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Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

They’ve come for the tiger.

“Children’s book ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ could lead to rape and harassment’ because it reinforces gender inequality that causes violence against women, campaigner claims”, reports the Mail.

It may have delighted generations of children, but The Tiger Who Came To Tea reinforces gender inequality which causes violence against women and girls, a campaigner said yesterday.

Rachel Adamson, of Zero Tolerance, a charity working to end men’s violence against women, said Judith Kerr’s 1968 classic was ‘problematic’ because of its ‘old fashioned’ portrayal of women and family dynamics.

The book sees an uninvited tiger join a young girl and her mother for tea before eating all the food in the house, drinking everything, running the taps dry and leaving.

The girl’s father then comes home and takes her and her mother to a cafe.

Miss Adamson did not call for the book to be banned but said it could be used to ‘raise a conversation’ in nurseries.

She told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘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, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment.’

Adamson questioned the tiger’s gender and why he was not female or gender neutral.

Um… would this campaigner against violence inflicted on women and girls, whose organisation specifically defends its focus on men’s violence against women really want to see a children’s book in which the enormous, physically dominant predator who blags its way into a space which a woman and a girl had thought their own and abuses their hospitality was female or transgender?

Sigh. As the Mail article points out, Judith Kerr knew a thing or two about prejudice leading to violence. Her father was a well known German Jewish writer who had to flee with his family when the Nazis came to power and put a price on his head. They only just escaped. She wrote a lightly fictionalised account of her family’s story in When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. Nonetheless, she always resisted attempts to claim that the tiger was a metaphor for Nazism. It was just a big hungry but affable tiger who ate all the buns and drank all the water in the tap.


Concerned that the Mail might be less than fair to Ms Adamson or the charity she represents, I went to the website of “Zero Tolerance” at https://www.zerotolerance.org.uk/ and looked up the organisation’s Annual Report to see how it describes itself in its own words.

The financial information is right at the end, on page 44. As I anticipated it is one of those charities.

Of its total income of £217,778, a mighty £2,125 came from donations and £2000 from the STV Children’s Appeal. That is 1.9% of its total funding.

By far the biggest source of funds is £176,770 from the Scottish Government Equality and Diversity Budget (Violence Against Women and Girls). That is 81% of its total funding.

At £36,120, the next biggest source of funding is something called the CORRA Foundation. This seems to be the successor organisation to the Lloyds TSB Foundation, which was wound up when Lloyds separated from TSB in the wake of the financial crisis some years ago. In other words it is a big bank saying “We must Do Some Good. Philpott, see to it.” In the old days Philpott would have given the sinecure to his sister who wore a twinset and pearls. Now he gives it to his sister who has blue hair and pronouns. The Corra Foundation’s website says that it has distributed almost £193 million since 1985 “to help improve the lives of individuals and communities experiencing disadvantage all across Scotland and in countries around the world.”

With the tiger’s share of their money coming from government and much of the rest from corporate “charities” that are almost as remote as government, bodies like “Zero Tolerance” do not have to do anything so vulgar as deal with poor people, sorry “individuals experiencing disadvantage”.

Zero Tolerance’s expenses, which slightly exceed its income, relate almost entirely to paying its employees, giving them offices in Edinburgh to sit in and “professional web and IT”. A mere £11,116 is for Events, which I will not, of course, mention, blessed be the regulations. The rest is printing and publicity.

So, apart from tweeting 363 times and gaining 912 new followers on Twitter and 362 new followers on Facebook (as detailed on page 40) what do these Zero Tolerance bods actually do?

Some of their activities might actually do some good, in an indirect fashion. They sponsored someone to write a set of five short plays on domestic violence against women. They had an exhibition of photographs on the same theme.

However the report soon leaves behind the worthy but depressing type of work that it was originally formed to do, and moves on to stopping domestic violence by means of a “Gender Equal Play Project Group”. One can understand that; I am sure lecturing nursery staff on what old books they must no longer let the children look at unsupervised is a lot less emotionally draining. Presumably the Gender Equal Play Project Group was the origin of the policy of zero tolerance for anthropomorphic tigers. Do not think that the great task consists only of condemning books; Zero Tolerance also approve books. Here is their “Book List for improving gender equality and diversity”.

But mostly it follows the same pattern of astroturfing as Christopher Snowdon wrote about in his 2013 report Euro-puppets: The European Commission’s remaking of civil society. It’s a neat trick: a government or similar body pays people to lobby it to do something it wanted to do anyway. The government can then make a great show of acceding to grassroots “demand”, that is, pretending to be a servant when it is actually the master. The “charity workers” can pose as tribunes of the people without the troublesome necessity of going door to door in Glasgow like those nasty politicians do. Everybody wins, except the taxpayer.

The staff of Zero Tolerance earn the salaries the Scottish Government pay them by playing the role of people who protest against the Scottish Government for not being radical enough on matters of gender. Or, as they describe it on page 35, “Influencing Government, Local Councils, and Public Bodies”. It is nice to see the Oxford comma.

“We responded to the Gender Reform Act consultation stating our position that self-determination for trans people supports prevention of violence against women, and continued to visibly promote our trans inclusive position. We met with the Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People regarding the reforms. We also strengthened our partnerships with Stonewall Scotland, LGBT Youth Scotland, and the Scottish Trans Alliance”

In other news, yesterday’s Times reports that ‘Simon Callow, the actor and veteran gay rights campaigner, has condemned the “strange turn to the tyrannical” taken by Stonewall on self-identification for transgender people’:

Callow, who was involved in the anti-government protests that led to the foundation of Stonewall in 1989, said an “extraordinarily unproductive militancy” now surrounded its position. This uncompromising mood risked infringing women’s rights and could put pressure on young gay people to transition, he said, and it was a sign of the times that he felt nervous about the reaction he would stir up, simply for expressing his views.

“I shouldn’t have to fear in that way,” he said. “This is just tyranny and that’s what we’ve fought against all our lives, people saying, ‘this cannot be discussed’.

On the subject of declining to discuss topics that are very much worthy of discussion, Zero Tolerance’s FAQ page includes this gem:

Doesn’t this mean forcing children to be something they are not?

No. Biological differences aside, there is no scientific reason that girls and boys should prefer different things. The stereotypes we impose upon children stem from a patriarchal society – we should challenge these stereotypes.

Honestly, speaking as a woman who has had many typically “male” interests since childhood, I have no desire to impose any grown-up mandated pattern on children when they play. But that “aside” in “Biological differences aside, there is no scientific reason that girls and boys should prefer different things” takes almost as many liberties as did the tiger. The biological differences so confidently swept aside are the the very thing at issue.

Sure, aside from the obvious difference in reproductive organs, greater female interest in faces that can be demonstrated in the responses of babies who are one day old, the evolution of sexual dimorphism in the bodies, brains and behaviour of an enormous range of animal species including humans, and that whole tedious business of maleness or femaleness being marked in some way by the chromosomes in the nucleus of every cell in the human body, there is no scientific reason to expect that girls and boys should – on average – prefer different things.

18 comments to Came for tea, stayed for the rape: a beloved children’s classic re-analysed

  • Stonyground

    “…there is no scientific reason that girls and boys should prefer different things.”

    To make a statement like this you need to completely ignore reality. When my daughter was small I was quite happy to teach her about engines, she was more interested in those little brightly coloured ponies and Barbies.

    On the subject of this fake charity, we are seeing a complete lack of due diligence when it comes to spending public money. No private enterprise would stay in business for long with such a complete lack of control over spending. The problem that would be faced by any government that did try to reign it in would presumably be what to do with all the useless unemployables flooding the job market.

  • Sam Duncan

    “Of its total income of £217,778, a mighty £2,125 came from donations and £2000 from the STV Children’s Appeal.”

    I know of several people – people who are otherwise highly supportive of such things – who refuse to donate to the STV appeal because of some of the beneficiaries. Presumably the BBC’s “Children in Need” isn’t much, if any, better, but STV’s effort has gained itself a Reputation.

  • Patrick

    Sean Lock’s alternative ‘The tiger who came for a pint’ is an absolute hoot. Would send the woke into meltdown.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Stonyground, as a matter of fact both my children, a girl and a boy, were completely obsessed with engines. But I saw a great difference in the way they acquired language. My daughter steadily added a new word every few days until she could talk fluently. My son stayed on a plateau of only knowing few specific baby-words for ages, so that we started to worry about him, then – whoosh! – moved to speaking in quite long sentences with astonishing suddenness. I know many parents who have had similar experiences.

  • APL

    Natalie Solent: “I know many parents who have had similar experiences.”

    We now suspect our youngest son was lying in his cot wondering why the gods had subjected him to those two gibbering idiots. He didn’t speak for ages, we thought he might even be deaf, then, one day, completely formed sentences.

  • Duncan S

    Natalie

    My son stayed on a plateau of only knowing few specific baby-words for ages, so that we started to worry about him, then – whoosh! – moved to speaking in quite long sentences with astonishing suddenness.

    According to my mum, that’s how I was. Up to that point my older (by 18 mths) brother acted as my translator, telling my parents what my baby-words meant.

  • Fraser Orr

    Although I live in the United States, I grew up in Scotland and spent most of my twenties there. My memory is that Scottish people are a practical lot. They are a “get on with it” and “don’t make a fuss” type of people. Hardworking, salt of the earth. Work in the docks, the coal mines, and the Steel factories is the foundational work in Scotland, and it is from that type of worker that the Scottish culture and ethic arises. (BTW, I added an Oxford comma to make Natalie happy.)

    However, the more I read, and especially read here, it seems that the Scottish people have utterly lost their minds and descended into the most woke of woke people in Britain. It makes me suffer intense cognitive dissonance between the Scotland I remember and the sad state of affairs we have today. The biggest differences I see are: firstly devolution (I left round about when this happened) and secondly the almost complete takeover by the SNP and all their crazy loony[*] policies. When I lived there there was no Scottish Parliament, and the SNP were a tiny party that were more the butt of jokes at parties, and were supported only by people who, while hailing from Portobello or Kelvinside, dressed and behaved like they were William Wallace. (Though they’d also lecture you at length on the historical inaccuracies of “Braveheart”.)

    To be clear, Scottish people have always been a bit leftie, in the sense of pro nationalized industries, and pro union, but if I had told my grandfather that I was thinking about becoming a girl, he would have been, as we used to say, “calling the men in white coats.”

    So, question for you Scots, and observers of Scotland — what the hell happened?

    * With apologies to people suffering from mental illness. Comparing suffers of these maladies to the SNP is grossly unfair on the mentally ill.

  • APL

    Fraser Orr: “So, question for you Scots, and observers of Scotland — what the hell happened?”

    Edward Heath and the ‘Common Market’, aka the European Economic Community, aka the European Union.

    And the Tory, obsession with exporting any type of skilled work and replacing it with an ‘office job’.

    Combined with Labour incompetence and stupidity.

    The one thing Thatcher should have attacked and destroyed when she had the chance, the State education system. But she buggered around with the legal system, and gave us little shits like Phil Shiner, instead.

  • NickM

    As far as late talkers…

    Apparently Albert Einstein didn’t utter his first words until he was 4/5 years old. His parents were concerned and had sought medical advice to no avail. Anyway, one evening there was soup for dinner and young Albert took a sip and suddenly stated (in German, natch), “This soup is too hot”. His poor parents were flumoxed and his dad said, “Albie, you can speak! Why haven’t you said anything before?” Young Einstein replied, “Everything was alright until now.” I guess the Einsteins were excellent parents. Or the toddler ‘stein was a bit of a flannel merchant. The adult one certainly was. That BTW is not taking away from his brilliance but he did milk it in order to become the first real media star scientist. And I’m not just saying that because I’m smarter and better looking than that professional Manc “Professor” Brian Cox. Though I am.

  • Fraser Orr

    When you think about the complexity of what it means to “talk” it is a freaking miracle that anyone can talk. The process of talking involves an amazingly complex dance between almost every part of the human brain from the pre-frontal context to determine what to say, to Broca’s area to determine how to say it, connecting with the motor cortex to plan the general strategy, which then negotiates with the cerebellum through the thalamus and the pons on the brain stem to turn a general plan into the fine motor changes, and eventually moving back through the thalamus and through the brain stem to enervate the thousands of nerve fibers required to move the hundreds of muscles involved in forming a sound. And that doesn’t even include the process whereby we hear our parents speak through the lateral cortex and the somatosensory cortex in the parietal lobe where we somehow manage to do a frequency to time domain transform, and then associate certain frequency patterns with concepts and ideas, often matching what we see, which is a whole other complex cognition pattern.

    That we can do that, and do it through a kind of stochastic process of rewiring the thalamus and the brain white matter dynamically is nothing short of a miracle. As for boys verses girls, I think that one of the few things that is widely believed about the difference between male and female brains is that the cross hemisphere connectivity is often denser in female brains, and so, given the total brain workout required for speech it isn’t surprising that extra connectivity between the larger parts of the brain improves the acquisition speed.

  • bobby b

    “The process of talking involves an amazingly complex dance between almost every part of the human brain from the pre-frontal context to determine what to say, to Broca’s area to determine how to say it, connecting with the motor cortex to plan the general strategy, which then negotiates with the cerebellum through the thalamus and the pons on the brain stem to turn a general plan into the fine motor changes, and eventually moving back through the thalamus and through the brain stem to enervate the thousands of nerve fibers required to move the hundreds of muscles involved in forming a sound.”

    It’s funny – I read this paragraph on one screen while watching Biden’s last press conference on another. I think your paragraph should have started with the word “usually.”

  • pete

    I can’t comment until I know the chosen gender identities of the girl, the mother and the father.

    Does the book make these clear to the reader?

    If the book doesn’t reveal the chosen genders of the characters then how can Ms Adamson comment on the gender dynamics of the story?

    Surely she can’t be assuming their chosen gender identities from their appearance in pictures or their descriptions as girl, mother and father. That would be outrageous, probably a hate crime.

  • Fraser Orr

    @pete
    I can’t comment until I know the chosen gender identities of the girl, the mother and the father.

    Or the chosen species of the tiger?

  • David Norman

    I think it’s just gender identity you can choose. As it is outright blasphemous to suggest that you can choose your racial identity I very much doubt that the members of the cult would countenance the notion of choosing a species identity.

  • bobby b

    “I very much doubt that the members of the cult would countenance the notion of choosing a species identity.”

    You’ve never seen a Furry, have you?

  • Paul Marks

    “gender stereotypes” is a bit of “Woke” Marxist jargon – it means the basic fact that men and women are different, physically and mentally. The truth is a “stereotype”.

    Rachel Adamson rejects this – indeed thinks it leads to violence against women and girls.

    Perhaps she rejects the law of gravity as well. And, no doubt, 1+1=2 is an example of patriarchy and white supremacy.

    As for violence against women and girls – there is an ideology popular among some men that leads to this (in Sweden, in the United Kingdom, and in many other places), but if I mentioned what that world view was I would be punished.

    Most likely Rachel Adamson would be very loud in demanding my punishment for mentioning the world view that leads to violence against women and girls – if so that rather indicates that she is not really interested in reducing violence against women and girls.

    As for a positive message for a world view that reduces violence against woman and girls.

    The painting “The Accolade” sums up a world view that leads to the protection of women and girls from violence. By Gentleman with a code of decency, of chivalry – even if to protect women and girls these men have to accept their own deaths.

    What Rachel Adamson would claim are “gender stereotypes”.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    Maybe the critics of ‘The Tiger Who Came To Tea’ are simply reading it wrong. In the spirit of tongue-in-cheek ‘revisionist’ interpretations of the kind offered for ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’ a correspondent wrote this week to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ to offer the following view:

    “… the tale features a cunning woman, capable of spinning a fantastic yarn to her daughter, apparently making the girl believe that a tiger came to visit and disrupted all their plans. This ensures that Mummy can’t do any of the typical daily activities of a 1960s housewife – such as drawing her daughter’s bath, cleaning up the mess or, crucially, making Daddy’s dinner.

    Campaigners claim that the father “saves the day” by suggesting dinner in a cafe. In fact, as any married reader will easily recognise, he has merely been a pawn in Mummy’s game all along. That Daddy believes dinner out was all his idea is only further evidence of her guile.”

  • Rich Rostrom

    Baby vervet monkeys prefer to play with trucks, if they are boys, and with dolls, if they are girls.

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