Can an algorithm take away the gender bias in storytelling?
Gender Swapped Fairy Tales, illustrator and writer Karrie Fransman and creative technologist Jonathan Plackett hope to ask questions and come up with new ideas on many of the most popular fairy tales with their new book of children's stories.
While the problematic story of fairy tales is now well documented and Disney recently added a wider range of female characters to its stories, the fact remains that many classic fairy tales, despite their problematic representation of gender, continue to be read and viewed by children.
Fransman knows this only too well – her three-year-old daughter often asks to read stories like Little Red Riding Hood. Fransman and Plackett, who are married, decided to create the book after fully digesting the harmful and severely outdated stereotypes embedded in fairy tales that were passed down to their daughter at such an early age. And it seems that they are not alone in finding revised texts. This is the third time the book has been reprinted due to early demand, and according to Fransman, the book has proven very popular with parents, children and teachers alike.
The forerunner of the idea was Plackett's observation of how politicians were discussed in the media by gender. The article that sparked it commented on the shoes of two political leaders and prompted him to envision a world where "David Cameron met Barack Obama and everyone was talking about their shiny brogues," she recalls.
In response, Plackett began exploring the idea of a "gender swapping algorithm," where a computer automatically changes the sex of those in stories to see the effect it was having. He initially considered applying it to newspaper articles as this inspired him, but Fransman insisted on working through fairy tales instead and began researching the Victorian era writer and poet Andrew Lang, who was the fairy tale collector and editor of Langs & # 39; was known. Fairy tale books. During the research, Fransman and Plackett found that Andrew's wife, Nora, was indeed responsible for much of the edition, but her name did not appear on the covers or spines. And so the material for the project was determined.