Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Overthinking Again

Q's been just crazy over his Richard Scarry book, What Do People Do All Day? The illustrations are fabulously detailed, showing a "Busytown" of anthropomorphic animals as they go about their business, growing crops, selling automobiles, and constructing roads.

I loved the stories myself as a child, but upon a second visit, I realize that the gender roles are a bit . . . traditional. The builders, farmers, firefighters, and mail carriers are all male, leaving the females to tend house and sew dresses. Not that there's anything wrong with tending house and sewing dresses, because I do both (or have at some point, in any case).

Is this unbalanced role modeling going to have negative impacts?

My mom pointed out that the characters also use manual typewriters and rotary phones with big curly cables, so the whole of Busytown could use an update. I think we can safely say that with judicious reminders that the book is a period piece, it'll be ok.

After all, it was a favorite of mine too, and the lasting effect it had on me was that I decided that I wanted to be Bug-Bug, with my own bulldozer.

11 comments:

Mamacita Tina said...

Definitely outdated, but still loved. We're going through a Curious George craze here, not exactly politically correct, but we can talk about things.

Suzanne said...

I remember a Richard Scarry story (in Greatest Storybook Ever) that involved a bear family hunting seals -- they even showed a bear (the female, of course) sewing the skin into a coat. When I bought that book for my kids, that story was no longer included!

Lawyer Mama said...

I loved that book too. I'm sure my kids would too.

A few months ago, I tried to read my 3 year old a book of Disney fairy tales someone had given him. After the first page of Snow White, I had to close it in disgust and make up my own modern fairy tale for him. When he's old enough to understand that women don't need to be rescued, then we'll revisit it!

mayberry said...

The bug is my all-time favorite from those books too.

PunditMom said...

Even with the gender isues, the illustrations are great!

Occidental Girl said...

Umm, yeah, outdated just a bit, but lovable in its own way. I noticed in one of the books that daddy is doing the dishes, so I liked to focus on that particular page.

kittenpie said...

Well, exactly, let's not forget that these are OLD books. I have also been finding them very didactic in parts, but somehow, Pumpkinpie loves them anyhow, so, I'm game.

Bon said...

my mom and i were actually giggling at O's Richard Scarry book the other day, because the mommy and daddy rabbit were both in the kitchen, with mommy chopping and daddy cooking at the stove. and i asked my mom if that wasn't an update from the Richard Scarry of my childhood...and she definitely thought yes.

but yeh, much as i love love love those books, they're a little old school. we'll read 'em and talk about 'em.

Michele said...

Hi. Thanks for posting this, it reminded me that I should buy a Richard Scarry book for my almost three year nephew. Also it reminded me of something I read awhile back about the book becoming politically correct. I did a search and came up this this. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kokogiak/sets/1425737/with/66087367/

I wish we had my sisters old copy.

I really enjoy your blog, thanks.

Alex Elliot said...

We have the same book. Every once in a while I'll say that boys can do the same thing or vice versa.

Lady M said...

Michele - I'm so fascinated with that flickr collection. Now I want to find new versions for comparison!