Children’s literature abounds with books full of strong males, so much so that I actually get excited when a new book comes out showcasing a strong female just for the fact that there s a strong female in the book. It shouldn’t be that way. Our species has a general 1:1 gender ratio, changing a bit through various ages. In the old adage that art imitates life (or life imitates art), we should see a much larger number of female characters in books. We don’t. Of those female characters we do meet, most are secondary at best or portrayed as a weak character.
The idea of reading books with our daughters that showcase some of the stronger female characters isn’t new. I’m happy to say that most of the parents I know seek out books with strong female leads to share with their daughters. It’s an exciting thing to share good literature with someone you love, and while I would love to cheer this fact on, I’m left with an incomplete feeling: Why are they only sharing these books with their daughters?
Reality shows me that those parents of daughters looking for strong female leads for their daughters aren’t looking for those same books for their sons. The parents of only sons or of children whose daughters aren’t old enough for the more involved chapter books aren’t even looking (generalization, yes, but you see my point). There is a giant disparity here.
Books with strong female characters are not just for our daughters; they are also for our sons. Good books are good books, and given the opportunity, our sons enjoy books with strong female leads just as much as our daughters. Some of my ten year old son’s favorite books have strong female characters and female leads. A good book is a good book.
So why do parents search out to equalize the characters in books for their daughters but not their sons? Those books with strong female characters show strength for our daughters but seem to be lacking for our sons. In other words, it is fine for girls to identify with male characters, but female characters are lacking when it comes to boys. It’s sexism in literature, and the majority of parents are unintentionally perpetuating this concept with their children.
What can be done about it? Share good books, including those with strong female leads with your children, regardless of gender. Discuss books with your kids. Point out disparities, listen to their ideas, share your thoughts, and make a difference.