Breaking female stereotypes: Bianca Pitzorno’s girls and the power of literature on gender socialization


Bianca Pitzorno is one of Italy’s most famous children’s writers. Her works – more than forty books translated into different languages – often address topics linked to gender identity and femininity. Pitzorno’s novels for children usually depict non-canonical female characters: rebel, dynamic and intelligent young girls that fight against adult injustice in order to affirm their agency.

The paper aims to explore female portrayals in Pitzorno’s novels and their potential educational impact in reconsidering gender stereotypes and roles from an early age. Literature is one of the most influential tools in the construction of gender ideals and gender socialization. Consequently, positive female models – as Pitzorno’s characters – should be offered to young readers from an early age in order to foster an inclusive collective imagination about femininity.

For instance, Extraterrestre alla pari [Aliens on par] (1979) directly focuses on gender issues telling the story of a young alien coming from a planet where young boys and girls do not know their sex until they reach adulthood. For this reason, they are considered as gender-neutral beings. Likewise, L’incredibile storia di Lavinia [Lavinia and the magic ring] (1985) ironically retells Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Match Girl working on humor and female agency. Finally, Principessa Laurentina [Princess Laurentina] (1990) deals with adolescence and family dynamics, offering different portrayals of female identity, from a young age to adulthood.

Because of the brilliant and nontraditional depiction of female figures and the deconstruction of gender canon in a simple but captivating way, Pitzorno’s novels should be internationally considered in primary school curriculums as a starting point to introduce gender diversity in reading programs and to discuss gender issues with the help of adult figures such as teachers, educators and parents.

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