Gender Representations in Greek Children’s Literature: Activities of Male and Female Characters




Gender stereotypes, Gender roles, Children’s literature, Picture books, Representation


In recent decades, extensive research has examined gender depiction in children’s literature as well as its impacts on young readers’ minds and attitudes. Children’s picture books are considered an important socializing factor as they provide their audience with a wide variety of information about life. Due to their young age, children have limited experience and knowledge of the world and therefore they depend on books in order to draw information about socially acceptable behaviours. As a cultural product, literature usually expresses the dominant ideology of the society in which it is produced and consumed. Therefore, intentionally or not, books frequently reproduce established attitudes, regardless of their validity, such as gender bias. This happens due to the fact that ideologies penetrate the language itself and by extension the way we think, speak or write. For this reason it is possible for books of the twenty-first century to still depict outdated gender portrayals. Naturally this is not a conscious, out loud statement of the writer or the illustrator, but it appears implicitly, usually as a given. Such gender portrayals can be outlined in a story by a character’s interests and activities. Leisure activities, sports and other hobbies can provide hints about the character’s personality, physical condition and talents. In the past, research has shown disparities in children’s literature, with male characters monopolizing ‘energetic’ activities and female characters spending their free time more statically. Stereotyped gender representations in picture books reproduce gender biases by implanting them to the next generation’s minds. Using content analysis methodology, this qualitative research examines if gender is depicted stereotypically in children’s picture books published in Greece from 2009 to 2019. According to findings, both male and female characters of the sample engage in activities which are in agreement with traditional gender-stereotyped traits. Implicit gender categorization of interests and hobbies operates restrictively for young children. This new data can constitute a useful tool for science, publishers and the state, as gender inequalities are considered to be the source of various social problems globally.