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FSVIEW & FLORIDA FLAMBEAU | MAY 16, 2011

FSU study finds gender bias in books 850-561-6653

Review shows overwhelming amount of male representation

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A recent children’s books study led by a Florida State University sociologist has shown that throughout the 20th century there has been bias toward males as lead characters. The journal Gender & Society published the study, “Gender in Twentieth–Century Children’s Books: Patterns of Disparity in Titles and Central Characters,” which looked at almost 6,000 books published between 1900 and 2000. Two FSU professors, Janice McCabe and Daniel Tope, along with Emily Fairchild of New College of Florida, Liz Grauerholz of the University of Central Florida and Bernice A. Pescosolido of Indiana University published the study. The researchers became interested in studying the topic because of

36.5 percent of books every year contain titles relating to a male character, compared to 17.5 percent of books titled after a female character. The disparity was seen in books depicting animals as well. Even with the third-wave feminist movement in the 1990s, the ratio for male to female representations of animals was about two to one. Despite the theory that publishers may choose to use animals as a stand-in for floating, sexless representation in a story, the authors of the study discovered that, there is more inequality among genders in books about animals. There is also the issue that a supposed genderneutral character will be seen as male gendered by default. “The pattern supports the belief that female characters are less important and interesting than male characters,” said McCabe. “This af-

fects how kids think about themselves in society and may contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls, privilege among boys.” McCabe encourages students who have an interest in pursuing similar studies or writing and publishing books with strong female leads to do so. “There are gender-neutral books out there, but there are certainly more books about male characters and animals than females,” said McCabe. “Children are getting exposed to these patterns not only in the children’s books that we studied, but in other aspects of media. We hope that this research will raise awareness of the issue among parents reading [these] books, authors, illustrators, publishers.” The full study is available for free online, and may be read at http:// gas.sagepub.com/content/25/2/197.full. pdf+html.

tions that they considered “seriously damaging to academic freedom.” In essence, they argued that the hiring power had shifted away from the department faculty and into the hands of the Koch Foundation by allowing them the opportunity to determine which candidates qualify for hire and funding. According to Barron, Joseph La Belle/FSView however, that is simply not the case. The advisoStudents protest Charles Koch’s 2008 donation to Florida ry board, which is in fact State University, totaling $1.5 million. approved by the Koch tersburg Times reporter faculty, approved around Foundation, consists of in charge of the May 10 50 applicants for further two FSU faculty members article “misconstrued the consideration to an advi- and a Ph.D. economist facts” when she claimed sory board approved by appointed by the foundation, but it does not, acthat “Koch rejected the Koch Foundation. Here is where the heart cording to Barron, have nearly 60 percent of the faculty’s suggestions,” in of the debate stems: the final say. Instead, the turn, leaving the faculty, When word spread of the advisory board reviewed according to reporter existence of an advisory the 50 applicants and narKris Hundley, with only board approved by the rowed the list down to 16 an “illusion of control” in Koch Foundation, indi- individuals. In the end, he said, the hiring practices. In a bul- viduals such as Bellamy let-style format, Barron and Miller took a stand two individuals chosen for the position did not explained the apparent against it. “From our reading of come from the 16 recmisunderstanding in his the memorandum, the ommended by the Kochown words. According to Barron, Koch Foundation has approved committee, but more than 500 individu- some say over who is instead, from the original als applied for the two hired from the grant and pool of 50 and from a seppositions made possible what will be taught,” said arate group of individuals by the foundation’s dona- Bellamy and Miller in applying for another position. tion. From there, the De- their “My View” article. In closing, Barron reitBellamy and Miller partment of Economics’ Executive Committee, claimed that the agree- erated his point that the made up of department ment came with condi- Koch Foundation exerts

no overarching power over the university. “The Koch Foundation does not hire faculty,” said Barron. “Nor does it exercise control over course curricula. Academic freedom has not been compromised in any way.” FSU is not the only school to receive funding from the Koch Foundation, nor is the Koch Foundation the only company donating money to the university. FSU also entered into an agreement with BB&T, who provided funding for a course on business ethics and economics. In any case, Barron said FSU had never and will never allow donations to affect the decisions taken by university faculty. “And no matter how much innuendo Hundley and the editors at the St. Petersburg Times wish to employ, Florida State University makes decisions to establish programs and hire the appropriate faculty based on academic needs, not political motivations of donors or anyone else,” Barron said. “Florida State is diligent and resolute in maintaining its academic integrity.”

Andrew Ciffone, a senior majoring in English, said that the only thing he can be grateful for is his upcoming graduation. He transferred to FSU last year from UCF. “I’m just happy about graduating soon, because I have noticed a lot of schools cutting a lot of things because of budget cuts.” Ciffone said. “I had a friend from UCF who was going to transfer with me, but they cut her major here.” Schlesinger mentioned that he has noticed the library is not open as much and that, in most of his classes, they are giving out fewer materials, and the classes are much larger: Students want to feel like their education is being justified by the tuition increase. “If I am going to have to pay more for my education, I would like to see that I have a quality education that includes topnotch professors and adequate class size,” Evansen said. In a statement to the public, the Chancellor of the State University System Frank T. Brogan seemed to be content with the results of the state budget. “The final budget as proposed allows us to

remain steadfast as we continue the challenging work to sustain and strengthen both the quality and competitiveness of the State University System,” Brogan said. “We are turning a corner, and we are seeing early indications of the reversal of the economically driven trend that was our collective situational reality in Florida. The State University System also has a notable partnership and shared governance with the Florida Legislature– one that balances tuition costs with our No. 1 joint priority: student access to the state of Florida’s public universities.” Meanwhile, Nissley said she is worried about her upcoming senior year. She said she is going to have to try and figure out a way to get good grades, while also working increased hours as a student ambassador for university visitors and at Bill’s Bookstore. “It’s really upsetting because I worked hard in high school to make sure I had the requirements for 100 percent Bright Futures,” Nissley said. “For them to slowly take it away with tuition increases and cutting Bright Futures is completely unfair.”

the large amount of time kids spend consuming media. “Despite great studies, we had an incomplete understanding of gender in children’s books,” said McCabe, assistant professor of sociology, who led the study. The findings show that the equality of representation beJanice Mctween male Cabe and female characters was closely tied to the rise and fall of the women’s movement throughout the century. “I expected representations to start off somewhat unequal in the 1900s and thought it would get better over time, but the first three centuries were very similar to the last three centuries,” said McCabe. “Images change with the position of women in society and gender activism.” The middle of the 20th

century, between about 1930 until 1969, was the most male dominated, due to backlash against feminism. The early 20th century saw the women’s suffrage movement, and the last few decades saw the secondwave feminist movement. “Following the onset of the w o m e n ’s Daniel movement Tope in the ’60s and ’70s, greater gender parity for central characters became more normative,” Daniel Tope, co-author and fellow assistant professor of sociology said to FSU.com. “This suggests a historical link between gender politics and gender representations in print.” Other findings included that over 50 percent of children’s books published every year feature males as central characters, and an average of

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“Donor gifts have always been accepted with the clear understanding that the gift will not compromise that integrity or infringe on the academic freedom of our highly regarded faculty,” said Barron. To ensure his message got across, Barron himself wrote an opinion article for the St. Petersburg Times, the newspaper that first broke the story in a May 10 article. Barron’s article, which appeared in print on Friday, May 13, claimed that the May 10 St. Petersburg Times article and subsequent May 11 editorial “made a number of claims about Florida State University’s relationship with a prominent philanthropic organization that are far off the mark.” He went on to detail the Koch Foundation pledge, which, according to Barron, entailed the establishment of a program for the study of political economy and free enterprise and a program for excellence in economic education, as well as allow for the hiring of two assistant professors for the programs. Barron then continued on to state that the St. Pe-

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concerns about the pay cut and the detrimental budget crisis to the Tallahassee Democrat. “I think it’s catastrophic for our faculty to take a pay cut,” Barron said. “We’re struggling right now just to hold on to our faculty.” Students have realized the harm that inadequate teachers can pose. Sammy Jo Evansen, an FSU junior majoring in editing, writing and media said she already feels the effects. “There are more professors teaching classes for the first time, which can really be a detriment to the student’s learning experience,” Evansen said “It’s a better learning environment when the teacher has mastered the subject or taught the class before.” The fact that no funding will be provided for programs such as the Major Gift Matching Program or the Courtelis Facility Matching Program, which match scholarship endowments and facilities dollar for dollar to the donor’s gift, is being considered a severe problem. There is currently more than $200 million pending on the eligible match list statewide. FSU will have to push for different types of fundraising through the

Boosters and donations. Barron has been heavily committed to garnering more alumni donations and gifts. In an interview in February with the FSView, Barron stated that he is determined to raise copious amounts of money for FSU programs. “I want to beat all the records,” Barron said. “I’m not competitive, though, but I do want to beat all the records,” Barron said. 62 universities right now have billion-dollar endowments; it’s time to be in that company. That can have a tremendous impact on our programs.” FSU’s budget deficit sparks the question about whether FSU will have to rely more heavily on controversial controlled donations, such as the recent Koch Charitable Foundation donation where the donor arguably has some say on how the money is used, down to deciding which professors can teach and eliminating those who do not meet the donor’s standards. For students, the raise in tuition and losses in Bright Futures scholarships has not been received well. Reed Schlesinger, a senior from Boca Raton, said that, in order to stay financially stable, he would have to pick up

more hours at the law firm where he works. “I feel that is going to hurt a lot of students who can’t afford their education, because they will have to obtain jobs, which will give them less time to study for their classes,” said Schlesinger. The strain is even harder on out-of-state students. On top of paying full tuition without a Bright Futures scholarship, they face an additional 8 percent increase in tuition price on top of the mandatory 8 percent raise. Logan Rees is an out-ofstate senior majoring in film. He said that he feels that it is unfair for him to have to pay so much when the film school can’t afford to provide him with enough equipment to make a movie. “I feel like I’m getting cheated, because I am paying so much more than everyone, but then I’m not getting everything I need to make my movie,” Rees said. With a large number of majors being cut, offices giving up phones to lessen the budget and advising for majors being cut or merged, students have been feeling like their education is being compromised and is not complete.

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