Rebel Girls, and the Boys Who Love Them

“That book is sexist,” declared my son.

He’d been listening to my daughter and I discuss one of her recent Christmas presents, a delightful and informative book called Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. It highlights influential women you’ve heard of, like Amelia Earhart, Coco Chanel, Queen Elizabeth, Harriet Tubman, Jane Goodall, Joan Jett, Marie Curie, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Serena and Venus Williams, Virginia Woolf, and Wilma Rudolph. It also includes lesser-known women like President Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, journalist Anna Politkovskaya, movie director Brenda Chapman, computer scientist Grace O’Malley, suffragette Kate Sheppard, astronaut Mae Jemison, Olympic boxer Mary Kom, drummer Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, and geneticist Nettie Stevens.

But my son, age nine, was quite serious about his critique.

I guessed where he was going with it. The book is a quick history lesson explicitly “for rebel girls,” a 200-page effort to counteract our persistent tendency to ignore or trivialize the experiences of female humans, past and present. But my son doesn’t grasp all of that yet. I thought he was about to point out that he doesn’t have any books “for boys” and that we really shouldn’t be learning history by gender anyway. Didn’t we learn that separate is not equal? Why be divisive?

But I was wrong. “The book is implying that only girls can be feminists,” he said.

How so?

“At the back, it has blank pages to ‘tell your story.’ The title says the stories are ‘for rebel girls.’ So it’s not for me to tell my story. It’s not for me at all, because I’m not a girl. But I can be a feminist, too.”

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Read the full essay at Medium.

Categories: Books, Essays

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