Since it doesn’t seem to exist, I thought I might try my hand at writing the elusive feminist primer aimed at a tween audience. Lard knows I’m no kid’s writer, but there’s a hole in the canon there, and nobody else seems to be stepping up, so damn the torpedoes, I’m goin’ in.
Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Chapter 1: Dudes Invent the Sex Class
A long, long time ago, human civilization was founded on the belief that women are toilets for male incontinence. Dudes thought being in charge was awesome, so over the centuries, they invented a system of behaviors called “femininity” to make it easier for them to rap —
Ah. It turns out that nobody has written A Child’s Garden of Feminism because women’s reality is an X-rated horror story of untold suffering and senseless tragedy. Rape culture, racism, femininity, Stockholm syndrome, Spanx, blow jobs, pervs, Boko Haram, plastic surgery, abortion, porn, harassment, forced marriage et al are the stuff of nightmares. The antithesis, in fact, of anything I would want my 10-year-old niece to read. The Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women are just too gruesome to foist on little kids.
But surely someone can think up a way to sort of counteract the indoctrination a bit?
What got me onto this was this, the announcement that Girl Talk, a popular UK tween magazine, was “going feminist.” The photo is all pink with pastel swirly stars and hearts. The copy is full of empty platitudes à la “I will love myself the way I am” and “By working hard I know I can achieve great things” and, of course, “#GIRLS ARE AMAZING!”
Quoth the editor, Bea Appleby:
We’re bringing feminist ideas onto the pages; putting empowerment, positive role models and broader ambitions on the agenda. A bit less about popstrels and telly stars, a bit more about sportswomen, writers, scientists and businesswomen.
But seriously. Do kids even buy this crap? At age 10, you’d think any kid with even modest observational skills would know full well that boys never have to be singled out and explicitly informed as to their amazingness. Wouldn’t the kid smell a rat? Wouldn’t she grasp on some subliminal level that if girls really are so goddam amazing, we wouldn’t really need all the extra other-y pink-ass fuss? Why not just quietly integrate the acknowledgement of girls’ humanity into the product the way you would for any other autonomous being?
Here’s why, according to Bea Appleby, explaining why Girl Talk is giving away nail stickers to promote their new, pink “feminist” direction:
“[W]e’re a commercial magazine and having a “SMASH PATRIACHY!” stationery set as a free gift, or Marie Curie as a cover girl, might freak out the readers. The fact is, we have to sell magazines and compete on the newstand [sic], otherwise we won’t exist.”
Yeah? Well, if those are the terms, maybe they shouldn’t exist. If acknowledging your audience’s humanity will kill sales, your product is seriously fucking flawed, lady.
Too harsh? Give Girl Talk an A for Effort? Appleby thinks so, because at least they’re “trying to do something.” But heck, if Marie Curie would “freak out” her readers, and giving out pink nail stickers is considered an act of feminist rebellion, this is a pretty terrible state of affairs.
Someone’s just gotta hip the tweens that feminism isn’t a lifestyle, it’s a human rights movement. So here goes.
Chapter 2: Female Genital Mutilation
It’s gonna be a classic!