Friday, March 09, 2007

Gender Bias in Picture Books?

You've probably all seen this study about gender bias in children's picture books. It's been out and about in regional media the past few days. Here's the upshot:
  • "Dr. David Anderson, professor of economics, and Dr. Mykol Hamilton, professor of psychology, have documented that gender bias is common today in many children's books in their research published recently in Sex Roles: A Journal of Research titled 'Gender Stereotyping and Under-Representation of Female Characters in 200 Popular Children's Picture Books: A 21st Century Update.'"

Their study set included Caldecott winners from the past seven years and the 200 top-selling books from 2001. The results of this study include:

  • There were nearly twice as many male as female title and main characters
  • Male characters appeared in illustrations 53 percent more than female characters
  • Female main characters nurtured more than did male main characters, and they were seen in more indoor than outdoor scenes
  • Occupations were gender stereotyped, and more women than men appeared to have no paid occupation

This study, frankly, surprised me, because it seems to me that I see picture books with female protagonists two times more often than those with male protagonists. This makes me think, then, that the people choose the books with male protagonists to purchase. I also think there's a real nostalgia factor when people buy picture books. They like to find the titles they had as children, meaning the best sellers are books from the 1950s-1980s.

What do you all think?