Gender Roles in Children’s Books: An Examination of Little House in the Big Woods and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

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People use several different classification systems to help organize a complex society. For example, scientists use a system composed of hierarchies in order to place animals in their proper kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. By creating this classification system, people of society are better able to understand the relationships that these animals have with each other. Just as scientists use this hierarchy to organize animals, people use the concept of gender to classify their own kind. However, many people fail to realize that gender, unlike the system of hierarchies used by scientists to classify animals, is not biologically based. While sex is a biological concept, gender can be defined as the sociological, …show more content…
From birth, baby boys are dressed in blue and baby girls are dressed in pink and are sometimes characterized by pierced ears.

Once gender roles are assigned, people treat one another accordingly. Boys are taught to be competitive and are trained to use teamwork, whereas girls are treated more delicately because society expects them to be nurturing. From birth on, then, girls and boys are taught by society what it means to be feminine and masculine, respectively.

Another sociologist, Michael Messner, illustrates how society “does gender” by discussing the elective affinity between masculinity and sports through his piece entitled, “Boyhood, Organized Sports, and the Construction of Masculinities” (Messner, 1990). In this article Messner claims that sports teach people to devalue femininity, which is evident through negative expressions coined by society such as “You throw like a girl.” Because playing sports teaches aggression and teamwork, the world of sports is an institution that is built around masculinity. Even when women play sports, they are masculinized.

Due to the idea that gender roles are assigned at birth, it would be interesting to explore how children’s book authors promote masculinity and femininity through the messages conveyed in their storytelling. Two books from different time periods, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods and J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, will be examined.
Lorber would argue that in

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