German children's books still tell different stories to girls than they do to boys

Sueddeutsche Zeitung conducted its own analysis of keywords, themes and vocabulary in the books aimed at girls and at boys, and found some shocking differences

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
German children's books still tell different stories to girls than they do to boys - NewsMavens
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Why this story matters:

Gendered marketing is not news, of course -- but how harmful can it get? The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung spoke to several experts and conducted its own research into the differences between the books marketed for boys and those meant for girls in their country. They found some stark differences.

Books aimed at girls not only featured more pretty images and pink covers, they also tended to focus on domestic matters.

While the protagonists in boys' books explored the Asian jungle or the South Pole and met pirates and exotic characters, girls were confined to everyday life, with the occasional horseback ride. There was far less adventure and far more housework involved.

Books for girls were the equivalent of intellectual fast food -- much too sweet and not nearly nourishing enough.

Details from the story:

  • Books marketed at boys and girls don't just have different covers, the quality of the stories told in them is very different.
  • Books for boys show much more adventure, exploration, and unpredictable events. Female characters in such books, if they appear at all, usually play a supporting role, like a mother cooking dinner.
  • Children's literature responds to the larger trends in the society: for example, the second wave of feminism in the 70s brought with it books about adventurous, non-stereotypical girls, like Ronja the Robber's Daughter.
  • Books like that, however, are still rare.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

The information and views set out on this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Neither the European Union institutions and bodies nor any person acting on their behalf may be held responsible for the use which may be made of the information contained therein.

NewsMavens is a media start-up within Gazeta Wyborcza, Poland's largest liberal broadsheet published by Agora S.A. NewsMavens is currently financed by Gazeta Wyborcza and Google DNI Fund.
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