Picture images of girls and women in children's literature
Caldecott Medal and Honor books, Boston Globe Horn Book Award-winning and Honor books, and New York Times Choice of Best Illustrated Children's Books of the Year Award (N = 294), representing two separate time periods, 1967-1976 and 1987-1996, were examined for character prevalence and content of illustrations to determine whether modern sexism exists in books for preschool age children. Findings indicated that female and male characters were not represented equally in illustrations. Overall, there were significantly more boys/men presented than girls/women. There was a significant increase in the number of boys/men pictured over time, yet no difference was found for girls/women over time. Girls/women were presented in subordinate and degrading images more often than men. Females were more likely than males to be presented in passive roles, shorter, in deference (body bent over, head tilted), receiving instruction, and expressing fear. Boys/men were more likely to be shown grasping girls/women in shoulder-holds and hand-holds. Contrary to prediction, males were more often shown below and behind females, and employing touch more often than females. No differences were found between girls/women and boys/men on the remaining seven categories examined. These findings on images were strengthened through the analysis of visual cues. Raters interpreted visual cues differently for female and male characters on the factors of activity, potency, and evaluation. Specifically, boys/men were rated as more active and potent, and were evaluated more negatively than girls/women. Pictures from 1967-1976 contained more subordinate images of girls/women and dominant images of boys/men than those from 1987-1996, with the exception of one analysis. Boys/men from 1967-1976 were more likely to be presented as sucking/biting fingers than boys/men from 1987-1996. Post hoc analyses were conducted to determine whether (a) girls/women of European ethnicity and of African/Asian/Hispanic ethnicity were portrayed in subordinating/degrading images more often than boys/men of the same cultural background and (b) a difference exists between participant scores on the Modern Sexism scale and ratings of pictures on the Semantic Differential. ^
Literature, Modern|Psychology, Social|Women's Studies
Diane Marie Turner-Bowker,
"Picture images of girls and women in children's literature"
Dissertations and Master's Theses (Campus Access).