“I’ll have the BBQ Bacon Cheddar Burger.”
“Erma or Max?”
The restaurant Max and Erma’s idea of offering different burger sizes – the smaller “Erma” and the larger “Max” – is cute, clever, and accommodating to varying appetites. Yet my gut reaction overlooked all of these positives. The burgers instantly struck me as sexist.
A woman craving a big, juicy burger should not have to feel like she is betraying the modest, petite standard of femininity. Nor should a man with a smaller appetite have to endure the embarrassing, emasculating experience of ordering an Erma. After Christmas shopping for my nephews in the distinctly segregated toy aisles (by the way, Nick loved his toy ‘slice and bake’ cookie set), the sexist burgers topped off my frustration.
Then I thought about books. Children’s books play a major role in helping children shape and discover their own identity. In the Pinky and Rex series, a second grade favorite of mine, Pinky is a boy with a fully pink wardrobe and Rex is a girl with a soft spot for Tyrannosauruses. Since my favorite color at the time was fuchsia and I happened to be obsessed with dinosaurs, it was nice to read books with both a male and female character I could relate to.
I am not saying that every female character needs to be a tomboy. And I definitely don’t mean to say that children’s book characters should be neutral, genderless and boring. What I am suggesting is that writers consider the characters they create. Give them traits that are interesting and unique and true to the character rather than assuming that they act a certain way because of their gender.
To me, the most important role of children’s books is to teach kids that they can be whoever they want to be. So if a child wants to be Fancy Nancy, that’s terrific. If they want to be Fancy Fred, that’s terrific too.
My friend posted this very relevant video on facebook today, and I just had to include it. Enjoy!