There are two sides to every argument, and for me to be objective i must look at the children’s books that encourage gender stereotyping, and unfortunately there are a lot of them out there that are very accessible. I will look at several examples of these books and discuss whether or not their illustrations add to the poor gender representation and why.
Lets start with a huge culprit of gender stereotyping in children’s books- Usborne Books, whilst browsing children’s books on amazon i was taken by surprise by these 3 separate books. There is really no need to have classic childrens stories like the Wizard of Oz, Sinbad the Sailor and the Snow queen illustrated in 3 different ways according to gender. For example the colour schemes for the “boys” collection is much darker and more intense whereas the “girls” collection are pastel themed. But some of the same stories reside within all of the books, yet the third book for “children” shows gender neutral colour schemes that are bright but feature neither a prominence of masculine or feminine colours. Also the “girls” book features flowers, where the “boys” features more threatening imagery like a shark and a skull. This is obvious gender stereotyping, and from a very prominent children’s publisher. I feel because this is such a mass produced collection of books and reasonably priced it would also be a go to book for parents to get their children, i just hope they choose examples that do not label them as for a specific gender. Its a shame that the books are titled in this way, because the illustrations are beautiful and very interesting, if the “girls” book were titled as fairytales and the “boys” as fairytales would they still be so gender specific? I also think if the illustrations used the same imagery but slightly different colour schemes they wouldn’t be so gender specific. On the other hand it is a shame to limit the use of colour to represent gender more equally, its a tough argument.
This book is written and illustrated by Shirley Hughes, i find it to be quite offensive even though its about a female character saving the day.
Because this female character is a maid and has been said “When young Daisy Dobbs starts as a scullery maid in a grand house, she works as hard as she can to try and please her kindly employers. But her greatest day comes when disaster strikes, and only Daisy can save the day” Although this story has a historical context to it, it still paints a rather unsavory image on the cover where although Daisy is at the forefront and being cheered, she is being cheered by those who are depicted as clearly in a higher ranking to her, and she is holding a broom, its unnecessary to depict her as a cleaner like its her identity and the way she is drawn does not make the book attractive to either boys or girls i think. Objectively speaking the cover illustration gives away alot of the story, but i find it a sexist story in itself regardless of its historical themes, as its not a non-fiction book intended to teach about historical times. Its a fiction book but its not just gender stereotyping thats the problem here, its bringing up the topic of class and in far too obvious a manner. I think its a cruel form of gender stereotyping to represent a girl in this manner in this day and age.
This book is from ladybird, and its a book that’s geared towards younger readers and makes sounds. I like the illustration itself, the colours and imagery are attractive and suited to the title, but its the male farmer i dislike. I think it would have been less gender specific to show 2 characters, a male and female farmer to show that its not just a “boys job”. I wouldn’t have thought replacing the male with a female would work, but two of them would help the illustration not be so close minded. Or perhaps to not include a farmer in the cover art and focus on the farm animals which are far more gender neutral. I wonder if as an illustrator you could ask to add in a female farmer to alleviate this issue? Its in these situations i’d like to know whether gender representation has been considered at all, because it needs to be considered right from when children get their first picture books because ideas about gender roles will form that early on.
I’m seeing alot of Usborne book geared towards specific genders, and this has prompted me to wonder why this is? Because the illustrations are gorgeous and needn’t be so gender specific. The simple addition of a female character next to the male character in this book would solve so many issues, because pirate stories should be accessible to males and females. I’m becoming rather frustrated seeing all of this segregation in children’s stories and in my practice i will strive to ensure that i don’t fall prey to this kind of work, which is a shame because Usborne offer lots of opportunities for freelance illustrators.