Not Your Normal “Gender Construct” Picture Book

Of Course They Do

There are many books in the niche of challenging gender norms… and most of them are a waste of time because they are such an amazing mismatch with the day to day lived experience of their target audience. Read a book like that to a group of six year olds and they’ll dismiss it in seconds AND give you an emphatic earful to boot. (It seems to me that culture often trumps education).

Fortunately, Of Course They Do shows examples of men and women who violate norms without moving so far to the edge of culture that students can easily dismiss them. The opening line states, “Boy’s don’t dance” is accompanied by an image of two young female dancers. But turn the page and you find a male hip-hop artist in motion. “Boys don’t jump rope” is followed by an image of a male boxer jumping rope in an urban looking gym. “Girls don’t know about cars” is disarmed by a female professional race car driver and so on.

Oddly the one exception to this is the cover image: boys playing with baby dolls still don’t get a pass in many US cultures. But this brings us to an interesting point. This picture book was originally published in France by author Marie-Sabine Roger and photographer: Anne Sol. Perhaps in France this is no big deal. Meanwhile on the US side of the equation Of Course They Do reminds us not to constrict definitions of gender norms to cultural expectations which (on closer examination) are a mismatch with everyday life.


A Quoi Tu Joues


11 thoughts on “Not Your Normal “Gender Construct” Picture Book

  1. The doll thing has always been interesting to me. My mother was a La Leche League Leader for much of my childhood and is now working on her IBCLC. She encouraged all children to play with dolls, after all, daddies take care of babies too. Boys not only played with baby dolls, they play *breastfeed* baby dolls, and stuffed animals, and trucks, just like girls do. Hahaha!

      • That’s awesome. Both the fact that he is feeding a baby and the fact that he has tattoos. They seem to be censored out of kids things a lot of the time when, really, there is no reason to.

      • Exactly! It does get censored, and then there aren’t role models in print for students who come from backgrounds where tats are common: just more middle class looking people. It tends to reinforce and reproduce culture. I guess that’s why I like this book. It challenges the culture in a positive manner.

      • Yes, kids need to see their homes as normal. And, at least where I live, tattoos aren’t just lower middle class. One of our librarians has several, one is a typewriter and the other (which I haven’t seen, but she told me about) is Rosie the Riveter. I’m a part-time nanny for a writer. She has an amazing book collection and is incredibly smart and cultured, and is also fairly covered in ink. I have been working on an idea for one I’d like to get in the near future. This phobia that society has about ink is exceptionally old fashioned.

  2. Pingback: Five Indispensable Read Alouds for Boys | Read Aloud Picture Books

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