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Dec 13, 2013 (3 years and 10 months ago)

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GENDER BEHAVIOR AND
IDENTITY IN CHILDREN’S
BOOKS

Queering Children’s Literature

What is gender/gender identity


“Learned behaviors and attitudes supposed to
correspond with biological sex” (Meem,432).


Male: typical and appropriate behavior for someone
who is male: a man; a boy; a guy.


Female: typical and appropriate behavior for
someone who is female: a woman; a girl


“Your identity as it is experienced with regard to your
individuality as male or female; awareness normally
begins in infancy and is reinforced during
adolescence”
(wordnetweb.princeton.edu/
perl
/
webwn
).


Typical Male and Female Behavior

Male Behavior:



Masculinity/domineering
and active



Decision Making



Career/ Making Money



Education



Masculine Dress Code



Shared Goals



Accomplishing Tasks



Doing something
concrete

Female Behavior:



Femininity/ meek and
mild



Housework



Education



Social Abilities



Child Care



Feminine Dress Code



Connection



Doing something for
someone else

Gender Roles; Wikipedia and Gooden; article

What is Queer Theory


Queer Theory is the idea that there are many ways
to enact gender.


Queer theory relies upon the belief that identity is:
“an unstable, shifting constellation of identity
categories” (Parker, 162).


Queer theory maintains that gender is
“polymorphous,”


it takes many forms (Parker,
164).


Gender is a constant production. Gender is a
binary obsession (Parker, 169 and176).

Queer Theory Continued


Queer Theory follows Judith Butler’s argument that
we perform gender.


“Identity is performed rather than static” (Butler).


We build models of gender through repetition. The
more we see it, the more we know what to do to
recreate and enact it.


“The idea of identity as a performance can suggest
that anything goes, that people can choose
whatever performance they want” (Parker, 167).

Why is this important to Children’s
Literature?


“Books are often the primary source for the
presentation of societal values for the young child”
(Ya
-
Lun
, Arbuthnot).


Children’s books are a “valuable venue for
children‘s development,” but they “unfortunately
reflect engrained societal attitudes and biases in
the available choices and expectations assigned to
different genders” (Gooden).

Children’s Book: Examples 1


Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish: Amelia takes everything
she reads literally, but she is completely forgiven for her
blunders as long as she can make a great pie. So even
though she queers the idea of being female, she fits into a
female role.


Are you there God, it’s me, Margaret


by Judy Blume she
spends the whole book being a typical girl, only to realize
it’s overrated.


Nancy Drew


although she’s an amazing detective, she
goes around wearing dresses and trying very hard to fit in
to the female role. Queers: Takes a male role and makes it
female.


Babysitters Club


even goes so far as to build Kristin in the
typical gender roles of a tomboy. You can not be a tomboy
without masculine values


without the “gender norms.”



Children’s Books: Examples 2


Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery


although she
ends up marrying a man, and displays female gender norms
throughout the book, she has a decidedly queer relationship
with her best friend and her adopted aunt.


The Boxcar Children Series by Gertrude Warner


Henry
and Jessie, though siblings, play the roles of mother and
father. Violet plays the role of the maiden aunt. And Benny
plays the role of being the child, except
-

he loves a little,
slightly cracked, pink cup!


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling


Harry
and Ron go through a “break
-
up” period in this novel. It
mimics a lot of teen break
-
up stories.


A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt


Jeffery is in love with his
mother. He queers the role of the child and the parent.

The idea behind the point…


If we had different words for gender, or a lack of
gender, maybe there wouldn’t be this insane need to be
normal/typical.


If we allowed children the opportunity to be gender
atypical, in any representation they felt comfortable
with, then we, as a society, might be more accepting.


Female cannot exist without male, the same way gay
cannot exist without straight. I think it’s time to live
outside the binary and become more evolved.


Gender is an important issue for children and adults, it
informs us of who and how we are. Isn’t it time for more
options?

The point: queer theory


Whether or not there are any children’s books that
display gender atypical behavior, I think there is a
case to be made that almost every children’s book,
or children’s book series, has a queer element. As
such, they can be studied as queer theory as well as
children’s literature. Maybe this way, children’s
books can be used to help society expand and
accept different identities or identity
interpretations.