I’ve been doing a shifting project in the curriculum/children’s lit collection I manage at my academic library.
Every now and then I come across a little “gem” like this: I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl - written by Whitney Darrow, Jr. and published in 1970.
What’s it about? It goes through a series of things boys do vs. what girls do. Here are a few screen shots:
Have you fallen out of your seat yet? Turns out this has been a popular little book. Brain Pickings provides an excellent overview, as does Bustle. So it this “for real”? Well…the author, Whitney Darrow, Jr., was a satirical cartoonist for The New Yorker, so *probably* not.
I tried locating reviews from the time period, but hit the wall with the usual ownership v. access problem with libraries (Most of our print indexes, bound volumes, and microfilm are gone. Our full-text access for what we have doesn’t go back far enough for the usual book review sources). I did a search in the Google Newspaper Archive and came across an article that was published in a series of newspapers in 1974: Children’s Book Changes Proceed – which discusses sexism in children’s literature.
A more recent take, “Planning Literacy Environments for Diverse Preschoolers” (Young Exceptional Children, 15(3), 2012) appears to take the book at face value and labels it as blatantly sexist.
Gender Stereotyping in Children’s Picture Books:
- 12 Children’s Picture Books That Challenge Traditional Gender Roles (Institute for Humane Education)
- Assessing Children’s Book Collections Using an Anti-Bias Lens (Anti-Defamation League)
- Bitch in a Box: Gift Guide for Children’s Picture Books (Bitch magazine)
- Campaign to End Gender-Specific Children’s Books Gathers Support (Guardian)
- Children’s Picture Books Retain Stubborn Stereotypes (Pacific Standard)
- Free to Be: Books Celebrating Non-Traditional Gender Roles (Oak Park Public Library, Illinois)
- Gender Matters? Swedish Picture Books and Gender Ambiguity (Lee & Low Books)
- Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books (ERIC document)
- Gender Stereotyping and Under-representation of Female Characters in 200 Popular Children’s Picture Books: A Twenty-first Century Update (Sex Roles)
- Stereotypes in Kids Books: Girl Animals Have Eyelashes (Sociology in Focus)
So is I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl! staying in the collection of my academic library? Yes. A lot of the education classes discuss gender stereotyping. Even as satire, this can be a useful tool (see Teaching Children’s Literature: It’s Critical). Does it belong in the children’s collection of a public library? Probably not. What do you think?