Thursday, December 15, 2016

Even Thomas the Train Engine Stereotypes Women!

My grandson is now off the charts crazy about his new “Thomas the Tank Engine Busy Book.”

That’s too bad because as my son-in-law quickly discovered, the book sends all the WRONG messages about little girl trains.

It seems astonishing that a book like this would be published. I mean it’s almost 2017. But then again it’s not so surprising if you consider that a misogynist was elected to the White House.

After talking to my daughter the other day, I feel it’s important to urge other parents: DO NOT BUY THIS BACKWARD LITTLE CHILDREN”S BOOK because it reinforces some of the negative messages about women that we are trying so hard to dispel.

Thomas the Tank Engine, for those who don’t know, is a very popular character. A bright blue engine with a big smile, Thomas appears in dozens of books and is licensed for an array of other kiddy toys and other products. I remember my son, now 27, had a cute little blue pail that featured the popular little train.

Thomas has has an array of other trains as friends.

In this busy book, there’s Percy and James and Gordon. These brave little trains are “eager to be Really Useful Trains.” And so they are, picking up and delivering important cargo.

A fifth train, “Sleek and shiny Spencer, delivers passangers of the royal kind.” He has “pride for a job well done.”

Ah, but then the female trains are introduced. 

“Wise and older Edward always has good advice for Emily, who really is a very nice engine but who can be a bit bossy.”

Bossy, huh? How so? Because Emily has her own thoughts and opinions about how to be a train? Geesh.

A couple of pages later Rosie appears.

“Cheeky Thomas and lively Rosie make a good pair. Although Rosie’s enthusiasm for everything Thomas does can sometimes annoy him, Thomas has come to realize that they are Really Useful Engines.” Poor Thomas, having to put up with that annoying little Rosie. Lucky Thomas, that none of his male friends annoy him!

Finally, there is Mavis: “Thomas knows he can rely on this strong-willed yet friendly diesel...” Come on now. If we said Thomas was strong-willed, would that be perceived as a negative quality? Why can’t women be strong-willed too? And “yet friendly.” Does that quality offset her knowing her mind and sticking to her goals?

Who wrote these lines? The book is published by Phildal, a company based in Quebec.

My daughter’s solution, for now, is to read only those parts of the book that are not objectionable.

But as soon as my grandson loses interest, this book will disappear for good, as well it should.

This piece appeared first in the Huffington Post.

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