I was browsing in my local Barnes & Noble with my toddler. We were reading a book from her current favorite series about Mr. Panda. These books are subtly about manners. Plus they incorporate her two very favorite things in the world right now: pandas and doughnuts! She loves them.
|I’ll Wait, Mr. Panda
By Steve Antony / Scholastic Press
So browsing the shelves for more panda or doughnut related children’s literature, I came across an interesting set of books. They were colorful and, judging by their simple phrases and baby illustrations, directed at the youngest of “readers”. They were called Feminist Baby. I am not even kidding. It appeared to be political propaganda for babies.
I consider myself a feminist. Old school type, like believing in equal work for equal pay. Not the man-bashing, haters type. I happen to love men. I have an amazing husband – that shares the childcare and household chores. So. though I thought the title unnecessarily indoctrinating, I was willing to give the author’s message a chance.
Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz is a list of things a feminist baby does. Many pages spell out things every baby does naturally: dance and spit up. Perhaps her point being that babies are born feminists? I might be reading too much into a board book. Maybe they were just words to fill out the rhymes. The illustrations are certainly cute.
Very quickly though I felt my eyebrows shoot up in surprise and confusion. The second thing a feminist baby should do is say no to pants. Say what? What would Elizabeth Cady Stanton think? Women worked for decades to make it acceptable to wear the more serviceable fashion of pants! Are we moving towards nothing on our bottom half? Hmmm, that feels. . . vulnerable.
Next feminist baby likes pink and blue. I see the point, but listen to real life. I have tried very hard not to push my girls towards buying everything pink. The reason is practical: lower resale value. Yep, half the market is excluded when you try to resell pink toys and baby accessories. Here is the thing: two of my three daughters are always heartbroken if I buy red or blue. This before they were two years old! My oldest loves turquoise and lavender. Those colors don’t fare any better. My girls love pink. I pushed them AWAY from it and they rebelled. None of the three like blue. So there you have it, feminist baby.
On the next page, feminist baby chooses what to wear and if you don’t like it, she kind of looks like she is shoving it in your face. So this ideal baby is rude? Shortly thereafter she throws all her toys. Babies do this, but we parents train them out of that behavior as quickly as possible. Messes are exhausting. To encourage that behavior is to encourage selfishness. I don’t like feminist baby already. What kind of adult will she be?
Feminist baby is also super smart AND a rock star. So here we are again. Sultry performer and academic whiz. Do we want to tell our daughters that is what gives them value? Talents and abilities they may not have been born with?
Finally, feminist baby can be whatever she dreams. I believed, once upon a time, that I could be a successful lawyer, as well as an incredibly involved mom, a supportive wife, and help run my favorite charities on the side. You are probably thinking, “So she dreamed she could be Super Woman?” Well, Wonder Woman actually. All of this and I was supposed to have time to stay fit and look great.
I believed the lie we girls of the 70s and 80s were fed: You can be anything you want to be, girl. It wreaked havoc on my health. The lie created tremendous performance anxiety. It made me gain weight from stress. The lie gave me the wrinkles I feared. And left me no time to figure out who I really was, instead of what I dreamed. Because young girl’s dreams, all too often, come from a screen or a photograph. Young girls must be mentored to help them set lofty goals and then create steps to attain them. Mentoring includes gentle reality checks.
I have an idea. Instead of telling girls that can be whatever they dream, let’s teach them to find the beauty around them and the value in every person they meet. Then their identities will not be bound up in careers. That way the ultimate failure of some of their dreams will not crush them. Maybe they won’t put so much pressure on themselves to be what this world tells them they must be in order to be valued. This way we actually give our daughters a chance to be happy.
My three beloved daughters, you do not have to BE anything. You are valuable because you ARE. Because you are made in the image of God.
Feminist Baby is good for an adult chuckle. I get what the author is trying to do and I respect her for trying. Women deserve respect. But we have to think through the consequences of every behavior we encourage as a parent. And when feminism is rude and selfish, women lose respect. Better suited to the way little ones learn are the stories of truly great women. A narrative life is a lesson that the reader chooses to glean from, therefore so much more effective and timeless than propaganda.
My sister, Diana Ayers, had a marvelous and encouraging response to Feminist Baby. She adapted Proverbs 31 for a noble feminist baby girl:
Proverbs 31 Baby is confident because she knows she is worth more than rubies. She is joyful and loving!
She likes to play, but cleans up her toys when she is done. She eats healthy food before having sweets.
She is strong, but knows it’s okay to ask for help.
She is smart and loves to read and learn.
She is kind to others and helps those in need.
She listens and obeys her mommy and daddy when they say it is time to leave a fun activity.
She loves to laugh and have fun.
She speaks encouraging words to her friends. She is not envious of other kid’s toys because she is content with what she has.
She is not perfect, but she always says sorry when she does something wrong.
She prays and knows she is never alone.
This post contains an affiliate link.
Sign up to hang out at Never a Doll Moment each week! I never share your information with anyone. Plus, you will receive my free Long Term Homeschool Planning Worksheet to get you started on an amazing homeschool journey!