Women’s History Month begins today and I need to come clean – I don’t like it. I don’t even want to celebrate it.
When I started LittleFeminist.com, I thought Women’s History Month would be a rallying point for our staff and our book club members, but to my surprise, I feel angry and sad, unsure of what to do…other than share.
Myself and the Little Feminist team have two years under our belts scouring the globe for the best diverse children’s books. In this time, two things have become very, very clear:
- Most children’s books are written by White people.
- Most children’s books featuring women, and especially women of color, are stories of overcoming injustice – yes, there are more and more diverse children’s books published each year, but the majority of them are nonfiction/biographies. It appears imaginative stories about dragons, space, and clouds made of cotton candy are reserved for White people.
I am White and because I grew up with books written by and featuring people that looked like me, it is my privilege to have only realized these two points recently!
My goal is that Little Feminist not only sheds light the inequities of children’s media but also disrupts it. As book publishers cite “low demand” for the lack of diverse children’s books, I have the privilege of my Whiteness (and current interest in all things feminist) to feature, support and listen to authors, illustrators, and characters of color.
Which is why my frustration grows as we comb through thousands of books hoping…no, praying…for more authors and illustrators of color, telling creative, imaginative stories of women of color. I love you Rosa Parks and Malala Yousafzai, but if yet another children’s book about you comes out this month, especially by a White author, I’m going to scream.
And this is why I’m so hesitant to celebrate women’s history month:
- Most women’s history is written by White people. – History is written by the people in power, and as Gloria Steinem and Favianna Rodriguez so beautifully pointed out when I saw them speak last week – “There are two things – history and the past, and they are not the same thing.” HIStory only tells part of the story. HERstory only tells part of the story. I want to celebrate Intersectional Women’s History month, but history is so far from intersectional. For example, women’s suffrage leaders left out black women, and why don’t we celebrate that Native American women have had political power for 1,000 years?
- Most women’s history is stories of overcoming injustice. – By focusing on history, I worry that we’re setting a ceiling for the next generation. Of course, we have to know and understand our history to shape a better future, but if most children’s books featuring a young black female are about her escaping slavery or fighting for her civil rights, then what possibilities are we really opening for our kids? That only White males get to ride dragons, while black females only get to march?
So…what can I, what can we, do with our littles this month to celebrate not just women’s intersectional past, but also women’s future?
- Celebrate Women’s History Month by reading women’s stories written and illustrated by women of color (Yes, we do include amazing picks like these in our monthly book club subscription!):
- Celebrate Women’s History Month by reading children’s books featuring women, especially women of color, that are playing and dreaming and being (Yes, we do include amazing picks like these in our monthly book club subscription!):
- Celebrate Women’s History Month by featuring, supporting and listening to women of color. Here are some of my favorite as a White woman un-learning systematic racism and working towards true allyship:
- Rachel Cargle
- Catric Jackson
- Me and White Supremacy Workbook by Layla Saad
- Books for Littles by Ashia Ray (full disclousure: Ashia is on Little Feminist’s Book Selection team!)
I didn’t expect Women’s History Month to be something I’d come to #resist. But maybe that’s exactly what this month is for – balancing the celebration of our past with the resistance we need to shape a more equitable future.
Looking for more stories to help you raise little intersectional feminists? Join Little Feminist book club – we send 1-2 books each month featuring a strong female character and/or person of color. We develop discussion questions and a DIY activity for each book box so our book picks really come alive at home.