Dear Little –
Last night, we were reading Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls, a bedtime story book with 100 impactful, strong, game-changing women that is written in the familiar, “Once upon a time” format that all good bedtime stories follow.
We were reading about Lella Lombardi and Malala Yousafzai last night when you asked, “Momma? Is there a part of the world where girls have to tell boys they can do everything? Are there places where boys are shot for going to school? Can girls drive race cars and tell boys they can’t do it? Is there any place like that? Just one? Do girls go to the moon somewhere in the world and there is only one boy from that place that went?”
While there are 6 modern societies where women are in charge, there are no documented places in the world where young men are shot in the head for going to school because their place is in the home.
There is no place where a white man will make 75% of the income a woman will make (or less).
While I love this book, I don’t think every girl should have Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls on their bookshelves because girls know they are capable of moving mountains, going to the moon, changing cultural norms, work a job while raising a family, or making the decision to do none of these things. This book does empower, provide context, highlights history, and most importantly, you absolutely adore this book (we have read it every night this week and you keep asking for more). It’s a bonus book for young girls.
But, I really, really, honestly, truly, and every other -ly word I can use to put emphasis on this next point, every young boy should have this book on his bookshelf. Every young boy should have a parent recite these tales over and over and over again until it’s clear as day girls are mighty. Every young boy should read this book until it’s not even a big deal at all and it’s as much part of the human fabric as breathing. Every young boy should hear these stories and see how truly unequal things still are for the girls they befriend.
You don’t have to tell a girl she’s mighty when she’s young – every girl knows it in her bones. It’s later when they are told they can’t accomplish something and start to believe it, start to doubt themselves (in my case, a science teacher in middle school embarrassed me in front of the class with a science project on osmosis). We need young men to stand up for these young women and girls, and it starts with books like these. This book should be read in elementary schools to all students. The sympathetic, half-hearted, ‘Sure, girls can do anything. Just sit over there while I do man stuff,” isn’t the same as truly being supportive and being absolutely inclusive. It’s that attitude that allows stories like this to continue existing in 2017. And while it’s true there are more women in science, in math, in physics, in astronomy, in sports, in politics, in video game development, the idea that there is a small group of hard-working pioneering women in these industries that have to work so much harder to be taken seriously as professionals while also battling blatant sexism in these formerly male-only professions makes it tempting to say, “See? There is equality! There are girls here. We’re fine. And while we’re at it, I’ll tell you how to do your job better because I’m a dude.”
Girls can do all of these things and bring a different perspective to the table. They have every opportunity to shine, if only they weren’t also fighting sexism, the ol’ boys club, and mansplaining on the daily. We’re getting there, but it’s something that’s still quite prevalent, and something you will likely need to deal with.
It starts with a spark, and girls have that spark. It takes a supportive community, including men and boys, to keep that spark growing into something much brighter. This is why young boys should have this book on their bedside table. Girls know they can. Boys need to know it, too.
Goodnight, my Rebel Girl.