From Women in Academia Report, June 16, 2011
New research led by Janice M. McCabe, a sociologist at Florida State University in Tallahassee, finds a large male bias in children’s books. The study, published in the journal Gender & Society, examined characters in 5,600 children’s books published between 1900 and 2000. The results showed that males are the central characters in 57 percent of the books while females are the lead characters in 31 percent of all books. Two out of every three animal characters in children’s books are male. A male character is included in the title of 36 percent of all children’s books whereas a female character is found in the title of 17 percent of all children’s titles.
Dr. McCabe concedes that the male/female ratio of main human characters has improved in books published for the first time in recent years. But children’s books published over the past century, including the Little Golden Books series, remain popular. Also, she notes that there is still a far larger number of male characters among animals in children’s books.
Professor McCabe stated that “The widespread pattern of under-representation of females that we find supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters.”
Dr. McCabe is a graduate of Tulane University. She earned a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology at Indiana University.
Readers interested in reading the entire study can download the paper here.