More than a month ago, I sat with a group of women colleagues and listened to their conversation. It was a conversation fueled by passion, anger, and heartbreak, but most of all by injustice. Our children’s literature community, a community that preaches to children about kindness and fairness, is egregiously not fair.
It has been this way for a long time, for this is a conversation I have heard repeatedly over the years. It is a conversation I have participated in repeatedly over the years.
And, next week, in honor of Women’s History Month, it is a conversation we will have again. But instead of having it in secret, with our close friends around a kitchen table, it will be out in the open, here and with as many of us as possible. We will all share in the outrage, brainstorm solutions, and, hopefully, work together for a change towards gender equality.
Which brings me to this: none of us, consciously or unconsciously, is blameless for the inequality that troubles our children’s literature world. We cannot cast blame only on organizations or demand that publishers shoulder all of the responsibility. By being a part of this community, we are all also part of the problem. But with that, we are all also part of the solution. Everyone of us, has the power to effect change—in ourselves, in others and the institutions we are a part of.
For this week, in these days before the conversation begins, I ask all of you to reflect. It is possible to be an awesome, strong, incredible, smart, accomplished person who has blind spots. See if you can find yours.
Have you treated a male author as a “rock star”? Have you declined a “girl” book for your son or ignored an older woman? Have you minimized the concerns of a woman of color? What have you done or encouraged or defended that you feel uncomfortable about?
Can you sit with those feelings for a moment? Can you realize that so much of what will be discussed is not a judgement of you as a person, but the problems of our community? Because to move forward, to really remedy our problems, we will need to put our egos aside.
So, for now, let’s think and reflect. And then next week, starting on March 1st, let’s start our conversation. It’s going to be a conversation full of many emotions, but let’s also make it a conversation of respect and practical ideas. Join here or by posting on your own Facebook page, Twitter, or elsewhere on social media by using the hashtag #kidlitwomen.
I look forward to talking with you.