Famous Five – is it the end for Ann?

Five go Adventuring Again - after Ann’s done the washing up

I think it may be time to chuck out all the Enid Blyton books and veto anything written before 1970.
Last week Ben asked me,

“Why did Enid Blyton think it was alright for the girls to be servants to the boys?”

Well, there’s a discussion to be having with an eight year old boy.
How do I condense the Women’s Movement, feminism, and all the titles including The Second Sex, The Women’s Room, Sexual Politics, Man Made Language and the Female Eunuch into one easily comprehensible answer.

I give it a go.

“Things were very different in those days, and people thought women should do most of the work in the house. But things have changed since then. That’s good isn’t it?”

“No, I’d like it if Hannah did everything I told her to.”

Great. An unreconstructed son who’d like a doormat for a sister. Luckily, he doesn’t have one.

But I do worry that working at home is giving him a skewed view of male/female job demarcation. I’m the one who fetches them from school most days, and it’s generally me who bangs plates containing food onto the kitchen table of an evening.

We’ve already had the “only men do big important jobs like that” conversation.
Well, I say conversation. It was more like one small person trotting out anachronistic tommy-rot while his mother listened in horror with her chin on the floor.

I did my best to stem the tide of wrong-thinking.
“We’ve already had a woman as a prime minister, her name was Margaret Thatcher and she was prime minister years before Tony Blair.”

I can’t believe I’m having to hold up the honorary bloke, Maggie Thatcher, as a fine example of womanhood. But I carry on.

“Men and women can do any job they like,” I explain, “except wet-nursing and sperm donation.”

I watch the unfamiliar words penetrate the brains of my children, and immediately wish I hadn’t put it quite like that.

Hannah’s first up with “What’s wet-nursing Mummy?”
I explain as best I can, and am met with a resounding, “Urrrghhh!” from both of them.
They’re so horrified at the thought of other women breast feeding them that they forget about the little matter of the sperm donation.

Ben could well be mulling over the word donation, which he may not know, and sperm, which he does, ready to throw them at me, in all their “sperm donation” horror, in the checkout queue at Tesco’s.

But even this would be preferable to rearing a child who yearns for nineteen-fifties suburbia.

He seems to be moving on to Arthur Ransome at the moment, with Horrible Histories and Groosham Grange for light relief, so hopefully he’ll forget the time-shifting example of Julian, Dick, George and Ann, not forgetting Timmy the dog.

I’ll just have to worry about Hannah now, if I can first save her from the Rainbow Fairies.

About Beta Mum

Here you can find the ramblings of a trapeze artist turned journalist who ran away from the circus to join the BBC. Cathy "mine's a Kir Royale" Keir then spent thirteen years working in Jersey, Guernsey and Devon, before downgrading to what you see before you. She has contributed articles to The Guardian, The Stage and Television Today, Junior Magazine and both the BBC and Bad Mothers Club websites. She has two children who think women can’t be prime ministers. She blames herself.
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3 Responses to Famous Five – is it the end for Ann?

  1. Polly Jane says:

    I guess books such as the Harry Potters and the His Dark Materials etc have replaced the Famous Five/Secret Seven type books of old for children/young adults/everyone.

    Which is better? I have fond memories of the Famous Five but I guess as with most things they captured a certain zeitgeist which has now sadly become out of date.

    I guess really it depends on if you want your daughter growing up to be an Anne or a Hermione!

  2. Drunk Mummy says:

    Don’t let him near ‘Swallows and Amazons’ or he’ll start calling other girls ‘Titty’. That will go down well in the checkout queue at Tesco’s.

  3. Paul says:

    Interestingly, my friend Jo read all my Famous Five’s to her kids as they’ve got older and now they’re reading them themselves.

    I still adore those books and I’ve never held out-of-date opinions about a “woman’s place”.

    Swallows and Amazons is also good fun, although Coot Club and Big Six are my favouites and still have certain ‘attitudes’ within their pages!

    I think that with a lot of these books written in less enlightened times, publishers should include a foreword to put the ‘attitudes and manners’ into a historical context. We may not agree now with how they were written – but we shouldn’t modify them to erase things we don’t like.

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