The keywords essay “Gender” states that “…specific constructions of gender…allow or disallow certain behaviors or experiences on the basis of biological sex…”. Hateley argues that gender constricts people to particular actions because of feminine and masculine labels. She also argues that gender is reinforced today by stereotypes and norms portrayed through social interactions and everyday media, including children’s literature. She continues by discussing the performative aspect of gender, stating that it is not something we are, but something we do.
Addy’s mother, Ruth Walker, defies these feminine stereotypes as her and her daughter escape the wrath of poverty. After gathering supplies and creating disguises for her and Addy, she ensures their safety by running through the woods during dusk and hiding in caves during dawn. These precautions and other courageous acts portrays Addy’s mother as brave, strong, and resilient- traits often associated with masculinity and fatherhood. Through her persistent selflessness and dedication to family, Addy’s mother is able to look past gender norms and stereotypes to protect both her and her beloved daughter.
This shows readers of Meet Addy that girls do not have to be the passive sidekick that girls are often portrayed as in children’s literature. They too can be dominant, influential, and have control of their own narrative. Connie Porter, the author of Addy’s American Girl story, talks about the importance of a loving family, stating, “Slavery is difficult for even adults to talk about…It was a very awful period, but we’re also talking about people who had loving families”. Constructing a powerful, secure mother figure was a priority for Porter to show girls how capable women are and can be.
In a recent article titled “10 Cute, Thoughtful Gifts to Give the Wonder of Love This Mother’s Day” posted by Buzzfeed, gender norms and the stereotypical portrayal of motherhood is unfortunately reinforced through the “feminine” gifts displayed within the article. Featuring pink jewelry, large purses, and wine glasses supports, the article supports Hateley’s argument that gender is performed. Society’s perception of mothers assume that they dress up in red lipstick and perfume during the day and collapse from exhaustion at night. While Addy’s mom was stressed and under pressure, she is never described as exhausted to the point that she cannot continue without some sort of “resetting”, such as a glass of wine. This article seems to simplify motherhood to putting on a show at dawn and breaking down at dusk which clearly undermines the complexity of motherhood today.