When talk of diversity expands beyond race it still ends up looking very much like a checklist of compartmentalized identities. Can we get a child in a wheelchair? Check. Can the doctor be African American, and a woman? Check and check. … For adults I often describe the difference between diversity and inclusion as the difference between entering a room and seeing folks who look like you, and entering a room and feeling like you belong. … For children, it’s the difference between opening a book and seeing someone who looks like you – understanding that this is the character your meant to feel connected to because of that one visually represented thing you have in common – and falling into a story as you are.
Putting marginalized people in the very background of a movie so that they’re only visible for three seconds and never speak, isn’t progress. It’s par for the course, it’s taking crumbs and accepting it as feast.
The Most Dubious Gender Ratio In Children’s Stories
If you’re buying a book for a child and you have no idea what to get, and no time to read children’s books yourself, I have learned to be most suspicious of the following.
If you find the story features one female and three main male characters
AND the female is described in relation to the main male
AND she has extra eyelashes/a pink female signifier…
You can guarantee this is a sexist story.
The Smurfette Principle the Wikipedia explanation
The Minority Feisty from Reel Girl
Will Boys Watch Stories About Girls? from Blue Milk, which is about film, but could equally be about literature
Children’s Books And Segregation from The Society Pages
Stories Are Genderless from Foz Meadows
The three to one ratio is typical across all of children’s literature, in case you are thinking Geronimo Stilton is a standout example. This podcast from The Book Show on ABC, features Janice McCabe,
Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Florida, talking about her study on Gender in Twentieth-Century Children’s Books. McCabe found that Little Golden Books, for which new stories were published between 1942 and 1993, depict an especially small proportion of female characters: 3.2 males for every 1 female.