Four authors and scholars examined gender roles and stereotypes in children’s and young adult literature at a Women’s Week 2012 event on Monday.
Panelists discussed the history and evolution of gender stereotypes in this genre of literature. They also talked about the ways in which they have attempted to subvert these norms in their own work.
Panelist Jacqueline Davies said that in one of her books she wrote the male protagonist, Evan, as a more emotive character and his sister, Jessie, as more logical.
“The brother’s the one who’s good with people, who understands people, who’s very empathic, so in that case, I actually had my male and female characters play against what people would generally think of as being gender-stereotypical roles,” Davies said in an interview.
Davies said her readers, generally between 8 and 11 years of age, responded positively to this blurring of gender norms.
“I get girls writing to me saying, ‘I love it that Jessie’s so smart,’” Davies said. “I don’t get boys writing to me saying ‘I love it that Evan’s so empathic.’ They never notice that. They just like the characters.”
Her book centers on a competition between the brother and sister, with each vying to sell more lemonade than the other. When Davies visits classrooms and asks students which of the two characters they want to win, girls often voice support for Jessie while boys get behind Evan. Davies attributed the children’s preference for the sibling of the same sex to simple gender bias.
“The boys like the boy, and the girls like the girl,” she said.
Panelist Jeannine Atkins said that Lucy from C. S. Lewis’s “The Chronicles of Narnia” was an example of how gender stereotypes enabled the author to weave greater emotion in his text.
“Lucy is the heart of the books,” said Atkins, a professor of children’s literature at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “Lucy could cry, and she could have tea with Mr. Tumnus, and she could fall in love with him as a friend.”
The event, which was held in the parlor of the Phillips Brooks House, drew a crowd comprised of 22 women and 1 man.
Women’s Week, which is co-sponsored by the Harvard College Women’s Center and The Seneca, Inc., seeks to foster discussion about women’s current status as well as celebrate women’s history and past achievement. Women’s Week 2012 features a series of events which will culminate with the Feminist Coming Out Day Coffee House on Thursday evening. Women’s Week will conclude with its final event on Friday.
—Staff writer Maya S. Jonas-Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Symphony Concert.The programme of the concert to be given tonight by the Symphony Orchestra in Sander's Theatre at 7.45 is as
Morning PrayersRt. Rev. T. F. Davies, Bishop of Western massachusetts, will conduct morning prayers in Appleton Chapel today and tomorrow morning
Pfaffmann Entered in Mixed DoublesAmong the stars who are entered for the National Indoor Mixed Doubles tournament, which begins tomorrow on the Chestnut Hill
Campbell's SoupStarting Lineup F-Travis McCready (Jr, 6-6) F-Dean Campbell (Jr, 6-4) C-Stu Davies (So, 6-7) G-Ed Petersen (So, 6-0) G-David Brown
Solo in the SOCHMaybe it was the social death sentence implicit in the blurbs that billed him as a “Freshman Phenom,” but only
‘Untitled’ Seeks MysteryEnigma is the intrigue of “The Untitled Project,” a self-conscious play that breaks the barrier between audience and actor, and focuses on the very process of making theater. The hour-long show will run in multiple locations—ranging from the Signet Society to the Holyoke Center Gallery—from Friday to Sunday, and aims to separate itself from the typical trajectory of many of today’s plays by remaining somewhat mysterious.