plants and animals). And it's that that's most worrying in some ways -- there used to be a couple of children's books about Ada Lovelace, some biographies of female astronauts, several about Marie Curie, but presumably there wasn't the demand. Thank goodness for the National Academy of Sciences' "Women's Adventures in Science" series, which is aimed at a rather older age group than my DCs currently are but which I'm stocking up on now before that goes out of print too.

TheSmallClanger Mon 28-Jan-13 12:40:09

According to Amazon, The Football Fairy is no longer available, thank goodness.

There is "Francesca the Football Fairy", but that's a Rainbow Fairy book, so Rachel and Kirsty presumably find her ball for her after the goblins nick it.

FeckOffCup Mon 28-Jan-13 16:27:35

J M Barrie clearly thought very little of women from what I can remember of Peter Pan. The female characters are awful, Tinkerbell is vile to Wendy throughout, Wendy gets jealous when Peter saves Tiger Lily from drowning and the mermaids "playfully" try to drown Wendy because she is Peter's new interest.

DoItToJulia Tue 29-Jan-13 06:50:02

Wow, a huge response, thank you!

CheerfulYank Tue 29-Jan-13 07:01:29

I love Rose Casson in the Casson family books. smile

CheerfulYank Tue 29-Jan-13 07:03:45

Did anyone ever read a book called Understood Betsy? I haven't read it in ages but iirc the heroine is quite clever and self-sufficient for someone written so long ago. (Google tells me it was published in 1916.)

ninjasquirrel Tue 29-Jan-13 07:26:32

Yes to E Nesbit being good - especially considering the age they were written in. I'd like to stand up a bit for C S Lewis as well. He was 'of his age' but'The Horse and His Boy' has a very strong female character (shame about the undertones of racism)

bringmeroses Tue 29-Jan-13 07:29:15

I'm just popping on to say that the dad in peppa pig is always a figure of fun, so it works both ways, just characterisation. I also hate the Large family weight/illness stories.
There was a v funny bit in a nature doc the other week where the male bird was hopeless at nest building (dcs laughed and looked at dh sympathetically!) but then redeemed himself by catching food for chicks... Sexism in the wild!!

ninjasquirrel Tue 29-Jan-13 07:32:18

I just remembered the most sexist picture book we have - Richard Scarry, What do people do all day, from 1960. And another non-sexist one for older children - Ballet Shoes.

bringmeroses Tue 29-Jan-13 07:41:54

Btw I wouldn't knock TTWCTT; some families still live like this! Without the tiger of course. The dad doesn't exactly go ballistic at not having dinner on the table which I would object to.
Also a huge huge fan of narnia. Always thought boys got a rough deal in form of Edmund. Aslan being a female lion would have been good tho.

DoItToJulia Tue 29-Jan-13 07:45:51

These are more up my street though!

DoItToJulia Tue 29-Jan-13 07:46:17

Try again!

EmpressOfThePuddle Tue 29-Jan-13 07:50:09

I gave Dniece The Worst Princess by Anna Kemp for Christmas. Princess is sick of sitting around in her best dresses waiting for her prince to turn up. When he finally appears she expects to go adventuring with him but finds out he expects her to just keep sitting around prettily while he protects her from the dragon...
So she dumps him and goes adventuring with the dragon instead. grin

CaseyShraeger Tue 29-Jan-13 09:13:34

But Daddy Pig in Peppa Pig is shown as a very hands-on father who seems to do more of the day-to-day care than Mummy Pig, which I think is great -- he's a bit rubbish at the practical stuff but he's fantastic at parenting, interacting with his children and the touchy-feely stuff. I think that's a very positive depiction of a male parent overall.

bringmeroses Tue 29-Jan-13 14:03:18

CaseyS, our DCs laugh at Daddy Pig doing things like smuggling chocolate cake into the trolley which Peppa and George wouldn't do. He struck me as an amiable buffoon who was nevertheless a loving parent. I often notice the 'men are a bit useless' idea used for humour. Programmes like Men behaving badly and even Fawlty Towers, women are the "together" ones who tolerate their hapless menfolk which seems a theme in Peppa Pig. Also - hurrah! - Peppa i the star not George; and Lucy is the heroine of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. I am amazed at how many very popular recent children's books have male lead characters, I don't remember a bias when I was growing up.

The majority of children's picture books still seem to focus on the mother/child relationship e.g. Owl Babies, the Daisy books etc. though there are many exceptions. I have an old children's edition of the OED with the 'N' word in it which left me gobsmacked when I noticed. Times change!

I have missed a lot of the books mentioned on here so thanks for the ideas people smile

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