Posts Tagged ‘Gender’

Top 10 Female Characters in Kids Books

January 13, 2020


The following is a list adapted from an article by Allison McDonald. The criteria is that the character had to show girls how to be fierce and fearless:

#10) Beatrice Prior from The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth
Brave doesn’t seem like a strong enough word for Tris. She is more than brave — she seems propelled to do the right thing no matter what stands in her way.

#9) Pippi from Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Pippi is the self-proclaimed strongest girl in the world…and she lives with a monkey named Mr. Nilsson! If that’s not reason enough for her inclusion on this list, you’ll have to re-read this classic to find a million more.

#8) Ramona Quimby from The Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary
Ramona is far from perfect but she has a huge heart, a creative mind, and never loses sight of who she is.

#7) Princess Truly from Princess Truly in I Am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt
Brimming with confidence, this diverse character has no problem loving herself. Princess Truly teaches your child about self-acceptance and self-love, showing that she can do whatever it is she sets her mind to. Talk about princess power!

#6) Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Anne Shirley has to have puffed sleeves, bravely saves her best friend’s sister, and even walks along the rooftop to show she isn’t afraid. She stands up for herself, her friends, and for what is right many times over —showing her strength and confidence each and every time.

#5) Cleopatra from the Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack
Time traveling and saving the galaxy? What can’t this girl do? Cleopatra shows the universe who’s boss when her 15-year-old self travels into the future to save all of humanity. With a lot of drive, determination, bravery, and a little sass, this traveling queen knows who’s boss and plans to show the world just that.

#4) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
When I read how Katniss volunteered to take her sister’s place as tribute, I cried. When I saw the scene on film, I cried. And now, years later, writing about it, I still have chills. Sure, she fights and shows strength in so many other ways, but that one act is central to her character, and why she is one of the best female characters you will find on this list.

#3) Matilda Wormwood from Matilda by Roald Dahl
There is something incredibly calm and self-assured about Matilda. She knows her family is filled with idiots, she knows she’s not an idiot, and at a very young age she goes about educating herself because no one else seems to care.

#2) Nancy Drew from the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene
If there’s a mystery to solve, Nancy is on the job. With a magnifying glass and a keen sense of wonder, Nancy Drew can decipher any question and her bravery is no match for the cases thrown her way.

#1) Hermione Granger from The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
I could wax poetic about Hermione Ganger for days. Her intellect is apparent from the start, as is her drive to succeed. She saves Ron and Harry countless times during the series, but her most heroic act is saving her parents. I don’t want to ruin this for anyone who hasn’t read the final book, but let me just warn you there will be tears. You will be awed not only by the depth of her strength but by the depth of the love that fuels it. Oh, one more reason Hermione is my #1 pick? For the time she punched Malfoy. (I know hitting is wrong, but I know you cheered while reading that too!)


Special Announcement:

I am donating 100% of the royalties of my hilarious new children’s book, My Favourite Comedian, during the month of January to those affected by the devastating bushfires in my country, Australia. This book is perfect for children aged 9 to 14 and the ideal class novel for Upper Primary students. Please leave a comment to indicate your purchase. You can buy a copy by clicking on this link.

It is Never Alright to Sexualise Children

December 24, 2018


What are the media doing canonizing an 11 year-old for doing a drag routine in a gay bar?

The point of this story is not the courage and individuality of an 11-year-old. There are plenty of positive ways one could capture a story about an 11-year-old’s gender journey than having the child having money thrown at him while he does a drag queen inspired strip at a pub.

And my objection has nothing to do with the fact it was at a gay bar and that the boy is a drag queen.

My objections are as follows:

  • Doing a drag show is fine when it’s adults participating – not children. Drag shows are highly sexualised in nature and children should never be a subject of sexualised activity.
  • The fact that money was thrown at him is sick. It is a pedophilic act and it is totally unacceptable. To then celebrate this response as a a symbol of the child’s ability to entertain an audience is downright irresponsible. I would feel exactly the same way if it was an 11 year-old girl at a straight pub.

Watching the ABC’s treatment of this story in the video above makes me wonder how serious the media are about protecting children from the dangers of being represented as sexual beings.

The media should know better!



Click on the link to read Teachers Who Agree With This Guy Should Be De-Registered

Click on the link to read The Staggering Amount of Teacher Reported Child Abuse Cases

Click on the link to read Hungry Kids are Almost Unteachable

Click on the link to read School Rewards Good Grades With an Earlier Lunch

Click on the link to read What Kids are Thankful For (Video)

Father Posts Daughter’s Controversial Worksheet

November 11, 2012


I don’t have a particular issue with this worksheet. I honestly believe that differences exist between genders and understanding these differences can help you as a teacher or parent. My problem is with the teacher’s corrections. This young girl was entitled to respond the way they she did. It was an open-ended task that clearly had no right or wrong answer. By insisting that she fill out the table in a certain way, the teacher is in fact undermining the very nature of the task.

The girl’s father was far less generous about the objective of this activity than I was:

A little girl’s school assignment has generated impassioned debate online after her father, blogger Steve Bowler, sparked outrage by posting the third-grader’s worksheet, which dealt with gender stereotypes.

Dad, who designs and blogs about video games (@gameism on Twitter), pointed out his daughter’s unsuccessful attempt to separate items into three categories: boys, girls and both. On Saturday, he posted her completed worksheet and tweeted: “Proud my 8yo girl failed this worksheet. Wish she had failed it even ‘worse.’ #GenderBias”

Based on the image alone, Bowler tweeted that it looked like his daughter’s class was asked to sort activities and products like “Barbies” and “Erector sets” into gender columns. She crowded all the answers into a column labeled “Both,” and the teacher wrote at the bottom, “We talked about how each square needs to be filled in.”

“My wife brought [the worksheet] to my attention Friday night when we were looking through her schoolwork folder,” Bowler told HuffPost via email, adding that his daughter hadn’t complained about the assignment herself.

Click on the link to read Hilarious Parenting Checklist

Click on the link to read 7 Rules for Raising Kids: Economist

Click on the link to read Dad’s Letter to 13-Year Old Son after Discovering he had been Downloading from Porn Sites

Click on the link to read Mother Shaves Numbers Into Quadruplets Heads So People Can Tell Them Apart

Click on the link to read A Joke at the Expense of Your Own Child

Token Gestures Devalue Women

July 23, 2012

She may claim to have been joking, but here ‘joke’ clearly had a serious overtone. When volleyballer Natalie Cook claimed she would protest if a woman wasn’t given the honour of being the Olympic Games flag bearer, she was trying to influence a decision that should never be made on gender lines.

Australian beach volleyballer Natalie Cook says she won’t take part in the opening ceremony of the London Games unless a woman is chosen the carry the flag.

The 37 year-old says its about time a female was named as our flag bearer and is prepared to stage a protest if another man is selected as the flag bearer.

If a female is chosen to be flag bearer, Cook’s comments have the potential to devalue that athlete’s achievements. It could be seen as a decision made out of political correctness rather than merit. That wouldn’t be fair to the athlete.

If a male is chosen, they would have to face unnecessary guilt at depriving a woman from getting the honour. This too would be completely unfair.

Token gestures are disrespectful. Australia’s female athletes are exceptional. Should one of them be given the honour of holding our flag, they shouldn’t have the honour diminished by a feeling that it was bestowed due to political correctness rather than merit.

Click on the link to read It Isn’t Just the Kids that are Freaked Out by the Olympic Mascots

Click on the link to read Soon School Teachers May also be Fired for Banning Cell Phones in the Classroom


Should Boys be able to Play in All-Girls Teams?

June 20, 2012

Whilst I am sympathetic to the 13 year-old boy that wishes to play netball, I don’t think it’s appropriate for a teenage boy to play in an all-girls team. Not only will boys ruin the enjoyment that girls have for the sport but girls are entitled to raise concerns about the body contact that exists within the game.

MEMBERS of a junior netball club have slammed a VCAT decision to allow a 185-centimetre tall, 13-year-old boy interim permission to play in an all-girls’ competition.

Despite Netball Victoria discouraging teams from speaking out, the coach, parents and players from one of the boy’s rival teams, St Therese’s of Essendon, say it would be a disaster if VCAT made the ruling permanent that boys can play in the 15 and under matches.

They fear it would smash girls’ confidence on court, and spell an end to girls having the choice to play in a team of their own gender. St Therese’s head coach Dianne McCormack wrote to The Age saying it was not a personal comment on the boy, who plays for Banyule in the Parkville Netball association’s 15 and under C Grade.

A St Therese’s C-Grade player, Ally, 12, has written to the sports minister and Netball Victoria saying that when she played against the boy in the 13 and under competition, ”no one wanted to play a strong defence because it meant you had to put your body up against his”.Ally said when she got older she might want to play mixed, ”but now I just want to play against other girls”. ”Most boys I know are already bigger and stronger than me.

”Please stick up for me and all girls who play in girls’ competitions. I don’t think it’s fair for any boy to take away my right and any girl’s right to play in an all-girls’ competition.”


Catering for Four-Year Old Transgendered Children

June 20, 2012

From a system that eats up and spits out so many children it’s great to see that we have the 4-year old transgender demographic satisfied. A classroom may struggle to curb bullying, respond to self-esteem issues and provide a safe environment, but as long as they promote gender neutrality they are going just fine.

A report found young pupils were being encouraged to express themselves and permitted to dress as the opposite sex without judgment.

The education watchdog highlighted examples of good practice, such as appreciating “that a boy may prefer to be known as a girl and have a girl’s name and similarly a girl may have a girl’s name but wants to dress as and be a boy”.

It praised primary schools where “transgender pupils are taken seriously”, and those which had “gender-neutral” environments.

According to a report on one infants’ school, teaching children aged four to seven, found it was doing “excellent work” with “pupils who are or may be transgender”.

In a survey of 37 primary and 19 secondary schools, Ofsted questioned 1,357 pupils about their experiences at school to draw conclusions.

According to the Daily Mail, it found one unnamed school encourage children to behave in a “non-gender stereotypical way”, with younger boys dressing up in traditionally female clothing and allowed to wear ribbons in their hair.

If these 4-year olds are really transgendered, why would we have to ‘encourage’ them to behave in a “non-gender stereotypical way”. Surely as long as we promoted acceptance and tolerance we could let these children find themselves without being so obviously pointed in a certain direction.

Likewise, I find it offensive that teachers are being congratulated for something they have always upheld. Besides in the religious schools (which you would assume are still opposed to the concept of transgendered children) what teacher would interfere with a child’s desire to express themselves in what ever way they see fit?

It bothers me when our system is judged by how we recognise the 1% of students that fall into categories like this one, instead of an all-encompassing policy that spends less time finding differences and more time focussing on the fact that fundamentally we are all the same. If you run a tolerant, caring, inviting classroom you don’t need to worry about transgendered children, because all your students will feel free to express themselves in the way that feels natural to them.

Instead of encouraging boys to dress like girls, encourage boys to be themselves.

Teaching About Gender in the Classroom

January 7, 2012

I have a very traditional approach when it comes to the hot topic of gender. Whilst I don’t like the expectations placed upon boys to take on a ‘masculine’ gender role and girls to follow a predetermined ‘feminine’ gender role, I likewise have a problem with the whole concept of gender neutrality.

Whilst it is not fair to pigeon hole boys and girls and expect them to look, act and think according to what society believes is appropriate for a girl and boy to look and act like, I think it’s also appropriate to point out that on the whole boys and girls are different. They do think and act differently. They do tend to enjoy vastly different hobbies and socialise in different ways. That’s not to say that they shouldn’t be free to express themselves in any way they feel comfortable. It’s just that to me, gender neutrality, in trying to assist the minority of children that don’t subscribe to gender roles (and they are a minority), stifle the majority who fall comfortably within  such parameters.

That’s why instead of teaching about gender per se, I prefer to teach about differences and similarities. I prefer to draw attention to the fact that no matter where we come from, what we believe and how we dress, ultimately we all have similar wants and needs. We all crave respect from our peers, the love and support of our families. We all want to feel good about ourselves and the freedom to express our opinions without being adversely judged because of them.

Having said that, I am very supportive of teacher, Melissa Bollow Tempel, who was passionate enough about this issue to include it in her teaching. In her wonderfully incisive piece, “It’s Okay to be Neither,” Melissa recounts her dealing with a student who was being bullied because of the way she dressed.

Allison was biologically a girl but felt more comfortable wearing Tony Hawk long-sleeved T-shirts, baggy jeans, and black tennis shoes. Her parents were accepting and supportive. Her mother braided her hair in cornrows because Allie thought it made her look like Will Smith’s son, Trey, in the remake of The Karate Kid. She preferred to be called Allie. The first day of school, children who hadn’t been in Allie’s class in kindergarten referred to her as “he.”

I didn’t want to assume I knew how Allie wanted me to respond to the continual gender mistakes, so I made a phone call home and Allie’s mom put me on speakerphone.

“Allie,” she said, “Ms. Melissa is on the phone. She would like to know if you want her to correct your classmates when they say you are a boy, or if you would rather that she just doesn’t say anything.”

Allie was shy on the phone. “Um …

tell them that I am a girl,” she whispered.

The next day when I corrected classmates and told them that Allie was a girl, they asked her a lot of questions that she wasn’t prepared for: “Why do you look like a boy?” “If you’re a girl, why do you always wear boys’ clothes?” Some even told her that she wasn’t supposed to wear boys’ clothes if she was a girl. It became evident that I would have to address gender directly in order to make the classroom environment more comfortable for Allie and to squash the gender stereotypes that my 1st graders had absorbed in their short lives.

I recommend that you read the rest of her fascinating article by following the link above.

(Thank you to reader Margaret for bringing this piece to my attention)

There is no Need to Sort Out the Gender Imbalance in Teaching

December 26, 2011

There is a disproportionate number of female primary teachers to males and there always will be. Instead of manipulating the numbers and offering incentives for males to join up, how about we look for teachers based on quality rather than gender? As much as it would be nice to have more men taking up primary teaching, I am not certain it is a position which men have an interest in. Many of my friends would sooner collect the dole than sign up to be a teacher. Whilst I love my job very much, most men don’t understand how why I selected my profession over the myriad of alternatives I had to choose from.

I love the position male teacher, Rocco Marchionda, takes on this issue:

Rocco Marchionda is a bit of an oddity.

At a glance, his kindergarten classroom at Merrill Elementary School in Oshkosh looks like any other song-filled, activity-oriented room of 5- and 6-year olds.

The unusual part is Marchionda himself: He’s a man. Teaching kindergarten.

“Pretty much everyone I’ve ever worked with is female. I can’t imagine what it would be like to teach with another male,” he said.

But that doesn’t seem to bother local educators as long as the teacher does a good job.”At the end of the day, the point is how the teaching is getting done and how the students are learning,” said Marchionda, who has been in the profession 13 years.

Marchionda said he became a kindergarten teacher because “in no other grade have I seen children grow so much.”

While educators want better diversity in their schools, Inda said she doesn’t believe the imbalance is a problem.”The most critical piece in a classroom teacher is not whether they’re male or female. It’s their ability to be a great teacher,”Jean Inda (director of professional education programs) said. “The worst thing we could do is encourage more males to go into elementary education if they’re not comfortable there.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Genderless Classrooms is Another Example of Extremism

June 28, 2011

From a system that offers ample extremism whilst being light on balance, comes another example of taking an idea way too far.  It may be true that gender stereotypes can be over the top, however, avoiding them altogether is not the answer.

AT the Egalia preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

From the colour and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.

“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher.

“Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged one to six is among the most radical examples of Sweden’s efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

Whether we like or not, boys and girls are different.  Most think differently, act differently and have different interests.  This is not a bad thing.  Sure, enforcing stereotypes is not fair, but neither is pretending that differences do not exist.  By limiting the scope for boys to act like boys and girls to act like girls, they are actually preventing the children from identifying themselves as a “girl” or “boy”, which is a natural instinct.

When a system decides to withold books and certain colours in response to a sterotype, what they end up doing is replacing one extreme with another.  If gender stereotpes are potentially harmful to children, so too is gender avoidance.  Both try to doiminate the child’s own sense of what is right for them.

Why can’t we stop playing games and simply support every child to be happy with who they are and respect themselves and others.  Education shouldn’t be about omitting labels or circumventing stereotypes, it should be about broadening perceptions, nurturing critical thinking and challenging false stereotypes.


Children’s Books Deemed Sexist

May 6, 2011

It turn out the classic children’s books I have grown up reading have “enforced gender equality.”  Books I appreciated as a child have been among those labeled sexist for featuring a male hero instead of a female one, according to a recent study:

A large-scale study of children’s books published between 1900 and 2000 revealed that they were almost twice as likely to feature a male central character than a female one.

The gender bias was even worse when it came to books with animal characters – often favoured by publishers as ‘gender neutral’ with male animal heroes featuring in three times more books than female animal heroines.

And female characters were even overlooked when it came to star billing – kids’ books were twice as likely to include a male character’s name in their title as a female name.

Researchers from Florida State University, USA, also discovered that while books printed during the 1990s came close to equal representation of male and female human characters, animal characters were twice as likely to be male as female.

In a conclusion that will baffle fans of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Anne of Green Gables and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, researchers said their findings indicated a ‘symbolic annihilation of women’.

They warned that the role of kids’ fiction as a ‘dominant blueprint of shared cultural values, meanings and expectations’ could send a message that ‘women and girls occupy a less important role in society than men or boys.’

Evidence of this inequality was noted in how readers ‘interpret even gender neutral characters as male’ and in the way mums ‘frequently label gender-neutral animal characters as male when reading with their children.’

And in books where the characters are animals – such as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Fantastic Mr Fox and Winnie-the-Pooh – leading and positive female roles are scarcer.

The likes of Jemima Puddle-Duck and Mrs Tiggy-Winkle had key roles in just 7.5 per cent of children’s books. Male rabbits, bears, owls, dogs, foxes and toads were more prevalent – they were the lead characters in 23 per cent of books.

The study, results of which are published in Gender and Society journal, looked at almost 6,000 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000.

Books were chosen from three different sources, including those which had won the prestigious Caldecott Medal, awarded annually to American kids’ fiction.

Study author Professor Janice McCabe, professor of sociology at Florida State University said: “We looked at a full century of books.

“One thing that surprised us is that females’ representations did not consistently improve from 1900 to 2000; in the mid part of the century it was actually more unequal. Books became more male dominated.”

And on the problem of animal characters, Prof McCabe added: “Together with research on reader interpretations, our findings regarding imbalanced representations among animal characters suggests that these characters could be particularly powerful, and potentially overlooked, conduits for gendered messages.

“The persistent pattern of disparity among animal characters may even reveal a subtle kind of symbolic annihilation of women disguised through animal imagery.”

The study found that the imbalance has worsened since the turn of the 20th century, when the split was even.

In the early 1900s there was a move away from books about fairytales based on heroines such as Cinderella. But there were numerous strong female characters. Nancy was the captain of the Amazon in Swallows and Amazons, and What Katy Did was a major series. Male characters such as Harry Potter and Alex Rider now dominate.

I have no issue with the general findings, and I fon;t think too many would be suprised that there is a disparity between central male and female characters in children’s story.  What I do have a problem is with two statements:
As a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz in all forms, I find it absolutely mind-boggling that the researchers have called it a ‘symbolic annihilation of women’.  Talk about over analysis!  I find this label deeply offensive.

And then there’s this bold statement“The persistent pattern of disparity among animal characters may even reveal a subtle kind of symbolic annihilation of women disguised through animal imagery.”

Annihilation?  Is that the best word they could come up with for books that didn’t pass the gender test, but surely passed the good intentions test?  Is it not possible that while these classic books are a sign of the times when it comes to gender disparity, they are also largely brilliantly written and conceived stories that were written to entertain and engross children rather than to symbolically annihilate women?

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