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The “My Topic is More Boring Than Yours!” Challenge

July 21, 2013
Was the parental role stereotype in The Cat in the Hat egalitarian or ongoing?  Please excuse me while I look up the word “egalitarian.”

Was the parental role stereotype in The Cat in the Hat egalitarian or ongoing? Please excuse me while I look up the word “egalitarian.”

Sometimes I like to take a boring topic and see if I can make it interesting.  I’ve written about book machines, and the Justice Department suing Apple, and a movie based on a poorly-written book by a celebrity author.  Those were all dull topics that I chose to write about.  But now I think I’ve met my match. 

Last night I stumbled upon an abstract from a study called… wait for it… 

“Parental Role Portrayals in Twentieth Century Children’s Picture Books: More Egalitarian or Ongoing Stereotyping?” 

I mean… uh… are you serious? 

Something like this doesn’t give me a lot to work with.  The study was conducted by people who are probably a lot smarter than I am, and I don’t like to make fun of people who are smarter than I am, so mockery of a silly study (that I might not understand) is out of the question. 

First of all, I was surprised that I’d have to pay in order to read the actual study.  Charging money to read a research study is antiquated (if they can use “egalitarian,” I can use “antiquated.”) 

Do people really pay money to read studies anymore?  I’m not familiar with how research works (because I usually avoid it), but I wouldn’t pay anything to read a study about egalitarian parental roles.  In fact, I’d have to get paid a lot to read anything with the word “egalitarian” in it.  People don’t have to pay much (if anything) for content anymore.  Even a lot of porn is free.  If people aren’t willing (or don’t need to) pay for porn, they won’t pay to read a study about egalitarian stereotypes in children’s picture books. 

I probably shouldn’t have written a sentence that has both “children’s books” and “porn” in it.  I hope the government agencies that monitor internet content take context into consideration. 

Also, reading a children’s book to find parental role stereotypes just seems weird.  The best children’s books are the ones that are too crazy to have gender roles.  The Cat in The Hat had a mom, but she was just a nice pair of legs.  Oh the Places You Go had a kid.  Where the Wild Things Are had a mom who was in only a couple pages of the story.  Harold and the Purple Crayon had a kid with a magic crayon. 

If a children’s book has a bunch of human characters, then it probably (with a few exceptions) isn’t a good children’s book.  A good children’s book usually has a bunch of animals/creatures walking around naked (but it’s okay because their gender doesn’t really matter).  Parental involvement usually doesn’t affect the quality of children’s book (except maybe to make it less interesting). 

When I was a kid, I read a lot of children’s books with animals/creatures walking around naked in public, and I have never once walked around naked in public.  My older brother once ran around naked in public, but he got arrested for it and he never did it again.  The weird thing is, I don’t think my older brother liked reading children’s books when he was a kid.  Maybe if he had read more books with naked animals/creatures walking around, he would never have run around naked in public.  That would be an interesting study. 

The researchers might have been interested in how parental role stereotypes in children’s books influence the kids that read them (or vice-versa?).  The summary suggested that even though gender roles changed during the 2000s, parental roles in children’s books stayed the same.  To me, that’s good.  There is plenty of time to mess with a kid’s gender identity.  They don’t need to do it with children’s books. 

***** 

Writers often don’t have a choice about their topics.  Students have to write about whatever their teachers tell them to.  Employees have to write about whatever their bosses tell them to.  But I chose to write about egalitarian gender stereotypes in children’s books, even though it’s a dull topic that I know nothing about. 

Can anybody beat this?  What is the most boring topic that you have ever voluntarily written about?

14 Comments
  1. I wrote several pages analyzing the degree to which campus lighting conformed to LEED green standards, and the cost of retrofitting the remaining T-12 ballasts to T-8 ballasts. It actually ended up saving the campus money in the long run to change over to more efficient fixtures. It was a project that I came up with myself, so I guess you’d call it voluntary.

    • Okay, that sounds pretty boring, but it also sounds very practical. What you wrote about was probably way more useful than writing about parental roles in children’s fiction. You get points (or lose points, I’m not sure… I still have to think this through) for writing about something useful.

  2. I have five that beat your boring topic (and all of them are on my blog if you would like to read them):

    Listerine commercials
    My belt
    The Kia warranty
    Cheap ramen noodles
    A bar of soap

    • I don’t know. Listerine commercials could be interesting. I’ve also heard a lot about interesting things done with a bar of soap. I think you have me on the Kia warranty, though. Warranties are really boring. I don’t think I could write about a warranty, but maybe I’ll try next time, just for the challenge.

  3. Last week – proposal for converting taped ESL cassettes to CDs.

  4. You should watch Parents, a 1989 film starring Randy Quaid about a couple (and their child) who kill cook and make meatloaf out of the neighbors; all while acting like Ward and June Cleaver. Just go farther down the rabbit hole. Of course this means people will pay you and not me. I guess its a choice.

  5. I’ve never thought about it in the books I read to my son as he was growing up. I do remember commenting one time about one of his favorite shows, “Where are these kids’ parents?”. From that point forward, I seemed to pay more attention to adult presences in the shows he watched.

  6. Probably eventually the only children’s books that will be allowed to be written will have non-traditional families and titles like “Mommy wins bread and Daddy changes diapers.”

    Not sure what the MOST boring topic I’ve ever written about (voluntarily) although I have written several dictionaries and grammars for languages I’ve made up.

    • Making up a language is kind of fun (though it might be boring to people who aren’t emotionally invested in the language).

      • I went through a phase in university. I still find it fun, but when you realize you can’t speak it with anyone, it loses some of its importance. I decided to concentrate more on real languages.

  7. An essay of “Pilgrim’s Progress” easily the most g-d boring book in creation. I believe even my computer went into sleep mode over it…so g-d boring.

  8. Um I don’t remember so I can’t play the challenge. However, you made me laugh once and chuckle a couple of times so you weren’t that boring. If I can remember my most boring topic, that means I win.

  9. mohitan permalink

    I am a student and research is part of my many boring academic activities. I’m currently building my dissertation upon some copyright issues on YouTube. In fact, I’m about to make a post on the same! I think the problem about researches is that they are searched for ONLY in the time of need; NOT for leisure purposes. I’m sure no one’s going come up to me and say, “Hey girl! Trying to analyse the bias a website has towards PGCs over UGCs is so much more interesting than just streaming videos and having fun!” But yeah, the point is, this is the boring topic that I’m voluntarily writing on. XDXD

  10. Really… stereotypes in children’s books. Who would do such a thing.

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