Tag Archives: gender equality

Three Books Every Girl Must Read Today

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I am quite the helicopter mom. Well, not exactly. The truth is that though I don’t see myself as this, I am regularly branded as one, (the labelling is, no doubt, a product of ill-perceived notions of what I must be because I am quite the general-in-charge of all things domestic, of which parenting is a large, if unenviable, part – but that’s for another post).  At any rate, I am not perturbed by the unwarranted appellation (I pick my battles). Also, this is one of those grey-area objections I am sitting on the fence about, so I let it go.

That, and also the fact that I choose to take the beaten-to-death and frankly a bit idiotic term (yes, I get the metaphor) in exactly the opposite spirit as it is usually intended. I take it as positive, expert guidance and knowledge I bestow upon my kids. And the one area where I do this best is when it comes to their reading. If you read on, you may see why my expert suggestions in the literary space may not be such a bad idea after all, helicoptering or not.

Before I go on, I would like to add that my girls read everything, and not just what I decide. They read anything they can lay their hands on, some of which have been planted by mommy dearest, but some have just been serendipitous discoveries they’ve made on their own. As they say, it’s a win-win

Ok, so now about the books and why I think that every girl must read these today.

The three books I mention below are delightful little creations – ones that teach my girls to stand up for themselves, fight stereotypes and have a sassy, spirited outlook towards life. And let me tell you, if this is what you want to tell your daughters too, there are no better books to teach them that than the ones below

Advice to Little Girls – by Mark Twain

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Written by a young Mark Twain back in 1865, this is the one book you will want to read to your girls.

I fell in love with it the day I read it. Each page is meant to tell little girls that they must think for themselves, be independent and not blindly obey rules. The wit, the language and of course, the extremely delightful advice he gives to little girls is straight out of my heart (really, at one point I believed I was Mark Twain in my previous life and that I wrote it ). It made my heart sing.

Nothing I can say can do justice to the book, so here’s an excerpt. I absolutely love it..

“Good little girls ought not to make mouths at their teachers for every trifling offense. This retaliation should only be resorted to under peculiarly aggravated circumstances.”.

The illustrations add to the charm of the book. They have been created by an extremely gifted and celebrated Russian-born children’s book illustrator Vladimir Radunsky. See below:

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And here’s another excerpt, which I particularly love (given that I have a brother who, as a child, would tease me no end as I went bawling to my parents – I do wish I had been armed with this book then!)

“If at any time you find it necessary to correct your brother, do not correct him with mud — never, on any account, throw mud at him, because it will spoil his clothes. It is better to scald him a little, for then you obtain desirable results. You secure his immediate attention to the lessons you are inculcating, and at the same time your hot water will have a tendency to move impurities from his person, and possibly the skin, in spots.”

If only I knew of the existence of this book when I was growing up. Sigh.

Pippi Longstocking

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You’re probably familiar with the red-haired, freckle-faced Pippi Longstocking – who, quite rightfully, calls herself the strongest girl in the world. The fiercely independent Pippi lives on her own with a horse and a monkey (the horse lives in the porch). She had no parents, and there are no adults, no rules – no supervision and all the freedom to do anything in the world (eating off the floor being a case in point).

In the three Pippi books, the reader sees the protagonist through the eyes of the children who live next door to her. They are, no doubt, fascinated, if a bit horrified, by Pippi’s life, because everything she does seems to be the very opposite of what children, especially girls are “not meant to do” – like standing up to authority, turning the house upside down, even telling lies (you have to know her to understand) – she does as she wishes (tossing eggs in the air and letting them land on her head)  and cares little about how things must be – because that holds no meaning for her – she sleeps with her feet on the pillows (only one example of how she does not blindly accept rules)

Sure, this is the real world and kids can’t possibly live as Pippi does (much to their disappointment), but the point of the book, for me, is not that kids should now go around eating off the floor, or have a pet horse on the porch (we’d have to get a porch first, but that’s quite beside the point) – the point is that girls must learn to question and not just accept what’s been told to them. We don’t like that as parents, because we think of parenting as an oligarchy (your truly included) – but it is not and if you make it such, then you run the risk of raising girls who will take anything asinine thing that is said to them, just because it comes from someone older or some authority. We see a lot of that happening in our society today – women being told how to dress, how to live, how not to think – you name it.

My girls, sometimes much to my own irritation, are little Pippis. I read them the book when they were little – as their eyes shone with wonder – and they squealed with joy at the idea of living a Pippiesque life! (I did have to inject reality from time to time)

If you have a girl, get her this book. She’ll ask you many questions after she reads it, but that’s ok – she’ll learn ask tough questions and you’ll learn to answer them.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

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So, this one is not fiction – as opposed to Pippi. It is also not about giving advice to little girls – this is a book that inspires girls with the stories of 100 great women, from Elizabeth I to Serena Williams. Each story is only a page (so it makes a great bed-time read) and the illustrations have been done by 60 female artists from all over the world. It is simply terrific.

Each little narrative will teach your child (read this to both your sons and daughters) about what can be accomplished if you try hard and don’t let the world’s ideas about what you can, or should do, get in your way. In the book are stories about women who defied norms and traditions and lived their dreams, often at a cost, but they didn’t dither from their ideals and aspirations (from Amelia Earhart and Serena Williams to Malala Yousafzai and Coco Chanel!). So inspiring are these tales that I looked forward to reading these every night to my girls – because we did this “girl-power” bonding thing as a little ritual and read about all the women the book brought to our world. That’s the thing about books – they can transform the way you think, the things you believe and the dreams you dream..Rebel Girls did that for my little girls.._94926474_malala-1.png

It’s important to teach our children to think, to question and to ask the important questions. I know I am raising Rebel Girls and I mean in the best, most positive possible way – they, I hope, will grow up to be aware, honest and sassy women, who will care for the world they live in, but also not take any dogmatic rules that are thrown at them, simply because they exist as rules and must be, thus, followed blindly.

So, there’s my two (three rather) pence on what you should read to your girls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Nike’s Pro-Hijab Campaign Is A Good Thing

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No matter what your views are on the Hijab, you should see Nike’s ‘What Will They Say About You’ campaign. Reserve your judgement about the fact that this is a woman in a Hijab – because there are two, diverse schools of thought about women wearing Hijabs – and no matter what side you are on, there is one thing to appreciate here and that is the fact that  a brand has taken a clear stand on an issue which concerns women and minorities (in a post-trump, post-Brexit, right-swinging world, I think it’s a positive step). Sure, it’s a great marketing idea, but my point is – if it’s a great marketing idea and is also a great one for women and minorities, then why the hue and cry? (there’s been a sort-of backlash on social media, but that’s hardly surprising.) In today’s world of, you-can’t-wear-hijabs-on-our-beaches, I think it’s a bold, positive step.

The fact is that there are brands that indulge in serious gender stereotyping and do that whole pink-blue thing till they go blue in the face, which is revolting, if regressive. Not to mention ads like the ones Gap released last year, which tell little girls how to dress like a “social butterfly” and little boys like the “little scholar” (ugh).

So, contrast that with a brand that’s taking a stand, a very visual, pro-women (Muslim women at that) stand in today’s xenophobic environment. Not sure what the problem with that is. Yes, there’s the argument that this reinforces stereotypes and the whole, should-women-wear-hijabs thing. But that’s not a straightforward issue – are some women forced to wear Hijabs? Do some wear it out of choice? Do such Hijabs encourage more women to get into sports? Like I said, it’s not a simple argument.

Not sure what you think, but comments, on both sides, are welcome. Just keep it civil.

 

 

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Feminism Lite Is A Dangerous Thing

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If you don’t know who Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is, that’s ok. But, you really should.

To give the Wikipedia definition – she’s a Nigerian novelist, nonfiction writer and short story writer. But that’s not why I am writing about her. And that does not even begin to tell you who she is. I’ll let you Google her and find out more (there’s a lot).

Why am I bringing her up? Because she is a feminist, and I love her for it. I’ve always thought she’s the real thing – as in, a real feminist (which does not mean she wants to biff any man she sees on the head – it simply means she wants equality).

I read something she said recently and it made a lot of sense – and also tied in with what I’ve been saying for a long time. Here’s what she said – “Beware the danger of what I call Feminism Lite. It is the idea of conditional female equality. Please reject this entirely. It is a hollow, appeasing and bankrupt idea. Being a feminist is like being pregnant. You either are or you are not. You either believe in the full equality of men and women, or you do not.”

I couldn’t agree more. But there’s more – which I completely, wholeheartedly agree with. She adds that – “Feminism Lite uses analogies like “He is the head and you are the neck.” Or, “He is driving but you are in the front seat.” More troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well.”

I have heard this from so many of my female friends – even the so-called liberated ones. Male superiority is so deeply ingrained in our systems that we do not even realize it. I’ll give you an example – it’s a line I’ve heard so many of my friends use when they speak of their husbands. Things like, “he’s a really good father, he spends so much time with the kids, he’s really hands-on”. They say this beaming with pride and, in some cases, feeling blessed for having a man who spends time with his own kids. My question is – he’s the father, so what’s to be impressed by here? Do we, for instance, ever say this of the mother? – that she spends so much time with the kids, hence she’s awesome. So, why the accolade for the man?

Here’s why. Because “most-men” don’t do this, so the ones who do, deserve mention.  And that’s really the unfortunate part. It should really be the reverse. It goes to show who very far we are from an equal world.

Chimamanda goes on to say that – ‘feminism Lite uses the language of “allowing.”’. She e hits the nail on the head when she say that. It’s a word one hears a lot – “he allows her to work”. Inherent in that sentence is that the fact that the male has the power and he uses it the way he wants. So, remarks like – “he’s a good father”, or “he’s let her work”, or “he takes care of the house, so she’s really lucky”..the list goes on.

Men and women are equal partners – they shoulder responsibilities equally. That’s the truth – or rather, that’s the real truth, but it’s been stifled and gagged in a world run by men. Read how a British newspaper described Theresa May, the British Prime Minister’s husband: “Phillip May is known in politics as a man who has taken a back seat and allowed his wife, Theresa, to shine.”

I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be Careful What You Tell Little Kids Through Toys

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I don’t much believe in women’s day – don’t ask, it’s a long argument – but suffice it is to say that for me, the fact that we need a woman’s day is unfortunate – will rant about this on another post soon.

However, there is one thing I do like about all this hullabaloo around Women’s day – the fact that there are these great stories that come out of every corner of the internet, and I make my girls read them – to drive home the point that they are no different from boys (they know that, but I feel the need to reinforce it in the face of so much inequality that women face today)

One such example of a story I read was about Lego – the toy company – making female NASA pioneers as Lego figures. I think it’s a brilliant idea and, refreshingly, moved away from the gender stereotyping the company has done in the past (Lego girls is pink with beach and salon stuff the boys one is blue with all the “boy stuff” to make – you know the typical). In my opinion, the company has redeemed itself a little bit.

This is what toy companies need to do – to make gender neutral toys (hear that Kinder?). Children have impressionable minds, and the toys they play with – or the ones people gift them – tell them something about who they are supposed to be. Sure, that’s not how it should be, but that’s exactly how it is – when you give a girl a kitchen set to play with, you’re telling her that this is what she’ll enjoy, because that’s really what should come naturally to her. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with girls playing with these. The problem happens when that is all they play with – the “girlie stuff” – that’s giving them a message, even if unintended. Anyway, I think I’ve made my point (and I’ve said it before – you can read more about it if you like)

So, back to Lego’s NASA women – it’s a great idea. And, I cannot believe I am saying this. Why? Because I have hated Lego Friends – it’s all that women stand against today and I look at it as exploitation for mercenary gain. But, this is more of  give-the-devil-the-due kin fog thing. Like I said, they’ve redeemed themselves a little – even if it is an overt way to compensate for their other follies.

The next time you want to gift a Lego, go for the NASA one – for both girls and boys. It’s equally important for boys to grow up believing that women are equal to men – in every possible way. They too need to question the inequality and help break it. So, if you have a son – go ahead and gift him a Lego female NASA pioneer set.

 

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