Bilbo, it turns out, makes a terrific heroine. She’s tough, resourceful, humble, funny, and uses her wits to make off with a spectacular piece of jewelry. Perhaps most importantly, she never makes an issue of her gender—and neither does anyone else.
This quote is from a great article by the mother of a kid who insisted that Bilbo was a great, female character. The mum has written a great article about how she, faced with this insistence, eventually gives in and starts mixing up the characters in her kids’ books so that she reads a roughly equal number of clever, adventurous, curious characters of both sexes (roughly how it is in real life, then). It’s a sharp contrast to the characters in kids’ books on the market, where there are only one in three characters who are female.
A similar idea that has me excited right now is Julie Dillon’s Imagined Realms sci fi and fantasy art showing a diverse range of women having all sorts of adventures, from the dramatic to the archaeological to the scientific.
(If you’re interested, Dillon’s got a beautiful book of art available on Kickstarter)
This portrayal of women as heroes in their own right really, really matters. It’s hard for girls to see themselves as the heroes (especially as forthright, proud or bold heroes) when they don’t see themselves in stories as such. I’m constantly grateful for the people who showed me stories about strong women, since they’re a big part of what’s got me writing, arguing and being the bold(ish) person I am today.
But it’s also important that people share female heroes with boys. Boys pick up on stories’ undertones about women’s roles just as much as girls do, but it seems like they’re less likely to be told stories about female heroes, making it less likely that they’ll get the message that girls are forthright, clever and bold, and more likely they’ll pick up on other cultural messages about girls – that they’re weak, silly and vain.
So share these great stories about girls along with the great stories about boys, and share them with both boys and girls alike. It makes it that much more likely that we’ll achieve a future where everyone can give their best no matter what gender they are, and that builds a better future for everyone.