Let me be clear here. I absolutely believe toys in stores should be divided by type– building, outdoor, figures/ dolls etc– not by gender. I don’t believe objects should be color coded to imply they should be played with by boys or girls. I am hard pressed to think of something more absurd and simultaneously socially accepted than this. I desperately want to see girls and boys pictured playing together on boxes. When the term “gender neutral” is used, I think this is the goal referred to, a goal I share with all of my heart.
I guess the issue from me is that powerful female characters are already drastically missing from the fantasy world created by grown-ups for children. When we talk about “gender neutral,” I fear that girls will continue to go missing from this debate– about children, toys, play, and sexism– even more. “Gender neutral” needs to be a goal of sorts, but we also have to keep in mind that all kids need to see more girls and women doing more things. Do we call that “gender neutral”?
Another problem for me with the term is that “gender neutral” doesn’t inspire me. “Gender neutral” makes me think of a bunch of grown-ups or academics or psychiatrists sitting around wearing super thick glasses and holding notebooks.
Here is what I want to see in kidworld: More females having adventures. More females doing cool shit. Got it? Do you call that gender neutral or do you call that being alive?
I want options. Variety. Diversity. Multiple narratives. I want all kids to see many more images of powerful and complex females, to see girls taking risks, saving the world, being brave, smart, and going on adventures in the fantasy world and in the real one. You could argue that we need to see more images of boys being kind and geeky and paternal, but from my vantage point, as a reader, movie goer, and watcher of TV shows, that’s pretty covered. I honestly believe the best way to help boys get out of gender stereotypes right now is to show them females being strong, being the star of the movie, or the central figure in a game that everyone wants to play.
Here’s my four year old daughter (holding a lunchbox from the Seventies.)
My daughter isn’t a “tomboy” or a “girlie-girl.” She likes pants; she likes dresses; she like yellow, she likes pink, she likes black. She likes to race and play soccer and read and make art. She loves superheroes and her mermaid Barbie. But the older she gets, the more I see her choices getting influenced and limited by stores and marketing and media and peers. My goal is to have her world grow, not shrink. I’m not sure that “gender neutral” is what she needs.
I could not have loved ‘Catching Fire’ more. It’s even better than ‘Hunger Games.’ I want to see this movie again, and I never see a movie a second time when it’s still in theaters. It’s that good.
I saw ‘Catching Fire’ yesterday with my 10 year old daughter at an IMAX. I’ve never been to an IMAX before, and I felt like I was in the movie. I was stunned by the whole thing. In this installment, all the characters get more depth including two-dimensional ones from Part One like Effie, Katiniss’s mom, and Prim. It was great to see Prim grow up and use her medical skills in a crisis and also, fascinating to see Effie finally getting that the Capitol is evil.
The deadly arena design is one of my favorite parts of Catching Fire, and the movie’s rendition of it does not disappoint. My favorite scene was watching the poisonous fog creep towards Katniss. It’s hypnotizing and terrifying and gorgeous.
There are so many great female characters in ‘Catching Fire.’ Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned, tributes include Mags, who is older and courageous, Wiress, a tech-wizard, and Joanna, who is even angrier than Katniss.
Watching Joanna and Katniss walk off together, two skilled warriors, I felt like I was viewing something revolutionary in film. I was thrilled that my daughter got to witness this scene as well.
Even details of this movie, like the male tributes and the female tributes wear the same costume, black and gray– no frills, exposed midriffs, or cleavage for my kid to have to see. And still, without all that “feminine” bullshit, Katniss has two men in love with her. Those heroes love Katniss for her brain and courage, not as separate from her beauty, but they find that beautiful.
Jennifer Lawrence’s acting is top-notch, as always. All her quotes on her PR tour, about how she wasn’t going to starve herself to play Katniss , not to mention her short hair cut, make me even more grateful she’s playing this part. I could not have imagined a better role or actress to play her. (I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, also makes empowering statements about female characters and young women. If an actress gets to play someone strong, it’s easier for her to become a role model in public. How many actresses get that chance?)
The male characters are also great. Phillip Seymour Hoffman is as believable as he always is. Lenny Karvitz’s Cinna is one of my favorite characters.
As with ‘Hunger Games,’ the violent scenes in “Catching Fire’ are brief. There is no lingering over blood, assaults, and death. Same with the kissing scenes. With this kind of stuff, as far as deciding whether its OK for younger kids, it really matters how long the camera spends on it.
“Catching Fire’ burns through gender stereotypes but not in a way that seems contrived or forced. Watching this movie, all you feel is captivated by the story of a brave girl saving the world. The narrative is a metaphor, about a protagonist facing her deepest fears and triumphing, something kids hardly get to see a girl do. My daughter is afraid of elevators, and after the movie, when she stalled in front of of one, we talked about Katniss in the arena, and she jumped right in.
Lula is a female version of Handy Manny or Bob the Builder, but with the added underlying social components of bully prevention with a focus
on undoing gender stereotypes that are often the root cause of bullying by children. Providing children with an understanding of empathy and compassion is key to preventing future occurrences of bullying. The show recognizes the importance of teaching kids about the emotions underlying bullying incidents—from the perspective of the victim and the bully. It also encourages them to get beyond being a bystander by either speaking to an adult or standing up for others.
Here’s a summary of one episode:
While on a trip to Mexico, where the whole family is helping a relative irrigate their farm. Lula and her family invent a new way to divert water and use it to water plants. Lula and her Dad help with planning, measuring and digging. Soon they befriend a group of local kids. The kids reveal a big problem. Super TooLula is needed to face a Giant bully that had been terrorizing the local kids for years. It turns out the Bully was a long tormented little brother of an even bigger Bully. Super TooLula teaches both bullies how to help others. Soon, the bully brothers become local heroes to all that had fear them when they help build the last section of the new irrigation system.
Lula is helped along by some tools:
Harry the Hammer
Harry is the toughest of all the tools. He is the team leader and director. He knows that sometimes you just have to be tough. He may come off like a drill sergeant, but he always looks for action with a smile!
Sammy the Saw
Sammy (short for Samantha) knows that sometimes you just have to remove or separate some things to make it better. So she whirls like a tornado to shape parts and pieces out of wood, plastic, soft metal or to cut through a tough problem!
Dusty the Drill
Dusty is tough and clever. When
a problem stymies others, he knows how
to break through! Dusty very persistent and always stands up for the underdog. He stutters when overly excited.
Carla is able to locate lost objects, and if you’re lost, she can point you in the right direction. She is very maternal. She’s scared of other magnets and afraid of heights.
Lucy is the one to always make sure everyone is balanced and level headed. She is the nurturer of the team. Calms down the others.
Maddy Measuring Tape
Maddy is always thinking ahead. She is all about details, measurements and plans. She is the practical one that makes sure parts will fit together or through tight spaces. Maddy’s friends think she needs to learn how to have more fun!
Gabi is able to see right into the heart of a bully. She is able to see in the past and pinpoint the reasons why they are unhappy and end up hurting others. She is a precautious soul. And she is always the one to remind us all about being safe!
Ricky the Wrench
Ricky is very strong and not afraid of hard work. He knows hard work gets things done. He can open and unlock stuck objects that others can’t. He hates rust
more than anything.
The Talking Nail Heads
Do not actually talk. They are vocal instruments
who express themselves in emotion-filled, wordless music. Some do the bass line, some do mouth drum sounds, but they all can really jam or lay down a phat beat to sing over!
There are humans in the stories as well.
Naomi is Lula’s eight-year-old Japanese-American cousin. Naomi is a genius with arts and crafts like origami and revels in teaching others what she knows. Lula and Naomi love each other and spend a lot of time together along with their families. Naomi can often be found humming or singing impromptu songs and playing her favorite juice harp (which she also plays in their band). She always tries to get Lula to eat odd and spicy things.
Ten-year-old Wesley is the school bully in Lula’s class. He is also TooLula’s ultimate nemesis. It is his mission to turn good kids mean by bribing them with things he knows they like, but he has a difficult time when Lula and her friends step in. Deep down, Wesley really likes Lula and just wants her attention, but he doesn’t know how to show his true feelings and is afraid Lula and others might laugh at him. Oh Wesley!?
In music, we love the idea of the screwed-up, shooting-up. fucked-up artist. The one bleeding in the garret having cut his own ear off. Jay-Z is a new kind of 21st-century artist where the canvas is not just the 12 notes, the wicked beats, and a rhyming dictionary in his head. It’s commerce, it’s politics, the fabric of the real as well as the imagined life.
Stephen Mitchell in Can Love Last, the Fate of Romance Over Time
It is the hallmark of the shift in basic psychoanalytic sensibility that the prototype of mental health for many contemporary psychoanalyitc authors is not the scientist but the artist. A continual objective take on reality is regarded as neither possible nor valuable in contrast to the ability to develop and move in and out of different perspectives of reality.
New York Times, October:
Public narratives about a career make a difference. The most common career aspiration named on Girls Who Code applications is forensic science. Like Allen, few if any of the girls have ever met anyone in that field, but they’ve all watched “CSI,” “Bones” or some other show in which a cool chick with great hair in a lab coat gets to use her scientific know-how to solve a crime. This so-called “CSI” effect has been credited for helping turn forensic science from a primarily male occupation into a primarily female one.
Jezebel reacting to New York Times piece:
The New York Times today would like to suggest that storytelling is powerful, that, in the whole art/life dynamic, it’s life that imitates art, not the other way around, at least not when it comes to kids imagining viable career paths for themselves.
Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on. I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.
In the fantasy world, anything is possible, so why do little kids see so few female heroes and female protagonists on TV and in the movies? While boy “buddy stories” are everywhere you look, why is it so hard to see two females working together to save the world? Why are females, half of the kid population, presented as a minority in fantasy world? Why are TV shows, movies, and books about boys “for everyone” while shows and movies about girls “just for girls?” When we pass on stories to our kids, what are we teaching them about gender, about who they are right now and who they will become?
One more quote for you from neuroscientist, Lise Eliot:
“Babies are born ready to absorb the sounds, grammar, and intonation of any language, but then the brain wires it up only to perceive and produce a specific language. After puberty, its possible to learn another language but far more difficult. I think of gender differences similarly. The ones that exist become amplified by the two different cultures that boys and girls are immersed in from birth. This contributes to the way their emotional and cognitive circuits get wired.”
Eliot believes: “Simply put, your brain is what you do with it.”So let’s all use our brains to imagine gender equality in the fantasy world, take actions to manifest that vision, and see what happens next. I bet it’ll be amazing.
Thank you, Daisy Coleman, for telling your own story.
Please read Coleman’s story and share it. And then ask yourself, what happens when women tell the truth about their lives? How could the world change?
Whether a woman tells her story or not is her choice, but how much of a “choice” does she really have? I wrote “The shame of rape” on this topic for Salon. Ten years later, in too much media and public opinion, shame still goes to the wrong person.
When will we learn to honor rape survivors as the heroes that they are instead of shaming them into silence?
When 7-year-old Erica Pratt was abducted on July 22 and tied up in a basement by her kidnapper, she chewed through the duct tape that covered her mouth, freed her hands and feet, and broke through a door to escape. Electrified by the young girl’s feat, the media celebrated Pratt with a prolonged blitz of coverage. She smiled luminously for cameras as awed police officers praised her bravery. Her photo graced the front pages of newspapers across the nation, and she was named Time magazine’s “Person of the Week.”
When Tamara Brooks and Jacqueline Marris were abducted at gunpoint nine days later from a remote teenage trysting spot in Lancaster, Calif., they devised a plan to break free by stabbing their abductor in the neck. When one girl had the chance to escape, she didn’t take it for fear that the other girl — whom she hadn’t met before that night — would be killed if she abandoned her. These were brave and loyal girls — heroines who endured mind-numbing terror before police found them and killed their captor, who authorities believe was preparing to murder them and dump their bodies.
But Brooks and Marris were not honored by Time magazine or identified as heroes in other media outlets. Why not? What made their story so different?
Just as newspapers and the networks were scrambling to cover the story, they learned that the girls had been sexually assaulted during their ordeal. Because most mainstream media observes a self-imposed policy of withholding the names and faces of sexual assault victims, the coverage abruptly, and somewhat awkwardly, ground to a halt.
Newspapers and TV broadcasters explained the shift as a matter of courtesy. But in concealing the identities of the young women on the grounds that rape is so intimate and horrendous that they should be spared undue attention, the media helped to promote the unspoken societal belief that somehow, when sexual assault is involved, the victim is partly — or wholly — to blame, and should be hidden from view.
TV stations began digitally obscuring the girls’ faces. Newspapers like the New York Times rushed to delete the names and photos of the girls from the next day’s paper. Some publications, like USA Today, had already gone to press, and printed the story with photos and names on the front page.
The lopsided coverage was especially disorienting because early in the story, the girls’ identities were broadcast everywhere — constantly — as a means of saving their lives. The idea was to familiarize as many Americans as possible with the girls’ names and faces so that average citizens might assist in tracking them, and their kidnapper, down. And it worked. But once the teens went from being kidnapped youths to rescued rape survivors, their status changed. They were branded with the Scarlet R. They had been raped. It was suddenly better for them, and us, to contemplate this shame without fanfare.
In effect, the girls disappeared twice — once when abducted, and again when the media erased them.
The policy of hiding the rape survivor makes the media complicit in shaming and stigmatizing her. It reinforces the myth that women are too weak, traumatized and tainted to decide whether they want to tell their own stories — of victory, not victimhood. And this assumption becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If raped women were granted the same status as Erica Pratt, there would be no reflex to make them disappear. Their survival would be cause for public honor and respect. Their rescues would be complete; their recovery would begin with heartfelt acceptance by everyone who prayed for their return.
Silence and shame protected the Catholic Church and one of its dirtiest secrets for years. And church officials made the right assumption: If you can’t see it, no one will believe it is happening and, more importantly, victims who are shamed and controlled will be quiet, silenced by a sense of complicity and sin. What if all those alleged male sexual assault survivors who went on “60 Minutes” and “20/20″ had their faces covered with a gray dot? What if no newspapers or magazines had been willing to publish their names? How much credibility or validity or power can you have when you have no face and no name? Would the public have believed these things had happened if faces had not been attached to the charges?
You can’t put a faceless woman on the cover of Time magazine.
Not all rape survivors take the media’s cue and withdraw. Many have told their stories as part of their recovery, most famously authors like Maya Angelou in “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Dorothy Allison (“Bastard Out of Carolina”), and singers including Fiona Apple and Tori Amos. Current bestselling author Alice Sebold has said repeatedly in interviews that she could not have written “The Lovely Bones” until she wrote the story of her rape in her first book, “Lucky.”
With each of these acts of bravery has come further acknowledgment that rape is a horrible event and that everyone abhors it, yet hypocrisy — public and institutional — still exists. Rapists are rarely successfully prosecuted. For every 100 rapes reported in this country, only five rapists end up in prison. Sentences are relatively light, averaging just 10.5 years, and the usual time served is approximately five years.
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft doesn’t support the notion that a raped woman should have the right to an abortion. And U.S. foreign policy does not include sanctions, even strongly stated warnings, against countries like Saudi Arabia where men are allowed to rape their wives, and married women raped by men other than their spouses are punished for adultery. In Pakistan, when a young woman was ordered raped by a tribal council as punishment when her brother was seen in public with a woman not in his family, the U.S. State Department took no action.
At the same time that it is no longer socially acceptable to blame or stigmatize a rape survivor for what has happened to her, it appears to be socially unacceptable to recognize her as a hero and honor her for survival. But that may be about to change, thanks, in large part, to Marris and Brooks, two rape survivors who demanded to be seen.
A day after she was rescued and her identity had been quickly masked in the media, Marris appeared on KABC, the local Los Angeles news station, to talk frankly, without embarrassment, about her ordeal. She revealed, among other details, the fact that she and Brooks had tried to escape by stabbing their abductor in the neck.
A few days later, Brooks and Marris both appeared on the “Today” show to tell the story of their capture and captivity, a gripping account in which they described being threatened with a loaded gun, smashing their abductor in the face with a whiskey bottle, and later watching him die.
When asked why they chose to talk about their experience, Brooks said that she wanted to do it, and came forward with the support of her parents, who braved some criticism about the decision. She and Marris, Brooks said, “want to get the message across to everybody to never give up on anything. If you ever give up, you’ve lost. Whatever obstacles you have, you’ve got to fight your way through it.”
With the fabulous book, Soma So Strange, not only did I read a cool story starring a fascinating girl, but I finally got past my ebook block. YAY. I’ve been trying to liberate myself for years, and Soma is only an ebook, so if I wanted to read it, I had no choice but to break free of paper.
Soma lives is a dull, small place, “on a map, it’s the size of a sixth of a pea” where “all the villagers obey ancient, old rules/ Like walking on tip toes and eating fish and gruel.” Soma loves sushi, “she can’t stand fish and gruel!” For this, and many other “strange” attributes, Soma is mocked. “She can’t help but make noise at her school. Asking how and why are quite natural for her. Tip toe around? Stompin’s what she prefers.”
Not only do the townspeople, the Meanies, treat Soma terribly, but her own mother “can’t stand her.” I love this aspect of Soma’s story, because, though lots of children’s narratives refer to mean kids, fewer refer to the feeling of being a stranger in your own family which can be more common than kidlit lets on.
Soma’s physical differences match her mental ones: “Her glasses are funny, she won’t brush her hair/ When she walks into town, you can’t help but stare/ Soma’s so messy, so odd-shaped, so strange, the Meanies say Soma is simply deranged.”
Soma goes on to meet a talking cat who gives her a magical potion allowing her to turn the Meanines into pies. How cool is that?
The lyrics in Soma are beautiful and well, strange. Reading this story, I felt like I’d found a feminist Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein. I love look of Soma, too, with her billowy dark hair, striped shirt, and big glasses. The black and white illustrations pop. Not to mention, reading an ebook is really fun. The pages turn beautifully. My kids loved the story and reading it on my ipad too. Here’s to hoping author, Carrie Rosten, writes many more.
Click here to buy Soma So Strange and use the code SomaFam to get a dollar off.
Read more about Soma So Strange and author Carrie Rosten here.
For the past couple of years, people have been recommending I see “Soul Surfer,” the real life story of champion girl surfer, Bethany Hamilton, who resurrected her career after her arm was bit off by a shark.
I delayed seeing the movie because I wasn’t sure at what age my kids would be ready to see a shark attack. I remember being traumatized by “Jaws,” and it’s hard enough to get them in the ocean. But I was in a store– I think it was Office Depot– and there was the DVD, and I bought it.
I told my oldest daughter Bethany’s story, she is 10, and planned to watch it with her. My husband, who is into surfing, sat down with us. My two younger daughters, usually not interested in what my 10 year old is watching, couldn’t resist seeing their parents captivated by something and joined the party.
I love the movie. It’s all about competition, winning, excelling, resilience, faith, and love. The montage at the end showing real life Bethany Hamilton will make you cry. It is so amazing. Here she is in real life.
But watching the montage won’t be the first time you cry during this movie. My babysitter texted me when my kids were seeing it for the third time: “I’m in tears!”
So what age do I recommend “Soul Surfer” for? My 4 year old daughter can’t get enough of the movie. Her favorite part is the shark attack– which is very quick. I actually think it’s scarier waiting for the attack then the actual attack. My 7 year old daughter kept glaring at me through the whole movie, furious that I “made” her watch it, but she never left the couch. She has watched it twice since but says she hates it. My 10 year old daughter likes it as well, but not as much as my 4 year old. I don’t really know what to say, except to tell you our experience. “Soul Surfer” is the first movie that my whole family has watched together, fro beginning to end, and all of us were into it. That was so much fun, by the way. I loved everyone sitting together, watching a movie. It is the best feeling.
Jon Stewart asks Malala Yousafzai, the 16 yr old activist for girls education who was shot in the head by the Taliban, how she found the courage to speak out. She replies:
Why should I wait for someone else? Why should I be looking to the government, to the army, that they would help us. Why don’t I raise my voice? Why don’t we speak up for our rights? The girls of Swat, they spoke up for their rights. I started writing daily. I spoke out on every media channel that I could, and I raised my voice on every platform that I could. I said I need to tell the world what is happening in Swat.
Malala didn’t wait around for someone to else to tell her story for her. She rescued herself through the act of writing and speaking. She risked telling the truth about her life and telling it publicly, and in doing so, she is changing the world. Please show this video to your children and teach them to do the same. I can’t wait to get Malala’s book and show it to my daughters as well.
I love this series. Every book stars a brave and complex female protagonist. Every book also features a panoply of strong and fascinating female characters. Females are spies, fighters, queens, healers, on and on. There are also great male characters. The books also have heroic gay characters and disabled characters.
These books are disturbing. They deal with rape and incest, not directly, but implied and discussed in the book. If the reader doesn’t get the horror of those acts, she misses a lot of the story. Also, each book features a passionate love affair. My oldest kid is 10, and I would not let her read these because of the rape/ incest parts of the story. I don’t yet know what age would be appropriate because I’ve learned not to trust the recommendations I see around. In fact, that’s why I started Reel Girl. IMO, Cinderella gets a triple S for major gender stereotyping/ not appropriate for kids. I’m thinking 15 for Bitterblue because the sexual violence is central to the plot, but Graceling and Fire, age 12? But then again, rape and incest happen in the real world, so if this is going on or has happened in kids’ lives, reading about it would be a good thing. It’s such an individual choice. Let me know if you or your kids have any experience with these books.
Reel Girl rates Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue ***HHH****
So many books I love with strong female protagonists like The Wizard of Oz, Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Alice and Wonderland, The Golden Compass, surround the girl with males, males, males. So many writers seem comfortable allowing a female be powerful as long as her gender is resresented by a minority of characters in the book. Not so with Wrinkle. Not only do we have Meg, but also Meg’s mother, a scientist. Wrinkle is, in fact, all about science. How cool is that?
Besides Meg’s mother, there is a trio of powerful and magical females: Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which. That’s not all. Near the end of the book we meet another amazing female, the incredible Aunt Beast. In Wrinkle in Time, readers see five powerful females mentor a female protagonist. Does anyone know of another narrative on earth where we see this? If so, please tell me, because from my experience, this scenario is like seeing a unicorn in the real world.
Here’s the passage where Aunt Beast names herself for Meg:
“What should I call you, please?” Meg asked.
“Well, now. First, try not to say any words for a moment. Think within your own mind. Think of all the things you call people, different kinds of people.”
While Meg thought, the beast murmured to her gently. “No, mother is a special,a one-name; and a father you have here. Not just friend, nor teacher, nor brother, nor sister. What is acquaintance? What a funny, hard word. Aunt. Maybe. Yes, perhaps that will do. And you think of such odd words about me. Thing, and monster! Monster, what a horrid sort of word. I really do not think I a am a monster. Beast. That will do. Aunt Beast.“
Part of what I love about this passage is that every writer goes through a similar process as she thinks of how to name a character. So often, a writer will assign this kind of powerful character the male gender, but the character could be any gender as this writing shows.
For much of Wrinkle, there is the typical one female (Meg) to two male (Charles Wallace and Calvin) trio. But given all the female characters in the book, Meg is still, not a Minority Feisty.
Narratives mimic real life and real life mimics narratives, it’s all the same thing really. If we are willing to recognize it, we all get to the point where we realize we must do it alone. Sometimes that thing is dramatic, when we give birth or it could be when we write a novel or when we confront someone we’ve been afraid to. But it can also be something like cleaning your house or making your bed. If you live your life heroically, realizing only you can do it, happens all the time, without resentment but with a sense of destiny. It is this revelation upon which endless narratives are based, but so often, in fiction, this human situation is assigned to males. I just wrote about an exception to this rule in Land of Stories. Here it is in Wrinkle the whole sequence: Someone else do it, I can’t; okay, I will. I must be me, here I go. Resistance, choice, action:
Meg could no longer stand it,and she cried out desparingly, “Then what are you going to do? Are you just going to throw Charles Wallace away?”
Mrs Which’s voice rolled formidably across the hall. “Ssilencce cchilldd.”
But Meg could not be silent. She pressed closely against Aunt Beast, but Aunt Beast did not put the protecting tentacles around her. “I can’t go!” Meg cried. “I can’t! You know I can’t.”
“Did annybbodyy ask yyou ttoo?” The grim voice made Meg’s skin prickle into gooseflesh.
She burst into tears. She started beating at Aunt Beast like a small child having a tantrum. Her tears rained down her face and spattered Aunt Beast’s fur. Aunt Beast stood quietly against the assault.
“All right, I’ll go!” Meg sobbed. “I know you want me to go!”
“We want nothing from you that you do without grace,” Mrs. Whatsit said, “or that you do without understanding.”
Meg’s tears stopped as abruptly as they had started. “But I do understand.” She felt tired and unexpectedly peaceful. Now the coldness that, under Aunt Beast’s ministrations, had left her body had also left her mind. She looked toward her father and her confused anger was gone and she felt only love and pride. She smiled at him, asking forgiveness, and then pressed up against Aunt Beast. This time Aunt Beast’s arms went around her.
Mrs. Which’s voice was grave. “Whatt ddoo yyou unnnddersstanndd?”
“That it has to be me. It can’t be anyone else. I don’t understand Charles, but he understands me. I’m the one who’s closets to him. Father’s been away for so long, since Charles Wallace was a baby. They don’t know each other. And Calvin’s only known Charles for such a little time. If it had been longer, then he would have been the one, but–oh, I see, I understand. It has to be me. There isn’t anyone else.”
In the passage where Meg fights IT, just as Harry Potter with Voledemort, she wins by using love over hate. This is the scene I was longing for in kidlit while reading all 7 of the Harry Potter series. Reading ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ felt, to me, like a starving person getting food.
Though Wrinkle is not without sexism. Here’s a scene from the planet Camazotz:
She walked along the quiet street. It was dark and the street was deserted. No children playing ball or skipping rope. No mother figures at the doors. No father figures returning from work.
There are other instances like that one, but there is so much positive here. Wrinkle is a writer’s book, too. I’ll leave you with one last passage that is one of the most beautiful metaphors for creativity, God, raising children, life, that I’ve ever read. Here’s Mrs Whatsit explaining a sonnet to Calvin.
“It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?”
“There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That’s a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?”
“Yes,” Calvin nodded.
“And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?”
“But within this strict form, the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn’t he?”
“Yes,” Calvin nodded again.
The trick here, for me anyway, is figuring out what the form is. Sometimes, we believe that the “rules” are the rule, that they are “natural.” For example, in so many narratives for kids, not to mention adults, like Ratatouille, have seen a Minority Feisty complain about sexism, instead of getting to see a female hero. That is “rule” that desperately needs to be broken. The resistance, choice, action is a rule I believe in.
Many of you have asked me to clarify what ages books are appropriate for. It’s hard for me to say that. We get different things about books at different times.
When I look at books or movies for my kids, the number one offensive thing is sexism. I would rather my kids hear swear words than see Cinderella any day. I’ve also written quite a lot of Reel Girl about violence. I don’t like gore, but much of violence in stories is metaphorical, it raises the stakes to depict visually what we, as humans, feel. Can you imagine dreams without violence? My daughter whipped through Wrinkle in Time. She just turned 7. I’m 44 and I’m blogging about it. I could tell my daughter really liked it, and she read a lot of it by herself. I’m not sure what she ‘got.’ I remember being confused by parts of this book as a kid. I do know that while reading this book, my daughter saw many females being brave and heroic, respected, admired, and loved my the males in their lives.