The commitment of publishing houses to a narrative without gender stereotypes

The commitment of publishing houses to a narrative without gender stereotypes

From Zanichelli's “Obiettivo 10 in parity” program to Rizzoli's self-regulation code. The initiatives of publishing houses multiply to eliminate - finally! - sexist references in school textbooks and beyond

(Photo: Florian Gaertner / Photothek via Getty Images) Today, gender equality is a priority, but the fight against stereotypes in school textbooks had already begun in 1999 with the '' approval of the European project POLITE (Equal Opportunities in Textbooks) which involved various Italian partners - the Presidency of the Council of Ministers with the Department for equal opportunities and the IEA (Italian Publishers Association) - and two transnational partners, the Portugal (Commissao para igualdade and para os diritos das mulheres) and Spain (Federation de Gremios de Editores). The code in question was born with the aim of promoting reflection on the issue of gender equality by extending it to the publishing and educational sector, so as to improve textbooks and eliminate all forms of discrimination based on sex.

After 20 years, progress has been slow and few, even if on 13 October 2020 Alessandro Fusacchia, deputy and co-founder of the political platform Movimenta, with parliamentarians Laura Boldrini, Alessandra Carbonaro, Lucia Ciampi, Paolo Lattanzio, Rossella Muroni, Erasmo Palazzotto and Lia Quartapelle, presented to the Chamber a bill to combat gender stereotypes, promote diversity in school texts and encourage self-regulation of school publishing. The PDL included the establishment of a National Observatory on Diversity and Inclusion at the Ministry of Education, which should have been responsible for drafting the guidelines to be updated every five years, expressing opinions on the textbooks examined and proposing a training plan for editors and other operators in the sector. The bill, however, has not yet been approved.

The school texts, in fact, remain full of sexist phrases that promote gender stereotypes, such as "Mum cooks and iron, while dad works and reads" . While these propositions have the task of educating the correct use of Italian grammar, on the other they influence the way of thinking of the little ones, defining rigid and crystallized roles from which it is difficult to emancipate. In this regard, some publishing houses have decided to adopt stricter rules to ensure that in the textbooks there are expressions and images that speak of equality and not of discrimination.

Zanichelli, specialized in school texts, in collaboration with linguists, sociologists and authors, it has drawn up the program Objective 10 in parity: 10 guidelines to promote gender equality in books, which can be consulted on the website. The key points of the Decalogue envisage avoiding stereotypes, representing all genders equally and using inclusive language, in order to provide students with the tools that help them understand how essential it is to have greater freedom to thought and choice. Furthermore, for each discipline, the editors can make calibrated interventions. For example: if in history female figures have been poorly represented, now, to make up for the lack, one can understand why it happened and give more prominence to women. In the History of Art, painters can no longer be relegated to a file, but must have the same space as men and it is for this reason that adequate pages must be dedicated to them. So also in the scientific disciplines. Using this method, those stereotypes by now obsolete are eliminated and we avoid assigning prestigious roles to men and caregivers to women.

(Photo: Zanichelli) The Rizzoli publishing house also took measures after the complaints of some parents who have noted the existence of sexist phrases in a grammar text proposed in their children's schools. Among the pages of the volume one could read expressions such as: "Rossella is so beautiful that she looks like an angel, while her sister is so ugly that no boy deserves a look", "Franca loves Luigi, indeed she adores him, although she often neglects her and make her suffer ". Rizzoli has thus adopted a self-regulation code that guides authors and editors in the design and drafting of books, and establishes criteria regarding the anthological choices, the language used and the appropriate use of images and illustrations, in such a way. equality must be respected in all its aspects and not to nurture conflicts between male and female. Therefore, if we want this generation of children to be better than the previous one, it is necessary to start right from school, because it is important to make people understand how diverse our society is and how basic it is to nurture respect towards others, regardless of their gender.

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