This is not the first and certainly not the last conversation I’ve had with my six-year-old about gender. And for what it’s worth, I can’t remember exactly everything that was said between us, so this is my rough translation of the conversation.
Yesterday, while in the car, Lily said to me, “I love the Fairy books.”
She’s referring to the series by Daisy Meadows, who isn’t actually a real person but rather a collective between four different women from England, all with backgrounds in books and children’s literature, who came together and started the series.
“You know why I love the fairy books?” she continued.
“Why?” I said.
“Because the fairies are all girls!” She responded.
“Oh okay,” I said. “So you like it because it’s all about girl fairies?”
“Yes,” she said. “But I wonder why there are no boy fairies.”
Hmm, I thought. Probably because the term “fairy” has been used in a derogatory manner before? But I didn’t say this out loud. Instead, I was like, “Yeah…why do you think that there are no boy fairies?”
She said, “Maybe it’s because Daisy Meadows only likes girls. So she wrote the books for girls.”
“Maybe,” I said. “But why can’t boys be fairies?” I posed this question in a rhetorical manner. There isn’t really an answer to this; it’s just how the world of children’s literature and the media has portrayed fairies over the years. Fairies, for example, in Sleeping Beauty, were women–older women, but still. Then there’s the fairy godmother in Cinderella, who is a woman. And let’s not forget Tinkerbell.
We continued on, our conversation kind of ended there, but it made me think–if a boy wants to be a fairy for Halloween, he should be one. But unfortunately, in this day and age (and pretty much throughout all time) fairies have always been girls, just like knights have always been boys (except for maybe Mulan? Maybe?) because of their relative permissive, punitive nature in need of a rescue because they’re so fragile or something.
But my daughter’s naivete interpretation of why the fairies in the Daisy Meadows books are girls is funny, almost endearing.