Children's books littered with gender inequality, American study suggests

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A comprehensive study of traditional children's book characters has determined that Pooh Corner may be rife with gender inequality, reported late last week.

Janice McCabe, a sociologist at Florida State University, examined nearly 6,000 children's books published between 1900 and 2000 and determined the stories have a definitive gender bias and a disproportionate representation of genders.

"We found that males are represented more frequently than females in the titles and the central characters in the books," McCabe told FOX News Radio.

Some 57 percent of the children's stories featured male characters, 31 percent featured female characters and the remainder had animal characters of unknown gender identity, according to the study.

McCabe said she was surprised that modern-day children's stories don't include more female characters. "I had kind of expected that books would start off in 1900 being unequal and become more equal over time," she said.

"We were surprised by the historical patterns and by the animals. The fact that the animals were the most unequal — and even in the 1990s there were still two male animals to every one female animal."

McCabe said gender matters in children's stories because it's in part how they learn about gender.

"These findings reinforce the belief that female characters are less important, less interesting than male characters, which has implications for how both boys and girls feel about themselves and each other in relationships," she said.

But some parents believe the study is off the mark.

"This is crazy," said Bryan Thrower, the parent of a 17-month-old in Florence, S.C. "Are they upset because Mary had a garden and Old MacDonald had a farm? This is more politically correct nonsense."

But McCabe said the pattern also exists in other children's media including cartoons, coloring books and G-rated films.

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