It starting to look more and more apparent that we’re culturally progressing off a cliff as even works of fiction become progressively more sanitised beyond recognition. I say this as the Guardian recently reported that;
‘Several schools across Barcelona are considering purging their libraries of stereotypical and sexist children’s books, after one removed around 200 titles, including Little Red Riding Hood and the story of the legend of Saint George, from its library.’
Furthermore this decision comes from an organisation, Associació Espai i Lleure. The project aims to highlight hidden sexist content present within works of fiction. I know I heard audible gasps of absolute horror as people only just realised that these stories are filled with content that might shock and offend. But in my opinion (if I’m even allowed to have one anymore) fairy tales and their darker counter parts are an important part of our world especially when looking at the history of Europe. Also regardless of the interpretation be it the original works, or spin offs, to retroactively take them off the shelves suggests to me that you underestimate the intelligence of children.
The further illustrate this point;
The group reviewed the characters in each book, whether or not they speak and what roles they perform, finding that 30% of the books were highly sexist, had strong stereotypes and were, in its opinion, of no pedagogical value.
First of all, who gets to decide the value of these stories. And second of all, why does it always boil down to the inescapable truth that the people that complain the most about depictions in fiction have a real hard time separating that fiction from reality. A text’s value as a resource is down how the teacher approaches the subject. There’s a lesson in everything after all. A good teacher can figure how to approach any story and context even if the depictions are apparently negative.
Also it doesn’t take long for the problem to be directed against the real original sin that is masculinity.
Anna Tutzó, a parent who is on the commission, told El País that “society is changing and is more aware of the issue of gender, but this is not being reflected in stories”. Masculinity is associated with competitiveness and courage, and “in violent situations, even though they are just small pranks, it is the boy who acts against the girl”, which “sends a message about who can be violent and against whom”.
The determined emphasis on killing competitiveness really concerns me. The idea that even courage could be considered negative is also surprising but not unexpected. But it all boils down to the message about who can be violent and against whom. You could argue this same logic applies to video games. The notion that children are willing to act on stories or perceive them as anything but fiction is as irrational as it gets. It worries me more that the parent can’t take responsibility in these cases. When it’s their imperative to raise a child well. What’s even more concerning is that this may move beyond just fairytales. We all know how the spectrum of colours is being more politicised with every waking minute, I can’t wait for the alphabet to fall to a similar fate.
The real tragedy is that the story of Saint George has to fall on this sword and all because it falls under the damsel in the distress trope;
The legend of Saint George has also been taken off the shelves of Tàber’s infant-school library. Books about this legend are commonly read at Catalonia’s Sant Jordi book-giving festival, the Diada de Sant Jordi (St George’s Day) on April 23, but most perpetuate sexist stereotypes, where a man is the courageous hero, slaughtering dragons, and a woman is the scared princess. New children’s books, however, such as Santa Jordina (Saint Georgia) and La revolta de Santa Jordina(The revolt of Saint Georgina), are putting a twist on this legend and placing a girl in the role of the hero.
As a point of aside, I often wonder if what I’m reading is cleverly worded satire but sadly it’s not. These people think they act for the good of us all. All they’re doing really is satisfying an urge to control everyone else. And there’s nothing good about that. They could quite easily have the original and inspired work exist side by side but often it seems that if a man has a lead role they have to be punished for it. It’s becoming harder to see why some see this as okay. Are boys not allowed to see Saint George as a hero? It’s not think of the children but the adults that just can’t leave fiction well enough alone.
“If boys get the starring roles in books – both as the good and bad protagonists – and girls are the sidekicks, it confirms that’s how the world is and how it should be. It’s very hard to feel equal then.”
I don’t think any reader feels this way about a story be it a child, teenager or adults. Do I really need to refute such an illogical statement but the real nail to the coffin of anything remotely academic is the final part of the El Pais article. I won’t respond to it but let you decide your feelings;
Ester Murillo, a mother of the parents association at Montseny school, adds that this awareness of sexist content “needs to be shared by both the families and the teachers, who must internalize it and transmit it in the classroom.”