Friday, 25 May 2012

Careers for Girls According To Felicity Wishes

Felicity Wishes is a British children's book series created by Emma Thomson. The main character Felicity, is a fairy who “makes friends with lots of people wherever she goes”. She is blonde and her favourite colour is pink. She always wears a lot of pink and her signature is her pink and white stripy tights. Felicity wants to be a “Friendship Fairy” when she is older.

Surprisingly, Felicity has turned out to be quite popular. I say ‘surprisingly’ because after reading her description I already want to throttle her. Sadly, her popularity has led to the launch of a magazine series.

And here, my friends, is where this whole depressing mess reaches new levels of facepalm. The magazine encourages little girls to dream about their future lives. "Every issue I try out a new job, from cake-maker to nurse, to popstar!" Felicity squeals. "Part 1 comes with a cute Felicity Wishes doll and with every issue there's a sparkly new outfit to dress her in!" If you like smacking yourself in the face, you can view the TV ad here.

It would seem that besides aspiring to be a “Friendship Fairy”, Felicity also fancies herself as a careers advisor. Unfortunately I’ve had the unpleasant task of sifting through the magazines, an experience which has scarred me for life, and I can quite confidently say that Felicity should stick to her day job. The occupations she recommends for girls include (in alphabetical order)...

‘Actress’



'Ballerina'


'Beautician'


'Beekeeper'


'Butterfly House Attendant' (WTF?!)


'Cake-maker'


'Cheerleader'


'Circus Clown'


'Decorator'


'Fashion designer'


'Flight Attendant'


'Flower girl' (is that even a career?)


'Hairdresser'


'Hat maker'


'Ice-skater'


'Jewellery Maker'


'Journalist'


'Lifeguard'


'Make-up Artist'


'Model'


'Nurse'


'Party Planner'


'Perfume Designer'


'Popstar'


'Shopkeeper'


'Ski Instructor'


'Stylist'


'TV Presenter'


'Teacher's help' (not even a teacher FFS!)


'Tour Guide'


'Waitress'


'Weather girl'


Woah thanks Felicity for inspiring the next generation of trolly dollies, butterfly feeders, and clowns. “Felicity does not come with an astronaut's costume or a train driver's hat, and seems to want little girls to grow up to be homemakers and pop tarts and use too many exclamation marks” commented The Independent.

The majority of careers promoted by Felicity are low paid, a significant number involve servicing people (not like that), and 91% require no higher education. Why not go the whole way and have Felicity Lap dancer, Felicity Dinner Lady, Felicity Surrogate Mother, and Felicity Chip Shop Worker.

Here's an example of the magazine's contents, taken from the "Beautician" issue:


"You'll need to look perfect". "Not a hair out of place and a BIG smile". Translation: you must be visually presentable and a perfectionist. You are expected to be nice and sweet, to make other people feel comfortable, to be a people-pleaser.

As this magazine is aimed at girls aged 3-6, isn't their skin 'silky-smooth' enough?

The magazine is an example of how girls are socialised to be *prepared* to accept their place in the sexual division of labour. That is, to aspire to jobs which are less skilled, lower paid, and often part time. This Capitalist Patriarchal setup keeps females as cheap, unorganised labour which can be called upon to supplement the workforce in times of economic upturn, and discarded in times of recession. *and breathe*

Friday, 18 May 2012

Bloggers Beware: Guest Post Scams!

I’m taking a break from my usual schedule of boobs and feminism to alert fellow bloggers to the newest scam to hit the blogosphere – guests posts that are not what they seem.

In a nutshell it’s about people abusing your blog for their financial gain. They offer to write a ‘guest post’ for you and then watch as their pockets get lined. The consequences go farther than merely clogging up your blog with bland writing. The lackadaisical nature of the articles can diminish the credibility of your blog. Worse still, scam guest posts can hurt your standing with Google, significantly reducing the flow of traffic to your blog!

Here’s how it works. Someone with a generic identity claims to be a guest writer. They email you saying they lurrrve your blog, that your blog is of a high quality, that they have been reading it for a while and they want to contribute. The severity of the grovelling can differ from scammer to scammer, but rest assured, flattery will be the first stealth arsenal they throw your way. In their email they claim to have original material to post on your site. Is it legit? If you don’t recognize the blogger, then probably not.

The truth is, this email is a copy and paste job and has been sent to tens, if not, hundreds of other bloggers like yourself. Here is an email I received from a guest poster, who later turned out to be a scammer:

Hi

 I have just been reading your blog and would love to write an article for you.  I have quite a big interest in babies, pregnancy and childbirth and do guest blog on a few other blogs!

 Here is a link to an article that I have recently had published:
 http://www.mommykatie.com/2012/01/exercise-and-you-by-maria-barker-guest.html

 I have a few article ideas that I think might suit your readership:

Names and Celebrities - How celebrity culture influences baby names.
 Holidaying when Pregnant - How can you plan a holiday when you're pregnant, and what to expect.
 Pregnancy Dreams -  The weird and wonderful dreams we have during pregnancy
 Star Sign Fertility? - Can the stars really help you fall pregnant?

 If any of these are of interest then let me know and I will write it for you.

 Thanks

 Maria


I fell for it hook, line and sinker. My blog was in its infancy, not even a year old. It was the first guest post offer I had received and shucks, I’m a sucker for flattery. I didn’t even bother reading the samples of her work properly. I replied:

Hello Maria.
 I would love you to guest blog for The Alpha Parent. I quite like the idea of  "Star Sign Fertility? - Can the stars really help you fall pregnant?"
 Would you like to write that piece for us?

She quickly responded:

Hi!
 I had attached the article for you, I'd love to know what you think about it.
 Thanks
 Maria

I opened the attached word document and the first emotion I had upon seeing the article was... disappointment. The kind of disappointment you experience when seeing a new boyfriend’s dick. The piece was tiny! A mere 607 words long, a size that doesn’t gel with the rest of my blog as I tend to write mammoth pieces. Furthermore, it looked unappealing as it lacked any images, but the worst was yet to come. When I read it through disappointment turned to regret. I realised that I was obliged by the laws of human decency to post this mediocre hash on my blog. After all, it would be unfair not to, especially as Maria has gone through the effort of writing it, and I did select the topic.

I emailed back:

Thanks so much. Great article! Can you tell me a little about yourself? What makes you interested in fertility? Any relevant experience or qualifications?

I know, I know, I’m a kryten, a wimp, a sad excuse for a human being. I should have grew a pair and told her it was shit. She replied:

Hi!
 I'm glad you liked the article.  I'm just enjoying writing about various different things to do with pregnancy at the moment, I don't have any particular experience on a medical side.  I just find the whole subject fascinating, and love sharing my thoughts with other people!
 Maria

Fair enough. So I tried to jazz the piece up by adding some relevant images and then posted it up. For fans of random bland dialogue shy on meaning, you can read it here. FYI it was a flop. It was the least-read and least-'liked' of all my blog posts.

One alteration I made to the work before posting it up, which didn’t register with me as anything significant at the time but which is *central* to the scam, is that I removed a link. Buried in the work was a link to a random horoscope website. I couldn’t see how the link added anything to the work so I removed it. I didn’t give it anymore thought until a few days later I received this email from Maria:

Hi!
 That's great thank you :) I did put a link in the article but I noticed that it isn't in there anymore.  Would it be possible to put it back in?
 Thanks
 Maria

I didn’t respond. I was kinda busy. I had a newborn to deal with and, shit, who am I kidding. I didn’t want to respond. I was a pussy. And besides, it was just a random link that was of little relevance to her work. I couldn’t see any harm to her creation by removing it.


A few days later I received another email:

Hi,
 I've noticed that the link I put in the article still isn't there, I'd really appreciate if you could put it back in :)

And a few days after that - another:

Hi,
It would be great if you could get back to me about this, I'd really appreciate if I could put the link into my article.
Thanks

Red flags popping out of every orifice at this point. I went back to view her examples of previous work. The ‘articles’ – and I use the term lightly – were just cookie cutter snippets with average content. They contained all the hallmarks of a scam - they were poorly written, contained nothing unique, and were probably cut and pasted from articles all over the web. Known in the business as 'scraping'. In addition to these factors, - drum roll - they each contained links to random websites.

Why would she do this? Perhaps she was a fame-hungry loner who, instead of going on Britain’s Got Talent like every other attention whore, decided to gain her five minutes of fame by writing for a small-scale boobie blog. Nah, as plausible as this theory sounds, the scam had to have something to do with the link that Maria was anal about. A few minutes research dug up a fellow blogger, ‘Divided Ninja,’ who explains the scammer’s motives:

The main purpose is to generate high quality back-links, and increase their site rankings and traffic. Those sites gain legitimacy with high quality back links. My guess is that later they can be redirected to other sites, or even worse to phishing sites to gain peoples’ personal information. I’m certain the guest poster is more of an “advertiser in disguise” who will want to put some sort of  advertising link(s) into the post. You wouldn’t want to post somebody’s article only to find out the whole thing was a scam or advertisement, would you? 

So the scammer writes a guest post around a general topic and includes a couple of keywords linking to a particular website or page. The posts are not usually talking about the brand in question and their only purpose is to move that particular website up the search results for that particular keyword.

Consider my face well and truly palmed. I hung my head in shame and decided not to delete the ‘guest post’ from my blog. Instead I kept it online as an example. But there’s more.

I realise now that by instinctively removing the link from ‘Maria’s’ guest post, I unknowingly saved my blog from a slow death, and it’s all to do with our friends at Google. Basically Google has a policy that paid links should be coded as “no follow”, so that they don't show up in search the way a “natural” link does. For example, if I write about how much I love Product X and link to it, that’s a natural link. If I write about Product X because they’ve paid me, then it's paid and it should be coded as “no follow”. The Yahoo and MSN search engines also respect this tag (You can read more about Google policy on paid links here).

If you break Google's rules, they can find out, and downgrade your blog in search, making it harder to find. It is not uncommon to have a blog’s Page Rank downgraded to 0, which is not good. It's the equivalent of someone shitting on your driveway so no one visits any more (You can find out your own page rank here). Page Rank is basically a system for grading sites used by Google. (More here on good old Wikipedia, if you're interested). It also applies to ads that you host on your site. The no-follow rule has been around for ages but recently Google has started enforcing it more stringently. You can find instructions on how to code a link to be "no follow" here.

Remember the 'scraping' technique for creating guest posts that I mentioned above? It is adored by scammers because it requires minimum effort AND produces what appears to be unique content. However, even though the specific presentation of the guest post is unique, it is merely an amalgamation of content taken from other sources, often without permission. Google bots view this as duplicate content and will further penalise your blog.

Another technique used by guest post scammers is "article spinning". This involves rewriting existing articles, as opposed to merely scraping content from other sites. The advantage for the scammer is that if the blog owner searches for the work online to see if it is copied, they are unlikely to find any exact matches and therefore assume that the content is unique. In reality however, the words and phrases have merely been exchanged by the scammer (usually using a thesaurus or automated software). Scammers may even spin these re-written articles again and again, manually or automatically, allowing them to offer the same articles with slight variations to numerous blogs.

Back to Maria's link. Google are particularly concerned with links that don't fit into a site's wider context. For instance, if you write about cakes and suddenly have links to an aerospace site. In my situation, I write about parenting, but the scam link was to a horoscope site. So I could have been especially black-marked by Google if I had of kept the link in.

Also Maria's link was particularly insidious because of the stealth way in which it was disguised. She took a sentence from her guest post which read, "Don't check your horoscope just yet" and linked that sentence to the horoscope site she was promoting. This is called an ‘anchored text link’ and it helps drive a site up Google. Another example could be, "gorgeous clothes for children" linked to a kids' clothing company. If you’re being paid for an anchored text link, Google's rules are strict and precise - it needs to be no follow, and it needs to be made clear that it’s a sponsored post. Upon acquiring this knowledge I breathed a hefty sign of relief and got on with life. Then...

A few weeks later I received another email, this time from someone calling herself ‘Katie’:

Hi,
I recently came across your blog and really like the content and the theme of your site. I was wondering if you accept guest posts because I have recently started writing informational and educational articles about maternity, motherhood and other things closely related to that niche. I believe an article on one of those topics would mesh with your blog very well and also benefit your readers tremendously.  Please let me know if you are interested in seeing and sharing an article with your viewers.
Kind Wishes,
Katie

And ANOTHER:

Hello,

Hope you are well!
I have been reading the content on your website www.thealphaparent.com, and find it extremely interesting. As a keen writer, I was wondering whether you would consider allowing me to write a guest post for your site.
As the guest posts would be unique and informative on the topic you choose, they would be really beneficial to your readers.
I would be happy to promote the guest post/your website on our social media platforms such as face book, twitter and rating sites such as stumble upon, Digg which will help your site gain further recognition.
Further, as we both deal with a few similar topics, I was wondering if you could add our blog in your website/blog as it would greatly benefit your visitors with our featured content on various topics.
Please let me know if this is a possibility or if you have any further questions.
I look forward to hear from you. Thank you for your time.
Regards,
Liza

Naturally I didn’t respond to ‘Katie’ or ‘Liza’ as I had already had my ass whipped via the lovely ‘Maria’. A week later, ‘Liza’ tries again:

Hi,
I am Liza, I’ve sent you a mail earlier requesting you to accept guest posts on your website and I

haven’t received any further communication.
I wish to reiterate the fact that the guest posts would be unique, informative and rather beneficial

to your readers.
Please do let me know if this is a possibility or if you have any further questions.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards,
Liza.


IN. YOUR. FACE. Katie and Lisa! You’re not even getting your foot passed quality control. This old girl has learnt the hard way. And now you, my fellow readers, can learn from my mistake.

How to detect a scammer

Now I’m not saying that all guest posters are scammers – of course not. Guests posts are an excellent way to network and reach out to new audiences. I’ve written a few myself. However navigating this traitorous terrain is far from simple. How do you distinguish the genuine guest posters from the scammers?

Firstly, examine the content of their email. Do they address you by name, showing that they have read your work, or do they address no one in particular (“Dear Admin” or “Dear Blogger”) Also, when they praise your blog do they refer to actual content in your blog? - Or are they generic? (“I like reading your blog, the articles are fascinating”). Do they have an internet presence? Do they have a Twitter and/or Facebook account? Do they use these accounts to interact and to educate, or to spam? Do they own a blog of their own? Is this blog littered with advertisements? Have they written guest posts before and can you view them? Do these posts contain all the hallmarks of a scam discussed above? Is the content of their proposed post unique or has it been posted elsewhere? Are they veteran bloggers who have specialised for a long time in a clearly defined area or do they write eclectic posts about pretty much anything? Does their writing make a serious effort to understand the complexity of the topic or just regurgitate basic well-known data?

On a positive note, if you’re targeted by scammers such as these, see it as a compliment of sorts. Scammers only target successful blogs with a high volume of traffic. This is because Google and other search engines use link-based ranking algorithms, which give websites higher rankings the more other 'highly ranked' websites link to it.

So take heed next time you receive a flattering 'too good to be true' email, look between the lines and don't be afraid to ask questions. And while you're at it, click the 'like' button bellow to spread the word on Facebook. The more bloggers who are aware of this scam, the smaller the pool of potential victims.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Feminist Children's Books: Part One


Most children’s books reinforce the same old dominant orthodoxy that sees heroic, athletic or charismatic males take centre stage whilst needy, shallow or hyper-sexualised females stroke the patriarchal ego. Well not on my watch.

I have trawled through the libraries and bookshops of the country in search of that elusive gem: genuine girl-friendly literacy. From toddler to teen, I've read every prospective book from cover to cover.  In each instalment I will analyse 10 books that tick feminist boxes.

Nick Butterworth

Celebrating all things maternal, this simple picture book is written from the perspective of a child and lists all the abilities their mum possesses. An eclectic mix of talents are catalogued. Some are traditionally linked to her gender like gardening, storytelling and knitting (spacesuits!), and some are non-traditional like bike stunts, mending things and taming wild animals (well squirrels at least). The detailed illustrations are a perfect compliment to the basic narrative. There’s no mention of Dad and he’s not featured in any of the illustrations so this book would be ideal for single mum households. There is another book in this series called ‘My Grandma is Wonderful’ however it’s less inspiring because unlike ‘My Mum is Fantastic’, the talents Grandma possesses are virtually all traditional (bird watching, clothes making, administering medicine, and ummn.. untying knots).


Anthony Browne

Anthony Browne is renowned for his eccentric illustrations and he surpasses his reputation with Piggybook. This jewel in the crown of feminism features a family of males and their long suffering mother/wife, Mrs Piggott. She cooks, she cleans, she irons, she washes the dishes, she washes the clothes, she makes the beds, she vacuums the carpets, and on top of all this she goes to work. She is undervalued and taken for granted by her sons and her husband who laze around watching TV, slumbering and bellowing like chauvinistic pigs (Mr Alpha - are you reading this?!) An inspection of the illustrations reveals pig puns hidden throughout the book; for instance, pig imagery in the light switch, the buttons on Mr Piggott’s shirt, the door knob, and so on. One day Mrs Piggott finally decides to sod it all and abandons her domestic drudgery, leaving a farewell note. At this point the males of the household morph from metaphorical pigs into real pigs. Incompetent at cooking for themselves (Mr Alpha!!), they are forced to root around for scraps on the dirty floor of the house, which now resembles a pigsty. The dramatic climax occurs when Mrs Piggott returns, which prompts the males to grovel before her. After receiving the (figurative) kick up the arse they needed, the males do their fair share of the housework, which gives Mrs Piggott time to mend the car. Not only does the book provide a vessel for discussing the notion ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’, it’s also a perfect tool for exploring gender roles, fairness, stereotypes and the nuclear family.






Mary Hoffman

Grace is a lively and imaginative preteen girl. She loves acting out stories, from Joan of Arc to Aladdin, and naturally “she always gives herself the most exciting part”. Needless to say that when her school announce they are going to do the play of Peter Pan, Grace is determined to secure the leading role. But she was born with a vagina and she’s black, so how could she possibly be Peter, her friends remind her (...with friends like these?) Naturally Grace arrives home that afternoon all miserable and emo. In an effort to reassure and inspire her, Grace’s Grandmother takes her to the theatre where the lead role is (fake drum roll) a black woman. The illustration which accompanies this part of the story is my favourite. It shows Grace with an expression of awe, pride and determination on her face. “I can be anything I want”, she thinks to herself. This rich depth of expression is also reflected in the book’s other painted illustrations. A notable example is the bemused expression on her mother’s face as ‘Dr Grace’ pretends to bandage a wound on her leg. The climax of the story sees the school auditions for Peter Pan where Grace pulls off an audition that would make Simon Cowell weep into his high-waisted pants.




Mary Hoffman

“What do princesses do, Nana?” asked Grace. “You tell me, darling,” said Nana. But nobody could, except for wearing beautiful clothes and looking pretty. “That doesn’t sound so interesting”, said Grace. Princess Grace is what I call a ‘princess parody book’. It features stereotypical imagery of princess paraphernalia – tiaras, bling, beauty, puffed sleeved dresses, princes, etc, and yet it’s fundamental message is that being brave and adventurous trumps attractiveness. When her school holds a competition (FFS! why are they always doing this?) to find the best princess to feature in a parade, this prompts Grace to explore what it means to be a princess. With the help of her teacher she learns about warrior princesses such as Pin-Yang of China who started a woman’s army, and Amina of Nigeria who led warriors into battle and built walls around villages. Eventually Grace decides that she doesn’t want to dress like the stereotypical princess found in Western patriarchal culture. She opts for West African Kente robes instead. In the closing sentence of the book Grace says: “I feel like a proper princess – ready for an adventure”.





Babette Cole

This is another ‘princess parody book’. Like a traditional princess the protagonist of this book, Princess Smartypants, lives in a large castle, has long flowing blonde hair, paints her nails, wears a crown and owns many luxurious possessions including horses and bling. However unlike traditional princesses she eats fattening chocolates, is the owner of quite a bulbous nose, often wears dungarees, prefers ferocious monsters over kittens, and most importantly - she does not want to get married. Instead she enjoys being a “Ms”. But being a rich and pretty princess means that all the princes want her to be their Mrs. The story shows how Princess Smartypants fought to preserve her independence by setting each potential suitor a series of seemingly impossible tasks – feeding her ferocious monsters, collecting firewood from a demented forest, climbing a very tall glass tower (which she had polished to make it more slippery). One after one, the potential suitors failed, the illustrations of which encourage us to point and laugh at their lameness. However one day a particular smartarse of a prince turns up. He effortlessly completes the tasks meaning consequently that Princess Smartypants must forgo her pride and kiss him! Luckily for her, the kiss turns him into a warty toad and he storms off. No one wanted to marry Princess Smartypants now “so she lived happily ever after”. The ending illustration shows the princess raising a glass with a cheeky grin as she reclines in leisure.







Babette Cole

“Just look at you, Princess Smartypants,” said her mother the Queen. “You will never get a prince like that”. And so starts a tale about rebellion, mischief, and being true to yourself. In this instalment of the Princess Smartypants saga, the princess is sent off to finishing school to learn how to behave like a ‘proper princess’. This essentially means practising hair and makeup application, learning to walk with a book balanced on your head, being endangered so as to allow a prince to rescue you, and other assorted ways to appease the Patriarchal order. However Princess Smartypants’ own translation of these tasks is somewhat different, and irresistibly hilarious. Imagine the makeup skills of a badly dressed transvestite, erratic roller skating with a book pressed to your head, and clobbering menfolk with a mallet. After breaking the rules, the princess rewrites them. Some of her revisions include “Lesson 1: Stop waiting for a bunch of Hooray Henrys to turn up and save you!” “Lesson 2: Learn to govern your own kingdom”. Of course, this being a book by the richly talented Babette Cole, there are many layers of the story that cannot be squeezed into this review. Details include a King who is under the thumb of his Queen, a snobby finishing school head mistress who looks, and acts, uncannily like Edna Mode from Disney's Incredibles, and a class full of newly trained bra burning, hair slicing, cake eating princess rebels. Princess Smartypants Breaks the Rules is an empowering book that presents a more exciting charismatic breed of princess that girls will prefer to aspire to.







Babette Cole

Princess Smartypants has decided she'd like to have a baby but doesn't want the husband to go with it. The Queen will not hear of such a plan (“Having a baby without being married? Certainly NOT!”) and attempts to take her mind off it by keeping her busy. However, a crackly telephone line and a mixed-up grocery list result in Smartypants getting the baby she wants (don't ask). Most likely you’re a parent if you’re reading this, so you know as well as anyone that looking after a baby is more laborious than labour itself, and more exhausting than training for the Olympics. Poor Princess Smartypants discovers this the hard way. Her baby appears to have super human strength and wreaks havoc on the kingdom like a hyperactive toddler on steroids. Her baby is also brown – which adds an interesting interracial/adoption slant to the story, true to Babette Cole’s talent of producing multilayered narrative. However regrettably, this book is the weakest of the trilogy from a writing viewpoint, and although heroic, the princess is depicted as more clumsy and less confident than previous portrayals. Such is the legacy of parenthood.




Frederick Lipp

Sophy lived in a remote village. She had only one wish – to go to school. However the closest school was miles away and her widowed mother didn't have money for transport. One day Sophy came by some running shoes, and being resourceful, she used them to run the distance to school every day. Sophy was the only girl at the school however she was not deterred. Instead she ran rings (literally and metaphorically) around her male peers. This touching tale is beautifully illustrated and poignantly written. When she is ridiculed by her male class members, the text informs us that “Sophy pulled her courage together like a green snake ready to strike”. Illustrator Jason Gaillard’s detailed watercolour paintings capture the exoticness of the non-western cultural setting where children wear flip-flops to school, the houses have thatched roofs, and the school is a single room. The climax of the story is as tender as it is heart-braking. ‘Running Shoes’ is an effective way to explore the sad reality that having no access to education is a fact of life for many children, particularly girls. But it doesn’t have to be this way.




Patrick McDonnell

We all know the story of Tarzan, but what about Jane’s story? In ‘Me...Jane’ we learn how Jane is not the passive supporting-character damsel that Disney would have us believe. She is ambitious, determined, observant and intelligent. In fact, she is more deserving of the spotlight than Tarzan! This book begins by introducing us to Jane, a fangirl with a big fascination for the animal kingdom, and perhaps a touch of OCD. She spends her days studying animals in her garden, researching the different species, and writing intricate notes about her observations. The illustrations in ‘Me...Jane’ tell this story via a complimentary pairing of cheerful cartoon drawings and realistic sketches with ink prints. Two thirds into the book the narrative describes how Jane tucks up in bed with her stuffed toy chimpanzee each night and dreams about Africa. Then one day she awakens... "to her dream come true." She is now Dr. Jane Goodall – primatologist, environmentalist, humanitarian, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. Trufax.






Tanya Landman

Mary’s Penny is a story about lateral thinking. One upon a time, a long time ago, there lived a farmer. He couldn’t decide which of his two sons should own his farm when he was dead. It didn’t occur to him to consider his daughter Mary. After all "girls can’t run farms" silly. So he gave each of his sons a penny and said that whoever could buy something that would fill the whole house shall run the farm (sounds like he had other issues besides sexism). The boys went to the market. One son bought straw (you could get a lot of straw for a penny back in the day). The other son bought feathers (ditto value for money). However after lugging their purchases back home neither son could fill the whole house. Reluctantly the farmer gave Mary his last penny. She then set about to prove that: “It takes brains not brawn to run a farm”. The story is random and nonsensical, true to the fairytale genre. The Times newspaper has declared this book, “Feminism at its best”. However whilst predictably Mary triumphs and wins the farm, the climax is somewhat unsatisfying. Basically she fills the house with light and song. An illustration shows Mary (who just happens to be pretty and slender with perfectly symmetrical features, button nose, the works) playing a flute by candlelight. It’s a bit too disneyesque for my liking. This rhetoric of 'femininity as graceful' is reinforced by the stylised choice of typeface. The names of the two sons, Hans and Franz, are printed using thick bold font in capital letters. Mary’s name on the other hand is presented in delicate and thin wispy brush script. Presumably this is to exaggerate differences between the masculine and the feminine.



Jump to: Feminist Children's Books, Part 2