Monday, November 2, 2020

Something About Gender Stereotyping

Writing about the women

Librarian Elissa Zimmer wrote about returning to some of her favorite Bellairs books from her childhood in an article in the Oakland Press this May. She “loved” the books when she was younger and thought them as "captivating” for their “mix of history, magic and mystery.” Like many people who enjoyed the stories and characters she wanted to see, now an adult, how they held up. She offered this caveat:

“It’s worth noting that the books take place usually in the 1940s and 1950s, even though they were written decades later, in the 1970s through 1990s, so the books have some elements in them that may be problematic to the present-day reader.

Today, her comments on The Mansion in the Mist:

This book leans a little more sci-fi than the others, what with alternate dimensions and a fantastical cube. Problem areas include gender stereotyping — Emerson is written as smart and determined, whereas his sister, although a librarian, is portrayed as a little dim and not quick to follow Emerson’s ideas. 

A few comments on the women in Bellairs's fiction were provided last decade from Kate:

There is an immense range of women from the practically nonexistent [Dixon series] through the controlled [Miss Eells being "possessed" by an evil magician]...[to] the powerful (Mrs. Zimmermann). 

That said, in Weatherend Miss. Eells is “possessed”, in Mansion she’s “portrayed dim”, and in all four stories of the Monday series her clumsiness is often played for laughs. Is this a fair assessment? How does this impact her character? How has the perception of people with these “quirks" changed in contemporary society? What about the character would you diminish or enhance?

1 comment:

Jean said...

I don't think that's a fair assessment of Miss Eells at all. Or Emerson, for that matter. Miss Eells is clumsy, yes, and she does get possessed at one point -- like half the Bellairs cast. She's also brave, loyal, tactless, and skeptical. And she can do that whole litany about Mary, which is pretty impressive. Emerson is clever...and pompous, and over-confident.

And I don't see how you could write about Bellairs' portrayals of females without mentioning Rose Rita, for pete's sake. She's smart, and a liar, and ready to punch you in the nose, and anxious about growing up.