Monday, March 12, 2007

Alas, Gender Stereotypes in Kidlit

Here's an interesting article that details gender stereotypes in children's literature. This study only covers kidlit through 1991.

In the last fifteen years, things have changed, no?

Actually, no.

Maybe they've changed a little, but not so very much, conclude the authors of "Gender Stereotyping and Under-Representation of Female Characters in 200 Popular Children's Picture Books: A 21st Century Update" recently published Sex Roles: A Journal for Research. The study only covers picture books, not novels, but I strongly suspect if Drs. Anderson & Hamilton had looked further into that age group, they would have reached the same conclusions.

I tried super hard not stereotype characters in Flora Segunda. Or at least not to gender stereotype characters. In fact, I tried hard not to gender any of the characters in Califa. Of course, imagining a world without gender stereotypes is a rather utopian pipedream, and I'm sure that if I examined my gendering carefully, I'd probably still find stereotypes. But at least, on the surface, people in Califa order their lives, their clothes, and their occupations via their inclinations and not because of their sex.

Flora's problems stem from her own desires, not from her sex. She's not trying to over come being a girl, or becoming what she wants to be despite being a girl. There's a long tradition of heroines trying to overcome the "disadvantage" of being girls, from Jo March on. And it's a good tradition, but not one that I wanted to add to. I found it more interesting to try to mix things up, to give "female" qualities to men (fancy clothes and makeup) and "male" qualities to females (military power).

Sometimes I think I might have overdone a bit--I've had several people ask me if Califa is (Warlord aside) a matriarchal society. It's not. Though it wasn't happenstance that the Hadraada family ordered itself through the female line only, it's just happenstance that the last two commanding generals of the Army of Califa were women. I wasn't trying to imply that Florian was the lone male in a matriarchy.

At least, I don't think I was.

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