A guest post by Amie Thomasson, University of Miami:
Natalie was just over six when she noticed something. She had been to science camp before. She saw the new flier coming in the mailbox around spring break, announcing the new science, space and rocket camp. Awesome. But where were the girls in all the pictures of happy campers? Natalie went to camp anyway, full of enthusiasm. When she got there, she noticed something. There were only about three girls in a camp full of about twenty children. She had two friends who were four year old girls, and, as she put it ‘that was about it for her friends in science camp’. She decided to talk to the camp director about it—at lunch break, all sitting on the floor in the over air-conditioned function room of the large student union, she asked around the young counselors until they could point her to the Big Cheese. She didn’t have to get up the nerve to talk to him: she had the nerve already. Told him he needed to put more girls on his fliers, recruit more future scientists. He readily agreed. Natalie was thrilled. (This new flier we got a week ago still showed no girls in any of the 5 face shots.)
Long tired of pink, frills and hair gear, and never interested in princesses, it was time for Natalie to expand her protest. So she got out her markers. She made a sign. She got out her colored pom poms and glued them around the sign like footlights. (To attract attention.) She found an old green plant stake in the garden shed to attach the sign to. She led marches (with Mom, Dad, baby sister) whenever they went out to eat. Talked to anyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t) about her ‘protest against girl/boy differences’. Even found one enthusiastic ally, and got a few high fives. But the work wasn’t done. So she organized a bicycle protest: attached signs and bells to the family bikes, laboriously hand-wrote fliers (four whole copies) explaining the problem, rode behind her mom on the tandem bike to the park. Handed out her fliers to anyone who would talk to her, including a rather hostile French woman (‘I don’t understand what the problem is. There is no difference. You do whatever you like to do’). She made protest t-shirts using fabric markers and cheap cotton t-shirts (for her) and onesies (for the baby sister). The writing may have been hard to parse, but the super-girl insignia was unmistakable. This past Sunday she had plans to sell pink and blue lemonade (pink only to boys; blue only to girls), but Mom and Dad said there wasn’t time for lemonade making and a sale at the park. There was homework to do, errands to run.
So Natalie had an idea, and she got to work. If they were going to Toys R Us, the protest could be brought there: The perfect place: the very symbol of segregation in the toy industry. She set to work making signs. Got out her pink and blue glitter. ‘No More Girl-Boy Differences’, ‘Princesses for Girls, Trucks for Boys: NO!’ ‘Cleaning for Girls, Trucks for Boys: NO!’. She snuck in the tape and feigned interest in toys, then posted her signs in every section of the store: between the princess and dinosaur pajamas, underneath a row of princesses, on the giant green trucks. She even optimistically put up a ‘Sign up to help’ sheet on a kitchen she found that was in brown and tan, showing pictures of both a girl and a boy playing together. That would attract the right kind of kid to help join her protest, she thought. (The kitchen, of course, was located in the pink ‘girls’ section of the store, despite the thoughtful marketing by its maker.)
The Brave People Protest is ready to go worldwide. Make your own signs, share your own ideas. Post on her new Tumblr site pictures of your own guerilla protest posters against the early channeling of girls and boys into separate and narrow gender roles.
Or as Natalie says:
“Join my protest. You can join my protest too you can, put posters up in your own Toys R Us and some other places that you think aren’t fair. You can try to get people in your own neighborhood to join and find other unfairnesses and just try to stop them. That’s how you can join my protest.”
Natalie turns 7 today. Nothing would make her happier than for her protest to spread. I don’t know if she’ll manage to change the world, but I’m so proud of her for noticing, and for trying.
Says Natalie: “I will manage to change the world. Cause I can do anything if I put my mind to it”.