Musings on children's and YA literature, the academy, and the relationship between them, from an English professor and mother.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

who were your role models?

Some years ago I wrote an article about role models in children's literature, wondering how far we can take the question of "identification." Do strong female characters produce strength in their readers? I couldn't answer the question--I don't do empirical research!--but I do think it's worth continuing to talk about the issue. Here's a nice piece in Parent Central that takes up some recent heroines and how they differ from their predecessors.

Girl heroes take spectacular flight -

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  1. My role models were both male and female when I was growing up; it didn't really make a difference to me (the character I identified with--or wished I could--in the book I reread most? Aragorn)

    As the mother of a son, it seems to me that the tide has turned completely. As we left the new Alice in Wonderland movie last weekend, he turned to me and said "well, that was another girl empowerment story, wasn't it?"

  2. I think this may be part of the problem, though. Girls have always been taught/told that they could/should identify with boys--I was told that I should be able to identify with Holden Caulfield, for example. But boys are explicitly and implicitly told they cannot or should not identify with girls. "Man"/male is the default that = "everyone" while "woman"/female is specific. Thus the girl empowerment stories are only for girls, whereas generic empowerment stories have male characters.

  3. It's true to some extent that girl empowerment stories are only for girls, just as girls can wear suits but boys can't wear dresses. I think he was reacting mostly to the framing story, though--he identified with Alice when she's in "underland" in the movie.