Placing children within pink and blue picket fences: Patriarchal gender tropes in U.S. children’s English language development textbooks


Burden, Amy Simpson


Department of English, The University of Memphis, Memphis TN 38152, USA


This article deals with the hidden curriculum or the instruction which lies below the surface of school texts, which instructs on social norms and ideologies, including gender roles. Language learners in the United States are particularly vulnerable to acquiescing to the gendered discourses and role allocations found within school textbooks because they are simultaneously acquiring literacy, language, and these social norms. Thus, this article employs corpus linguistics to examine the grammar and lexical means of representing male and female roles to the reader. In the 12 texts of On Our Way to English: Texas and California Benchmark Advance: Texts for English Language Development, which are read by more than 2.4 million language learners in the USA, there is an intense bias towards male presentation, with a male to female pronoun ratio of 2.4:1. Adjectives were used to negatively describe females and focus on their physical attributes to a greater extent than male allocated adjectives. Beyond this description, critical discourse analysis was used to examine the opaque elements of language used to advance patriarchal gendered ideologies that continually herded young children through Eurocentric gender roles, equating femininity with cooperation, physical attractiveness, and domesticity while equating masculinity with aggressive speech, competition, and achievement. A critical image analysis found that images supported the text in the stereotypical renderings of males and females through eye gaze, adornments, and posture. Recommendations for the use of critical literacy and critical language study are provided to challenge these patriarchal gendered ideologies.


gender linguistics; gender characteristics; gender roles; critical discourse analysis; textbook analysis; Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages; critical image analysis

Publication Date

December 30, 2020


Volume 7, Issue 2

Citation information

Burden, Amy Simpson. 2020. “Placing children within pink and blue picket fences: Patriarchal gender tropes in U.S. children’s English language development textbooks.” Language. Text. Society 7 (2).


author = {Burden, Amy Simpson},
title = {Placing children within pink and blue picket fences: Patriarchal gender tropes in U.S. children’s English language development textbooks},
journal = {Language. Text. Society},
year = {2020},
issn = {2687-0487},
number = {2},
volume = {7},
url = {},


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