Brief description of the issue
The quantitative representation of women in Quebec’s textbook has greatly improved since the establishment of a systematic textbook assessment process by the Bureau d’approbation du matériel didactique (BAMD), notably in language, mathematics and science books, which mainly showcase fictional characters. However, as the reflection questions the BAMD base his assessments on are optional, some gender stereotypes remain, especially in History and ethic and religious culture textbooks (CSF, 2016). Yet, when they choose the textbooks they are going to use in their classrooms, teachers can do their own gender stereotypes assessment to make sure that the material they are using isn’t reinforcing the very stereotypes we are trying to break down.
First of all, it is possible to perform a quantitative analysis to make sure there are as many male and female characters portrayed in the textbook. To make this task easier, we adapted a textbook assessment grid from the Centre Hubertine Auclert that you can print and use easily.
Once this quantitative analysis is done, it is crucial to make a qualitative analysis as well. We can use for that purpose the reflection questions proposed by the BAMD, that serve as guidelines without, however, being mandatory (CSF, 2016, p. 29):
- Characters of both genders are represented in the exercise of a paid work;
- Paid work is diversified and goes beyond the tasks traditionally associated with one sex or another;
- Nothing leads to think that the competency of the characters performing a paid work is “natural” for their gender;
- Characters of both sexes are represented in the performance of a volunteering work or of community tasks;
- Roles played by boys and girls in the school context are diversified, similar or equivalent;
- Parental roles are distributed independently from gender;
- Characters of both sexes perform take care of various household chores and go beyond what is traditionally associated with their gender, without necessarily systematically reversing the roles;
- Characters of both sexes have equivalent leisure activities and are not limited to the activities traditionally associated with their gender;
- Themes used in the stories keep characters away from roles traditionally assigned to them;
- Themes used in the stories value, when appropriate, the contribution of women to various areas;
- Historical texts presented in textbooks must tend towards an equitable representation of both sexes;
- Women’s contribution to History must be highlighted or the reasons for their absence from historical texts must be detailed;
- In contemporary History textbooks, it is important to highlight women’s contribution to History as well as their efforts they’ve deployed for the recognition of their rights;
- The collection of literary texts presented as study objects must be selected with the intention of ensuring a balance between male and female characters;
- Expressions and terms that are, nowadays, considered as outdated and offensive are accompanied with a warning that replace them in their historical context.
CONSEIL DU STATUT DE LA FEMME (2016). Avis : L’égalité entre les sexes en milieu scolaire, Gouvernement du Québec, 154 pages, accessible at: https://www.csf.gouv.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/avis_egalite_entre_sexes_milieu-scolaire.pdf