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A great book – updated and re-released

Why It's Great to Be A Girl

The original book Why It’s Great to Be a Girl: 50 Things You Can Tell Your Daughter to Increase Her Pride in Being Female which was issued in 1994 has now been updated and is being re-released with a new title called Why It’s Great to Be a Girl: 50 Awesome Reasons Why We Rule!. The author is Jacqueline Shannon. I first read this book in high school, either as a junior or senior. It had all sorts of facts in there that I never knew, or that no one had ever told me. I bought the book and thought, “Wow. This will be great when I have a daughter of my own.” Plus it had the added bonus of building up my self esteem at a time when I was struggling with the woman I was becoming. I later loaned the book to my aunt for her to share with my two female cousins.
Shannon wrote the book after her pre-school daughter encountered sexism and gender bias when she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up answered “a doctor.” The man who had asked the question replied “You let the boys be the doctors…Girls don’t have the stomach to deal with blood.” This was just one of a few examples that her daughter had experienced.
The new edition has been updated and expanded with the help of the author’s daughter, Madeline, who is now in college. The original book was designed for mothers of young daughters, but the newer version is geared toward girls entering adolescence. She’s also made the book more multicultural and global to focus on achievements of women worldwide, since the first book focused on women in Western countries. Her hope is that the book will reach an international audience of girls in whose countries gender bias is even worse than in the United States.
From the publisher’s website:

After all, what girl wouldn’t feel great about herself knowing that:
• girls hear better than boys
• girls drive better than boys
• girls’ bodies are stronger than boys’ in every way, except for muscles
• girls are less susceptible to major diseases
• and, according to many anthropologists and archaeologists, girls actually “civilized” humankind!

My favorite one of the above is that girls drive better than boys. My dad and uncle have made mean remarks about “women drivers” for years, but they were wrong!
I’ll be heading to my local bookstore next week to pick up a copy, and will hold onto it until my daughter is old enough to read it for herself. Though she is still young, I hope to instill a sense of pride in her that being female is a wonderful thing, and I hope she never feels like the “weaker sex” or inferior to boys.
- Michelle Schafer

It is a Gender Thing

I look forward each Friday to reading Judith Warner’s analysis of current events in her blog on the New York Times website. Her insights tend to align with and reinforce what I’m learning from my work at IWPR, and it’s reassuring to see a major media source provide an outlet for feminist views. This week, however, I was disappointed in her take on the appointment of Drew Gilpin Faust as Harvard University’s new president. She argues:

The selection of Faust seems to be about much more than the replacement of a man by a woman . . . In today’s world, it isn’t a gender thing. It’s a human thing. To insist otherwise is to cut Faust off at the knees just as she’s poised to spring into history.

This highlights exactly what’s wrong with the women’s movement today: it’s undermined by its very successes. As individual women succeed, they tend to distance themselves from the movement out of a fear of being pigeonholed or reduced to their gender. They prefer that their accomplishments be attributed to their individual characteristics, qualifications, and capabilities. But in disregarding the role of gender in their lives, they give credence to the view that we no longer live in a patriarchal society, and this is far from the truth.
We tend to forget the institutional barriers that still exist for women. We forget that women still only make 77 cents to men’s dollar. We forget that the majority of people living in poverty in this country as well as around the world are female. We forget that while the November 2006 elections brought to federal office record numbers of women policy makers, women still only make up about 16% of the United States House of Representatives and Senate. As Dr. Heidi Hartmann pointed out on this blog earlier this week, “it’s when we think about the years going forward instead of backward, and we try to imagine the Harvard presidency without a male incumbent for 371 years, that we get some glimpse of what that exclusion has meant for women.”
So while Dr. Faust’s appointment is attributable to more than her gender, as Warner argues, it is also, very importantly, a gender thing. It is a major breakthrough for women, and should be celebrated as such.
- Anna Danziger

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