I cannot tell you how proud I am to report that I have had three (THREE!) authors/illustrators contact me in the last couple of weeks to say that they have included a female character or have changed a character’s gender in their work in progress, in direct response to my posts about the lack of female animal characters in picture books. And a couple have contacted me to say that I’ve given them something to think about for future projects.
Imagine that! I sit here tapping away at a screen, moaning about the inequality of the current situation and not only do people read my witterings, but they comment and retweet and forward and discuss. And change! My fellow book-stroker @chaletfan said that my blog posts have raised “an intriguing and sort of v concerning question.” And she is Spot On with her wording there. It IS intriguing and it is inspiring people to dig through their bookshelves, their school libraries, their own work. It is concerning people enough to think and act on it. Huge thanks to everyone who has dipped in and helped. Actual change could come from a couple of blog posts, one of which was mainly written during a car journey with sporadic internet connection.
So why have I had such an overwhelming and positive reaction? Because things are already changing. Today is the first ever London Radical Book Fair, celebrating books that are “informed by inclusive/anti-discriminatory concerns or those which promote social equality or social justice”. It is also the venue for the awarding of the first ever Little Rebel Book Award, created by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and administered by the ever-inspiring Letterbox Library. What an amazing and encouraging event! Two supporters of the fair, Letterbox Library and Beth Cox from Inclusive Minds, recently challenged the publishing world to publish a book with its usual pink cover AND a gender neutral cover to compare sales. Just this week Jacqueline Wilson echoed this in The Telegraph directly challenging her publishers and the book industry as a whole to publish books with more gender neutral covers rather than the standard pink. At the same time Let Toys Be Toys have led a formidable campaign against gendered marketing and separation of toys in stores. They have had huge success with companies such as Tesco, Asda, Morissons and Boots all changing their store and online categories and product labelling.
Change is beginning. There is a real movement towards gender equality for children and it is being fought through blogs, by email, on facebook, on twitter. The digital age empowers people to stand up together for change. The toy companies are seeing the trend and are changing accordingly. So come on fellow booky peeps, let’s continue to comment and retweet and forward and discuss and maybe we can inspire change in the book world too.
If, due to my chatterings on here, just one new book makes it through to be published with a strong female animal character, I will be a very proud woman indeed!