I'm the first to admit that I'm a fantasy-chick.
LotR, His Dark Materials, Pratchett, Harry Potter, I love them.
Imagination, fantasy, they're important to me, they're wonderful, they're creative.
And quite often, they're settled in a mythical past of our own world.
Obviously, when we're talking about pirates, we're not talking about actual pirates, mostly desperate people who led short violent lives always threatened with execution should they be caught. We're talking about Pirates, like adorable "adopt me" Johnny Depp, kick-ass Keira Knightly and eye-candy Orlando Bloom.
And that's what trickles down to our children. They don't play "die slowly of syphillis" or "drown while simultaneously bleeding to death". They play Sea-fight! Major Treassure Found! Ghost-ship Sighted!
But there's a limit to imagination and I'll show you what it is:
Everything is better with Pirates, even Ninjas.
Let's see, what can you spot?
Can you see the sea-serpent?
Can you find Aladin?
Can you see dwarves?
Can you see ghosts?
Can you find the lightbulb?
Can you find Matti, the little boy with a wooden sword who's the protagonist of the book?
Can you spot a woman?
Let me guess, you got the first 6 alright because they are actually there. A woman? Tssss, this is Pirates! There are actually women in the book, a total 8 of them.
A mother with her son
A mermaid chatting with a sailor
A damsel in distress
Well, I'm pretty sure that children don't notice that those are prostitutes, but they are definetly depicted as "women who make men happy".
But that's the places reduced for women:
Mothers, barmaids, fantasy creatures and pleasure-givers to men. That's what our children, sons and daughters alike learn about the world: It's much more likely that there be sea-serpents than women making their place in the world.
And that's neither a bad book, nor a single example. I swear there were more known (not to mention the unknown) female pirates in the actual history of piracy than there are in all the children's books and toy-sets combined.