UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An examination of award-winning Canadian children’s literature from 1982 to 1992 for evidence of gender equality in presentations of male and female characters Seaman, Susan


This study examined male and female characters in award-winning English language Canadian children's literature for evidence of gender equality. The sample consisted of seventy-eight books that had been winners or runners-up of national awards between 1982 and 1992. Qualitative and quantitative methods of content analysis were used to collect data from which the ratio of male characters to female characters was calculated for the titles, cover illustrations, text, illustrations in the body of the books, and main and supporting characters. A list of eighteen activities, categorized as active/mobile or passive/immobile, was used to identify the activities engaged in by the main and supporting characters. A list of four locations was used to determine the location of each activity. Careers/occupations were listed for all characters. Results indicated more references to females than males in the titles of the books, and an equal number of males and females portrayed on the cover illustrations. However, results from the text and the illustrations in the body of the books revealed twice as many male characters as females. There was a higher ratio of male to female main and supporting characters as well. Results of data collected on activities/locations indicated that female main and supporting characters dominated the passive/immobile activities. Active/mobile activities were dominated by female main characters and male supporting characters. Females dominated the home and outdoors locations, while males dominated place of business and school locations. Male characters performed a greater diversity of careers/occupations than did female characters, and were involved in 66% of the total number of careers/occupations. Findings of this study support the trend toward a reduction in gender bias found in earlier studies. However, the overall results suggest some gender biases in the representation and portrayal of male and female characters.

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