Präsenz/Presence → Design DepartmentHMKW Berlin

MA Communication Design 03 × Jenny Bergström

Isabell Drauz

«Life is like a Pancake»

A gender sensitive children’s book

Gender - part of the biological and social identity of every individual. Society is based on a two-gender dichotomy: man and woman. We classify individuals into one of these gender categories from an early age in order to correspond to a certain gender norm and role expectation. An appropriation of gender-specific behaviour arises from childhood onwards, a formation of the social gender, which corresponds to the view of “typically male” and “typically female”.  Sociological and biological findings however clearly show a complexity and diversity of gender that our classification does not capture.

Tolerance towards the diversity of life is an important component on which my children’s book is based. The book tells a story about a sibling couple who spend a day together and talk about life and the world around them. The narrator’s perspective is from the point of view of the larger sibling, who wants to explain the world to their smaller sibling. The perspective of a child is told here, as adults generally have a pre-formed opinion about gender norms and children are more free of attribution. This idea of a child’s narrative style can also be found in the illustrations, as if a child had been involved in the design process.    There is a conscious effort that the topic of gender is not placed in focus. No important meaning is ascribed to the constant gender and the protagonists and their names are deliberately depicted gender-neutral. The story does not tell explicitly about the subject of gender, but rather speaks about the diversity of colors, qualities and tastes, in which these terms are not attributed to any particular gender model. In the book’s plot, the characteristics of animals are spoken about in a playful way. “I want to be as courageous as a lion but as small as a mouse”. These contrasts allude to the typical gender models that boys should be courageous and girls sweet. In the story, the children chooses to be both because they don‘t want to choose to be either or.