The Masculine Default

There’s a tragedy lurking inside children’s books, one that most people don’t realize: Taken as a whole, the genre is kind of sexist. A study of kids’ books published between 1900 and 2000 found that male protagonists were nearly twice as common as female ones. And in anthropomorphic fiction such as Winnie the Pooh, male heroes are even more dominant. Pick five to 10 books from your child’s library and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Exposure to a glut of male characters reinforces a primal default — when in doubt, assume it’s male. Just think about the pronouns you use when referring to your child’s stuffed animals or the dogs in the park. Is it he or is it she? What about the Easter Bunny and the elf on the shelf?

Complicating things are the conflicting sentiments progressives have about gender. On the one hand, gender is a social construct and therefore arbitrary and overrated. On the other hand, gender disparity is real and it must be rectified. None of which my two-year-old understands. I just want her to know that girls are as worthy of being the subjects of books as boys are.