Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What Children Draw (An Interesting Sociological Study... Perhaps)

Courtesy of Max

I thought I might be away from this space for a while, but a recent discovery over at Amazon sent me into a bit of a tizzy, spinning around on my heels, spouting all kinds of exclamatory words! Yep, like: Wha?! Huh?! Bwaaah! Get out!

First, a minor diversion and disclosure: the dining room is not nearly far enough away from the kitchen. In fact, I'm pretty sure Virginia Woolf was not envisioning the dining room when she wrote "... a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction..."  Somehow, in between Amazon and logging in here to speed blog, I find myself in my dining room—the new "room of my own" (being the only part of Woolf's equation that I am currently able to address)sitting at this long, book and paper-strewn table, before my laptop, with an empty bag of Pepperidge Farm Sausalito Chocolate Chunk (milk chocolate macadamia, to die for) crispy cookies. I vaguely remember sauntering into the kitchen to fill my empty glass with water, but for the life of me I can't recall pushing open the door to the kitchen pantry. I dare say, perhaps it was the pantry that seized me, imprisoning me in its fragrant, shelf-lined walls, torturing me with its bags of treats and munchies. Wouldn't anyone break under such pressure? It's all a blur. Suffice it to say that it would be of tremendous help if the kitchen were much more than yards away from the dining area, if there were between the room of my own and the kitchen a series of obstacles, such as stairs, doors, streets, tunnels, valley's, mountains, and a large water source.

But that's neither here, nor there, so... back at Amazon I found a couple books of interest (the ones that sent me into a queer oscillation):

See... boys doodle. And girls doodle.

The above books are marketed to kids between 9-12 years old as arts and crafts, how-to books. Inside you'll find "Amazing Pictures to Complete and Create."  But do you notice anything odd here? Yes, that's true, The Girl's Doodle Book is blue. Hmmm.  The Boy's Doodle Book is red. Hmmm. Trying to keep the colors gender-neutral? (Wouldn't they then be green or yellow?) More  likely the intent is to distract one from the obvious with its subliminal color swapyou know: boys = blue; girls = a shade of red—as traditionally conceived within the color spectrum. Once deceived by the hue, the particular pigment, one may not notice what lies within. But look closer and you'll find the doodle images on the Boy's Doodle book red cover to be rather, um, masculine: Ship, shark, medieval knight in shining armor. And on the blue cover of the Girls Doodle book, just as you'd expect, doodles of a more feminine nature: tiara, unicorn, ballerina. (My apologizies for categorizing doodles in this manner, butahemI just can't help it.)

Inside the red book are, among other things, drawings of 1) a mad scientist and mechanical feet, with the caption: Invent a robot; 2) space-suited men with guns, saucers flying in space and a goblin looking thing, with the caption: Alien invasion!; and, 3) armored warriors, with the caption: Make their shields scary. You get the picture (really, no pun intended).

Want to know what's in the blue book? ('Course you do.) Here are more samples: 1) a costumed princess in a theatre, with the caption: Shower the diva with flowers; 2) a table topped with a cake stand, caption saying: Create your perfect party cake; and, 3) French courtesans, and the statement: Give Mademoiselle big hair.

You know where I'm headed with this right? Look, I am not a bra-burner, I am not a self-proclaimed feminist (though I am a feminist)only because I thought the women's movement (remember back when?) had equalized the sexes. Somewhat. To some degree. To some acceptable degree. A teensy weeny bit? But these books for 9 to 12 year olds, published in 2008, SCREAM sexism, blatant bigotry, partiality, chauvinism. (Really, Running Press Kids [publisher], did you not notice the obvious sexual stereotype here?) And despite the fact that I don't see myself as a self-proclaimed feminist, I must admit: I am the mother who bought my son and daughter, from the very beginning of time, gender-neutral toys/things. (Oh, hell, ok, I'm a FEMINIST!) Until they started making their own requests... for not so gender-neutral toys/things.  

And then I started to notice something in my own kids' doodles (w/out books or any other type of aid):

Sampling of the Little Man's doodles over the years:




And the Little (lady) One's doodles over the years:

"Love makes the world go round."

Love is everywhere.

Cutest 'lil fellers. Love. Love. Love.

Do you know what's even more interesting than the books' content? Amazon's customer book reviewsall, incredibly, glowing accolade. "Excellent concept, fun!" charges one dad. "Amazing! Seems like it was created for my son!" states another. A mother proclaims that (paraphrasing here) she bought the "Girls" book for her daughters and friends, but really, she got it for herself. (Seriously?! Thanks for taking us back a few years.) "Fun!" cries another mom. "The illustrations are so nice!"  

Not one feminist outcry. Not one.

Yes, an interesting sociological study indeed.


  1. Delightful, Jayne! I love the kids' images; very funny! (You should see my Sammy's robot battles and Star Wars drawings... or Cat Man. And I DO consider myself a feminist, most definitely!) Anyway, outside forces are always at work (hopefully that didn't just sound conspiracy-theory-ish). This was a great read!

  2. I like browsing your site because you can always bring us new and awesome stuff, I feel that I must at least say a thank you for your hard work.

    - Henry

  3. Well spotted. How could you not spot this foolishness? I mean blind Freddie could see the absolute inanity of such knuckle dragging stupidity.When I first saw the covers
    I thought hmmm, interesting 1920's find from an antique shoppe, but finding out the 2008 publishing date had me kinda squirming.
    Hell in a handbasket I tells ya!
    Good strong post. I stand alongside you in outrage

  4. Dan- Not to mention the whole premise here, being a doodle "starter". I didn't bring this up - so many angles to discuss here - but how about a clean sheet of paper?
    Hell in handbaskets is right.