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feminist picture books

Join the feminist picture book revolution with this free tool

Yo ladies and gents! Are you ready for your DIY summer project? All you need is 5 minutes and a commitment to gender equity!

So stop stirring your artisinal, small batch, organic playdough, and go load some locally-sourced, recycled paper into your printer. Cause we need you for the revolution.

Read on.

“Protagonism is Propaganda that protects and perpetuates privilege.”

Jill Soloway, my living, breathing spirit animal said this.

It, in addition to every other thing she says in this manifesto, has given voice, clarity and purpose to feminist frustrations that got turned up to a steady boil since I pushed out my first baby.

I switch pronouns in most every picture book, I have long, difficult discussions with AW about the sexist way we divvy up domestic chores, I tell the boys why certain stories they read make me angry, because they are using sexist or racist or classist or homophobic stereotypes. “Maybe we should call the male character the ‘the farmer’s husband’ since women and men can both be farmers and husbands and wives. Let’s think of some we know…”

I challenge their assumption that the person riding the motorcycle is male. I consider that all of this is working when Jo and I have an exchange about a silver Toyota passing us on the freeway.

Me: He’s driving waaay too fast!

Jo: Or she!!!

And so it has been that raising my children has made me ever more aware of patriarchy, of sexism, of the million ways that He and Him and His is the universal default for every person or creature seen in the world or shown in a story.

And so it has been that I’ve had the idea to make this for almost exactly 7 years, and finally spent the 10 minutes it took this afternoon.

Behold! This magical feminist pronoun switcher tool can empower any person anywhere to join the protagonist revolution.

 

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Since a shocking majority of published picture books feature male characters, you can just close your eyes at your kids’ bookshelf and grab one. Then, simply print, cut, paste and voila! You just created your first piece of feminist protagonist propaganda! It can be tipped into the tiny, pliable minds of children everywhere.

Not only will you be saved from having to remember to change pronouns on every page, your child will soon set the perfect stage for a conversation about unfairness and and feminism when she asks you why you changed the words in so many of her picture books.

Welcome to the revolution.

Truly feminist picture book recommendations and paternity leave is over

Woo hoo! Had to share this lovely post responding to my recent post championing Elisabeth’s call for picture books with varied female characters and a gender balanced cast. Whew. Were you able to connect all those dots? Hope so. I don’t have much time to preen my writing because A. is back to work today. Sigh.

I’ve been weepy as a willow for the last 24 hours. Having his presence at home for 7 weeks (yes, SEVEN) has been nothing short of miraculous. He provides an extra set of arms for bouncing babies or wrangling older boys. He installs sliding glass doors where once there were windows.

dining1 dining2

Pretty amazing, huh?

And he also makes tea in the morning with the perfect amount of sugar and milk.

I miss him.

I also feel like a big fat wuss for feeling this way, since he was around for SEVEN weeks. Thank you, A’s boss, for setting up your company policy to allow your employees to have access to the Family and Medical Leave Act even though you’re not legally required to, since you employ way less than 50 people. And thank you, State of California, for having the California Paid Family Leave program which made it possible for us to afford SEVEN weeks without A’s salary.

I don’t know a single person whose partner has been able to take this much time off after the birth of a baby. Not one. And may I please say that that is ridiculous. And sad. And just plain stupid.

I’ll keep my rant short, but it seems to me that one of the most basic things a country can do to support its people is to support its newest members and those bringing them into the world. And expecting new moms and dads to just ally-oop back to work lickety split puts tons of stress on new families. And directly influences mental and physical health of parents, health outcomes for newborns, and emotional lives of siblings to name a few. I don’t have the time or energy to go looking for all of the studies and articles that I’m sure have been written about this (if you have any at your fingertips, please share!!) but I’m sure that babies and parents are healthier and happier when parents are able to stay home and settle in for more than 5 minutes.

Here I am all weepy as hell and I got seven (SEVEN!) weeks of support from my partner, not to mention tons of food and childcare from friends. I know I could have handled it if A. wound up with the typical, all-American 1 or 2 weeks off, but I’m oh so grateful that I didn’t have to. And I know that there are tons of folks out there that don’t have a choice. And that makes me angry. Political rant-y angry.

Baby C is waking up, and there’s grocery shopping to do and J to pick up at one. I’m off to my solo parenting immersion.

Hope all is well with you, dear readers.

Feminism, pronouns and arts and crafts

We had a tragic accident at our house recently.

Train engineers the size of wine corks (where is my mind?!) tend to escape my 1st pass of throw-various-toys-into-various-boxes-so-I-can-walk-on-level-ground-in-my-own-home. So J’s esteemed engineer was marooned on our floor, only to be crunched under one of our giant feet. It was a grisly injury to be sure, but I felt confident in my skills once I found where the head had rolled off to.

As I was holding the head in place for the 3rd time, cursing myself for not having the patience to let the glue set, I had an idea. And as I tried unsuccessfully to peel the ripply crust of superglue off of my fingers, I decided that this was the best idea I had ever conceived.

You see, I’ve been having a daily battle in my mind, since J was very young. It is a battle with pronouns. I started to resent his children’s books, which were so casually saturated with male characters. Male humans. Male trucks. Male ducks. I decided that I could provide some strategic revisions to his stories, replacing the “he” and “his” with “she” and “hers.” And any resistance I got in the form of, “But that’s a boy, Momma,” I would just quash with my explanation of how some boys have long hair and wear dresses and some girls have short hair and wear dungarees.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I started to hear my own thoughts, and how dominant and automatic the “he” was. So I started “she-ing” birds we saw, and garbage collectors and worms.

Naturally, I had to “she” the engineer.

I had some internal criticism with myself over whether the haircut was too girly, but ultimately decided that I wanted anyone else playing with the toy to see that it was an engineer lady, so I went with the fringe-y bangs and bob.

I must say, the result has thrilled me. Every time J is padding through our house saying “My engineer, where is she?” I feel a warm, relaxing tingle in my belly.  Because more than wanting J to know that women can be engineers and that girls can play trucks, I want him to just see those things as a casual matter of fact.

And I make sure of it by giving human action figures the Sharpie treatment the moment they cross our threshold.

Leading ladies in children's picture books: Mrs. Armitage

Way back when, I posed this lament and request for good children’s picture books with girl and women main characters. Thanks to all of your amazing comments, I’ve had a hold-list a mile long at our library. We’ve been reading like fiends in these parts and have found some real stand-outs. Three books that stick in my mind and that we have gone back to the library for again and again are the Mrs. Armitage books by Quentin Blake.

It all started with Mrs. Armitage on Wheels.

Don’t you love her already?

It’s basically a children’s book version of ‘pimp my ride,’ only the ride is a bike and the detail crew is Mrs. Armitage and her faithful dog Breakspear. And if you feel like Blake’s illustrations remind you of something, you’re right! Quentin Blake drew all of the pictures for Roald Dahl’s books. Blake is also a wonderful storyteller–these are books that you will genuinely enjoy reading out loud.

Then there’s Mrs. Armitage and the Big Wave.

Similar storyline–only this time, it’s a surfboard.

And Mrs. Armitage: Queen of the Road.

In this one, she un-pimps her ride and then winds up playing billiards and drinking cans of banana fizz with her Uncle Cosmo and his friends at the Crazy Duck Cafe.

Go forth. Read. Enjoy. And relax knowing that you’re reading a story to your kiddo that shows off a rad leading lady.