To mark the occasion, Inclusive Minds and Letterbox Library have put our heads together and concocted a list of just a few of the many horrors we have come across surrounding diversity (or rather the lack of it) in children’s books.
So here they are in no particular order – some of
the most dreadful diversity-related crimes against children’s books over the
years, guaranteed to shock and scare this Halloween.
1. Lazy shorthand. It’s everywhere in books. For example, what’s with the weird ‘Africa’ language; since when did we call England ‘Europe’? Why do so many illustrations still look as if glasses have been added purely to make someone look ‘nerdy’ or intellectual? Does making a character ‘tubby’ or of unusually short stature really add humour? And don’t even get us started on the use of physical beauty or unattractiveness….
2. 2. Next on the list are all those passive princesses in pink dresses and sparkles, often doing little more than combing their hair while they wait around for handsome princes to rescue them. Come on, children’s books, let’s challenge those stereotypes!
3. 3. Another pet hate we share with many is the negative depiction of wheelchair users. Especially irritating is the habit of describing someone as being ‘confined to a wheelchair’ or ‘wheelchair-bound’. Someone tell the writers in question that wheelchair users do not live permanently in their chairs.
4. 4. And don’t let’s forget the stereotyping of step-families and only children – we’d just love to see just a bit more countering of those incessant images of wicked stepmothers, mean step-siblings and introverted only children.
5. 5. Using ‘dusky skin’, ‘hideous’ scars and bionic limbs to make a villain look more villainous…. Surely there are better ways of depicting evil?
6. 6. Describing a male character as ‘crying like a girl', ‘squeaking like a girl’, ‘throwing like a girl’, ‘running like a girl’ etc –such phrases only succeed in insulting and alienating both sexes.
7. 7. The apparent need to add ‘female’ as a prefix for an occupation e.g. 'female police officer' 'female firefighter'. Why, oh why, oh why is it still seen as being necessary?
8. 8. Using mental health or disability terms to insult – ‘she’s mental!’, ‘don’t be a spaz!’ ‘he’s a total retard’, ‘what a psycho!’ etc. Cool teen-speak? We think not.
9. 9. Stereotypical storylines and characters for LGBT folk: murderous lesbians, promiscuous bi’s and mincing gay men experiencing unrequited love, suicides, loneliness and general decline. And that is if they even appear at all. How about LGBT folk having some actual fun?
10.10. Pointing out a BME character’s skin colour but then ‘forgetting’ to highlight when a character is white. Since when was white not a colour? Since when did people stop ‘seeing’ it? Oh…and then also confining BME people to the background for a bit of authentic local colour. How about a few more BME protagonists, people? The struggle ain’t over!
Okay, we’ve barely scratched the surface, but it’s all just a bit too scary….So send in your pet hates, if you dare.
Happy Halloween from Inclusive Minds and partners.
Tags: diversity; horror
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