On Mandela & My Hope

It wasn’t an unusual morning. The sun was brilliant by six am, my bedroom was beginning to bake in the Mombasa heat and my washing was still left forgotten on the line, swaying in the breeze. It was when I … Continue reading

Lets Teach our Students how to be People – Not ‘Boys’ & ‘Girls’

This past week I was acting Teacher Librarian in a school and was left “Once upon a Motorcycle Dude” by Kevin O’Malley to ready to the little ones. Partway through reading the story I was getting upset because of the stereotypes being portrayed and reinforced throughout the book. But, much to my relief, was pleasantly surprised.

"Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude"

“Once Upon a Cool Motorcycle Dude”

We have a Princess in distress because her ponies (almost all 8 of them) are being stolen by a mean giant. The story is being told by two kids (a boy and a girl) who just can’t agree on how the story should go. In the boys story instead of a Prince it’s a ‘cool motorcycle dude’ who only helps the Princess if her father agrees to have the Princess make gold thread every day for him. He agrees and the Princess is left to “just sit there and make gold thread” while the ‘cool motorcycle dude’ gets filthy rich!

The girls story includes a princess who has all these Princes trying to help her, but to no avail they cannot. She decides to “go to the gym and pump some iron” to become a ‘Warrior Princess’ and to fight the evil giant herself.

The two characters creating this story end up agreeing that they could fight the evil giant together. But then the female character adds that they fall in love and get married and have a little baby girl, which the boy ends up changing to be a little baby boy.

While I’m not 100% on board with the message this book brings as I still feel it’s reinforcing unfair stereotypes  .

Females… Males…
– Concerned about love, marriage, babies, ponies and want things to be pretty/ cute – Don’t care about love, marriage & romance in stories and want to look cool and tough
– Are passive and cannot choose for themselves – Don’t need female help
– Need men (father, prince, motorcycle dude) to help them. – Take from others for their own gain (money)
– End of the story has the female’s pony being saved by the male & a wedding. – End of the story has the male being “filthy rich” because the female makes him gold for the rest of his life.

I do like how it tries to break through some of them and has the Princess choosing to help herself and be strong. Although, the story doesn’t change much of how males are being unjustly represented.

What was interesting and very bothersome to me was the reactions of the kindergarten and grade 1/2 students upon hearing this book. Most boys only liked the male characters point of view and really liked the tough motorcycle dude. These young boys also found the girls story to be silly and unbelievable since it would “never happen” and is “wrong.” The girls reaction was positive to the princess being the heroine in the story.

Princess saving herself and giving the option to the Prince to make his own thread, but does not have him indebted to her like he did in the Boy's story.

Princess saving herself and giving the option to the Prince to make his own thread, but does not have him indebted to her like he did in the Boy’s story.

It’s alarming seeing how early stereotypes and notions of what’s considered normal or outrageous are set into these young minds. It’s totally normal to have a ‘cool dude’ only do things to become rich and take things from a woman who now has to spend the rest of her life spinning gold thread for him. Yet it’s completely outrageous to think of a girl fighting a giant on her own and saving herself. We need more examples of what’s normal for men and women in the books we read  to these students and in the lives around them.

It’s bothersome to think that a story featuring sensitive but strong Prince who is saved by a sensitive but strong Princess would be “wrong” to a child. Perhaps the focus should be being good people and not being a ‘good boy’ or a ‘good girl’ whatever those stereotypes might be.

Boy's definitely wouldn't be interested in "love" or have that be part of their story

Boy’s definitely wouldn’t be interested in “love” or have that be part of their story