Saturday, March 23, 2013

Book Analysis: I’m Glad I’m a Boy – I’m Glad I’m a Girl

I’m Glad I’m a Boy – I’m Glad I’m a Girl                                                                                                               
By, Whitney Darrow Jr.                                                                                                                 
Publication Date: 1970

           This story follows a boy and a girl while talking about all the things that they do in contrast to one another, such as toys, hobbies, careers, and appearances. Many people consider this book to sexist in that it depicts stereotypical roles of females as opposed to males. In the following text, we’ll look at this book in more detail while also considering our gender biases at the time this book was published in determining whether or not this book is suitable for children.

Let’s start by looking at the illustrations. As we look at the illustrations let’s ask ourselves whether or not each gender represents stereotypical appearances and roles. Starting with appearances we’ll look at the boy first. His appearance includes having short hair while wearing mostly shirts, long/short pants, and the occasional hat and suit. The girl is seen having medium length hair which is always seen down with a bow or the occasional hat. She is seen mostly wearing dresses/skirts, although with the exception of a few pages where she is seen wearing shorts. So what is the underlying message within these illustrations? Well from a glance one can depict that girls, for the most part, will always have longer hair and be dressed in dresses and bows, whereas, boys will always be seen as having short hair and wearing pants, shorts, and shirts. So what does this mean for a boy who has long hair? The interpretation from this book is that those with short hair are boys and those with long hair are girls, so that being said should that boy with long hair be considered a girl? Today, girls may have their hair long or short and are less inclined to wear dresses and bows, but instead will wear pants and shirts, therefore should a girl with short hair wearing pants and a shirt be considered a boy? The simply representations of gender appearances in these book can lead to false interpretations in the real world.
Now let’s look at any stereotypical roles portrayed in this book. Let’s just say I found many. Starting with the first page, “Boys have trucks. Girls have dolls (Darrow, 1970, p.3).” This very much demonstrates stereotypical gender roles leading to the idea that girls cannot play with truck and boys cannot play with dolls; therefore, if you were to choose the opposing gender’s toy than you would be linked and seen as the gender associated with that toy. Besides appropriate toys for each gender, the book goes on and shows occupations for each gender.
“Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses.” (p.7)
“Boys are policemen. Girls are metermaids.” (p. 8)
“Boys are pilots. Girls are stewardesses.” (p. 10)
“Boys are Presidents. Girls are First Ladies.” (p. 13)

Can you see a pattern? According to the depictions in this book, boys have the dominant more important job over the girls. This is something that is most certainly false in today’s time where women are seen taking dominant roles in their occupations frequently. According to one article, in Britain, “women doctors will outnumber their male colleagues within 6 years (Hope, 2011).” This demonstrated how the number of woman taking dominant roles in their occupations is on the raise; therefore, making, “Boys are doctors. Girls are nurses,” a completely inaccurate fact. The book also goes further in demonstrating that boys play a more dominant role by stating...

"Boys fix things, Girls need fixing," (p.13)
"Boys invent things. Girls use what boys invent." (p. 15)
"Boys build houses. Girls keep houses." (p. 16)

These statements demonstrates a girls inability to fix things and work with their hands, saying that that's the role of the boy. Making the interpretation that girls are in a sense helpless without boys. Although, in the statement, "Boys can eat. Girls can cook (pg. 14)." the boy than depends on the girl for domestic duties. Even in the statement, "Boys build house. Girls keep houses," it shows the girls domestic duties to take care of the home and family. So is that still the case today? Unfortunately, there aren't any studies that I could find that show whether men and women still engage in traditional domestic duties; however, whatever the case may be today, I think its important to demonstrate to children that gender doesn't determine your role in the household. Girls are just as able to fix and build things as boys are able to cook and clean.     
Know that we've looked at why the book, “I’m Glad I’m a Boy, I’m Glad I’m a Girl,” is stereotypical in its views on gender, let us now look at why that is by asking the question: Where were we in history in regards to gender at the time this book was written and released? Since this book was release in 1970, we’re going to take a look at the 1960s and than the 1970s. That will give us an idea of both views on gender while the book was being written as well as when it was release. Starting in the 1960’s, an organization called the National Organization for Women questioned the unequal rights of women which lead to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include gender equality. Birth control, also during this time, became widely available and a legalization of abortion was in affect (Goodwin and Bradley, 1999). Later on in the 1970’s, women became increasingly involved in politics demanding full equality and privileges in society leading to affirmative action policies, most specifically in the work place (Gillis, 2010). Big changes were in motion around the time this book was both written and released in terms of women’s right and roles. That being said, why is the book so stereotypical in depicting the roles of women? To answer that question we will now turn to the author in our next discussion.
According to one coworker, Lee Lorenz, former art director of The New Yorker, “Mr. Darrow was known for his sense of humor and for being shrewdly observant of the contradictions of human behavior (Gussow, 1999).”  Whitney Darrow Jr., the author of “I’m Glad I’m a Boy, I’m Glad I’m a Girl,” was a satiric cartoonist from The New Yorker, meaning that he used humor to ridicule people’s stupidity or vices (Satire). So, that being said, in light of the social changes that were taking place during the time of the books creation and release, I conclude that the author wrote the book as a satire on gender roles.
Know we have come to the final question of whether or not this book is ideal for children? According to my findings this book demonstrates stereotypical roles of both boys and girls that are not accurate for today’s time. Although the author had the intention of humor, I find that the inaccurate used of gender roles can be detrimental to a child’s development in that it can lead to confusion of their own gender position. According to the article, “Gender and Toys: Does it Really Matter,” toddles need to be raised with the awareness that whether they are male of female they can pursue anything of interest to them (Daniel, par. 5). The article further explains that gender specific patterns can set children up to feel insecure and ashamed of themselves for liking something not associated with their gender as well as sparking name calling in the form of “sissy” and “tomboy (Daniel, par. 5 & 6).” Therefore, I have concluded that the book, “I’m Glad I’m a Boy, I’m Glad I’m a Girl,” is not suitable for young children due to the critical stages of self development that they endure at this age.  

Works Cited:
Daniel, S. Gender & Toys: Does it Realy Matter?  
Darrow, Jr, W. (1970). I'm Glad I'm a Boy - I'm Glad I'm a Girl. New York: Windmill Books.
Gillis, C. "1970-1979." (2010). American Cultural History. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, Kingwood, TX.
Goodwin, S. and Bradley, B . (1999). 1960-1969. American Cultural History.  Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, Kingwood, TX.
Gussow, M. “Arts.” (1999). Whitney Darrow Jr., 89, Gentle Satirist of Modern Life, Dies. The New York Times.
Hope, J. (2011). Women doctors will soon outnumber men after numbers in medical school go up ten-fold. Associated Newspapers Ltd.
Satire. In Oxford Dictionaries Online. Retrieved March 21, 2013, from


  1. Jamie, great book analysis. I fully agree with you that this book is gender stereotypical and should not be recommended for young children. Yes I can see that the reason for this may be because it was written in 1970 but whether then or now it limits children's ideas of what they can wear, do, and be as they are growing up. Michelle Pusich

  2. Excellent job, very thorough, well thought out, with many useful references. Well done!!

  3. This book has way to many gender stereotypes! I would never read this to my preschool kids! I think it would totally send them the wrong message about life.
    -Lacie Wallace

  4. You did an excelent job with this analysis. I was amazed how the author worded most of this book, pretty much referring to girls being below boys and not capable of doing the things they can do. This book is definitely not appropriate for children and teaches them that girls are only able to accomplish certain things that are stereotypically "fit for girls".

  5. You did an excellent analysis. Full of resources and is a book full of gender stereotypes.This book is not appropriate at all for kids because it really marks the differences between boys and girls. Wendy Garcia