Today on Twitter I noticed something. I noticed how outspoken and completely amazing the Anne Frank Center is being. Seriously, if you haven’t been following them, do: @AnneFrankCenter. Anne Frank would be so proud. I also noticed a thread posted by @boguspress. She’s a clown. She tried to paint a little boy’s face with a blue butterfly upon his own request. His parents insisted that she didn’t paint the butterfly as it wasn’t ‘appropriate’ for a boy, so he had a skull and cross bones painted instead. It’s heartbreaking. She comments: “So the next time you are incredulous about how the govt could shut down our national parks, or build the pipeline, or nuke the planet…” Then I saw an article on The Guardian about Clarks shoes – specifically, a range of shoes for girls called Dolly Babe, and for boys called Leader. After claims of sexism – quite rightly! – the Dolly Babe range was removed. But look what happened: “Both shoes are made from black leather, but the Dolly Babe has the added cloying detail of a pink insole printed with hearts, while the version for boys – which remains on sale – has a football detail.” Yes, the boys’ range remained – of course there was nothing wrong with the masculine shoes – and the Guardian declares the pink insole with hearts ‘cloying’. Again, something feminine is attacked. The masculine remains unquestioned. There are other issues, commenters pointed out, in terms of comfort and quality and these should absolutely be addressed along with the ridiculous naming of the ranges and the gendered nature of the promotion. However, there is nothing inherently wrong in a pink insole. All children, all adults, should be able to access both feminine and masculine clothing – as well as that fabulous unicorn, gender-neutral clothing. However, I do wish that in the name of combating sexism, feminine things would not be simply attacked and removed.
In the spirit of that and thinking of Anne Frank today and how perhaps the world would be better if more little boys had blue butterfly faces, I thought I’d put together a list of a few books traditionally seen as ‘feminine’ and which really are feminine, but which I think all people should be able to read.
The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
She spells her name with an ‘e,’ of course she’s amazing. She is an eyewitness to so much social horror, yet her diary is also full of joy and frustration and love.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Of course this was going to be on my list! But for this post, I will also note that Gilbert and Matthew are excellent role models for boys. Gilbert is brought down a peg or two by Anne, but he learns humility and he learns to be patient and supportive. Matthew is a shining beacon of all that is good – proof that a man can be quiet and hardworking and loving.
The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
Yes, written by a man, so what? The Tiffany Aching series is lively, funny, and has at its heart a difficult, smart, stubborn girl who does the really important, little things no one else wants to do. And she makes great cheese.
Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Sophie is an amazing hero who uses cleaning up as an excuse to investigate. She realises the strength of old women and how much fun it is to be bossy. She’s a thorough delight. Howl is vain and interested in pretty clothes. It’s perfect.
The Flopsy Bunnies by Beatrix Potter
Potter was astonishing as an author and I love The Flopsy Bunnies, which really does shake its metaphorical head at that wastrel, Benjamin Bunny, and gives a staring role to the resourceful Mrs Tittlemouse.
a long way to a small angry planet by Becky Chambers
This isn’t for children, and it isn’t traditionally seen as feminine, but it is feminine science fiction and it presents an amazing future where races, genders, species can all get along. I like to mention it as much as possible!
This is a short list and I’m sure I could come up with something much longer, but I have a book chapter to be getting one with!