IMPORTANT QUOTES/PAGES/IDEAS TO USE WITHIN MY DISSERTATION
"For Beauvior, gender is "constructed", but implied in her formulation is an agent, a cogito, who somehow takes on or appropriates that gender and could, in principle, take on some other gender. Is gender as variable and volitional as Beauvior's account seems to suggest? Can "construction" in such a case be reduced to a form of choice?"
When the relevant culture that constructs gender is understood in terms of such a law or set of laws , then it seems gender is as determined and fixed as it was under the biology-is-destiny formulation. In such a case, not biology, but culture, becomes destiny.
PAGE 43 & 44:
Gender is the repeated stylization of the body, a set of repeated acts within a highly rigid regulatory frame that congeal over time to produce the appearance of substance, of a natural sort of being.
Such acts, gestures, enactments, generally construed, are performative in that the essence or identity that they otherwise purport to express are fabrications manufactured and sustained through corporeal signs and other discursive means. That the gendered body is performative suggests that it has no ontological status apart from the various acts which constitute its reality.
The action of gender requires a performance that is repeated.
The effect of gender is produced through the stylisation of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and styles of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self.
I read this book, published in 1989, which discusses ‘how and why children become masculine or feminine’. It further mentions that ‘the way in which gender is constructed in our society means that in learning to be people, to be members of our society, children must learn the way maleness and femaleness is done and they must get it right’. Bronwyn Davies studies to provide detail of the gendered world of childhood and new insights into the social construction of gender.
For me, I think considering the time this study was carried out, it is not surprising that this was the outcome. Sexism and gender stereotyping was still very much common and it seems optimistic to think that the outcome here would’ve been different.
Pages 86/87 discuss how female power differs from that of a male. Rather than power as body strength, and can be used much more tactfully, in ways which a male might struggle. “Their power is circumscribed by their own and others’ ideas of what it means to be female and of the relation of that to maleness”. Davies also highlights that in order for there to be a change in this pattern, females will ‘need to learn to want to use their bodies powerfully in self defence, and they will need to develop a new set of metaphors that undo the potency of romantic love and replace it with something equally viable and rewarding, if not necessarily ‘safe’.’ I think this is a particularly strong and inspiring statement. It highlights a need for change, in a time where this was probably quite non-conformative.
One of the main things which stood out to me in this chapter was the way that the reactions of the children backed up and evidenced the idea that male power equals domination. See page 91.
Page 109 mentions the ways that males and females are allocated roles which involve particular behaviours. Males are portrayed powerful, contrasting with those of a female who appear weak, ‘complementary and supportive to that power’.
The conclusion I found quite fascinating. “At the heart of the idea of maleness seems to be the idea of power as male power, with females having power only in the domestic realm or as helpers of men in the male sphere.” Another element I found in the conclusion was the ways in which Davies addresses how this idea is embedded in the narrative structures of children’s books, which consequently affects their attitudes towards themselves and others as they develop - “attitudes they develop towards themselves either as active agents who can and should act powerfully in a public sphere, or as sexualised beings whose agency is profoundly inhibited through the positioning of themselves as the passive recipients of another’s gaze.” - see page 138.
Page 141 - Davies finishes the conclusion with the need for more communicative practises for children - the belief that they should not need to comply with a label of ‘male’ or ‘female’, or ‘boy’ or girl’ and the behaviours and characteristics these labels expect. “They need access to forms of discursive practice where their social practice is not defined in terms of the se too genitals they happen to have.”
It is fair to say I found this book very eye-opening, and particularly fascinating considering the era it was written in. Although it isn’t really current enough in terms of the present day problems surrounding gender representation in children’s literature, it is interesting enough to see how this has previously been addressed and researched.
This weeks lecture with Robert, looked at the process of our extended essay. He clarified key points in regards to our meetings with our personal tutors and overall reminded us with questions to ask ourselves throughout our journey. I will add my notes below as I found it quite useful to keep reminding ourselves of the purpose of our own research and what we want to achieve. Something to keep in mind throughout to allow us to keep on track.
I discovered this article about gender representation within some of Roald Dahl’s greatest books, written between April and June 2018. I thought this would be quite intriguing for my research as these books are extremely popular, very famous, although highly criticised.
Firstly, I was quite surprised after reading this article, as I was under the impression that many of Dahl’s protagonists were male. However, this was a pleasant reminder of the reality that Dahl is actually a supporter of female gender which is conveyed through his modern approach of female heroines.
‘Matilda’ one of Dahl’s greatest books, involves a bright, dynamic female character as the protagonist, along with a petrifying headteacher, Miss Trunchball - which already breaks stereotypes surrounding employment. Matilda acts in a way normally associated with boys in such literature. Matilda’s world is female dominated and we see Dahl’s attempt to break stereotypes through the character of Matilda’s father who states ‘girls should be seen not heard’, followed by several degrading statements. “The patterns of gender which can be associated with fairy tales are carried by the adult female characters in Matilda”.
This article also covers Dahl’s book The Witches, which is one of the most heavily criticised sexist books due to it’s “implied connection between malicious and gender”, however after analysation, we can forgive Dahl through his clear statements that witches are not human, and the lack of feminine features of the witches. He can be applauded however for the great representation of female characters, despite the adventurous child in the book being male - which also fits the stereotypical characteristics of a boy of that age.
The other book which is analysed is The BFG and the gender acknowledgements within. The girl here is not portrayed as weak nor passive towards the descriptively large male character, which breaks tradition which would normally convey fear. One criticism which is mentioned is the way there is a clear differentiation of boys and girls however which we see when dreams are referred to - the BFG refers to girls dreams as ‘whoppsy girls’ dream’ which boys would refer to as “rot bungling grinksludging old dream”. It is clear here that the genders are portrayed to have complete difference in interests, which in today’s society would be deemed non-representative and naive.
Overall I found the article quite eye opening, providing me with ideas and food for thought.
Today we had a lecture with Nick discussing the dissertation module/extended essay which will be completed before xmas on our chosen subject area. This was followed by a session with Claire where we looked at research, different methods, and the journey towards our extended essay. I will add my notes below.
After the session with Claire around research methods, I found it much easier to find appropriate texts and articles. I think ProQuest is a really useful search tool, especially the advanced search options. I will link my notes from the lecture below.
To gather some research I visited Wigan library with my nephew, I spent a couple hours routing through all the picture books, searching for anything gender related. I began to feel as though I was almost looking too hard but when I really looked on everything as a whole a lot became clear - problematic characters are often male, 'Dads' are portrayed useless and silly, Mums are generally the primary carers for the children, most villains are male, and there is a large use of male protagonists. This trip was particularly useful just to open my eyes to particular authors/illustrators which I can further research.
Although I did find some interesting picture books which are much more open minded, whilst breaking stereotypes, these were far and few between. I found that lots of the classic, very popular picture books that are still very common today, seem to only involve male characters which in the modern day is quite alarming. Tony Ross is definitely an author I want to research further as I know he uses controversial characters and I have heard of parents not wanting their children to read their books. Another thing I noticed throughout was stereotyping around gender roles - authoritative figures being male.
I also was introduced to this instagram page which is full of great resources for such topics. I think this is a great page for sourcing helpful, educational books, for families/children who would benefit. I will link below.
For my dissertation, my initial thoughts were leaning towards gender stereotypes within children's books, in particular a comparison to the ways in which genders are presented in classic picture books as opposed to the current modern books. My initial working title was 'Have children’s picture books exploring gender identity helped with gender construction and expression within modern society?' and my key aims were:
1. The evolution of expression regarding gender identity between traditional and modern picture books
2. Impact on child development regarding their understanding and knowledge of the subject, comparing current with previous views
3. Views and intentions of illustrators regarding diversity and inclusion
Gender is something that fascinates me in regards to breaking stereotypes, traditional views as opposed to the current era, feminism etc. I have always been interested in picture books and this has been more recently brought to my attention as I'm now re-reading most books again to my young nephew which has highlighted lots of issues. I plan to learn more on the reasonings behind gender choices within characters, and how this is changing as society evolves. One thing which this could also lead to is traditional family life, the way 'normal' was mum dad and kids, the typical nuclear family, whereas in the current period there is no normal. My personal opinion on this topic, as a child from a non-nuclear family, wonders why children's books struggle to display the non stereotypical gender roles and family situations. Picture books are impressional texts aimed at young people that embody social norms - and I want to understand how we break this 'norm'.
What is gender stereotype? Gender stereotyping involves a generalisation or preconception of behaviours, characteristics or roles carried out by male and female texts. This can be harmful towards men and women as it may limit their abilities/capabilities due to the misconceptions of their gender.
What is a picture book? A picture book is a book which is most commonly written for children, containing lots of visual and verbal elements. They use pictures and words to create meaning and help children understand and learn that words convey meanings, particularly through the use of contextual clues.