In the most comprehensive study of children’s literature during a period of 100 years, researchers recently found that:
- 57% of children’s books published each year have male protagonists, versus 31% female.
- In popular children’s books featuring animated animals, 100% of them have male characters, but only 33% have female characters.
- The average number of books featuring male characters in the title of the book is 36.5% versus 17.5% for female characters.
It’s not just the quantity, but the quality as well. Female characters, as in movies, are often marginalized, stereotyped, or one-dimensional. For example, in Peter Pan, Wendy is a stick-in-the-mud mother figure, and Tiger Lily is a jealous exotic. The animated books featuring animals are particularly subtle. Think about Winnie the Pooh—Kanga is the only female character, and she’s definitely not one of the gang.
The researchers concluded, “The gender inequalities we found may be particularly powerful because they are reinforced by patterns of male-dominated characters in many other aspects of children’s media, including cartoons, G-rated films, video games, and even coloring books.”
But, it goes beyond gender and is true of racial and ethnic diversity as well. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education has conducted a survey of all kids and young adult books published each year since 1985. Of an estimated 5,000 children’s and YA books released in 2012, only 3.3% featured African-Americans; 2.1% featured Asian-Americans or Pacific Islanders; 1.5% featured Latinos; and only 0.6% featured Native Americans.
A common retort to all of this is: “This is the internet. It’s offensive. If you don’t like it, leave.” That is correct: speech on the internet can be offensive and the right to be offensive is vital to democracy. But Facebook is not “the internet.” Facebook is a company with principles and community standards that create a reasonable expectation in users that it will enforce rules it itself has established in an unbiased manner. Facebook is perilously close to allowing “freedom of speech” to be used as a defense of unjust actions that are clearly intimidating and silencing female users.
Soraya Chemaly, Facebook’s Big Misogyny Problem
It’s an existential dilemma to be alive and realize you are not important and that your body, the one you believe belongs to YOU, in fact may not. It may belong to your father, your mother, your boyfriend, your girlfriend, a stranger, your state. It makes some people angry. But good girls don’t get angry, do they? It’s so unattractive. But depression, that’s a different thing.
Women are not a special interest group and fighting for the ability to live without violence is not a pet project.
Soraya Chemaly | Violence Against Women is a Global Pandemic