You’ve Come Along Way Baby? Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books

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:

I'm Glad I'm a Boy! I'm Glad I'm a Girl

I’m Glad I’m a Boy! I’m Glad I’m a Girl

Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.

Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.

Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.

Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.

Boys can eat. Girls can cook.

Boys can eat. Girls can cook.

Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.

Boys fix things. Girls need things fixed.

Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.

Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent.

I'm glad you're a girl! I'm glad you're a boy!

I’m glad you’re a girl! I’m glad you’re a boy!

We need each other.

We need each other.

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:

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?

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11 thoughts on “You’ve Come Along Way Baby? Gender Stereotypes in Children’s Picture Books

  1. This is great. I am an Academic Librarian too, I just had to send the link to your post around the office ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. if you need access to older volumes of print materials you no longer have you should use Interlibrary loan. Many libraries provide the service for free. Look for libraries in the “LVIS” (Libraries very interested in sharing) group.

  3. I really liked reading your blog on this because I am new to the school media center position and currently taking classes on library science. In one of our classes we talked about collection development and censorship within a school library and this would have been great to use as an example of why we need to really look at and censor what we order for our library even now so that in the future we don’t have controversial books in our collection, especially if there is inappropriate material in the book. Thanks for your blog! Can’t wait to read more on here!

  4. I would say that getting rid of it based on content would count as censorship or book discrimination. I would keep it. Check out my library based blog at
    https://foreverknowledge.wordpress.com/

  5. I hope it’s ok but I added a few pics of the book to my Facebook page, The Feminist Librarian, and added a link to your blog, saying that you’ve raised some great points about sexism in children’s literature here.

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