I’ve been going through my children’s literature texts and the pages that I’ve marked for juicy content and I find that the same stuff keeps cropping up.
Do the things that catch our eye, the things that we notice, reflect our inner state? Or have I just internalised what I’ve been taught in class and now identifying examples to support those ideas?
Feminism and faith – this was the topic discussed at the Contemporary Feminism panel talk tonight. Something that one of the panellists said really struck me – they said that we tell the stories we’re told.
Doesn’t that just hit the nail on the head? How often does society just perpetuate the same narratives that it’s been fed? Without being conscious of what we’re consuming, it’s only natural that we regurgitate the same old story.
I’m 27 now and only in the last several years have I started unpacking all the narratives that I’ve internalised, deconstructing everything that I took to be absolute truth and trying to understand reality in a more raw form. I’ve only just scratched the surface, there’s still a long way for me to go in taking apart all these things I’ve learned as true.
When the panellist said that, it reignited the fire and desire in me to write children’s literature. One of the narratives that I’ve internalised (to my detriment) is of the classic fairy tale ending – the princess being saved by the prince. Only now as an adult do I see how harmful that narrative is. There are so many problems with it!
- It’s heteronormative.
- The princess is always secondary to the story – just a prop for the prince.
- The happily ever after is when the prince saves the princess and they get married.
Being single terrifies me, because being alone terrifies me, because I’ve subconsciously absorbed the idea that I can never be truly happy, can never have my happily ever after on my own. I need a man in it. Maybe that’s part of the reason why the breakup with J was so awful – it wasn’t just losing him, it was also losing that fairy tale ending.
I don’t know if it’s possible to untangle myself from this narrative now, I feel like it might be too late for me. But it’s not too late for kids. They can learn a different story – where diversity is celebrated, where princesses are go-getters and do whatever the fuck they want, where the happily ever after is all sorts of relationship statuses.
Double digits! Woohoo! I was telling my counsellor last week about how this blog was helping me sift through and process my feelings. I’m not sure why it feels different to writing for myself, because I still do that, on a daily basis. Maybe it’s the validation from strangers reading it that makes me feel less alone in my feelings? Anyway, you – reader – are making a difference in my life and I thank you for that.
Today I’ve been thinking about the words we consume. In my Children’s Literature paper, we spend a lot of time discussing what it is that makes children’s literature, literature for children. The books that sit in the children’s section of bookshops – why have they been put there? What are the characteristics of a story that make them for children and not adults? Why do we distinguish children’s literature from literature in general?
Something that keeps cropping up is the idea that children’s literature, in general, is more didactic than adult literature – there’s usually some lesson to be learned, a moral to be discovered. And we see this all the time – children’s literature is rife with stories of good and evil, of winners and losers.
So if children are supposed to learn something from these books they’re reading, what is it saying when the majority of happy endings involve a male and a female, that the females are usually helpless and need rescuing? What are the books teaching children if the majority of the ones we read still have white male protagonists?