Guest post by Dan Bye in a comment on She said the s word.
Does everyone know the Mr Men series of children’s books, originally by Roger Hargreaves (since his death the franchise has been picked up by his son)?
There was a subsequent series of Little Miss books, which you could see as a response to accusations that the original series was too male-orientated. The accusation wasn’t without some substance, but if you compare the Mr Men characters with the Little Miss characters, you notice something very interesting.
Here’s the list of books, in case you don’t know them:
Notice a few things (I’m generalising, but the stereotypes are there nonetheless).
First of all, the male characters seem to be grown-ups. The Little Miss characters seem not to be, in general.
Secondly look at the way positive and negative characteristics are constructed. Some are common, so you have Little Miss Chatterbox as well as Mr Chatterbox, and Little Miss Greedy as well as Mr Greedy.
You have Little Miss Bossy, Little Miss Fickle, Little Miss Brainy, Little Miss Contrary, Little Miss Dotty, Little Miss Giggles, Little Miss Princess, etc etc. These are quite gender specific. There’s no Mr Brainy, but there is Mr Clever. Note the difference.
Thirdly, some of the Mr Men embody *activity* -Mr Bump, Mr Tickle. They *do* things, and what they do defines them for the purpose of the book. There are few female equivalents – almost all are abstract personality factors. There’s Little Miss Somersault, I guess.
There was a point to this. Oh, yeah, stereotypes!