WHAT ARE LITTLE GIRLS MADE OF? by Elena Gianini Belotti


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Belotti's contention--that cultural conditioning distorts the natural development of both sexes--is hardly in dispute, but her argument seems less relevant to the US today, after a decade of feminist activity and criticism, than in her native Italy or in Britain where this book has already appeared. Many of her observations are sound: traditionally the birth of a boy has been preferred, not just for economic reasons; early recognition of sex differences has been perpetuated by color schemes, toy selection, and socializing techniques; adult role models have been limited by economic realities and reinforced by stereotyping in children's literature, especially textbooks. But her insistence that girls are subjected to a repression of their vitality and curiosity and consigned to a life ""within the walls of an oppressive home and. . . the repetitive misery of a domestic routine"" no longer generally applies; girls growing up today have different, broader expectations, a belief in alternatives (supported by statistics on working women) that the author does not allow. Although she acknowledges the importance of teachers as models, she maintains that nursery school teaching appeals only to women who lack ""ambition, independence, and a desire for self-realisation,"" completely overlooking the sizable number who have chosen to work in schools--especially those inspired by English infant schools--precisely for the creative opportunities they offer. Intended as ""a spur toward consciousness,"" this lacks the punch of other efforts--it raises issues that have already been addressed--and adds little to the chorus except another voice, one that mistakes the regrettable prejudices of some for the practices of us all.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1976
Publisher: Schocken