I have just found out that it is World Girls’Day today. In fact, I did not know that it existed, but it is a good thing to ask attention to the situation of girls all over the world.
Barbies as feminist tools
I also read today that Barbies (indeed the dolls) are going to be used as a feminist instrument for World Girls’ Day. Who would have thought that twenty years ago? Barbie as a feminist tool Yett, when I read the reasoning behind it, it did make sense to me. Girls need phantasy or imagination to be able to dream that they can be anything and anyone they want to be. Playing with Barbies, today in different styles and colours, helps with this.
The power of phantasy
Phantasy and imagination are indeed powerful tools for girls all over the world. But you do not need to resort yourself to Barbies. Books may do just as well. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbours and friends: please give a girl you know a book about girls (or women) who do imaginative, powerfull, courageouss, naughty, special and wonderfull things. Humour always helps in these books.
Astrid Lindgren’s books about Pippi Longstockings and Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter Roald Dahl’s Mathilda, Joke van Leeuwen Iep (the bird girl), Annie M.G. Schmidt Otje and also Minoes (a cat girl), Guus Kuyer’s Madelief series are all good examples. Also, books on powerfull princesses, fairy tale- girls or the popular young witches books help. The latter ones also help to change our medievall images about witches.
When I was young, I loved Pippi Longstockings. My mother was against her. “Pippi is a bad girl”, she claimed. I could not follow my mother’s argument when I was young. How could there be anything wrong or bad about Pippi, my great heroine? Now, I can follow my mother’s reasoning . Pippi was putting ‘bad’ ideas in the heads of us, young girls, and gave us a ‘bad’ example. She made us girls think that we could do anything we liked, even if adults thought this impossible, crazy or stupid.
Anything is possible or can be fun
Catching thiefs and put them above our heads, pouring limonade from a tree, magically getting thousands of candies for all the children of the village, travelling to Africa, living alone in a big house with a horse on the balcony and a monkey on your shoulder became through Pippi the most normal things in the wold. And when in Pippi’s life household tasks needed to be done, she made a game or party out of them. Like cleaning the floor by throwing soap water on the floor and roller-skating on it with brushes bound to her feet.
A girl as the main character
There are not so many children’s books with a powerful girl as the main character.(I am writing an historical youth novel about a young girl myself, but I will tell you about that another time). Many writers and publishers choose for a boy as the main character, because girls are willing to identify with boys in a book, but boys are not so willing to identify with a girl who is the main character in a book. Yet, those books with a girl as the chief character exist and many more have been published during recnt years.
What if the girl whom you know stubbornly refuses to read books? Don’t worry, don’t argue, but calmly give her a video as a present: Roald Dahl’s Mathilda again for example, or PippiLongstockingss, or Mary Poppins, The Whale Rider,Pocahontass or The Little Mermaid.
Use any occasion (birthdays, name days, Christmas, or today World Girls Day to give that special girl you know that book or video! It does not have to be new, it can just be second-hand. It does not have to be an expensive present. More important is that it is a meaningful phantasy-stretching present.
and a request to you
I realize that I have here given mostly examples from my own culture: from Western Literature and many from The Netherlands. Please readers tell me and other readers what were the wonderful books or movies, with a strong girl as the main character, which inspired you when you were young? Please put them in the comment space underneath and maybe tell us from which country the author or director is.