"Girls Deserve to See Themselves as Main Characters."
When I asked Bitch readers how you find great feminist-friendly children's literature, multiple people sung the praises of one online purveyor of books, movies, TV programs, music, toys, and t-shirts: A Mighty Girl.
A Mighty Girl is aimed, as its name suggests, at girl readers, but I have sons. Does the site have anything to offer feminists shopping for boys? Site co-founder Carolyn Danckaert is passionate about nonsexist children's and young adult literature. She and I talked about tracking down feminist-friendly YA books for kids.
MOLLY WESTERMAN: What's A Mighty Girl?
CAROLYN DANCKAERT: A Mighty Girl was founded on the belief that all children should have the opportunity to read books, play with toys, listen to music, watch movies, and wear clothing that offer positive messages about girls and honor their diverse capabilities. We started last spring and are now the world's largest source for girl-empowering media, including over 1,500 books for children and teens starring strong girl protagonists.
Have you considered adding information and resources for parents of boys? I have two sons and no daughters. Often, the conversation about feminist-friendly literature fails to address our needs—not because we don't read about girls or because we avoid so-called girls' books (definitely not!) but because we need to push back against a different set of pressures from the one faced by girls and their feminist parents.
I'm a strong believer that the books and films we feature are also important for boys to read and watch, as they need to be exposed to the idea that girls and women can be smart, courageous leaders as well.
Girls deserve a chance to see themselves as main characters. And not just in a passive, traditional fairy tale sort of way, but as the heroes out there saving the day, solving mysteries, and otherwise being proactive. It's not just about fiction: a few prominent exceptions aside, children generally learn very little about famous women in their history classes. Even the suffrage movement is often just a textbook sidebar. History is full of amazing and interesting women, and girls need role models who can demonstrate that they too can aspire for greatness.
But it's not just girls who often aren't exposed to these types of stories; it's boys as well. Beyond the simple fact that many of the books on A Mighty Girl are great stories that many boys love, we believe it's important for boys to read books and watch movies where girls and women are in leadership roles and aren't simply passive princesses or eye-candy. Additionally, many of these stories do feature male characters as friends, brothers, teachers, fathers, and so forth. Because these stories aren't pandering to stereotypes, the male characters are also often more real and complex than you find in typical books.
Do you think your site and others like it are able to exist because of the internet, which allows you to serve a geographically far-flung niche? I think a lot about online community and the scarcity of face-to-face community for feminist parents.
I think the internet certainly helps feminist parents connect in a way that might otherwise be challenging. Just yesterday, one of our Facebook supporters posted this comment to our wall: "It is so great to know I am not alone." And, that's a sentiment I hear quite frequently.
Of course, some individuals live in communities where there's a lot of like-minded support, but many people don't. For them, online communities can be huge both from the standpoint of having access to the types of resources we feature and also simply having that affirmation that others share their concerns and values.
What other favorite resources do you recommend?
There are so many wonderful sites out there that inspire us! A few favorites that come to mind include Half the Sky for its coverage of issues affecting girls and women in a global context, Miss Representation for its informative posts about sexism in the media, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media for its great research related to the representation of girls and women in media, and Amy Poehler's Smart Girls project for its fun and empowering content for girls.
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