Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hey Parents; a good book for little girls

The term hero is a masculine term. We use the word 'heroine' for girls, which implies something altogether different, as Kathleen Ragan explains in the introduction to her wonderful collection of stories and fables from around the world called Fearless Girls, Wise Women, & Beloved Sisters. I know many parents express frustration over finding stories with strong female protagonists. For every tale like Cinderella there are a hundred like Sleeping Beauty, where the female is passive and submissive. Often times they are portrayed in a far worse manner, as being lazy or negligent. As much as I love Dr. Seuss, for example, and those beautiful rhymes, take a good look at his female characters. Yup. Not so great.

I've worked with kids and youth most of my life, and it's easy for me to forget that as a boy, most stories appeal to me, in large part because of the strong male characters. Well, we want our little girls to know that they can be strong too, right? One of the things I've always liked about the stories in the Bible are some of the wonderfully strong female characters (Like Deborah or Ruth or Esther or Mary or Mary Magdalene) But there are some great stories in other traditions as well, stories that will help our girls to grow up and not accept the misogyny and patriarchy inherent in so much of our culture. It would also be beneficial for young boys to hear these tales as well, so they too, can hear stories of strong women. Nothing can supercede the example set by parents, of course, but for those of you looking for some positive female role models for your kids, this might be a good add to your collection.

PS There is some criticism of Ragan's collection and her comments following each story that women are always 'perfect' in these stories. I think this would be a valid criticism except the book is an attempt to counter and then balance the scales against so many children's books where the woman is not merely flawed, but treated as less than the man.