If you’ve been perusing the shelves at your local children’s bookstore lately, or perhaps browsing through board book titles on Amazon, you may have come across a little gem called Feminist Baby. Yes, you read that right. Feminist Baby. It’s a new book by Loryn Brantz, a cartoonist and former designer for Sesame Street. And it’s meant to teach infants about feminism.
Brantz told Time that the book is about a baby girl who “lives how she wants and doesn’t let the patriarchy keep her down.” (Because, you know, the patriarchy is always targeting babies.) Just in case you think I’m joking, let me be clear: Brantz thinks babies need to learn to be feminists. (Here I was thinking babies need to, like, you know, learn how to sit up and crawl and stop peeing and pooping all over the place and stuff. But apparently, that’s wrong. They’ve got a political agenda now.)
But what the heck does Brantz even mean? What sort of feminism are all these babies meant to espouse? Because, the way I see it, there’s feminism and then there’s “feminism.”
See, feminism just means that women and men should be treated equally. As in, if a woman does the exact same job as a man, she should be paid the exact same wage, for example. Or, if a woman wants to enter a traditionally male field (like engineering, or business) that should be fine too. Or, put more simply, women are just as valuable to society as men. You know, the kinds of things that most of us regular people now view as no-brainers and don’t feel compelled to talk about all the time because they’re just so obvious.
And yes, there was a time not too long ago when those things weren’t no-brainers. And when other, even more awful things, weren’t no-brainers either, like women being allowed to vote, or leave abusive husbands, or seek help and protection if they were raped. But our brave and intrepid foremothers (see what I did there?) fought for those things, and more, and won. And now we have those things. And we, the current generation, get to think of them as no-brainers. Which is a victory for our heroic foremothers. And also the whole point. The fight was fought. And won. Hooray!
But “feminism” is the idea that because, in the past, women weren’t treated as equal to men, women now have to act like men in order to prove that they are equal to men, even though they’re women. Or something … Basically, “feminists” believe that things that have been traditionally female (like keeping house, raising children, wearing pretty clothes, etc.) are only seen as feminine because society has oppressed women into doing them. Therefore, no woman should be allowed to do anything that is traditionally seen as female. Even if they want to. Because that’s fair. Or … something.
So, somewhere along the line, feminism has morphed into “feminism” and regular people (who actually believe in feminism) have to say they’re not feminists because they don’t believe in “feminism” and it’s all gotten very confusing.
So, which kind of feminism does Feminist Baby promote? Well, interestingly, it’s kind of both. The text of the book reads:
Feminist Baby loves to dance. Feminist Baby says “No” to pants! Feminist Baby likes pink and blue, sometimes she’ll throw up on you! Feminist Baby chooses what to wear, and if you don’t like it she doesn’t care! Feminist Baby makes lots of noise. Feminist Baby throws her toys! Feminist Baby plays with dolls and cars. And when she sings she’s a baby rock star! Feminist Baby is as smart as she seems. Feminist Baby can be whatever she dreams.
The text is accompanied by sort of crudely drawn pictures of a little girl baby. But, with the exception of the final picture, in which she’s imitating Rosie the Riveter, they could be the illustrations for a board book about any kind of baby at all. She loves to dance, she makes lots of noice, she spits up, she plays with toys. Basically, she does regular baby things. The things that, I guess, are meant to be feminist (like playing with dolls and cars, or choosing what she wants to wear) are actually just things that all babies do. So, for a minute there you might be forgiven for thinking that, other than it’s ridiculously on-the-nose title, this book is actually feminist (rather than “feminist”).
But, hold onto your gender-neutral pronouns folks, there’s more. In addition to the book, Brantz has also created a series of cartoons about Feminist Baby. The cartoons aren’t for kids, and they reveal Brantz’s true “feminist” agenda. The cartoons show Feminist Baby wandering around with a “Free the Nipple” sign, and standing up in her crib yelling, “Gender is a social construct!” among other things.
It’s kind of like, in having to distil feminism down to its simplest form in order to write a board book, Brantz was forced to write something much closer to the true meaning of feminism. She had to strip away all the ridiculous stuff and was left with just the truth of it. Regardless of the fact that she very clearly believes all the ridiculous stuff. So, I guess, in that sense, she kind of failed.
Which makes me feel bad for her a little bit. Since she obviously really wanted to teach babies about “feminism,” not feminism. So, I thought I’d help her out a little bit. Here’s the book she should have written:
Feminist Baby loves to whine, she’ll nag, she’ll bully, she’ll opine.
Feminist Baby says green is blue, sometimes she will lecture you!
Feminist Baby chooses what to wear, but a pink princess dress? She’d never go there!
Feminist Baby makes lots of noise, and only plays with gender neutral toys.
Feminist Baby plays with tools and cars, but pretending she’s a mommy? She’d never go that far.
Feminist Baby is as annoying as she seems, and stifles every little girl’s dreams.