Censorship in Barcelona: Books removed from school libraries

This article from the Guardian (click on screenshot) reports that the Tàber public school in Barcelona is removing around 200 children’s books from its library because they have “hidden sexist content”:

It may be hidden, but of course the censors consider it insidious:

Several schools across Barcelona are considering purging their libraries of stereotypical and sexist children’s books, after one removed around 200 titles, including Little Red Riding Hood and the story of the legend of Saint George, from its library.

The Tàber school’s infant library of around 600 children’s books was reviewed by the Associació Espai i Lleure as part of a project that aims to highlight hidden sexist content. The group reviewed the characters in each book, whether or not they speak and what roles they perform, finding that 30% of the books were highly sexist, had strong stereotypes and were, in its opinion, of no pedagogical value.

These included several versions of the stories about Little Red Riding Hood and Saint George, a popular read at Catalonia’s celebration of the Diada de Sant Jordi on 23 April. The books were removed, with less stereotypeheavy versions of the stories remaining on shelves.

According to Associació Espai i Lleure, if young children see “strongly stereotypical” depictions of relationships and behaviours in what they read, they will consider them normal. Anna Tutzó, a parent who is on the commission that reviewed the books, told El País that “society is changing and is more aware of the issue of gender, but this is not being reflected in stories”. Masculinity is associated with competitiveness and courage, and “in violent situations, even though they are just small pranks, it is the boy who acts against the girl”, which “sends a message about who can be violent and against whom”.

The article also reports that other Barcelona schools are considering removing books removed to be sexist or “replicate gender stereotypes.”  My only two comments are these:

First, teachers don’t have to teach the books if they consider them overly sexist, but they should not be removed from the libraries. Children should be able to have access to them. Or do the censor think the kids will check the books out of the library and all of a sudden turn into raging sexists? Or act out gender stereotypes, both girls and boys?

Second, “small pranks” of violence enacted by males against females might indeed be balanced by stories depicting pranks committed by girls. But there’s a reason why boys are more boisterous, aggressive, and risk-taking than girls, and some of that has to do not with gender stereotypes or acculturation, but with evolution. We can fight evolutionary differences, of course (condoms are good for that), but is it really that harmful to depict behavioral differences as they are? Do we want to show females acting violently to balance the scales?

As for the particular books involved, I can’t speak about them. But I can’t remember why Little Red Riding Hood is sexist.


  1. BJ
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    The idea of a group going around purging books from libraries (especially historical tales) based on “hidden” ideas that only they can define and discover scares the shit out of me. It should scare everyone who isn’t a raging ideologue.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

      It should scare everyone who isn’t a raging ideologue.

      Those who are not card-carrying members of the winning group of raging ideologues should report to the Soylent plant for … re-education.

  2. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    The day is approaching fast when everyone, everywhere is required to wear a “Scramble Suit” at all times when interacting with another human, or with a representation of a human being, no matter how stylised.
    Also, all existing and future fictional and non-fictional literature be re-written with the first protagonist mentioned being “A”, the second protagonist being “B” etc. (For writings with more then 25 characters, re-using the character set cannot introduce worse confusion than in the gender identity of the reader in the Scramble Suit. (Putting software into the Scramble Suit’s eyeball-substitute scanners to edit read or spoken material appropriately might be necessary while there is un-redacted material in circulation.)
    That will stop people getting inappropriately confused over their gender identities.
    Maybe I’m looking at the future a bit too somber, but the only way I can see the world is through
    a scanner, darkly.

  3. David Evans
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Little Red Riding Hood has no agency in the story, except to run and shout “Help! Wolf!”. She is rescued by the only male human in the story. I suppose that’s the rationale. But it’s sad if the kids are deprived of the story for such a reason.

    • rvoss
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Yes. Now that I think about it, when I was shopping for books for my niece, I realized that virtually all of the Grimm stories had that same feature of no agency for the women and girls. I still like reading those stories, but I would like to see more instances of women and girls as the heroes or at least possessing some sort of power.

      • Michael Sternberg
        Posted May 1, 2019 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

        @rvoss wrote:

        virtually all of the Grimm stories had that same feature of no agency for the women and girls.

        Here’s a serious exception: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Peasant%27s_Wise_Daughter

        Alas, a smart girl depicted as exceptional could be seen by SJWs just as sexist, in which case I give up in despair.

        • rvoss
          Posted May 1, 2019 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

          Thank you for the referral. I had not read that one. Much appreciated.

    • TJR
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Many folks here have previously argued that a lot of SJWism does indeed depict women as victims with no agency.

      Hence the only problem with the Little Red Riding Hood story would be that the man rescuing her wasn’t a Diversity And Inclusion Officer.

    • Taz
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      She is a child rescued by an adult.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

      I learned the Little Red Riding Hood story from Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, so I guess that’s doubly or triply politically incorrect.

    • Geoffrey
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      A huge problem with the “Must not convey stereotypes” is that one single example doesn’t enforce a stereotype. What’s more many (but not all) stereotypes are actually accurate, in terms of “Men/Women engage in X more often than the other sex.”

      By their logic, showing a couple where the man is watching sports while the woman watches a soap opera is enforcing stereotypes, and must be banned. But such an arrangement is fairly common in the real world, and is not at all immoral.

      They cannot see the difference between noticing trends, and occasionally depicting them, and enforcing stereotypes on people who do not conform them.

      You can’t avoid depicting many stereotypes without simply denying reality.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:41 am | Permalink

      But that ignores the really important point, what is the sex of the wolf?


      (I almost said ‘the gender of the wolf’ but I just read in Pinker’s ‘The Language Instinct’ that ‘gender’ originally meant something rather different – it meant ‘class of things’, which is how some languages can have many genders of objects. It has been hijacked as a euphemism for ‘sex’, thus becoming yet another example of perfectly good words that have been ruined for their original use by the accursed mealy-mouthed PC euphemism-peddlers)

    • Jamie
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      The original post indicates that it is not the story per se that is being removed, but only certain editions. So comments about the sexist (or not) nature of the story itself are a little wide of the mark.

      I have been trained as a librarian and I would be the first to abhor any kind of general ban on sexist books. But libraries have budgets and space limitations. They periodically review their collections and remove volumes that are out of date or don’t fit with the library’s mission.

      A similar purge of sexist literature at a general public library would be atrocious. General public libraries represent our collected knowledge and ought to keep everything possible, even the distasteful, as a record of our history and culture over the ages.

      School libraries, on the other hand, have a mandate to keep books with pedagogical value. They are not the keepers of our cultural heritage and do not have the budgets needed to keep everything as they are constantly adding new material. I am willing to give my colleagues in Barcelona the benefit of the doubt and assume that they have removed volumes that do not contribute to their library’s mission.

      One needn’t be a SJW to be concerned with sexist imagery and stereotyping in children’s books. I think it is good and thoughtful when weeding a children’s collection to remove the most sexist editions. This is not equivalent to deleting a story from the culture. A given library may have multiple editions of a story like Little Red Ridding Hood. Removing the most sexist editions is not the kind of “regressive leftism” we need to be concerned about, but the kind of actual progressivism we ought to support.

      • Filippo
        Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        ” . . . libraries . . . periodically review their collections and remove volumes that are out of date . . . .”

        Just congenially curious, how does one (a librarian, or anyone in general) know if something is “out of date” (or “dated”?)? Is it out of date if it does not conform to (ones perception of) the prevailing cultural interests (whatever is considered “cool”) of the current majority mass pop culture?

  4. Jon Gallant
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    It’s simple, really. “Little Red Riding Hood” is sexist because it portrays Little Red bringing cookies to Grandma, rather than training to be an Amazon warrior like Wonder Woman on the island of Themyscira. One might add that the unflattering portrayal of the wolf is speciesist, and offensive to vegans.

  5. Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:45 am | Permalink


    They’d be better off discussing unconscious gender bias with teachers than trying to surreptitiously expunge anything they think depicts it.

  6. denniskeane
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Or just use the books as a teaching tool about historical sexism? Age appropriate of course.

  7. rustybrown
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    The rampant rot of establishment progressivism continues to spread.

  8. Posted May 1, 2019 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Dear fellow parents, this is just another example that you cannot really count on the school to educate your children and should be ready at any time to step in and do its job, in addition to yours. If you cannot do this due to stupid excuses such as working in 2 places to pay off the mortgage, too bad for your child.

    I wonder, what will be the fate of the removed books? Will someone keep them safely for an uncertain day when sanity returns? Or will they be discarded? The school could at least throw an “Adopt a book” fair, but this would undermine the goal of the removal.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Frankly, I am amazed that there haven’t been calls to purge college libraries in the US. Good thing kids don’t read physical books anymore, but, when they discover them, look out.

  10. Posted May 1, 2019 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Yes indeed, there are many stereotypes in the fairy tales of Grimm.
    But what about the Bible? Has it also been removed from the library? Or don’t those censors, those fairy-tale strikers, dare to do it in arch-Catholic Spain?

    • Posted May 1, 2019 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I have read (I think on this site) that the Bible had been removed from some US school libraries because it depicted graphic violence.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:44 am | Permalink

        Well that’s progress. Would any other book with such barbaric content ever have made it into school libraries in the first place? I rather doubt it.


        • Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

          Well, some of the classic fairy tales that are subject of this post are also rich of murders, mutilation, torture, even cannibalism (check e.g. Charles Perrault’s Little Thumb; plenty of such stuff in Grimm Bros as well). Often, a girl is killed or permanently disfigured because she is lazy and/or at the beginning has been privileged as the wife’s daughter.

          Same for the Greek myths that are also taught at school. I had a “censored” compendium by N. Kun in which the castration of Uranus was omitted, but the other gory events (cannibalism, matricide, genocide etc.) were there.

    • Pierluigi Ballabeni
      Posted May 2, 2019 at 3:14 am | Permalink

      Reading the bible is not common among Catholic people. It is more of a Protestants’ thing.

      Furthermore, Spain has not been arch-Catholic for a while now. Do not forget that Spain was among the first 2 or 3 countries in Europe to legalise marriage among people of the same sex and has laws about abortion and reproduction medicine that are way more liberal than those of, for instance, France or Switzerland. All this is not very catholic.

      • Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

        “Reading the bible is not common among Catholic people. It is more of a Protestants‘ thing.”
        I suppose you’re right about that. The same applies to the fact that in Spain (under the socialist government) the legalisation of homosexual marriage and the liberal abortion law were introduced. (The conservative Rajoy, however, tried to take it back during his term of office.

        Nevertheless the piety, the attachment to the church in Spain is many times stronger than in Northern Europe.

  11. Posted May 1, 2019 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Two words: “teachable moment”.

    And apparently there are some who don’t like RRH because the title character has to be rescued by a man, hence sexism or whatever.

  12. Posted May 1, 2019 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    It would also be nice if someone reminds the censors that most stereotypes are based on facts, some even on biological facts. The average physical abilities of women lag behind those of men by a large margin, and no amount of modern fiction casting females as superheroes will change that. If educators insist that females are equal to males in all respects, they set girls for nasty surprises. At best, children will take home the conclusion that school teaches them demonstrable untruths.

  13. Jonathan Dore
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    “The group reviewed the characters in each book, whether or not they speak and what roles they perform, finding that 30% of the books were highly sexist, had strong stereotypes and were, in its opinion, of no pedagogical value.”

    It seems the Associació Espai i Lleure does not include anyone capable of distinguishing a sterotype from an archetype, nor conceiving that books might be read for pleasure rather than their “pedagogical value”.

  14. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    But there’s a reason why boys are more boisterous, aggressive, and risk-taking than girls, and some of that has to do not with gender stereotypes or acculturation, but with evolution.

    How would that work, before puberty? Is the reason that gene expression is somehow preparing for later sexual competition?

    I would like to see references.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted May 1, 2019 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

      A quick browsing uncovered this, ranging from difference in testosterone level (which would have an evolutionary null in drift, at the very least) over parenting (puberty makes no difference) to it is “nonsensical to claim that boys are more aggressive than girls” since it is (sexual? cultural?) strategic choice. [ https://fistfulofscience.wordpress.com/2010/08/09/are-boys-more-aggressive-than-girls/ ]

      Nothing explicit on evolution.

      • Posted May 1, 2019 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

        And yet the sex difference in physical activity continues to widen during childhood, despite the fact that sex hormone levels do not differ between boys and girls from six months of age to puberty. Parenting is likely one factor amplifying the disparity.

        Gotta be the parenting. It’s not like different genes are active in boys vs. girls or anything.

        And please — Lise Eliot is a ‘plasticity is everything’ crank, who your blogger there thinks

        brings a welcome dose of sanity to a subject I had last encountered in Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate, a masterpiece of conservative political philosophy masquerading as objective science. (Too harsh?) Pinker is emphatic that, as every parent “deep down” knows, “boys and girls are [not] interchangeable”.

        Try posting this nonsense at Pharyngula.

    • Posted May 1, 2019 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      There are huge differences in fetal and early postnatal life:

      “The infants’ gonads are stimulated by the increased endogenous gonadotropins and respond with elevated sex hormone production. Thus, a testosterone surge with peak values in the normal range of male adults occurs in healthy male infants during the first 6 months and elevated estradiol concentrations comparable to levels seen during advanced puberty can be observed in healthy female infants during the first 2 years of life.”

      I think that this is very likely to affect the developing brains.

      • Posted May 1, 2019 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

        In that case, a pregnant woman should be very careful what foods she eats, because there are some foods — perfectly natural ones — that stimulate androgen or estrogen production in the mother.

  15. Posted May 1, 2019 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

    What I want to know is, did the racist Cat In The Hat make the cut?

  16. Posted May 1, 2019 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

    I hate censorship, under any excuse. What I would have done with those books is simply *put them on higher shelves*, where only the older and less “impressionable” children could reach them.

    As for your claim that there are inborn “natural” character differences between human males and females, *there is simply no way to tell* — because there is no human society today which is not influenced by cultural hangovers from the past. Until we can find — or create — some truly matriarchal or ambiarchal cultures to compare ours with, we just can’t know just what characteristics are inborn and which aren’t. Until then, it’s best to not make absolute claims.

    • Posted May 1, 2019 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

      Men and women have different rates of prevalence for specific mood & personality disorders which have a pronounced genetic etiology. They vary in the Big Five personality traits, which are innate. The list goes on and on.

      Further, the same sex differences in behavior are observed in all cultures regardless of how ‘patriarchal’ those cultures are. Their corollaries are also observed in animals.

      To argue there are no innate character sex differences in humans, one must posit that sex differences in every other phenotype are evolved, but at some point in hominid history, behavior alone suddenly stopped evolving and was replaced by ‘social conditioning’.

    • Posted May 2, 2019 at 12:39 am | Permalink

      “There is simply no way to tell” is too strong a statement. Some trait differences can be observed even in newborn babies. Others emerge in toddlers, who are notoriously hard to influence by explicit or implicit parenting measures. Many gender differences in personality traits have the same direction in pretty much all cultures that have been studied across the world and throughout history – those who argue that “the Patriarchy” can be “destroyed” because it’s only a social construct somehow never bother to explain why it’s so ubiquitous. And finally, many gender-typical differences are in line with what we’d expect from the largely biologically-determined hormone levels and make sense from an evolutionary-psychology perspective. (Not to mention that they are comparable to those observed in other, much less culturally-influenced primates.)
      All that taken together makes people who flat-out deny innate differences the equivalent of flat-earthers.

  17. Steve Gerrard
    Posted May 1, 2019 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    I bet the perception of Little Red Riding Hood as sexist is the fault of Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, and their classic song with the catchy chorus line

    “Hey there Little Red Riding Hood, you sure are looking good”

  18. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted May 2, 2019 at 1:52 am | Permalink

    Are they gonna ban Santa Claus? Sherlock Holmes? Julius Caesar?

    I *like* female heroines, generally. But surely the way to encourage equality is to promote such literature, rather than trying to ban older fiction.


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