Choose your own gender: An interdisciplinary approach to studying reader assumptions in second-person adventure stories

Danielle Clode, Shari Argent

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    2 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    The predominance of male characters in children's literature has been well-established. Despite some improvements, children's literature remains gender-stereotyped, with an assumption that boys prefer to read about male protagonists. Most literature analyzing gender bias has been grounded in psychology and gender research, but creative writing research has been less frequently used as an investigative tool. Here we use a creative writing methodology to develop a second-person choose-your-own-adventure story, exploring constructions of gender and character. We then extend this research using a traditional survey, comparing readers' choices of 'caring', 'cold' or 'curious' actions with their own gender and the perceived gender of the protagonist. Our preliminary findings suggest that although both sexes were equally likely to describe the protagonist as either male or female, readers who considered the protagonist to be female were more likely to choose 'caring' rather than 'non-caring' actions. The traditional use of gender-specified texts may artificially promote dichotomous gender choice in readers. Further research using second-person interactive narratives may offer less proscribed constructions of gender than traditional methods. Creative writing research offers exciting possibilities for new approaches to gender studies in children's literature, however, our preliminary study has also identified important limitations which will benefit future study design.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)36-45
    Number of pages10
    JournalPoetics
    Volume55
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2016

    Keywords

    • Adventure stories
    • Children's literature
    • Creative writing research
    • Gender identity
    • Interactive stories
    • Second-person narration

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