Monday, September 17, 2012

What Are Little Girls Made of?

1975, 1978 Schocken edition
Elena Gianini Belotti
What Are Little Girls Made of?: The Roots of Feminine Stereotypes
Original price $4.95, purchase price $3.95
Worn paperback

Interesting take on early childhood from an Italian feminist perspective.  (Belotti was the director of the Montessori Pre-Natal Center in Rome.)  As such, there are definitely cultural differences, with both machismo and female passivity stronger than in then contemporary American society, although I suspect that there are still mothers and teachers in both cultures who, for instance, regard toilet-training differently for boys than girls.  Belotti is more empathetic with the children than most of the contributors to And Jill..., which at times makes the book hard to take, seeing babies and small children suffer so needlessly.

I wish Belotti had gone into more detail in the sections on primary-age children, particularly more of contrasting Italian children's books with those for Americans and French.  I also don't agree with all of her conclusions, but I certainly agree more than Margaret Mead seems to.  Mead is an odd choice for the introduction of the American edition, because she spends most of it criticizing Belotti, something I can't recall seeing in an introduction/preface/afterword etc. before, other than with some literary critics looking back 30 to 150 years, like in some editions of Jane Austen or Sinclair Lewis.  Belotti quotes Mead sympathetically in the text, so I don't know where this hostility comes from, other than that Mead appears to have had an ambivalent relationship with feminism.  (I've read but don't own her autobiography and some of her other nonfiction, long ago.)

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