I don't talk with my daughter a lot about gender. Amelia has friends that are boys as well as girls, and she spends a lot more time playing with her Thomas the Train set than her dolls. I like to think that I'm a bit of a feminist, but I realized recently that I don't always set a good example for my daughter.
Case in point: Yesterday I couldn't get the garage door to close, and instead of taking two minutes to figure out why it wasn't working, I said to Amelia "Let's go find Daddy and ask him to fix it." Well, it turns out it wasn't closing because I left my gardening bucket right under the door! Apparently the door has a sensor, and it won't close if there's something underneath it. When something mechanical goes wrong, "Ask Daddy" seems to be my standard answer. But what message am I sending my daughter?
Amelia was playing house with her stuffed animals recently, and I noticed she had the mom cooking dinner while the dad was "at work" typing on his computer. That's exactly how most evenings play out at our house (although I'm no domestic goddess; my husband could tell a few horror stories about my cooking). I didn't intentionally plan for it to be this way, but the roles in our household are pretty traditional. I clean, cook, and take care of Amelia's basic needs, while my husband fixes things around the house and does yard work. There's nothing wrong with that; I'm happy with my life the way it is, but I don't want Amelia to think that she has to follow the same path.
We are starting to make small changes. We recently got a grill for our new house, and my husband cooked an entire dinner this weekend. I've started mowing a section of the lawn each week (with a push mower! I love the authentic exercise). Even though my husband has only put our daughter to bed once, back in 2010 when I had to chaperon the prom, he has become part of the bedtime routine by taking over teethbrushing. Baby steps. Maybe one of these days I'll actually change a light bulb.
Although I might not always set a perfect example for my daughter, there are a few books in our collection at home with strong female characters.
My favorite princess story of all time is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.
The heroine, Princess Elizabeth, is engaged to Prince Ronald. An evil dragon comes along and burns their whole kingdom. He kidnaps Ronald and puts him in a cave. Elizabeth's princess clothes have all been burned, so she dons a paper bag and uses her cleverness to trick the dragon into falling asleep. She then goes to the cave to rescue Ronald, but instead of being happy to see her, he says:
"You smell like ashes, your hair is all tangled and you are wearing a dirty old paper bag. Come back when you are dressed like a real princess."
In the end, Elizabeth runs off happily into the sunset--by herself. This is an entertaining book with a great message for girls of all ages.
You Forgot Your Skirt, Amelia Bloomer! by Shana Corey tells the story of the real Amelia Bloomer, who advocated for womens' rights alongside Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She had the courage to defy societal norms by wearing pants instead of heavy hoopskirts. The pictures in the book are wonderful and the text is kid-friendly, telling Amelia's story in a funny, entertaining way. It's a quick read full of great history.
I found Players In Pigtails, also by Shana Corey, at the library recently. If you liked the movie A League Of Their Own, you'll enjoy this book! It tells of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League that was formed during World War II. I love fiction books, but it's also wonderful to find interesting picture books that are based on real events in our history.
The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is not a book for young children, but it's a book I will encourage my daughter to read when she gets to high school. (Actually, if you're an adult looking for a great summer read, I encourage you to go find it!) Instead of a traditional novel format, this book is told in a series of vignettes (translation: short scenes) that flow together to tell the story of Esperanza, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago. It's a wonderfully written coming of age story. My favorite vignette is A House of My Own near the end of the book, when Esperanza's describes the house she envisions for herself:
"Not a flat. Not an apartment in back. Not a man's house. Not a daddy's. A house all my own. With my porch and my pillow, my pretty purple petunias. My books and my stories. My two shoes waiting beside the bed. Nobody to shake a stick at. Nobody's garbage to pick up after...Only a house as quiet as snow, a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem."
Beautiful, right? I had the privilege to hear Sandra Cisneros speak this past spring at UNCA, and I thought she was an amazing woman.
Links of Interest:
The Greatest Girl Characters of Young Adult Literature
The Amelia Bloomer Project