Twitter user and daddy blogger Simon Ragoonanan made an interesting discovery over the weekend in a book that might have gone unnoticed.
In a children’s book by UK publisher Usborne called Growing Up For Boys, he found an extremely (for lack of a better word) sexist graph that describes what breasts are for.
“Girls have breasts for two reasons,” it says. “One is to make milk for babies. The other is to make the girl look grown-up and attractive. Virtually all breasts, no matter what size or shape they end up when a girl finishes puberty, can do both things.”
Growing Up For Boys is a book that’s generally supposed to help boys understand things they might have a hard time asking questions about. The publisher describes it as:
“A frank and friendly book offering boys advice on what to expect from puberty and how to to stay happy and confident as they go through physical, psychological and emotional changes. Covers all the topics that boys want to find out about, including moods and feelings, what happens to girls, diet, exercise, body image, sex and relationships, contraception, sexual health, self-confidence, drink and drugs, exam stress and cyberbullying. Includes helpful tips and fact boxes, as well as quick quizzes and links to carefully researched websites that enhance the information in the book.”
While an understandable topic (and a necessary one at that), many have complained that the part of Growing Up For Boys that describes the purpose of breasts is problematic because it teaches boys to oversexualize girls from a very young age.
On Amazon user left a scathing review, saying:
“I can't believe this has actually been published and nobody thought that telling boys that girls' breasts are there to make them look "grown up and attractive" is once again reducing women and girls to their body parts and is contributing to the sexualising of girls and women. Breasts are evolved to feed babies, that's it. Finding them attractive is a cultural thing - societies where breasts are routinely displayed do not consider them to be a sexual characteristic at all. I'm disgusted that this sentence is even in this book, and I'm also slightly horrified that the author apparently thinks that having breasts, which can happen to girls as young as 8 or 9 these days and is fairly routine for children 11 and older, makes them sexually "attractive", as this is actually what they're saying.”
A teacher in Bristol named Claire Nicholls spoke to The Guardian about the book and said that although its description of breastfeeding (and acknowledging that not every woman can) is great, it still “reinforces the sexualisation of breasts which makes girls and women self conscious.”
“The other huge issue is the false equivalence of developed breasts with attractiveness and being ‘grown-up’,” she said. “The ‘grown-up’ statement is troubling. There are girls of 13 with developed breasts. To describe them as ‘grown-up and attractive’ would be worrying, as would infantilising an adult woman with smaller breasts.”
The book was published in 2013, so the publisher cannot lean on archaic mentalities to excuse its mistake, but according to The Guardian, an Usborne spokesperson did reach out and said, “Usborne apologises for any offense caused by this wording and will be revising the content for reprinting.”
At least they're doing something about it. It's hard to not feel offended that the publisher didn't think this would be problematic to begin with, but making sure that boys are taught correctly from the beginning is the first step to making sure this never happens again.
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