The Market Doesn’t Lie – Fewer Female And BAME Characters In Picture Books


Sure, we could say that only white characters turn up in picture books because the printing ink’s cheaper. But that would be to be facile and jejeune, most unlike us around here. The Guardian is telling us though that there are fewer female and BAME characters in picture books this year.

Which might be a problem, might not be, entirely up to you to decide that for yourself. The thing to remember here though is that markets don’t lie.

‘Highly concerning’: picture books bias worsens as female characters stay silent
Guardian research shows that the top 100 illustrated children’s books last year showed growing marginalisation of female and minority ethnic characters

If this is of books published then that’s one problem. Or potential problem of course. If it’s of books bought then it’s a different one.

The most popular picture books published in 2018 collectively present a white and male-dominated world to children, feature very few BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) characters and have become more biased against girls in the past year, Guardian research reveals. In-depth analysis of the top 100 bestselling illustrated children’s books of 2018, using data from Nielsen BookScan, has been carried out by the Guardian and Observer for the second year in a row.

They’re trying to have it both ways, aren’t they?

If it’s books published then the chokepoint is who decides upon what is published. And while we can indeed say that British publishing is a bit more pinkish than the nation at large it would be an idiot who insisted it was more gammon.

But let’s say that this really is evidence of bias among publishers. The solution is to do nothing. Because if what the public wants is more female and BAME characters then they’ll go and buy whatever few publications provide that. The racists and femaleophobes will be outcompeted, go bust and be removed from our economic landscape.

But that’s not what they’ve measured, despite their attempt to portray it as such. What they have measured is how many of what were bought. That is, the free and informed choice of the vox populi. And why in buggery shouldn’t the people get what the people want?

There is therefore no problem nor action it is necessary to take.

As The Guardian says, there are fewer female and BAME characters in children’s illustrated books this year.