During the past month, I have seen a few Internet videos concerning literary role models for women – more precisely the lack thereof. One video was of a little girl and her mom taking books off of a shelf to prove a point that children’s literature had few role models for young girls. They removed books that had only male characters, ones where the female character did not talk, and then all the ones where the female was a princess “just waiting for her prince.”
The other video made a version of Cinderella where all the genders were reversed and they called it Cinderfella. About halfway through the video, just before you realize the video is actually an advertisement for a new book, the screen puts up the statement, “We wouldn’t read this to our sons. Why read it to our daughters?” Then you get into the advertisement which is for a book full of famous women who changed the world. There is a story on Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, the Williams sisters from tennis fame. And before you think it is simply women of African descent, there is also a section for Julia Child and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Okay, so they did not flip through the entire book and I know there are more stories than just those. That is not really my point anyways here. My point, which I have made before, is that Feminism is a sexist concept disguised as a positive force and that is why I call myself an Equalist.
I absolutely agree with the main point of those two videos: literature written for youth should include more female characters who are developed beyond the simple princess in need of rescue. However, both videos irked me with what I see as a heavy-handed attack on society as a whole, as if the lack of strong female characters is somehow a mass conspiracy perpetrated by (literally) “The Man.”
Just because that first video took Time Magazine’s 100 best children’s books of all time and claimed that 53 did not have women speak, does not mean there are not strong female characters out there. It takes time to take a relatively new book to break into a list of the “Best of All Time.” Be patient.
Perhaps Feminists are not finding the right books. Fantasy writer David Eddings, who eventually gave co-author due to his wife Leigh, wrote several sagas where a female character played a vital role in Good triumphing over Evil. Polgara the Sorceress, her mother Beldaran, Sephrenia, and Aphrael the Child-Goddess each demanded respect from the more numerous male protagonists and were powerful examples of the equality between the genders – even when the story is set in a more medieval society.
My point being, much like being a Taoist Polyamorist in America requires effort on my part to find therapists and counselors to help with my emotional quandaries, sometimes you have to dig for stories that have the characters you want your children to emulate.
My major problem with the second video is the comment, “You wouldn’t read this to your son.” Where the creators of the ad obviously assumed viewers would agree with the sentiment, my first thought was, “Why not? Why can’t we have stories for little boys where they get to have true love seek them out? Why can’t little boys be the ones bullied like Cinderella was, only to be saved by a fairy godfather – because why can’t men be magic too?” In the effort to break the cage society has put women in for so long, Feminists often ignore the cage which holds men.
As an Equalist, I question why we have those defined roles at all. As an Equalist, I see the remake of Ghostbusters using an all-woman team as a failure in opportunity, if not in comedy. The original Ghostbusters made an error having the four primary protagonists be men, and the the remake made the same error having all four be women. Why in Hell’s deathly bowels can we not have a mixed gender team of ghost-busting scientists? As an Equalist, I see a book made specifically for girls called “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls” as just as damaging to the fight for equality as all those books the first video took off the shelf.
Why? Because it separates boys and girls by its very title. “This book isn’t for you boys, it’s for rebel girls. So don’t buy this book or ask your dads to read it to you because you’re not a girl. You don’t get to learn about these powerful and inspiring women, but somehow you must intuitively become less sexist.”
One final thought in this rant: there have actually been three videos in the last month that I have seen repeated. The third video is the inspiring story of J.K. Rowling. Rejected from college, mom died, miscarriage, abusive marriage, divorce, depression… all before she finally published her famous series. Many of my same Feminist friends and family members who uploaded the previous two videos about girl characters in literature also shared this cartoon recap of Rowling’s life. And as an Equalist, I applaud her success story.
But when you wonder why there are no girl characters in literature for your daughters to look up to, and lament the male-centric culture, just remember this:
- Harry Potter (boy)
- Ron Weasley (boy)
- Hermione (girl)
- Voldemort (boy… I think?)
- Dumbledore (boy)
- That Snape(?) guy (boy)
- Hagrid (?) (boy)
Those are the characters I can name having never read the series or watched the movies. J.K. Rowling is recognized as one of the greatest living female authors of our time… and only one of her main characters was a girl. Do not try to tell me that her publishers insisted on a mostly male character list. Do not try to tell me the story would not have been as successful if it had been called Henrietta Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
Sometimes, Feminists, you cannot blame others. Sometimes, it is your own chosen heroes and role models that fail. And that is why I am an Equalist, because then I have no others to blame and can attempt to solve the problems without making the same mistakes as before.
Now someone write a gender-reversed version of Beauty and the Beast. Maybe call it Handsome and the Hideous. The Little Mermaid could become The Little Mer-man. While we are at it, turn Aladdin into Jasmine – that one almost writes itself as a transgender empowering fairy tale as well. Oh never mind… if I want something done right, I better do it myself.