Gender roles: Do not be like a girl

What Pippi Longstocking and Annika have to do with the devaluation of femininity.

Recently I bought a book for my seven-year-old son. It's called "Billions Boy" and is by David Walliams, a British author, and it was a mistake. I mention it only because in Chapter 15 of this loveless, low-detail and less exciting patchwork of plump language games was so clear as never before, that an aversion to the feminine so casually belongs to children's literature as secret magic powers or talking animals. This also applies to the classic, higher-quality segment. And strangely enough, it is often enough for works that question classic role ascriptions at first glance.

In the meantime, I believe that this rejection has influenced me as much as any unconventional, wild, adventurous protagonist girl: first as a reading child in the development of a gender identity and now as a reading mother who believes she has to find "boy books" for her second grader, so that he feels addressed.

Literature Pink books, blue books

Pink books, blue books

Feather fairies and strong pirates: A SZ data research shows that children's books are still full of gender stereotypes.


I chose the wrong book because with my son I wanted to read a contemporary, English-language (immigrant background) and age-appropriate book in which a boy plays the main role, who does not act as a dogged footballer or hobby detective. The trillion-boy is the twelve-year-old Joe, who lives in a villa with his newly rich father locked up. Joe has no friends, he is overweight and emotionally neglected. His mother separated from his father after a lucrative divorce and was never seen again. Since then, his dad goes out with erotic models who are only after his coal and see in Joe a troublemaker. And Joe falls in love with a girl who turns out to have been paid to keep him company, a kind of escort schoolgirl. The moral of the story: You do not buy real friends – and they are most likely men.

All negative qualities are embodied in this story by female, the positive by male figures.

Daredevils need soft femininity as a contrast

The monoculture of gender-specific narrative worlds is a problem of the children's book landscape. Subtle Misogyny is another, much harder to portray: the fact that a woman is usually a problem, or at best has little to contribute to solving a problem, is one of the stories that mankind apparently can not tell often enough. The narrative element of Western civilization (myths, bible) primarily knows women, who either incite men to stupidity or violence, are defenseless victims or clinging, limiting mothers.

That since then many new stories have been added is beyond question. And especially the children's book literature of the 20th century has produced many "strong girls" despite all criticism. But their daredevilism and willpower, if you look closely, all too often needs the contrast of the soft, exaggerated femininity to develop their attraction. This is especially the case in the literature, which is older, but is still read today.

Let's take the "Five Friends": two girls, two boys and a dog, who discover secrets in numerous volumes in the fresh air. While the two boys, brothers, differ in their character traits (the cunning and the joker), the distinguishing feature of the girls is the gender performance: Georgina only wants to be called George because she hates her name and everything girls love and play ". Anne is a gentle, patented creature who plays with dolls and takes care that there is enough to eat and that it is neat in the tent.

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