Books that challenge gender stereotypes – by Jason Bryan
My life journey so far has been more a winding road rather than a straightforward path towards a solid goal. Here, I’ll detial how I’ve come to write and publish books that challenge traditional gender stereotypes.
I‘ve always had a passion for music. My taste in music could be born from the Sunday morning reggae wake up calls, the Saturday night bashment dance, the back against the wall hip hop, the love life representing RnB, rebellious grime, or the emotional indie. Nevertheless music through the years has always been a significant part of my life. So it was fitting that I attempt what so many others did in their teens and try to become a musician.
I’m talking 24 hour studio stints and congregating with other local artists so much that all of our parents were unknowingly becoming part of an adoption conglomerate. I even went to a rap school, learning different intonations and rhyming patterns (something those slightly older set up to help us grow).
Although our rap group (Blak Regiment) never became the next best thing since Jay-z, we did manage to get ourselves on cable tv and performed numerous times both within the UK and abroad. What I really took from it was the idea that the journey is the film. How often do we scream about goals whilst forgetting nothing of true interest is born without a story?
I experienced the biggest change in my life when I had my first child at 19. I was still living at home and it was the biggest wakeup call ever. Although it wasn’t planned, the prospect of parenthood was something I embraced with a lot of family support. It did present some challenges, especially as I was in my second year of study at university.
Life began to take over and I had to level with my responsibilities, gradually leaving the music behind, I felt like very little success had been gained. As time passed, I began to note all the successes that were inadvertently born of the journey, the unbreakable friendships, the life lessons, the highs, the lows, the small wins, the notion that these skills could be used in another capacity later down the line.
My goals changed, I got into support work with young offenders and teaching at a college for adults with learning disabilities in Telford. I undertook 22-hour shifts (including sleep ins). Despite the demanding shifts, work life balance was achievable. It meant I could often be available during the week and, as I was able to choose my working hours, I had the flexibility to organise my personal time around these shifts.
Getting a mortgage meant that I needed more stability than shift work could offer. So I went into Payroll, earning less but getting more job and financial security. This was miles away from my original creative aspirations of working in music. Still – the idea that if you do something that you love, you will never have to ‘work’ a day in your life again – is something in which I truly believe.
In my opinion, children provide a drive that cannot be replicated by anything else and my rhyming skills were soon back in use when I co-founded a publishing company, Butterfly Books with my sister, Kerrine Bryan.
We create children’s picture books, which aim to dispel gender stereotypes. Highlighting various professions which are often perceived as gender specific, our ultimate aim is to re-write the narratives told to children that can often limit and dictate their dreams.
As a father to now three girls, I am ever more conscious about the quality of the books they read at school and at home in shaping their world views, dreams and aspirations. We need to see children’s stories with characters and protagonists outside of the usual stereotypes.
A couple of years ago when my second child was 3 she gained an interest in football. Primarily showing a strong affiliation to Chelsea FC (No idea where this came from). The original satisfaction with joining in with the celebrations when a goal was scored wasn’t enough, the interest grew. I decided to take advantage of this, my eldest daughter was encouraged the same way, but she took more satisfaction from ridiculing me after a rival loss (great antagonistic attribute, not sure where she got that from either).
I introduced my daughter to little kickers. This was bought to my attention during a “MFF” event. She did this for just over a year, with her class consisting of only boys it took a while to settle in. We were then hit by the pandemic and on our return, the time away and the new faces appeared to be a little too much and we eventually had to stop. The lack of gender diversity is evident.
This year we launched our 8th Children’s book “My Mummy is a Footballer” Sponsored by Leicester City Women’s FC, Charlton Athletic Women’s FC and Lewes FC, the production of the book was inspired by Lewes FC, a 100% fan owned not for profit club. Last winter, Butterfly Books also ran a crowdfunder to raise money for the book’s production.
The FA has worked hard to achieve more gender parity in the sport with its diversity and inclusion charter. Last year, when the FA’s then chairman, Greg Clark, made comments accounting for the lack of female goalkeepers to women’s inherent dislike of the ball being kicked at them, the issue demonstrated how much work needed to be done to transform attitudes at the most senior level.
With my girls, I do my best to ensure that they know about opportunities and jobs that are not gender specific. But the most important thing I try to encourage? That they pursue things that they enjoy over anything else.
I have learnt that nothing comes easy, and persistence is key, both in family and work life. When our first book My Mummy Is An Engineer was first released, I knew the idea itself was amazing but I had no idea how far we could take things. A few years later, we have since collaborated with the British Army, the NHS, the London Fire Brigade, the National Farmers Union and plumbers to produce everything from My Mummy Is A Soldier to My Daddy Is A Nurse.
Butterfly Books have published multiple books, which are available for purchase at www.ButterflyBooks.co.uk or https://www.ebay.co.uk/str/butterflybooksuk.