A professor in Australia has called classic stories for children, such as Dr Seuss’s Harry the Dog, Dr Seuss’s Dr Seuss tales, and Disney stories, “outdated”, sexist, and racist.”
Edith Cowan University in Western Australia says that many beloved family books should be removed and replaced with more inclusive titles.
In a recent study, Dr Adam stated that children’s literature reflected primarily middle-class, heterosexual characters and heroes.
“Sadly, there is evidence that gender representation has been a problem in children’s literature for the past 30 years.
“Representation of children or families other than the traditional heteronormative understandings is most frequently absent from children’s literature.”
Australian academic has criticized family favourites such as Dr Seuss, Harry the Dog and Disney for being “outdated, racist and sexist”. (Pictured: Hilary Duff portraying Cinderella).
Senior education lecturer Helen Adam asserts that Disney stories in both print and visual media perpetuate racism. (pictured: Frozen II scene).
Harry the Dog was criticized for his use of the “gendered pronoun” he for the main character and for showing that boys were active in brushing and that girls were praising him.
She noted that male characters were three times more common than females in Gene Zion’s 1956 masterpiece. It depicted a nuclear family, with a businessman father and a mother who is a homemaker.
A few Dr Seuss books such as The Cat in the Hat were published in 1957 and criticised for encouraging white supremacy, racism, and its story line.
In an earlier study, Dr Adam wrote that “Dr Seuss books depict minority cultures in stereotypically exotic or subservient positions to white characters.”
Harry the Dog (pictured below) uses the gendered pronoun “he” and “depicts an nuclear family,” says Dr Helen Adam (pictured above).
Dr Adam says Dr Seuss stories about animals often convey racist messages through symbolisms, allegories, and symbols (pictured is a scene in The Cat On The Hat featuring Mike Myers).
“Dr Seuss’ animal stories can often convey racist messages through symbolism or allegories.”
The often-inspiring Disney classics – including Moana, Frozen and Snow White – were also blamed for perpetuating racial divides and gender stereotypes.
Senior education lecturer Dr Adam stated that Disney stories in both print and visual media perpetuate racism.
“Disney stories invariably define America as white, middle-class, and heterosexual, and they often reproduce racist, sexist and colonial ideas.”
Laurie Harper and I co-authored this study. We analysed the books that were read by or given to kids in Australian daycare centres.
According to the study, 90% of books that are frequently read by them ‘aren’t inclusive of diverse characters’ and ‘largely tell stories from a white male perspective.
“Disney stories continually define the United States of America as white, middle class, heterosexual and reproduce sexist racist and colonial ideologies,” he said. According to the study, (pictured is a scene from Disney’s Cinderella).
Dr Adam said that the research showed that there is a dearth of representations of girls and boys in roles other than traditional gender roles within these books.
Research over many years has clearly shown the detrimental effects of gender stereotyping and sexism on children’s growth.
Gender bias gives boys the sense of entitlement, lowers self-esteem and aspirations of girls, and instils in them the belief that girls are less valuable than boys.
“Female characters representing minority groups and characters from other gender identities than heteronormative are much less likely to be represented.”
Published in 1957 by Dr Seuss (pictured), books such as The Cat In The Hat were attacked because they promoted white supremacy, racism and its storyline through the characters and storyline.
According to her, many of the books in current reading lists were handed to teachers by their parents when they were young. Sometimes these teachers loved them too.
Dr Adam suggested a revised reading list for children. It would be more focused on books written in the past 20-30 years rather than classics.
Her reading suggestions include Scott Stuart’s My Shadow Is Pink and Who’s Your Real Mum. Bernadette and Are You Ready To Play Trucks? Ann Stott.
Dr Adam explained that many centres used older books. Some were published as early as the 1960s or 1970s when society was much different.
“The majority of these books encouraged traditional, binary, and stereotypical views on gender and gender roles.
“It’s great to see more inclusive literature for children being published.”
“While books have become more diverse, with greater representation of male and female leads, many characters are still portrayed in traditional roles that reflect gender norms and expectations.
“This means that it is difficult for adults to choose empowering books to read with their children.
The Australian Educational Researcher has published Gender Equity in Early Childhood Picture Books: A Cross-Cultural Study of Frequently Read Picture Books in Early Childhood Classrooms in Australia and America.
Moana and Frozen, among others, are often inspirational Disney stories that can be blamed for perpetuating stereotypes of gender and racial identity.