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So this is my actual section of the presentation;

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Below each slide I am going to put what I said during the presentation.

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I am going to talk about gender and stereotyping within children’s illustration.

So what am I going to talk about –

  • Gender Stereotyping in children’s books
  • Looking at the 1950s-70s illustrations
  • 21st Century illustrations

Here are some of the theorists I looked at.

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Definitions of gender in the context of children’s books. You can read the definitions but I thought the top definition is the one that applies best to this presentation. Gender – children will associate certain activities with specific gender e.g. Netball for girls – football for boys.
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Weitzman who studied sexiest messages in books commented ‘Picture books play an important role in early sex socialisation. Books provide children with role models- images of what they can and should be when they grow up.’

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Focusing on the 1950s to 1970s, Janet and John was a popular book used by schools to teach reading. This book showed what the lifestyles was like for the older generation, typically the women were cooking – housewife. The man or father would bring in the money from working a long day. John Berger comments on when we see images we situate ourselves in it. So int the 1950s people were assuming that these images we how they should be – how families should act.

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In the 1960s Ladybird produced books for children where they could learn key skills in life. Families shown in these books tended to be in idyllic situations. The left image shows a girl in pink with a pretty bow in her hair. The boy in a smart blue jumper with a tie. The girl is painting and the not is building. The right image i a mix of children sitting upright with no elbows on the table. Girls in pink and yellow with bows and headbands. Boys in shirts and ties and the housewife is entertaining them with delicious healthy and tasty treats.

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In 1964 Peter and Jane were created to teach young children how to read. However, in the 1970s Ladybird decided to update the style as they wanted to portray a realistic lifestyle. Pete and Jane were now frowned upon as opinions had changed towards the idyllic family scenario.

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Comparing the two images you can see that Jane has changed her clothing. From a yellow cardigan to blue denim jeans. Her hair isn’t so perfectly styled and is more natural.

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Another example of the changes Ladybird made. The father has taken a more active role in parenting, wearing a suit suggesting he has just come back from work. Now wearing a casual blue sweater creating a more relaxed atmosphere. Although the mother hasn’t changed just the fashion.

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So are children’s books now equal with male to female roles? No, according to past research males are still more popular in lead characters than females.

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Results from research that looked into the ratio of male to female characters in 92 children’s books. This researched was undertaken by Heather McArthur and Carmen Poulin at the University of Brunswick. As you can see there are 344 female characters compared to 560 male characters. This was similar significant gap when it came to animals main characters. These results could suggest to children that females are not active participants in the world to the same degree as males. This could have a significant impact on the psychological development to both genders.

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Examples of this imbalance in modern children’s books:

Robert and The Red Balloon is placed within a messy room and there are masculine toys all around him e.g. cars, planes, trains and rockets. It is also illustrated by a male. Emmie and the Purple Paint is placed within a tidy pink room with soft cuddly toys and her mother is helping her to get changed not the father. It is also written and illustrated by two females. Susan Witt comments on how easily influenced children are based on how they should behave and act.

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Masie Middleton is portrayed as a tomboy and doesn’t like dresses. At the end of the story she bows down to peer pressure of the female gender stereotype and ends up liking the dress. Peepo! shows a gender specific era. The man of the house is carrying in the heavy coal whilst the women are doing the chores of the house – cleaning, cooking etc. Simone de Beauvior comments ‘One is not born but rather becomes a woman’ She distinguishes sex from gender, suggesting gender is an aspect of identity gradually acquired. Illustrators plays a small but significant part when influencing children’s ways of thinking. If we have this power to influence why haven’t we sorted out the bias gender stereotyping within children’s books yet?

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Here is some of books for further reading.

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It took me roughly 5 minutes to complete which was perfect as we were aiming for 5 minutes each then 5 minutes of question/discussion time adding up to the full 20minutes. I was extremely nervous and as I was speaking I could hear my voice wobbly but I think I was loud enough and I tried to speak normally (although I speak fast anyway in my daily life). After speaking I was relieved and I thought we did alright. That was until I got feedback.


To be honest I haven’t really got much feedback for my part as they are fairly positive points. The part about there was Judith Butler in my bibliography but I didn’t speak about it well it’s because I find her work too complicated for me to get my head around. Also I put it in because with essays you put all the documents you looked at that were relevant even if you don’t directly say it in your essay, that is why I put it in here to show I looked across a wide range of people. So I don’t know what thats all about! Going from getting firsts across the boards to suddenly dropping down is horrible! I don’t like it, I know that the Masters is going to be hard but I didn’t realise it’s going to be this hard! Part of me wishes I stuck to BA as I know what I was doing! I felt my mark was a little weak but from this I am going to try and be better and work harder. Next time I do a presentation like this (which I hope never comes!) I am going to look more into theorists to link with the images rather than just relying on the images. Like my mum said to me just take his comments and move onwards and upwards!