Storytime and White Feminism: Feminist Baby by Loryn Brantz

Last summer, I bought A the book, Feminist Baby, from my local book store. Apart from its obvious appeal (feminism, lol), it is a cute and funny book that A has grown to love. He calls it the ‘baby’ book: he holds it out and says ‘baby! baby! baby!’ insistently when he wants to read it. He particularly loves the page when the baby protagonist refuses to wear pants, because he gets to say ‘popo’ (‘butt’ in Turkish), which always makes us giggle. The baby protagonist does playful feminist things like picking out her own clothes and being a rock star. It’s cute.

During the 758th reading of the book (*approximately, I can’t be sure), I realized something though. Feminist Baby really is the epitome of White feminism. Just as an FYI, white feminism is NOT something we want. It is representative of a feminist ‘center’ that excludes women of color and gender-queer or gender non-conforming folks. The opposite of White feminist is an intersectional feminist, which is what we are always striving to be. I KNOW I’ve failed in many ways to be intersectional in my feminism (for example, it taking 758 readings of this book to understand it…), but it’s something I work on and will continue to work on.

BACK TO THE BOOK: The baby protagonist either plays with dolls or cars, either likes pink or blue. These juxtapositions of stereotypically feminine or masculine things are…fine, I guess. Obviously, I want A to know that anyone can be interested in any type of toy. But it reinforces the binary thinking about gender (i.e., that gender is either boy OR girl). In reality, gender can be somewhere in between or somewhere completely off the spectrum. This boy/girl juxtaposition is just a little basic, IMO. Plus, the illustrations feature a White girl baby (the author makes it clear with the ‘she’ pronouns that the baby is a girl). People other than white women can be feminists, too! I would love to see follow up books to this (also called ‘Feminist Baby’) showing all of the shapes, genders, colors, and sizes of feminist babies.

Oh, and she always wears a bow! That’s a pet peeve of mine. If you want to make the protagonist a cisgender girl, that’s totally cool…but a girl isn’t defined by whether or not she’s wearing a bow in her hair. It normalizes and centralizes masculinity—like people assume a completely naked baby (sans bow) is a boy.

All of this commentary aside, I don’t think the book is a complete dud, but it needs to be used a jumping board into these topics. It can’t stand on its own without age-appropriate complications.

I should’ve known when I saw the publisher was Disney. This is Disney-approved, capitalist feminism—not the radical, intersectional feminism that should be and must be the future [and therefore inherent in how we approach child-rearing].

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