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Western Australian academic criticizes childhood classics like Dr Seuss and Disney for sexist stereotypes

Classic children’s stories such as Harry the Dog, Dr Seuss and Disney stories have been criticized by an Australian academic for being “outdated, sexist and racist.”

dr. Helen Adam of Edith Cowan University in Western Australia says many family favorites should be taken off the shelves and replaced with more inclusive books.

“The world depicted in children’s books reflects predominantly heterosexual male heroes and middle-class characters,” says Dr. Adam in a new study.

“Unfortunately, data from the past 30 years points to a long-standing problem with gender representation in children’s books.

“Representation of children and families outside of traditional heteronormative views are usually absent from children’s books.”

Western Australian academic criticizes childhood classics like Dr Seuss and

Family favorites such as Harry the Dog, Dr Seuss and Disney have been criticized by an Australian academic for being “outdated, sexist and racist” (Pictured, Hilary Duff as Cinderella)

“Disney stories, in both print and visual media, perpetuate racism,” claims senior educator Dr Helen Adam (pictured, scene from Frozen II)

“Disney stories, in both print and visual media, perpetuate racism,” claims senior educator Dr Helen Adam (pictured, scene from Frozen II)

“Disney stories, in both print and visual media, perpetuate racism,” claims senior educator Dr Helen Adam (pictured, scene from Frozen II)

Harry The Dog came under fire for using the “gender pronoun “he” for the main character” and showing “active” boys brushing the dog while “grooming” girls petted him.

In Gene Zion’s 1956 classic, the male characters were 3:1 in the majority, noted and portrayed a nuclear family with a homemaker mother and a businessman father.

Some books by Dr. Seuss, like the Cat In The Hat published in 1957, were attacked for promoting white supremacy and racism through the characters and storyline.

“Dr. Seuss’s books portray minority cultures in stereotypical or exotic ways and often in subordinate roles to white characters,” wrote Dr. Adam in a previous study.

Harry The Dog (pictured) uses the gender pronoun 'he' and 'depicts a nuclear family'

Harry The Dog (pictured) uses the gender pronoun 'he' and 'depicts a nuclear family'

dr.  Helen Adam (pictured) says many children's classics should be taken off the shelves and replaced with more inclusive books

dr.  Helen Adam (pictured) says many children's classics should be taken off the shelves and replaced with more inclusive books

Harry The Dog (pictured left) uses the gendered pronoun “he” and “depicts a nuclear family,” says Dr Helen Adam (pictured right)

dr.  Adam claims that animal stories from Dr.  Seuss often convey racist messages through symbolism and allegories (pictured, a scene from The Cat On The Hat, starring Mike Myers)

dr.  Adam claims that animal stories from Dr.  Seuss often convey racist messages through symbolism and allegories (pictured, a scene from The Cat On The Hat, starring Mike Myers)

dr. Adam claims that animal stories from Dr. Seuss often convey racist messages through symbolism and allegories (pictured, a scene from The Cat On The Hat, starring Mike Myers)

“Dr Seuss animal stories often convey racist messages through symbolism and allegories.”

The oft-inspiring Disney classics — including Moana, Frozen, and Snow White — have also been blamed for perpetuating racial divides and gender stereotypes.

“Disney stories, in both print and visual media, perpetuate racism,” claimed senior educator Dr. Adam.

“Disney stories ruthlessly define the United States as white, middle-class and heterosexual and often serve to reproduce sexist, racist and colonial ideologies.”

The study – co-authored with Laurie Harper – was based on an analysis of the books read or given to children in daycare centers in Australia and the US.

It found that about 90 percent of their widely read books “do not feature various characters and are largely told from a white, male perspective.”

1638839261 323 Western Australian academic criticizes childhood classics like Dr Seuss and

1638839261 323 Western Australian academic criticizes childhood classics like Dr Seuss and

“Disney stories ruthlessly define the United States as white, middle-class and heterosexual and often serve to reproduce sexist, racist and colonial ideologies.” says the study (depicted a scene from Disney’s Cinderella)

dr. Adam added: ‘Pure and simple, this research shows that in these books there is a lack of representation of boys and girls in non-traditional gender roles.

‘Research over many years is clear about the negative impact of sexism and gender stereotypes on child development.

Gender bias makes boys feel entitled to them, lowers girls’ self-esteem and professional aspirations, and teaches children that girls are of less value than boys.

‘Female characters from ethnic minority groups, but also characters other than heteronormative gender identities are even less often represented.’

dr.  Seuss books such as the Cat In The Hat (pictured), published in 1957, were attacked for promoting white supremacy and racism through its characters and storyline

dr.  Seuss books such as the Cat In The Hat (pictured), published in 1957, were attacked for promoting white supremacy and racism through its characters and storyline

dr. Seuss books such as the Cat In The Hat (pictured), published in 1957, were attacked for promoting white supremacy and racism through its characters and storyline

GENDER PROBLEMS IN CHILDREN’S BOOKS

HARRY THE DIRTY DOG

‘Illustrations show a preference for male representation and stereotypes of men. Only seven adult women portrayed… only one works outside the home, as a shop assistant. Gender pronoun ‘he’ for the main character [the dog]. Nuclear family depicted with clothes and activities involving a housewife as a housewife and businessman father.

I WANT TO BECOME A POLICE OFFICER

‘There are more men than women 15:3. Male officers are on pages next to or with equipment, horses, bicycles, motorcycles, airplanes, boats, police cars, vehicle inspections and a ranger tower. In contrast, the three females are depicted in passive and ‘friendly’ roles.’ This portrayal of women as passive and emotional is in stark contrast to the male officers on active duty.

CLOTHING LINES

“No men depicted in what might be considered traditional female roles.”

She believes many books are on today’s reading lists because the teachers were given them as children, often by parents or teachers who also loved them as children.

dr. Adam has suggested giving kids a new reading list, focusing more on titles written in the last 20-30 years than on the classics.

Books on her suggested reading list include Scott Stuart’s My Shadow Is Pink, Who’s Your Real Mum? by Bernadette Green and want to play trucks? by Ann Stot.

“Many centers had mostly older books, some first published in the 1950s or 1960s, when society’s views on these subjects were very different from what they are today,” said Dr. Adam.

Most books promoted traditional, binary and stereotypical views on gender and gender roles.

“It’s great to see more inclusive children’s literature being published now.

“While books are becoming more diverse and there is more balance between female and male protagonists, many of the roles these characters play still only reflect traditional gender roles and expectations.

“This makes it challenging for adults to choose powerful books to share with children.”

Gender equality in early childhood picture books: A cross-cultural study of commonly read picture books in early childhood classrooms in Australia and the United States was published in The Australian Educational Researcher.

The often inspirational Disney stories — including Moana, Frozen (pictured), and Snow White — have also been blamed for perpetuating racial divides and gender stereotypes.

The often inspirational Disney stories — including Moana, Frozen (pictured), and Snow White — have also been blamed for perpetuating racial divides and gender stereotypes.

The often inspirational Disney stories — including Moana, Frozen (pictured), and Snow White — have also been blamed for perpetuating racial divides and gender stereotypes.

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