“Mummy, I’m a man”, she said

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We were at the supermarket and Pebble was ‘helping’ me push the trolley.
“Look Mummy, I’m helping you”, she said.
“Thank you, that’s very good helping”, I replied, absentmindedly.
“Mummy, I’m a man”, she continued. Now she’s got my attention.
“What makes you say that you’re a man?”, I asked, amused and curious.
“Because you’re a lady and I’m helping you. I’m like a man!”, she stated, with confidence.
“Ladies can help ladies too”, I said.
“No, Mummy!”, she looked at my like I was an imbecile. “I have to be the man. Look, I’m helping you, lady. Lady, say ‘thank you, Man’”, she demanded.
I followed instructions and joined in the play. But I was left wondering…

I was really surprised that my two and a half year old daughter was already showing such clearly stereotyped understandings of male and female roles. Over the next couple of days I reflected on it occasionally. I thought about it when I asked my husband to collect the rubbish bin in from the street. I thought about it when my husband asked me to iron his shirt for him. And I thought about it when we read Little Red Riding Hood for the 375th time in two weeks.

Yes, in our house there are definitely some ‘Daddy’ jobs and some ‘Mummy’ jobs, and we’re both happy in those roles. We also both do things that are less stereotyped too. However the fairy tales got me thinking. Just lately we’ve been reading lots of classic fairy tales, many of them with women being rescued by men. I thought it was about time that I started re-introducing a few different types of stories into our collection.

I started by checking out the online catalogue for my local library and mashing that together with a Google search. I ended up with quite the little collection. In this post Pebble and I will review one of books: Princess Pigtoria and the Pea.

Princess Pigtoria and the Pea

Written by Pamela Duncan Edwards. Illustrated by Henry Cole.

Princess Pigtoria

So, you all know the story of the Princess and the Pea, right? Only a real Princess would experience a disturbed sleep if she had a pea under her mattress(es), and therefore be a suitably delicate constitution to be a match for a Prince…. and they all live happily ever after….. well, this version gives the potential bride a lot more personality and self-direction. She knows what she wants, and she’s none too impressed when she finds out that her potential husband has been ‘testing’ her suitability. Instead {spoiler alert} she decides she’s much rather marry the local pizza delivery pig, who is much more down to earth and a whole lot more fun. The Prince does end up learning his lesson, changing his ways, and accepts a pity proposal from the parlour maid, so don’t worry too much about him.

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Mum’s review: This book is clearly for older children, and I when reading it with Pebble I skimmed over parts of the story to keep her interest. There is definitely a good dose of girl power in this book, but of course everyone still ends up happily ever after in marriage (with babies too!). Can there be any other kind of happy, for a girl? I think there can. I recommend this book for 4 – 8 year old children, and think it is a good example of a women taking control of her own destiny and a nice contrast to the woman-rescued-by-man style fairy tale.

Pebble’s review: Pebble was keen to read this book because it had both pink and a Princess on the cover – already she is SO fitting into that ‘girl’ stereotype that is marketed to her. She is also quite keen on pigs, so there’s that. The story of the pompous pig was quite lost on her, but she really enjoyed the silly sound of the heavy alliteration throughout the book…. “I’d like plenty of pizzas” she ordered, “with toppings like peppers, pickles, poppy seeds, parmesan cheese and peanuts. I’ll pass on the pepperoni!”. While Pebble may have not completely understood the story, I think it can’t hurt to be read the occasional story where a woman makes decisions for herself, and doesn’t rely on marrying a prince. Right?

In Pebble’s words:

Pebble: Let’s read it again!
Mummy: What did you like about that book?/
Pebble: I liked her (Pigtoria).
Mummy: What did you like about her?
Pebble: It’s because she is happy and nice.
Mummy: Was there anything that you didn’t like in that book?
Pebble: It was when she got angry. Please read it again now, Mummy?

And we did.

What next?

My goal now is to find books with strong female characters, but not necessarily story lines about marriage, or that so obviously turn the classic princess tale on it’s head. I’d also like to find some examples that are more toddler friendly. I know there are plenty out there, and I’ll be sharing them with you as we find them together.

What stories have you been enjoying at your house lately?

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18 Comments

  1. Two books I have used with my first daughter for the exact same reason was
    Princess Smartypants and The Paperbag Princess

    • Thanks Jess, these are two of my favs too :) We are waiting for our yun to borrow them from the library.

  2. Brilliant! Pebble is very cute and I think I’ll find this little experiment of yours very interesting. I was always a fan of fairtytales!

  3. That’s really fascinating, Kylie. I’ve never really thought about stereotypes painted in children’s story books.

    In our home, my wonderful husband does all the cooking and washing, so it’ll be interesting to see if our boys grow up doing the same for their families when they’re older. :)

    Ronnie xo
    Pink Ronnie recently posted..Weekending, anniversary styleMy Profile

  4. I’ve just introduced my daughter to Ronald Dahl. Exciting times :)

  5. That’s so funny!

    We have recently started borrowing books from the local library, most of them have been Winnie-the-Pooh, “Popette” and I are big fans of Pooh bear. The storylines always have a nice moral to the story which I like.

    “Popette” understands that there are some “Daddy jobs” and some “Mummy jobs”, (i.e. chopping firewood is Daddy’s job, making craft is Mummy’s job) it’s not so much the traditional roles as Mummy and Daddy. I am very fortunate that Hubby does a lot around the house, including help take care of the children. I know so many women who’s husband’s turn off as soon as they walk in the door after work, and don’t help with the kids or with cooking meals etc.
    JulieM recently posted..Week 30: Grateful for what I haveMy Profile

  6. Oh Kylie,
    This post made me laugh. I think the way children perceive the world is so fascinating.

    I hope you don’t mind if I offer a few book suggestions that popped into mind:

    -The Paperbag Princess by Robert Munsch is brilliant (the princess doesn’t need any help from the prince)

    -The Princess and the Pig by Jonathan Emmett (‘It’s the sort of thing that happens in fairytales’ is a phrase that appears throughout this story- but this book is not your average fairy tale.

    I also put together a SHORT list of female characters to inspire our daughters- You’ll find it at the bottom of this post: http://www.mylittlebookcase.com.au/reading-tips/brave-female-characters-to-inspire-our-daughters/

    …and finally I recently found this site, which I think you’ll love as much as I do: http://www.mylittlebookcase.com.au/reading-tips/brave-female-characters-to-inspire-our-daughters/

    I hope that helps :)
    Jackie recently posted..Discussion Prompt Bookmarks- Helping little ones explore emotions in picture booksMy Profile

    • These are two favs of mine – they are on hold from the library :) I think I should probably buy my own copies.

      Thanks for linking to your posts x

  7. Sorry Kylie, I made a mistake with the last link.

    A Might Girl: http://www.amightygirl.com/ (I’m sure you’ll find something wonderful here)
    Jackie recently posted..Discussion Prompt Bookmarks- Helping little ones explore emotions in picture booksMy Profile

  8. Very interesting post! I’m careful in our house not to always give Little Miss the pink and red things, and never say no to Little Man experimenting with nail polish or jewellery. But its disappointing when they learn these stereotypes outside the home. Suddenly Little Man is saying things like ‘no, that’s not for boys’ and I can’t help feeling a little deflated.
    Rachel recently posted..My LasagneMy Profile

  9. It’s so interesting how they absorb stereotypes isn’t it! A common one I am noticing now, is other kids telling my son that boys do or don’t do something. And we’ve been reading The Faraway Tree series and I’ve had to make some quick changes as we go to leave out some of the story, like where the girls stay home out of danger while the boys charge in :-) I think it is wonderful that you are finding stories that have a strong female character who knows her own mind.
    Kelly recently posted..10 Aussie Activities for Kids!My Profile

  10. Oh! I have a list for you!! There are so many wonderful books out there for just this very reason- I will share them asap! For now, try this one, http://www.amazon.com/The-Paper-Princess-Classic-Munsch/dp/0920236162. Hope you can get it here in AU….
    stephanie recently posted..Boy Mama: Sick?My Profile

  11. Pingback: Book Mama: Brave Girls, Strong Ladies, Great Women | Boy Mama Teacher Mama

  12. Have you read The Worst Princess? We love it and it’s all about the princess being empowered and not needing to fall into the stereotype! One of our favourites – easily.
    Lauren recently posted..What’s The Point of Gratitude?My Profile

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