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How sexist are the Beast Quest books?
9

vindolandia · 07/01/2014 20:40

My five year old loves Beast Quest, but I feel really uncomfortable reading it to him. I get depressed by the portrayal of Elenna, a girl who appears to have no function other than to occasionally shoot arrows that hardly scratch her targets, and to tell Tom to be careful. Elenna is around so that Tom can rescue her from multiple scrapes, and to pat him on the back. She doesn't speak on her own behalf any more than Storm or Silver. I don't really want my son imbiding so much barely concealed sexism.

Elenna is obviously brave but never gets any credit. For example, at the start of the seventh book, Tom is offered some fabulous golden armour as a reward for his bravery helping the beasts in the last six books. Elenna went on the same quest and risked her life just as much, but what reward was she offered? Zippety squit. Talk about the equal pay gap.

I wanted to send "Adam Blade" a snotty note but found out he is actually a bunch of different writers. Wouldn't it be nice if just one of them broke the mold and gave Elenna just one heroic moment, and a tiny smidgeon of credit? So she doesn't have to be a faceless also-ran?

I want my son to hear about women who have presence and personality. Elenna as a character doesn't cut it, and that's not good enough - for a series of books as popular as Beast Quest, the authors have a responsibility to their young readers not to breed unthinking sexist stereotypes. We aren't 60 years ago. Give us female characters who are real heroes, not just ones who sit on the horse behind them.

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ThePartyArtist · 08/01/2014 14:14

I agree - have you looked at the websites 'A Mighty Girl' and 'Letterbox Library'? You may find books of interest on there.

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vesela · 10/01/2014 21:00

Would he mind a lot if you just stopped reading them? Life's too short to read bad books - there's not enough time as it is to read the good ones!

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EverybodysStressyEyed · 10/01/2014 21:04

Ds tells me he could have won all the quests and there's no point her being there!

Maybe I won't be buying him series 4 after all

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DancingLady · 10/01/2014 21:06

I worked on these... just as proofreader, sadly, no editorial input. And I agree, they're sexist crap.

Do you discuss the books with your son, and try to point out that Elenna doesn't get a fair deal? It's so easy for kids to just absorb gendering and not question it. And I do think children's books are REALLY bad at challenging sexism. Editors argue that it's what boys and girls want to read about (eg dragons/pirates for boys, princesses and fairies for girls) but 5-year-olds aren't buying the bloody books are they?

I second the recommendation for A Mighty Girl for reading inspiration.

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EverybodysStressyEyed · 10/01/2014 21:59

Ds has just read some roald dahl and the heroes of the books have been both genders

Boys want to read a book where someone like them is the hero, and the same for girls. Problem seems to be that the girls are princesses whilst the boys are heroes. If there is a gang there may be 1 girl in it. I can't think of a book where there isnt a group of kids with the leader being male

When ds was a toddler i read someone complaining that julia donaldson books are sexist because the females are the heroes and the males are buffoons/bad.!

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Oscarandelliesmum · 10/01/2014 23:05

hear hear. Depressingly my deputy head recomended them to my seven year old ds. I bottled it and politely pretended I hadnt encountered them yet rather than saying I had read three chapters and promptly chucked it in recycling!

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DeWe · 11/01/2014 19:52

But that's only because the books are aimed at boys and the main character is a boy. The typical adventure story has a main person and a side kick.

If you look at the Nancy Drew series, for example, at the end everyone always says how it was always down to Nancy only and presents her with a reward.
While her two girl friends and their respective boy friends, having been kidnapped, robbed, knocked out, tied up... and spent their time and money helping to solve the mystery are expected to stand there saying "it's only Nancy you have to thank".

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RememberYoureAWomble · 17/01/2014 10:13

I agree they are sexist. My DS loved them so much that I read them anyway and a few of the later ones (and only a few) give Eleanor a bit of a bigger role. I cheered internally when she finally got to wield a sword in one book. Sadly she was back to her ineffectual arrows in the next book.

I have tried to counteract by reading lots of other books with strong female characters. We particularly like the Anna Hibiscus books by Atinuke (excellent strong female central character) and the Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne. The latter is particularly good as the brother and sister heroes are equal partners (just about, though the book is still written more from the boy's point of view) and it is the girl who does all the dashing about impulsively and the boy that does the reading and thinking.

Will be looking at 'A Mighty Girl' with interest.

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EverybodysStressyEyed · 17/01/2014 18:48

I've only read a couple of magic tree house but the sister does come across as more courageous and ds did feel the boy was lucky to have her around!

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