Natasha Walter’s Book “Living Dolls” is an insightful and well informed collection of ideas and evidence relating to the “hypersexualised” culture we are currently living in, Natasha has a problem with our cultures strict gender stereotypes and while we feel feminism and equality is improving, when relating the issue to how children are being raised the issue is only worsening.
I am reading this book as a way of forming my critical framework for my essay, because Natasha’s insights on gender equality are fresh and well informed, and her work has been informed by many before her and has been given rave reviews on its powerful messages. Her book is divided into 2 sections ; The new sexism, and the new determinism. One of the most relevant parts for me i have found is in the new determinism where it discusses the impact of “princesses” and talks about children’s literature and I identify with her feelings on the segregation of children’s literature by gender.
Below are a selection of quotes from various chapters in the book that i feel support my views on gender representation in children’s books and i think will be useful in my essay:
1: the new sexism
Page 1: ” everything was pink, from the sugared almond pink of barbie, to the strawberry tint of disney’s sleeping beauty, to the milky pink of baby annabel and the rose pink of hello kitty”
I find this to be apparent in children’s book illustrations specifically aimed at girls, not just in the toy industry
Simone De Beauvoir – 1949 ” the little girl cuddles her doll and dresses her up as she dreams of being cuddled and dressed up herself, inversely she is thinking of herself as a marvelous doll”
2: The new determinism
” of course it isn’t a problem that little girls are dreaming of being little mermaids with sweet voices, or of going to a ball in a puff of silver. I wouldn’t deny any girl their pleasures- so as long as they aren’t all expected to do it and as long as it isn’t all they are expected to do”
“similarly there have always been books aimed at girls and books aimed at boys, but these divisions are becoming even more vivid in this generation”
“now if you go into any children’s section of a bookshop you will find shelves and shelves of books aimed solely at little girls, all pink glittery covers and an emphasis on fairies and kittens, ballet and theatre. Their plot lines are fantastically repetitive reinforcing over and over again the traditional femininity of their young readers”
“There will be examples of a genre specifically aimed at young boys which feature scarlet and navy covers and scowling heroes”
“this is a generation in which many boys are encouraged into a stereotyped masculinity at an early age, for those who resist life can be uncomfortable”
1970’s was heyday of second wave feminism
“the gender role is psychologically determined first by parents and then by wider society’s expectations”- Mia Kellmer – The needs of children 1974