Australian Government to Turn Children into ‘Fairy Tale Detectives’ to Spot Sexism in Kids’ Books

Article by Lukas Mikelionis /
Heat Street /
April 06, 2017 /
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The Australia’s Victorian government has introduced new measures to tackle family violence by asking preschoolers to become “fairy tale detectives” and spot sexism among fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.

The “Respectful Relationships” curriculum will apply to all school students, including preschool children, to fight gender-based violence, the Herald Sun reports. The $21.8 million program will look into all preschool books and toys to evaluate whether they encourage certain gender stereotypes.

According to the teaching resources, gender norms “influence beliefs about how girls and boys should act, speak, dress and express themselves”, and are “reinforced through popular television shows and story books.”

“Analyses of popular books have found that central characters are more likely to be male, female characters are more often in nurturing roles, and occupations are gender stereotyped,” it added.

Children will be asked to become “fairy tale detectives” and think about what would happen if the fairy tale characters swapped their roles. For example, as outlined in the teaching material, “if the girl had the sword and the boy waited for her to rescue him”.

The program claims children would notice in fairy tales that “men are supposed to be strong and brave and women are supposed to be beautiful and need rescuing by men”.

Dr Lauren Rosewarne of the University of Melbourne, identified several sexist tropes found in fairy tales such as “old women being witches” or “women being saved by men”.

“Fairytales have long been in the crosshairs of feminists who have considered the presentations to reiterate antiquated stereotypes,” she said.

Teachers, meanwhile, will explain to school children that sex only refers to different bodies people are born with whereas gender “helps us talk about ideas we have about the pressure on men and women to act in certain ways”.

The rollout of the new curriculum has raised several concerns among academics and parents. Kevin Donnely of Australian Catholic University told the paper that he has reservations about the program and its potential to unsettle parents.

The government denied the claims that the new curriculum will mean certain fairy tales are banned from classrooms. Families and Children Minister Jenny Mikakos told Daily Mail Australia that no fairy tales will be banned under “Respectful Relationships” program. ”

“It’s absolutely not true—at all,” she said. “I read fairy tales to the kids in my family, I’ll continue to do that and I urge parents and early childhood educators to do the same. Kids should be allowed to grow up to be whatever they want—not made to feel like they have to fit into a gender stereotype.”

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews also denied suggestions that fairy tales will axed in public school, as reported by Nine News. Andrews noted that fairy tales will be allowed, but they would have to be critically examined in order to start “a conversation” among children.