Teaching kids about feminism
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Feminism, Emma Micilroy. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is feminism?
Feminism is very simple. It is the idea that everyone deserves to be treated equally irrespective of their gender.
I’m pretty sure that a handful of you listening have already learned about feminism. And I know that because I’ve talked to a lot of kids, and the feminist kids that I’ve met are some of my favorite kids ever. But don’t worry. Feminism is not some exclusive club.
Anyone can be a feminist. Now there are some rules to being a feminist. You do have to basically believe that we all deserve equal treatment and equal opportunity irrespective of our gender identity and our, you know, that piece I can’t change the rules around that piece. Right?
But yes, a man can be a feminist. A kid can be feminist. Your dad can be a feminist. Ministers can be feminists. Rappers can be feminists. We can all be feminist. It's really just, it's very simple. You have to believe in equality, irrespective of someone's gender.
Here are four common beliefs of feminists, as shared by Emma Mcilroy in the pages of A Kids Book About Feminism:
You know, feminism has a complicated history. Not everybody was invited to the feminist movement, in particular Black women and queer women who were left out of it at many times. So it definitely has a complicated history, I think. I grew up in Ireland, so, a long way from here. And I don't remember hearing about feminism as a kid, so I think I was much older by the time I heard the term. I think I was probably at university and I probably heard feminist or feminism for the first time while I was at university.
Not sure if you’ve seen feminism in action before? Here’s what to look for:
I think the first thing that it looks like is speaking up when someone maybe says something that is sexist. So the opposite of feminist is sexist, which is the belief that people cannot do things because of their gender. Right? So that might say that I might be a terrible CEO because I'm a woman. Or maybe your daughter should go be a nurse after school because that's what girls do. Right?
Anytime you hear someone express a point of view that seems to be limited by their gender, there's probably some sexism in that and that's probably anti-feminist and therefore I would encourage you to speak up. If there's someone else who's maybe on the other end of those comments, you can be an ally to them by trying to support them in the conversation.
Feminism can look like lots of different things, but one way you might be a feminist is to hero other women. Some people call that the shine in theory, but the idea that when another woman shines the light, the light also cascades on the youth. So lifting each other up and celebrating each other is a great way to do it.
And you don't have to be a woman to do that. Men can also celebrate and lift up women, right? And boys can also celebrate and lift up girls and anyone who identifies as anything else outside of that. I think celebrating each other and lifting up people who don't always get the spotlight is a great way to do it.
Talking with Emma about feminism makes me feel empowered. It reminds me that I already have all the tools I need to be a feminist, and that many of the things I already do are feminist and are helping to provide the same opportunity and treatment to everyone, regardless of who they are.
Thinking about feminism makes me feel really excited. Really excited! Because I think we are raising a generation of feminists. And more than that, I'm going to introduce a new word, they are intersectional feminists.
So they consider all the different facets that make up a person. And that might be their skin color. That might be their sexuality. That might be their body type. But there are lots of things that go into making a woman, a woman. It's not just simply her gender.
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking to yourself, feminism seems like the obvious thing to do! Equal rights and treatment for everyone? Of course! That’s why I’m so grateful to Alora in Georgia for sending in this question.
Kid Question: Why are some people against it?
I think some people are against feminism because they don't understand it. I think they maybe think feminists don't like boys or feminists are really angry and I think they just don't understand it. And I think our job is to help them understand it and to help them understand that by creating equality and treating people equally, we actually allow everybody to do better.
That's the bottom line. So I think people are maybe against it because they don't totally understand it, but our job and the job of this book is to start a conversation and help them understand it.
I'm so excited about these conversations that people are having with young adults. It's so, so important. And I think both the reader and the listener learn. I think we all get better as a result and I think this next generation that we are shaping is going to really change the world.
They are so ready for the world. Their values are in the right place. I'm really excited to see the conversations that these books create.
If you do hear people say things that are inherently sexist, like girls can do certain things that boys are better at certain things, you know, feel free to educate them, feel free to bring them along.
“Girls can’t play football.” Well, Megan Rapinoe and Abby Wambach might, you know, as two of the best soccer players who've ever existed, they might disagree with that.
There are women leading major companies. There are women who win Nobel prizes. Malala I think is also still the youngest ever Nobel prize winner at 17.
So anytime that you hear someone say “a girl can't” or “a girl shouldn’t” or “women can’t”, you know, those are times that you might want to engage in conversation and you might want to educate them or share a different point of view.
The future is yours. And we know you have the knowledge and compassion and love and motivation to make the world you want to live in.
I am very excited by the next generation who are much younger than me, but are reading these books because they understand those ideas and they are going to be a very diverse generation. And I think we're going to raise more feminists than ever before. And I think the more feminists we raise the better the world is for everyone.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Emma Micilroy, author of A Kids Book About Feminism.