An Open Letter to Usborne Part 2

This post is part 2 – read part 1 here.

Dear Usborne,

Firstly, I’d like to thank you for responding to my last post and also apologise for my sassy attitude both in my last post, and in what you’re about to read.

Secondly, I’d like to say how I pleased I am that you’ve decided to remove gender titling from your children’s books- a move which I think was so overdue. As the largest and (I believe) most respected producer of children’s books, the change to your branding will hopefully kick-start a change made by other companies too.

Thirdly, I’d like to thank you for kindly sending me some of your newly marketed activity books. Whilst I think that the 2 ‘Drawing, Doodling and Colouring’ books that you sent are really fantastic, I have an issue with your now gender-free sticker books.

I think it’s a real shame that your sticker books are so obviously aimed at a particular gender that you may as well have it written on the front. The whole idea surrounding the removal of ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ was to stop gender stereotyping certain topics or interests.

In your ‘1000 Cool Stickers’ book which would have previously been marketed at boys, every single human character is male. All of the snowboarders, footballers, basketball players, people on the beach, chariot racers, cyclists, pirates, knights and cavepeople are male which automatically excludes a female audience. Whilst girls could of course enjoy using this book, they would be far less likely to choose it off a shelf when they see that there are no girls like them on the inside. In the sticker book aimed at girls, ‘1000 Fantastic Stickers’, every character is female.

There is no point in removing ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ from the covers of these books when the content promotes gender stereotyping. The whole idea behind changing your branding was to make your products more inclusive but these changes don’t reflect that at all. It’s no use saying that a little girl who loves football can play with ‘1000 Cool Stickers’ because it doesn’t say ‘boy’ on the front if every footballer in the book is male.

The changes that you’ve made are bitter-sweet because although at face value it seems as if you’re heading in the right direction, when you open the book to find that ‘1000 Fantastic Stickers’ contains only little girls, it’s entirely disheartening. To be perfectly honest it seems as if you’ve not understood the initial problem and in a way these changes are actually making the whole issue a little bit worse. When the cover of the book told you straight out who was invited to use the book, at least parents could make the choice to buy something else for their ballet loving boy, but now the book will have been bought and given to their son before anyone realises that he’s going to be a lone male ranger when playing with these stickers since all of the ballet dancer stickers are girls.

On a positive note, I can’t finish this piece without acknowledging what a fantastic job you’ve done of including characters of all skin tones, which means that all children (providing their interests and gender match up to your stereotypes) can find a sticker that they feel represents them.

Thank you for the changes that you’ve made so far, particularly with your ‘Drawing, Doodling and Colouring’ books, which I will have no issues with re-gifting to family, and I hope that you continue to make positive changes towards ending the gender stereotyping found in your children’s books.

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