Campaigner sparks controversy after blasting picture book

Campaigner sparks controversy after blasting picture book

A British domestic violence campaigner has called out Judith Kerr’s 1968 picture book, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, as a reinforcement of problematic ideas.

Rachel Adamson, the co-director of charity Zero Tolerance, which aims to end men’s violence against women, has claimed the book is an “old fashioned” depiction of women.

“We know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls,” she told BBC Radio Scotland.

Kerr’s picture book tells the story of a tiger who arrives on a family’s doorstep and, once invited in for tea, proceeds to consume all of their food and drinks.

Adamson criticised the “stereotypical” ending to the book, where the dad comes home from work and saves the day by taking his family to a cafe.

The campaigner also questioned why the tiger was not female or gender neutral.

“We need to recognise these aren’t just stories… it is reflective of a society that we need to think more closely about,” she said.

Adamson described Kerr as a “wonderful author”, but was aware that her comments would “make a lot of people unhappy”.

Despite her strong views about the book, Adamson has stressed that she doesn’t want it banned.

Instead, she believes it could be used to “raise a conversation” in nurseries.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Meghan Gallacher, the Scottish Conservatives spokesperson for children and young people, described Adamson’s language as “completely unhelpful”.

“While attitudes change over time, parents will be left bemused at some of these claims by Zero Tolerance,” Gallacher said.

“This sort of language is completely unhelpful as we try to educate children about much-loved publications from days gone by.

“There are far better ways for this publicly funded group to go about changing attitudes, rather than simply calling for these books to be banned from nurseries.”

Kerr, who had fled Nazi Germany when she was just 13, had previously denied claims there was a darker meaning to the story.

The idea came to her while she was a stay-at-home mother of her two small children.

“It got really very boring,” she later recalled. 

“We’d go for a walk and have tea, and that was it really. And we wished someone would come. So I thought, why not have a tiger come?”

Kerr continued to write and illustrate books from 1968 until she passed away in May of 2019.

Image: Instagram, Rachel Adamson

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