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Stories Featuring Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families
(written with Mark McGlashan)
It was raining, that day, when I got out of bed. The grass was all wet, so I stayed in and read. Then right after lunch, when the sun lit the sky, We went off to the park, my two moms and I. Two Moms, The Zark, and Me (Johnny Valentine)
Gay relationships are now familiar in novels for adults and, more recently, teenagers. Kiss (2007), by popular British author Jacqueline Wilson, who writes ction for young and older children which features divorced parents, children with absent parents and parents with mental health problems1, features a gay male teenage protagonist called Carl. Gay relationships are now often featured in theatre, lm and TV soap operas. There is as well a signi cant amount of academic work on language and sexuality, with a focus on female and/or male homosexuality (e.g. Baker, 2008a; Koller, 2008; Morrish and Sauntson, 2007, Cameron and Kulick, 2003). Sexuality is increasingly seen as intricately interwoven with gender. Paul Baker (2008a) reminds us that traditionally in heterosexual relations, men were supposed to ‘hunt’ and women to wait (or perhaps lure), and in sexual intercourse men were expected to be more physically active. ‘Performing gender’ (see e.g. Butler, 1999, 1990) in a non-transgressive way in most contexts means ‘performing heterosexuality’. Raewyn Connell (1995) claims that ‘hegemonic masculinity’ is always heterosexual, while homosexual identities are accordingly subordinated, and ‘a performance of heterosexuality must also be in some sense a performance of gender, because heterosexuality requires gender differentiation’ (Cameron and Kulick, 2003: 72).
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Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families
The question of the relationship between gender and heteronormativity (basically, the assumption of universal heterosexual desire, behaviour and identity; see Warner, 1993; Baker, 2008a) is a complex one. Wendy Hollway (1984) sees (hetero)sexuality as shaping gender, ‘based as [heterosexual relations] are on the biological difference which overdetermines individuals’ positioning, both historically and in present interaction’ (1984: 260; but Paul McIlvenny (2002) takes a different view; see also Gatens, 1998). This largely philosophical question may not be resolvable empirically. Moving from theory to social practice, many gay couples live together with one or more children2. Such children may be the biological child of one member of the couple (and a gay woman may be the genetic or birth mother). In the UK, observation suggests that there may be more two-Mum couples than two-Dad couples. This raises interesting questions of representation of such families in children’s ction. Gay relationships are very largely absent from young children’s ction, in that construed parents are frequently an (apparently) heterosexual couple. This is despite a range of other social issues, including multiculturalism, now being common in books for young children, construed in both text and visuals. Just as the advent of non-sexist, anti-sexist and feminist books since the 1970s and 80s (see Chapter 3) can be associated with the second wave of the ‘Western’ Women’s Movement, the growth and availability of children’s books depicting gay parents can similarly be associated with social movements and developments. In the 1970s the new ‘Gay Liberation’ Movement was closely associated with the new ‘Women’s Liberation’ Movement. The rst book depicting gay parents, Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin (see below), was published in 1983. However, also in the early 1980s, the world witnessed the beginning of AIDS, and various tabloid UK newspapers blamed gay men for the spread of the HIV virus (see Paul Baker, 2005). Relating changes in gay men’s personal adverts to wider sociocultural change, Baker also notes that negative attitudes towards homosexuality rose between 1983 and 1987 (British Social Attitudes survey). In 1988 came the ‘notoriously homophobic’ (Morrish, 2002) Section 28 of the local Government Act, 1988. This stated that a local authority (which is responsible for the provision of state education) ‘shall not’: a. intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality b. promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship
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Language, Gender and Children’s Fiction
This shaped the range of books used in UK state schools: dependent on government funding, such schools were clearly dissuaded from stocking books in their libraries which featured gay families, characters or themes. The word promote was ambiguous: while including in a school library a storybook in which both parents in a family are women is not, strictly speaking, ‘promoting’ homosexuality, it could have be seen as doing precisely this. Section 28 was repealed in 2000 in Scotland, and in 2003 in the rest of the UK, but it may have left a legacy in terms of the availability of and openness to such stories. Most children’s books featuring homosexuality are produced by small publishers (see below) and, as far as we know, to date, no major publishers have produced a text of this kind for the current children’s book market. Elizabeth Rowell comments that Historically, homosexuals have been one of the most maligned subgroups in society. Incidents of violence and prejudice as well as negative portrayals of gays and lesbians continue [. . .] These realities directly in uence the availability of materials and their use in early childhood settings. (2007: 1) Rowell (2007) is in fact the only article we have found on children’s books about gay and lesbian families, and she is concerned with recommending particular books for classroom use, rather than analysing them. There have been a few attempts to introduce texts such as King & King, And Tango Makes Three and Spacegirl Pukes (see below) into both UK and US curricula and libraries – on the grounds that, as Rowell (2007) notes, ‘children from same-sex parent families [then] feel that their families are included and other children learn about and gain respect and acceptance for other types of families.’ In her foreword to Judith Snow’s (2005) How it Feels to Have a Gay or Lesbian Parent, Felicia Park-Rogers shows that the negativity and homophobia which lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) families and their children frequently face can be incurred not only institutionally through ‘the law’, or as a result of ‘discriminatory public policy’, but also personally, from peers, teachers or extended family members. How it Feels . . . highlights several extremely personal accounts of the challenges children of gay parents face. Two key recurring themes in these testimonials are the lack of understanding other people had/have of their family make-up, and fear of people nding out about their parents’ sexual orientation. However, these attempts have resulted in considerable backlash from parents (Asthana 2007; Frank 2007) and religious groups (Asthana, 2007;
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Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin. simply capture everyday family life [. . . JSunderland_07_Rev. Bösche. Frank. for example. And Tango Makes Three. how often and how. become a bestseller (Flood. 2006. straight or something else) shares many of the same issues as the representation of gender.indd 145 7/2/2010 10:19:51 AM . like books depicting heterosexual families. 2006. Steven Frank (2007) wrote: ‘One of the ercest battles over gay visibility today is unfolding in the seemingly innocent arena of children’s picture books’.] The fact that some characters are homosexual is evident but not the main focus of the story. men and families represented in two-Mum and two-Dad books written for young children? Does the representation of two-Mum couples differ from that of two-Dad couples? By ‘family’ we mean a gay adult couple and at least one child. for whom they are care-providers (we recognize that other de nitions are possible). as we show below. ironically. What are children’s books depicting homosexuality like? Rowell claimed that Typically. gay-friendly picture books. Jan and Vaznis. a book based on fact (see Table 7a). The representation of sexual identity (gay. a story of a girl who lives with her gay father and his partner (again see Table 1). 2000) and in the United States there have been federal lawsuits and organized campaigns. was in 2008 declared the most ‘frequently challenged book’ by the American Library Association (Flood. who is included. The study does not aim to compare the texts with any other genre of children’s books. Our broad initial research questions for this study were: z z How are gay women. 2009)3. it has since. We use a combination of content analysis. 2008. appears to have been a milestone on the road to the enforcement of the UK’s Section 28 after former Conservative MP David Wilshire read the book at a teaching centre (Walker. visual analysis and linguistic analysis. 2009a).Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 145 see also Clark. Particular titles have also made the headlines. 2007. Johnston. (2007: 2) This does not however acknowledge the diversity within this small genre (including diversity of strategies to promote understanding and positive images of two-Mum and two-Dad families). 2009b). but to look solely at the dataset as an independent small corpus.
some others could not be shipped overseas. was found in our local (Lancaster) public library (and then with some dif culty). Only eight of these books were ever published outside of the United States: one in Canada. but see Table 7a). ve in the United Kingdom (including Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin.indd 146 7/2/2010 10:19:51 AM . to ensure that our data was completely representative. with an emphasis on what they had in common with families headed by heterosexual parents. The most common publisher is the US-based Alyson Books4. (See Bibliography (3) for a list of other books which were unavailable. from an independently-run alternative bookshop in a major city (Liverpool). Gender and Children’s Fiction Data We had a feeling that there would not be many two-Mum and two-Dad picture books in existence. several are now out-of-print. But note also the absence of books of either sort in the years 1984 to 19885. which is when the AIDS scare. The books. others were prohibitively expensive. Spacegirl Pukes. JSunderland_07_Rev.146 Language. too expensive. We therefore conducted a thorough search for titles. The dif culty we had acquiring them was striking. and wanted our small corpus to ideally include all those in or out-of print. Most were bought online from the usual large international retailer (almost all had to be shipped from the United States). one of whose specialities is the ‘Alyson Wonderland’ group of LGBT books aimed at children. that is. reached its peak (and see also below). and association of AIDS with gay men. Only one. Asha’s Mums) were bought in the UK over the counter. And Tango Makes Three.) Numerically. or which we became aware of too late in the day. one book being a collection). Our three essential criteria were books: z z z aiming at young children depicting same-sex couples (whose depiction relates to the story and plot) depicting a child or children for whom these parents permanently care (exceptions were King and King and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding. All appeared to be about promoting acceptance. which was rst published in Denmark). Only three (One Dad Two Dads Brown Dads Blue Dads. the two-Mum stories outweighed the two-Dad stories by 19 to 10. and the King & King pair originate from the Netherlands. including consulting members of the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA). understanding and/or celebration of two-Mum or two-Dad families. This gave us 25 books in English (29 stories. are indicated in Tables 7a and 7b. with a brief description of the stories.
so Scarlett could do the same. . Gloria and her two mums prepare for. . the annual gay pride parade. read books or have ‘too many mothers or fathers’. Little Jenny and her big brother Dan live with their two mothers. The Zark. . but only boys are allowed. . Anna nds that 12 of her friends don’t have the ‘right’ parents. . and Me 8 9 1994 A Beach Party with Alexis [Sarita JohnsonCalvo] 2002 Felicia’s Favourite Story [Lesléa Newman] 2004 Molly’s Family [Nancy Garden] 10 11 JSunderland_07_Rev. Molly joins other children in drawing pictures of their families. Barbara and Josie. She gets upset because she feels different from the children who have a daddy. A colouring activity book written from the perspective of the child.indd 147 7/2/2010 10:19:51 AM . Anna has two mothers – Judith and Marian. . Scarlett wants to be an Eaglerider. . (Continued) 3 4 5 6 7 1991 The Ogre’s Boots [Johnny Valentine] 1993 Two Moms. . They don’t believe she can have both a mommy and mama. Alexis and her two mums have a beach party with their friends. Rhyming picture book. Peter needs to trick the dragon so he can steal his jewels to pay the rent. Her mother tells Scarlett how when she was young she fell in love with another woman but had to dress like a man so people wouldn’t guess their secret. 1991 Dragon Sense [Johnny Valentine] 1991 Gloria goes to Gay Pride [Lesléa Newman] 1991 The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans [Johnny Valentine] 1991 The Eaglerider [Johnny Valentine] From the collection The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans And Other Stories. 2 1990 Asha’s Mums Asha’s teacher doesn’t believe that Asha has two mums and [Rosamund Elwin Asha is scared she might not get permission to go to the & Michelle Paulse] science centre. . Peter lives with his book-keeper mother and her sorcerer ‘friend’ Daniela. Felicia is going to bed and has her mums tell her the story of how she was adopted. The Ogre steals mother Josie and Jenny goes to rescue her and kills the ogre. A boy (narrator) goes to the zoo with his two moms. From The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans . When he gets lost the conservative McFinks don’t believe he has two moms so try to nd him an ‘okay’ family to live with. The Zark helps the boy nd his moms. . From The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans . . The duke decrees that nobody can eat jellybeans. . From The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans . but her teacher and parents explain that she can.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families Table 7a The two-Mum texts Year Title [author] 1 1989 Heather Has Two Mommies (2nd ed. and march in. 2000) [Lesléa Newman] Narrative 147 Heather goes to day care and is told a story featuring a daddy.
Spacegirl and her mummies get ill before she is supposed to go into space. they think they’re different from the other children. his father. Board book. A simple picture book. one of Noah’s two mothers. 2004 The Daddy Machine (1st ed. Josh and Jaz go to school and are told to draw a family tree. She decides she is happy with the two she already has. As they don’t have a dad. and end up with more dads than they had expected. but get upset. 2 1991 JSunderland_07_Rev. Go-ma. While the other daddies are made to return to the machine. Mama. 2000) [Michael Willhoite] Narrative The day-to-day events of Jenny’s weekend with her parents. including an encounter with homophobia. daddies 1 and 2 decide to rent a house together next door. in the form of a photographic diary. Gender and Children’s Fiction Narrative Two gay mums give their children a present to play with while they go shopping. 1992) [Johnny Valentine] 13 2005 Emma and Meesha My Boy: a two-mom story [Kaitlyn Considine] 2005 Mom and Mum are getting Married! [Ken Settering] 2005 Spacegirl Pukes [Katy Watson] 2006 The Different Dragon [Jennifer Bryan] 2007 Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums [Hedi Argent] 2007 If I had a Hundred Mummies [Vanda Carter] 2009 Mommy. narrated from a child’s point of view. Emma learns how to be nice to her cat. her two mums teach her. Mommy and mama and their child participate in different activities. The sex of the child is not clear.indd 148 7/2/2010 10:19:51 AM . reads him a bedtime story about a magical world where Noah meets a dragon who would rather be nice than erce all the time. 15 16 17 18 19 Table 7b The two-Dad texts Year 1 1983 Title [author] Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin [Susanne Bösche] Daddy’s Roommate (2nd ed. and Me [Lesléa Newman] 14 Rosie wants to be a owergirl at her mom and mum’s wedding but she has trouble convincing them. The children make a ‘daddy machine’. At bedtime a girl with two mummies wonders what it would be like to have a hundred mummies. It talks about daily experiences and tasks that the child.148 Table 7a (Cont’d) Year Title [author] 12 Language. Their mummies tell them the story of how they were adopted. and his father’s boyfriend carry out.
7 2004 8 2005 And Tango Makes Three The story of Roy and Silo. and given JSunderland_07_Rev. 9 2008 10 2009 Daddy. more speci c.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 3 1991 The Frog Prince [Johnny Valentine] From The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans . its portrayal of marriage. who kisses a frog. but he falls in love with a prince and they take over as King & King. whether the stories are based on ‘realism’ or fantasy). We therefore drew up the following. In particular. the sex of the child is unclear. above. . a real couple of male chinstrap [Justin Richardson penguins in a New York zoo who foster a baby penguin and Peter Parnell] called Tango. Uncle Bobby’s Wedding [Sarah Brannen] Uncle Bobby is getting married and niece Chloe doesn’t want to lose her favourite uncle because they always have a wonderful time together. The queen wants her son to marry a princess so that he can take over as king. Daddy and Dada and their child participate in different activities. both ideologically/strategically and in terms of narrative approach (i. . gay themes were addressed in very different ways. However. King & King features no child characters.indd 149 7/2/2010 10:19:51 AM . A story of Nicolas. and Me [Lesléa Newman] Further Research Questions Even an initial look at the books evidenced their diversity. a boy with two fathers. (N. 149 4 1992 The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones [Forman Brown] King & King [Linda de Haan & Stern Nijland] A rhyming picture book which details the living arrangements of Jeff (the son). Questions are asked by the narrator to ‘Lou’.) 5 2000 6 2004 King & King & Family King & King go on their honeymoon in the jungle. . research questions: (i) What narrative approaches are adopted to promote acceptance and understanding and/or celebration of families with same-sex parents? As regards the previous broad research question ‘Does the representation of two-Mum couples differ from that of two-Dad couples?’. . a boy who has two blue dads. Jeff’s friends are jealous because they only have one busy dad who doesn’t do as much with them as Jeff’s dads do.e. .B. and its sequel King & King & Family (see below) justify its inclusion in the data. Dada. Board book. Mama and Me . Comparable to Mommy. The frog turns out to be a prince called Jesse who gets adopted by Nicolas’ dads. One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads [Johnny Valentine] A rhyming picture book dealing with different types of fathers. They [Linda de Haan & return home with a princess hidden in their luggage and Stern Nÿland] adopt her. She ends up with two favourite uncles.
whether of desire. and 19 about Mums. Gender and Children’s Fiction that being gay involves a sexual element. Further. if mothers are seen as ‘natural’ carers. Linguistic and visual analyses were carried out alongside the content analysis. we were interested in whether and how physical contact between the gay parents would be represented.150 Language.indd 150 7/2/2010 10:19:51 AM . identity and/or practice (Cameron and Kulick. We wanted to know which parents. strictly. This gave us the research question: (ii) Are two-Dad couples and two-Mum couples represented differently with speci c reference to physical contact? This again raises questions of gender as well as sexuality. if so. they may be relatively easy to represent in this role. The third speci c research question was: (iii) What textual strategies are adopted to promote acceptance. Visual Analysis Quantitative content analysis (see Chapter 3) provided a sound basis and context for subsequent linguistic analysis. 2006. Content Analysis. 9 about Dads and 1 about Uncles). were more likely to be represented as displaying overt signs of a physical or sexual relationship. understanding and/or celebration of families with same-sex parents? Here we were interested inter alia in whether gay sexuality was addressed explicitly. JSunderland_07_Rev. and. For example. This was clearly related to RQ (ii). the data consisted of 10 stories about Dads (or. we quanti ed the number of times characters were represented as making physical contact (including in the visuals). 2003). how. Linguistic Analysis. if either. gay men who are fathers may accordingly be more dif cult to represent (making this as much an issue of gender as of sexuality). As shown above (Tables 7a and 7b). This imbalance may suggest that two-Mum households are less socially transgressive (and less threatening) than two-Dad households (and the books hence more marketable?) Or is it that the (presumed) greater number of two-Mum than two-Dad families simply creates a set of market forces in itself? It may also be that the topic of gay fathers is more threatening to a traditional notion of masculinity than is the topic of gay mothers to femininity. which was then explored linguistically through close analysis of the relevant written text.
indd 151 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM . (The texts Mummy. one is the fantasy King & King and Family. Initial Linguistic Analysis: Names and Book Titles Names constitute part of Theo van Leeuwen’s (2008. The ‘names’ (used by narrators and characters in dialogue alike) are7: Table 7c Names of the Mums and Dads Two-Dad books Blue Dads Dad and Frank Daddy and Papa Eric and Martin Father and Karl King and King (x2) (Continued) Two-Mum books Mama and Mommy Mama Katie and Mama Jane Mama Linda and Mama Nessa Mama Rose and Mama Grace Mommy and Mama Lu Mom and Mum JSunderland_07_Rev. one boy6).) Of the three two-Dad books with daughters. Mama and Me and Daddy. and the third is the ‘notorious’ Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. but a little mysterious: although there may be more two-Mum than two-Dad families in reality. We are using the term ‘name’ broadly.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 151 Another interesting pattern is the sex of the child (or. Having two parents of the same sex raises the question of how these parents are addressed by the child and/or referred to by the narrator to differentiate them (something that may be in uenced in the story by the role of and emphasis placed on biological parenthood). two-Dad books with sons (4) and two-Dad books with daughters (3). four are two-Mum stories. Mum/ Mom/Dad/Daddy). two-Mum families (one might think) are as likely to have sons as daughters. only The Frog Prince is a two-Dad story. Papa and Me do not identify the sex of the children. This is interesting. Perhaps a gay mother is seen as a less problematic ‘role model’ for a daughter than a gay father? Of the ve cases where there are two children. in just ve cases. The most frequent combination by far was two-Mum books which feature daughters (14). Names in these stories occur within clauses (as subject or object). 1996) ‘social actor’ network (see Chapter 4). children – always one girl. one is Uncle Bobby’s Wedding.g. van Leeuwen (2008: 40) uses ‘nomination’ to refer to an actual name (a person’s ‘unique identity’) and ‘categorization’ to mean ‘identities and functions they share with others’ (e. followed by two-Mum books with sons (6).
These differences are striking. often incorporate the names of the child(ren) concerned. that is. 12.) It seems problematic for even a biological Dad to be called some variant of ‘Dad + rst name’ and for a non-biological Dad to be addressed as a parent (by implication. and/or the Mums/Dads.indd 152 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM . we suggest. a little under half. if either. a caregiver.There is little indication which of the mums.152 Language. are. a role usually seen as unproblematic for mums). However. in three of these cases. Eric. the recurring prototypical pattern is ‘categorization + nomination’: some variation of ‘Mum’. Some explicitly or implicitly index gay families (or gay sexuality). and. (Table 7d. then. Asha’s Mums and Mom and Mum are Getting Married) do so explicitly. Joe) – Frank and Karl perhaps indicating non-biological Dads. Of the 29 stories. Pete. a rather different form of naming. Gender and Children’s Fiction Table 7c (Cont’d) Two-Dad books Pete and Joe Roy and Silo Uncle Bobby and Jamie Two-Mum books Momma and Go-Ma Mommy and Mama Mother Marian and Mother Judith Mother Barbara and Mother Josie Mother and Daniella Mum Alice and Mum Sara Mummy Sue and Mummy Fran Mummy Neenee and Mummy Loula Sarita and Sandy For the two Mums. For the two-Dad stories. JSunderland_07_Rev. Four of the eight two-Mum stories which do this (Heather Has Two Mommies. Father) are used only four times (less than half). Josh and Jaz have Three Mums. those which do. in about the same proportion for the two-Dad and two-Mum books. Silo. in contrast. Karl. supports this. Book titles. have titles which index the gay nature of the content. usually followed by a proper noun: a rst name (‘informal nomination’). a complete declarative clause. Martin. Frank. using ‘categorization’. It is nomination that is prototypical: the Dads’ rst names alone (Roy. ‘paternal relationship’ categorization words (Dad. is the biological or birth mother (the one exception is ‘Mother and Daniella’). and only once in a parallel way (Daddy and Papa). showing book titles which include names of the adult characters.
as Fantasy affords many possibilities (including ideal ones) that ‘Real world’ does not. Mama. animals might explore new planets). and Me Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin 153 One Dad Two Dads Brown Dads Blue Dads [?] Daddy’s Roommate [?] those in the two-Dad group seem considerably less explicit. a story about animals as animals (with anthropomorphism kept to a minimum). some of the books could broadly be described as ‘Real world’ and some as ‘Fantasy’.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families Table 7d Titles which explicitly or implicitly index ‘gay-parent families’ Two-Mum Titles Asha’s Mums Emma and Meesha My Boy: a two-mom story Gloria goes to Gay Pride Heather Has Two Mommies Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums Mom and Mum are Getting Married Mommy. The constraints of ‘Fantasy’ would seem to be fewer than those of ‘Real world’. Those using ‘Fantasy’ often included fantastical imagery and/or unrealistic situations.indd 153 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM . A third approach was the ‘Animal approach’. The books using ‘Real world’ approaches represented the characters and their activities as realistic and ‘everyday’. Papa. which we refer to here as ‘narrative approaches’ (RQi). ‘Animal stories’ can be categorized in different ways. In this data set. The Zark. JSunderland_07_Rev. RQ (i): Narrative Approaches As indicated. Both approaches portrayed gay sexuality in a broadly positive way. using animals anthropomorphically and even parodically. We now move on to addressing the three speci c Research Questions (RQs). for example. The construal of male homosexual parents in young children’s books seems yet again more problematic than the representation of lesbian parents. despite the parental categorization in three of the four. they could also be referred to as genres or sub-genres of children’s ction. that is. or simply (c) ‘Animal’. subject to the same constraints. (b) Animal-Fantasy (for example. this may be a metaphor for human behaviour. and Me Two-Dad Titles Daddy. intersecting with Real world/Fantasy. We offer the following: (a) Animal-Real world (for example. animal-children go to school). and Me Two Moms.
Mama. The Zark. Table 7e shows a balance between ‘Real world’ and ‘Fantasy’ approaches in almost equal proportion. Hunt. RQ (ii a): Representations of Physical Contact: Visual Analysis As the children these books are aimed at will have a limited grasp of written text. and Me The Ogre’s Boots Spacegirl Pukes Animal JSunderland_07_Rev. visuals may prove more important in communicating the narrative (see also Chapter 3). they may have the books read to them (see Harper. 2001. and Uncle Bobby’s Wedding) were both Dad-books and were considered Animal-Real world. Papa. 1992. The question of whether to illustrate physical contact must always be a challenge for those involved in the production of these books: a story about gay parents does not have to represent physical contact between them Table 7e Narrative approaches to representing gay sexuality Real World Two-Mum books A Beach Party with Alexis Asha’s Mums Emma and Meesha My Boy Felicia’s Favorite Story Gloria Goes to Gay Pride Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums Heather has Two Mommies Mom and Mum are Getting Married Molly’s Family Mommy. Neither approach appears to be particularly associated with either two-Mum or two-Dad books.indd 154 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM . and Me Daddy’s Roommate Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones King & King King & King & Family One Dad Two Dads Brown Dads Blue Dads The Frog Prince And Tango Makes Three Uncle Bobby’s Wedding Fantasy Dragon Sense If I had a Hundred Mummies The Daddy Machine The Different Dragon The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans The Eaglerider Two Moms. Accordingly. and Me Two-Dad books Daddy.154 Language. 1991). Gender and Children’s Fiction the two texts adopting the Animal strategy (And Tango Makes Three. Dombey.
Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 155 visually. or at least were not. schools and libraries.indd 155 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM .5%) 3 (100%) 5 (100%) 1 (100%) 5 (100%) 1 1 0 4 1 1 4 0 1 A Beach Party with Alexis Asha’s Mums Dragon Sense Emma and Meesha My Boy Felicia’s Favorite Story Gloria goes to Gay Pride If I had a Hundred Mummies Josh and Jaz have Three Mums Heather Has Two Mommies 24 (Continued) JSunderland_07_Rev. On the other hand. and physical contact between the characters is a strong indicator of the emphasis on the relationship between the parents and the family as a unit. it presumably needs to be made clear that the parents are not simply friends sharing a house (and the childcare). and an intention that these books should be available in shops. just how physical and intimate can the contact be? – especially as heterosexual parents in children’s picture books are not. speci cally. or in extremely close proximity) compared to the number of times they were not. in a family setting). And what about physical contact with the child(ren) of the family – bearing in mind also a social climate of fear concerning homosexuals and the association for some people of homosexuality with child abuse? (Vitagliano. Visual representation of physical contact – perhaps the most obvious way to show it – is then one indication not only of authorial/illustrator choice but also of overtness. given a climate of homophobia. 1975). normally shown as having physical contact (Women on Words and Images. Tables 7f and 7g show the results: Table 7f Visual representation and physical contact in the two-Mum texts Title No. when both were represented together (and. we looked at the visuals and compared the number of times each pair of parents were in physical contact (touching. of Times Frames8 Mums Pictured Together 35 20 6 15 21 33 20 17 8 2 0 5 11 3 5 1 5 With Times both Times Contact Contact Mums Featured made in Family in Family Setting Setting 1 1 0 4 3 1 4 0 1 8 (100%) 2 (100%) 0 5 (100%) 5 (45. 1999) To answer RQ (ii). However.
JSunderland_07_Rev.3%) 21 (95.indd 156 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM .9%) 2 (100%) 2 (100%) 1 (100%) 0 1 (100%) 8 (100%) 1 3 2 3 0 0 1 0 1 4 Molly’s Family Mom and Mum are Getting 12 Married Mommy. and Me Spacegirl Pukes The Daddy Machine The Different Dragon The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans The Eaglerider The Ogre’s Boots Two Moms. and Me Daddy’s Roommate Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin King & King King & King & Family One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads The Frog Prince The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones Uncle Bobby’s Wedding Total: 26 16 30 56 20 27 26 5 27 19 252 196 TOTAL excluding Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin9. and Me TOTAL: 18 18 37 17 6 4 7 31 363 Table 7g Visual representation and physical contact in the two-Dad texts Title No. The Zark.45%) 0 3 (11. Gender and Children’s Fiction No.1%) 5 (45. Mama.8%) 6 (100%) 13 (43.45%) 1 (100%) 11 (100%) 10 (100%) Times Contact made in Family Setting 0 4 2 6 0 0 1 0 0 5 And Tango Makes Three Daddy.156 Table 7f (Cont’d) Title Language. of Frames Times Dads With Times both Pictured Contact Dads Featured Together in Family Setting 22 6 21 22 6 21 11 1 11 10 131 109 11 4 7 6 4 4 3 1 0 5 45 39 1 (3. Papa. of Times Frames8 Mums Pictured Together 22 5 8 6 13 2 2 1 0 1 8 86 Times Contact With Times both Contact Mums Featured made in Family Setting in Family Setting 1 3 2 6 0 0 1 0 1 4 33 5 (100%) 8 (100%) 6 (100%) 10 (76.
the Dads are pictured together in 131 frames out of a possible 252 (52%).indd 157 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM . in a family setting). the relationships between the gay characters in two-Dad texts are explored visually much more. a sign of a ‘loving family’). such construed public contact between men is also arguably more transgressive. the Mums appear together in only 86 out of a possible 363 (24%).. Further. King & King & Family and And Tango Makes Three) the Dads are pictured together far more outside a family context. This marked ‘upfrontness’ could be an indicator of the author promoting the normality of Dads sleeping together (i. something that looks like an issue of gender. the author’s agenda in promoting acceptance of gay sexuality. It seems that domesticity is a bit of a problem for these Dads: again. Physical contact is also more frequent in the two-Dad texts. in the two-Dad texts. compared with 33 in the (more numerous) twoMum texts. between Mums it is less than 1 in 10. Proportionally. In three texts (King & King. that is. Daddy’s Roommate and Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin use the ‘Real world’ approach (most of the two-Dad texts used the ‘Fantasy’ approach). the Mums are nearly always pictured together in a family setting (see the percentages in each column 6). then. As with the visuals in general. for the 19 two-Mum stories. In marked contrast. Only in Spacegirl Pukes and Felicia’s Favourite Story are the Mums pictured together outside a family context. Represented contact is arguably especially salient outside the family context as it is then a public indication of a shared bond (and not. Nearly all the two-Mum books that adopt the ‘Real world’ approach (see Table 7e) also show contact occurring in a family setting.e. As a proportion of the total visuals (frames). However. books adopting the ‘Fantasy’ approach display contact JSunderland_07_Rev. Are the women being represented as less sexual than the men (a gender stereotype) and/or less in need of physical contact? Several factors need to be taken into account here: the type of contact made. only in King & King do we see them kissing. and in two (Daddy’s Roommate and One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads) they are pictured outside a family setting in less than half of the visuals. 45 pictured occurrences. e. the opposite is true. and the narrative approach. this physical contact is more likely to be outside a family setting for the Dads than the Mums. The visuals in the two-Dad texts thus address and foreground gay sexuality more explicitly than in the two-Mum texts. Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin) do we see images of the parents sharing a bed. In particular. only in two-Dad texts (Daddy’s Roommate. This contrast with the greater foregrounding of gay Mums as gay Mums through naming and book titles.g. However. physical contact between Dads is shown in approximately 1 in 5 (with or without the multiframed Eric and Martin).Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 157 Of the 10 two-Dad stories.
Heather has Two Mummies. the physical side of gay sexuality. ‘Real world’ texts. and certainly not intimate contact and not as much as certain of the two-Dad.indd 158 7/2/2010 10:19:52 AM . Gender and Children’s Fiction outside the family (for example.3%) than do the ‘Real world’ texts (33. The ‘Fantasy’ texts address gay sexuality rather less explicitly and (perhaps unsurprisingly) present gay parents together in family situations less often.158 Language. However. the Mums hugging in Felicia’s Favourite Story) more frequently (58. visually. In summary. in childcare situations in Asha’s Mums. Josh and Jaz have Three Mums and Molly’s Family. the Mums explain openly the reasons why other children see their families as ‘different’). visually. they tend not to foreground contact.3%). JSunderland_07_Rev. gay contact in a family situation is predominantly a ‘realistic’ notion in these books. foregrounding it through represented physical contact. The ‘Real world’ texts address parents’ gay sexuality explicitly and purposefully. The two-Mum texts address gay sexuality realistically (for example.
Mama Rose and Mama Grace hold hands [twice] I hold Mama Grace’s hand.indd 159 7/2/2010 10:19:54 AM . and between parent and child. as shown in Tables 7h and 7i.’ I said to Alice and kissed her cheeks. And they would all be really 2 bossy and talk about me on the phone and smother me with kisses and tell me off and moan . . in relation to physical contact between the parents. Table 7h Lexicalization of physical contact (two-Mum books) Two-Mum Books Title Characters in Contact Mum Alice and Asha Times Making Contact 3 Type of Contact and Times Made hug (1) kiss (2) Mum Sara and Asha Gloria Goes Mama Rose to Gay and Mama Pride Grace 1 2 kiss (1) hold hands (1) hold hands (1) hug (1) Example in Context Times Contact Made 4 Asha’s Mums Mum Alice gave me a big hug and a kiss ‘Thanks mum. ‘Thanks mum. 3 Gloria and 1 Mama Grace Heather Has Two Mommies Family 6 Mama Kate and Mama Jane 6 both laugh and give Heather a great big hug. kiss (5) If I had a Hundred Mommies Hundred Mommies and child 2 kiss (2) Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums Mummy Fran and Twins Family 1 hug (1) 1 cuddle (1) Sue and Fran took the twins on their laps and they had a cuddle (Continued) JSunderland_07_Rev.’ I said to Sara and kissed her cheeks. They kiss Heather good-bye. Lexical references to physical contact are made by both narrator and characters in dialogue. Heather gives each of her mommies two kisses. Speech marks indicate dialogue. Josh and Jaz rushed at her and 2 hugged her. .Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families RQ (ii b) Representations of Physical Contact: Linguistic Analysis 159 Physical contact was not only represented visually.
and Me Daddy’s Roommate Dad and Frank sleep together Every night Roy and Silo slept (1) there together.indd 160 7/2/2010 10:19:54 AM . 1 Mama. reaching down to hug Anna. kiss (2) Now Daddy and Papa are tucked in tight. Mommy and Mama kiss me goodnight. 1 The Duke Who Outlawed Jellybeans Mother Marian and Anna 1 hug (1) Table 7i Lexicalization of physical contact (two-Dad books) Two-Dad Books Title Characters in Contact Times Making Contact 1 Type of Contact and Times Made Example in Context Times Contact Made 1 And Tango Roy and Makes Silo Three Daddy. ‘Night-night!’ 2 2 1 sleep together Daddy and Frank [. Gender and Children’s Fiction Two-Mum Books Title Characters in Contact Times Making Contact Type of Contact and Times Made hug (1) kiss (1) Example in Context Times Contact Made 2 Mommy. and child Me Mommy. I kiss them both and say. 5 Mummy Loula and Spacegirl Family 1 hug (1) 4 hug (2) kiss (2) Mummy Loula and Mummy Neenee hugged Spacegirl and kissed her goodbye. Then they kissed. ‘‘He can’t do that!’ exclaimed Anna softly.’ said Marian.] Sleep (1) together 1 JSunderland_07_Rev. Family Papa. Mommy and 1 Mama.160 Table 7h (Cont’d) Language. Mummy Loula hugged her. and child Mom and Mum are Getting Married Spacegirl Pukes Mom and Mum 1 Mommy hugs me on her lap. The mummies hugged Spacegirl again and kissed her goodbye. kiss (1) Then Jack and I gave mum and 1 mom our baskets. . . ‘I’m afraid he can. They unwrapped the rings and put them on each other’s nger.
wrinkle his nose.indd 161 7/2/2010 10:19:54 AM . Such examples suggest that contact is usual.’ says Eric. The linguistic representations of physical contact between parents thus do not really correspond to those in the visuals. looking at Martin. Mummy Fran). kiss (once each). Jenny gets a great big kiss. Only ve books include linguistic representations of physical contact between the parents: And Tango Makes Three. and. respectively. Daddy’s Roommate and Jenny lives with Eric and Martin (two-Dad books) and Mom and Mum are Getting Married and Gloria goes to Gay Pride (two-Mum books). In these.’ ‘If they hug you too hard. and the lack of wanted JSunderland_07_Rev. Physical contact is also linguistically negatively marked in three instances (not shown in Tables 7h and 7i). Eric and Martin. Uncle Jamie.e. She jumped up and grabbed Uncle Bobby’s and Uncle Jamie’s hands. and Mom and Mum. Roy and Silo. as shown in Column 2. see Chapter 3). does 1 the color run off?’ 161 1 kiss (1) One Dad Family Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads The Frog Prince 1 hug (1) Nicolas and 1 Jesse (Frog/ Prince) Uncle Bobby. and Mama Rose and Mama Grace hold hands (three times). Importantly. in Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums. and Dad and Frank sleep together (once each). as lightly and quickly as he could. hug. 3 laughing. Martin gives him a big kiss right on the mouth and Jenny gets one on the nose. or expected. cuddle. he kissed the top of the frog’s head. kiss being the most frequent. ‘the twins didn’t rush up to hug her’ (i. The visual representations are far ‘fuller’ in this respect. 1 Uncle Bobby’s Wedding hold hands (1) 1 The forms of physical contact represented linguistically are kiss. hold hands and sleep together (with morphological variations). and Chloe 1 kiss (1) He leaned over. for example. thus ‘enhancing interaction’ (Nikolajeva and Scott. ‘We do love each other – even if we argue sometimes.’ says Martin. contact is mainly represented linguistically in relation to the child(ren).Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families Jenny Lives Martin and With Eric Jenny and Martin Martin and Eric 2 kiss (2) ‘You are a sly one. 2000.
The frequencies for hug.indd 162 7/2/2010 10:19:54 AM . Of course. Represented physical contact can also be seen strategically as promoting acceptance of two-Mum and two-Dad families. RQ (iii): Textual Strategies and the Promotion. normalizing it for these non-traditional contexts. may have more to do with gender than sexuality. the representation of multi-ethnic two-Mum/two-Dad families is far from unrealistic. JSunderland_07_Rev. however. and/or to subvert negative notions of homosexuality in ful lling (in the case of a ‘Fantasy’ story) the narrative of a prototypical fairy tale. and hugging may function in these texts to represent a ‘mothering’ practice. which acts both as a metaphor and an extension of a positive embracing of gay sexuality to other identities and to social diversity and inclusion more widely. Table 7j shows the quantitative differences between the two-Dad/twoMum texts in terms of positive linguistic representation of physical contact. This indexes a loving family relationship. to show the normality of physical family interaction. Gender and Children’s Fiction Linguistic representations of physical contact Two-Dad Texts hug hold hands kiss sleep together Total: 1 1 7 2 11 Two-Mum Texts 9 3 13 0 25 or usual contact can be seen as a narrative device to achieve an (arguably) ideological end. arguably a norm of family interaction. as in books depicting families with straight parents. the frequencies for kiss are predictable. again. is addressed representationally here through the prevalence of hugging and kissing across the texts. that is. Understanding and/or Celebration of Families with Same-sex Parents How is gay sexuality itself dealt with? Here we ask about the strategies employed by the authors of these books to represent gay sexuality in a positive way. Acceptance.162 Table 7j Language. The expression of physical contact. are not. Given that there are nearly twice as many two-Mum stories. given the (sometime) possibility of adoption by gay and lesbian couples. by suggesting they have much in common with ‘straight-headed’ families (see below). and. A general observation (especially in the ‘realistic’ books) is an emphasis on ethnic diversity.
) Mommy says Daddy and Frank are gay. and I’m happy too! Gloria goes to Gay Pride (During the parade some protesters bring a sign saying ‘Gays Go Away’. gay sexuality is discussed explicitly. in Gloria Goes to Gay Pride (‘two-Mum’).’ Mama Grace says. So she explained it. she may not have fully conceptualized it. it is normalized and ‘credited’ through reference to the value of love: Daddy’s Roommate (Mommy has offered a simple answer to the child’s question about what ‘gay’ means. ‘Love is the most important thing of all. In Daddy’s Roommate and Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. Daddy and his roommate are very happy together. and probably that this is unusual.’ Mama Rose picks me up.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families (i) The ‘Gay strategy’ 163 The word gay (along with in ected forms) appears in the dataset 17 times. The ‘Gay strategy’ references the gay identity of the parents. ‘Some women love women. Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin (both ‘two-Dad’) and.indd 163 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM . some men love men. In what we call the ‘Gay strategy’. I don’t understand. most frequently. in part through the device of explaining the word to the child in the story. In Gloria Goes to Gay Pride. (Continued) JSunderland_07_Rev. offers an explanation. And love is the best kind of happiness.) ‘Why do they want us to go away?’ I ask. gay is an unfamiliar term to the child. and rationalizes it for their child. Although Jenny knows she lives with two men. At rst I didn’t know what that meant. When the topic of gay identity is raised in these texts. but only in the three ‘Real world’ books Daddy’s Roommate. Gloria is familiar with the term.’ she says. ‘Some people think Mama Rose and I shouldn’t love each other. ‘But you always tell me love is the most important thing of all. Being gay is just one more kind of love. but is challenged to confront adverse attitudes to gayness.
Andrews. ‘What does that mean?’ ‘We call it that when two men love each other and live together like Martin and I do. Elizabeth Rowell’s (2007: 2) claim that ‘Typically.’ says Eric. This may be for artistic reasons: the ‘Gay strategy’ may now look just too didactic. Gloria Goes to Gay Pride (1991) was of course less directly associated with gay men. Eric and Martin are returning from doing laundry. Section 28 (see above). and all the rest in our dataset use either the ‘different’ or the ‘backgrounding’ strategy. and that there was a need for a book for these children to identify with’ (2000).indd 164 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM . The three books which utilize the ‘gay strategy’ were published in 1983 and 1991. Gender and Children’s Fiction and some women and men love each other. simply capture everyday family life’ (see above) appears to be an overgeneralization. were published in the 1990s or after 2000. ‘Are you going to play for a bit in the sandpit?’ he asks. Of the rst. gay-friendly picture books. But Jenny doesn’t feel like playing. Eric rationalizes the situation with Jenny. in the UK. and. Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin (1983). like books depicting heterosexual families. may have both left their particular mark.) Eric starts to hang out the clothes. Daddy’s Roommate (1991) was published after the ‘moral panic’ about gay men and AIDS (and Paul Baker (2005) reports that attitudes of homosexuality in the UK improved between 1987 and 1990 (British Social Attitudes survey)). Their authors’ agenda may have been to normalize the idea of gay sexuality for a generation of children who were far more likely than previously to come into contact with openly-gay two-Mum and twoDad families. She proceeds to call them gay (abusively) and says they should stay at home where they can’t be seen. That’s why we march in the parade – so everyone can have a voice. author Susanne Bösche states that ‘while researching for the book [she] became aware that there are a lot of children in Denmark living with a homosexual father or mother.’ Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin (Jenny. This book was published just before AIDS became widely associated with gay men (see above). ‘Why did she say that about gays?’ she asks. But the association of gayness with AIDS. Almost all the other books in our dataset (and in Bibliography 3 (p. These explanations of gay are similar: ‘love’ and the gay characters being ‘together’. taking the clothes pegs out of his mouth. Sometimes gay JSunderland_07_Rev. On their way home they bump into Mrs.164 Language. 253)).
In Heather has Two Mummies. where having two Mums or Dads is conceptually recognized as different by the child. Alternatively. The two-Dad books which use this strategy are z z z z And Tango Makes Three One Dad Two Dads Brown Dad Blue Dads The Frog Prince The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones and the Two-Mum books: z z z z z Asha’s Mums Heather Has Two Mommies Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums Molly’s Family Two Moms. more.indd 165 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM . by using different types of narrative (‘sub-strategy’?). The ‘difference’ of the gay parents can be questioned on more than one level. as follows. These texts thus ask different questions about gay parents. or less explicitly. The Zark.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 165 sexuality is the main focus of the story – explicitly. (ii) The ‘different’ strategy Perhaps because of the furore surrounding Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin (1983) (see above). and later books use what we call a ‘different’ strategy. and show diverse approaches to rationalizing two-Mum/two-Dad families to children. either the child questions their own family after seeing other types of family . as above. the child is questioned about their difference by someone from outside the family. Heather similarly questions the make up of her family when presented with other types of families (see below). In several of the above. while not using the word gay. And the boy penguins start noticing the girls. and Me. When (Continued) JSunderland_07_Rev.something like ‘everyone else has got a mum and a dad and we’ve got two mums instead’ (Josh and Jaz have Three Mums). the girl penguins start noticing the boy penguins. The difference is then explained. as these indicative extracts show: And Tango Makes Three Every year at the very same time.
She’d never thought about it before. ‘You can’t have two mummies. Asha’s Mums (Asha is showing a picture of her family at show and tell.’ Rita said turning around in her seat. My dad says it’s bad. This isn’t a concern for Asha. ‘Yes she can. Here. and two daddies and two grandmas.’ I said to Coreen.’ David says. Gender and Children’s Fiction the right girl and the right boy nd each other. Did everyone except Heather have a daddy? Heather’s forehead crinkles up. One was named Roy. and she begins to cry. ‘My mum and dad said you can’t have two mothers living together. or her mothers. ‘See. Asha meets a straight denial that you can have two mums. But they did everything together. they become a couple.’ I said. but is for others. pointing at the book. JSunderland_07_Rev.166 Language. ‘He takes care of sick people.) Heather Has Two Mommies ‘My daddy is a doctor. too. ‘It’s not bad.’ ‘I don’t have a daddy. Roy and Silo are simply shown as being different to the more ‘normal’ boy and girl penguin couples. and the other was named Silo. Two penguins in the penguin house were a little bit different.’ Juan says. ‘Once I went to school with him. Diane likes to yell. ‘Just like you can have two aunts.’ I said.’ yelled Diane from across the room. Roy and Silo were both boys. In Asha’s Mums.’ Heather says. ‘But how come you have two?’ Judi asked.’ ‘My daddy is a teacher.’ Judi insisted. The question is ‘Why is your family like it is?’ (A similar confrontation is seen in Molly’s Family and The Frog Prince.indd 166 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM .’ Coreen insisted. My mummies said we’re a family because we live together and love each other.) Coreen said ‘How come you’ve got two mummies?’ ‘Because I do.
‘My dad plays me songs on his purple kazoo He even knows how to make chocolate fondue! Can blue dads do all of those things. But I’m sure they both could . and one of them cooks. The Dads are blue. always too busy for that hour or so that seemed easy and pleasant for Pete and for Joe. she gets upset and questions why she doesn’t. The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones is unique in the dataset as it marks the two dads (Pete and Joe) as being something other children want rather than their own (one) busy father. because they are blue? My dads both play piano.) I have never seen either one stand on his head. Josh and Jaz Have Three Mums follows a similar narrative. The question being asked here is ‘Are gay dads as good as straight dads?’ The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones For Jeff. too?’ ‘What funny ideas you have.’ I told Lou. JSunderland_07_Rev.indd 167 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM .’ replied Lou. ‘Do you think dads are different. One Dad Two Dads Brown Dads Blue Dads ‘My dad can stand on his head. every weekend brought some special treat. . They couldn’t help wondering why sometimes their fathers seemed often to feel that their kids were just bothers. if the need should arise. . but they can do things just as well as Dads who aren’t. and poor Kim and Chad simply couldn’t compete.’ Difference is here confronted through metaphor.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 167 Heather has Two Mommies thus shows the child(ren) being presented with families with a dad. (He makes wonderful chocolate cream pies.
I do not think you’re right. that is. Mama. and Me in contrast emphasizes these stereotypes and presents them satirically. and a dad. You just don’t have a family if you don’t have all that. (iii) The ‘backgrounding’ strategy The nal group use what we call ‘backgrounding’. what is stereotypically ‘essential’ to the family makeup.’ I replied. Gay sexuality is not the main focus of the narrative. The books which adopt this strategy. it is taken as read. Life is just not that simple. These books do not address the issue of gay sexuality directly or even indirectly. It’s wrong! It’s a sin! Not at all how I think! The only true family’s a family like ours: With a mom. certainly no attention is drawn to it.’ I cautiously said. which are not speci c to gay families. and two cars. and Me Spacegirl Pukes The Daddy Machine JSunderland_07_Rev. This shows a similar questioning of difference to that in Asha’s Mums and Molly’s Family. ‘Though I know this will not seem polite. And a house.indd 168 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM . Gender and Children’s Fiction Two Moms. and a yard. In this dataset. are certainly in the majority.168 Language. which Rowell (2007) saw as typical. and a dog (or a cat). but rather issues surrounding the family or personal life. they are: Two-Mum Books: z z z z z z z z z A Beach Party with Alexis Dragon Sense Emma and Meesha My Boy Felicia’s Favorite Story If I had a Hundred Mummies Mom and Mum are Getting Married Mommy. and Me ‘Two moms? And no dads? I’m shocked!’ said McFink. Two Moms. From the books I have read. and two kids. The Zark. The Zark.
So there are more twoMum books. ‘Backgrounding’ can be achieved in a myriad of narrative ways. I’ll marry. A comment from Prince in King & King. By backgrounding gay sexuality. here they are not). the two-Mum books (of which there were only twice as many) are represented disproportionately in this. the focus of the narrative is on happenings and topics that are not speci cally related to the politics of homosexuality: adoption.) In these books. and Me King & King King & King & Family The Generous Jefferson Bartleby Jones Interestingly. falling in love. I must say. marriage. . I’ve never cared much for princesses. Hang on a minute! JSunderland_07_Rev. . none of the books mentions gay sexuality explicitly. leaving home and day-to-day activities. though. importantly. but they are less ‘confrontational’. All these stories could feasibly and in principle be told using heterosexual parents with no real impact on the narrative (but. holidays. These less direct methods of addressing gay sexuality may be (seen as) a more bene cial strategy in nding a readership. If I Had A Hundred Mummies does not indicate until the very last line that this is actually about a two-Mum family. Papa. It ends: ‘If I had a hundred mummies . (It would be interesting to know more about such ‘production’ issues. Mother.indd 169 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM .Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families z z z z z 169 The Different Dragon The Duke who Outlawed Jellybeans The Eaglerider The Ogre’s Boots Uncle Bobby’s Wedding Two-Dad Books: z z z z Daddy. just hints at it: Very well. for example. For example.
and onto the two-Mum and two-Dad stories. we ask how the ‘Gay’. The graph below shows how: The Strategy-Approach Relationship 6 1 11 4 1 3 3 Real world Animal 'Approach' used Gay Different Backrounding Fantasy The horizontal axis. but there is no related comment in the written text. (This is the only such example. 1993.) The Strategy-Approach Relationship Readers may like to consider how the three strategies relate to the feminist/ anti-sexist/non-sexist categorizations of gender-progressive children’s books shown in Chapter 3 (see also Adler. in King & King there is an image of the Kings kissing (disguised by a large red heart) on the very last page. 1989).indd 170 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM . ‘Approach used’. Davies. For now. I DON’T want a hundred mummies. I’ll just have the two I’ve got!’ While gay sexuality may be very de nitely backgrounded in the written text.170 Language. The shaded blocks show how frequently an ‘approach’ uses a JSunderland_07_Rev. ‘Animal’ and ‘Fantasy’. Gender and Children’s Fiction I thought it was a good idea but now I think it’s not. ‘Different’ and ‘Backgrounding’ strategies map onto the ‘Real world/Animal/ Fantasy narrative approaches’. For example. it may however be indexed more explicitly in the visuals. refers to ‘Real world’.
As Peter Hollindale observes: If you present as natural and commonplace the behaviour you would like to be natural and commonplace. these stories are all negotiating and positively construing the ‘site’ of gay sexuality and the family. you risk muting the social effectiveness of your story. it confronts gayness head-on through real-life situations.indd 171 7/2/2010 10:19:55 AM . (1988: 11) Yet through their different strategies and narrative approaches. For example. The representation of affectionate family relationships acts to obviate differentiation between families with a gay or a heterosexual partnership at the head.Two-Mum and Two-Dad Families 171 ‘strategy’. you risk a super cial ideological stridency. Conclusion An author’s decision about ‘strategy’ here is a dif cult one. The ‘Different’ strategy is found across all three narrative approaches. When gay sexuality is addressed speci cally (which it is. Whereas the two-Mum stories that adopt the ‘Different’ strategy (proportionately as many as two-Dad stories) are more likely to use the ‘Real world’ approach. but also most frequently in stories using the ‘Real world’ approach. the ‘Real world’ approach uses the ‘Gay’ strategy 3 times. it is done so against such a background. uses satirical poetry. metaphor and fairy tale-like narratives in representing gayness. for example. adoption and difference. The ‘Gay’ strategy is thus most closely associated with the ‘Real world’ approach. though in a substantial minority rather than majority of cases). Johnny Valentine (author of several of these two-Dad books). confronting the reader with positive images of gay sexuality is less evident. the two-Dad stories that adopt the ‘Different’ strategy are more likely to use Fantasy approaches. ‘Real world’ texts may be more concerned with confronting ‘difference’ in family make-up and encouraging the idea of family diversity. ‘Backgrounding’ is very strongly associated with the ‘Fantasy approach’. that is. Fantasy texts often pursue a complex narrative. If you dramatize the social tensions. JSunderland_07_Rev. What is being promoted is the idea that families with gay parents are in very many ways just like other families. Books characterized by Fantasy narratives with ‘Backgrounding’ strategies do not ask questions about why gayness may be an issue.
included in our dataset the majority of stories about two-Mum and two-Dad families in existence. Gender and Children’s Fiction We have. AIDS.and third-person narration – or. nor at the use of rst.indd 172 7/2/2010 10:19:56 AM . and we hope it provides a basis for further research. fears about paedophilia). Civil Partnerships. Neither have we properly related the different literary strategies and approaches to sociopolitical events in different parts of the world (in particular in the United States. we have not looked at gender representation (practices and talk) among the parents (although initial observations suggest that this is minimal). where most of these books are published) or social attitudes (for example. to legislation. This may be inevitable for work in a new area. at ‘point of view’ (see Chapter 4) – although we would have liked to have done so. In particular. JSunderland_07_Rev. We hope others will build on this work in these and other directions. in particular. nor how poetry comes into play. We are aware however.172 Language. we think. that we have skimmed a very large surface: we have been descriptive rather than analytical. making our ndings representative of this small (but probably growing) genre. and have raised many more questions than we have been able to properly address.