Posts Tagged ‘Sexist’

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.

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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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