I love a good feminist children’s book. But how about we just write stories about amazing girls who do amazing things and stop telling my 4 year old about a world where “girls have it hard.” In other words, it’s hard out here to find a book that’s feminist enough for the world my toddler girl lives in.
News flash: she doesn’t know about sexism yet. She doesn’t know how hard girls have had it, how limited the expectations for women are, and that our history includes long stints where we were considered property. She doesn’t know about rape and the pay gap and being cat-called. She doesn’t yet know that loudly stating your opinions makes you shrill and that her leadership will be called ‘bossy.’
Here I am trying to create the world the way it SHOULD be for her, and this well-meaning book comes along and makes me have to answer questions about why being a doctor was an impossible dream and what’s wrong with Hillary’s looks.
Nevertheless She Persisted and Hillary Rodham Clinton: Some Girls Are Born to Lead. Both great books. Maybe read them to girls who’ve had a little world experience.
We change the words a lot to the books we read. I do this to preserve for my daughter, while I still can, a rational world where every boy and girl aren’t destined for marriage and girls don’t make grotesque sacrifices for romance. Like, in our house, Jasmine and Aladdin go shopping together for a carpet and our Ariel doesn’t give up her voice but researches the human world for her anthropology thesis. I expect to do this for Disney because, after all these stories are based in thousands of years of patriarchy. But I didn’t expect to have to omit certain lines from the modern feminist canon of the toddler set.
I want her world to reflect not just how the world SHOULD be, but how it IS. For her. She’s a powerful, wonderful, amazing girl and any limits she detects in the world are a lie about her and all other women.
Books for our girls need to be feminist enough to reflect the world that they, themselves live in: a world without limits, a world full of courage and adventure, standing up for themselves and fighting for a better world. That’s who my girl is, and that’s who your girl is.
Our heroes fought injustice and battled sexism. And so will our girls. Yes, I will have to someday break it to her about the realities in our world. But isn’t it better if right now she builds inroads towards a limitless life? Couldn’t learning the notion that “it’s hard for girls” be damaging to a girl who might come to believe this notion is inherent to girlhood?
For now, when she shouts about her vulva in public I ignore the shocked looks. When she says “Hillary’s the president” I just agree. And her dreams about being a doctor: I think I’ll wait a decade before she hears that, at one time, that was just too high a goal for a girl like her.
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