Last night my daughter was attempting to explain the Bitch Manifesto.
She read it in the book Radical Feminists: A Guide to an American Subculture, which she got at the library book sale. Probably a Women’s Studies class discard since there are several colleges in the area. When she volunteers for the Friends of the Library book sale, the “thank you” is a voucher for a couple of free books, or if you volunteer near the end of the sale, whatever you can fit in a bag.
We have a general policy that she can read whatever she can comprehend, and we often let her read things she can’t comprehend so she respects our judgement when we say “You’re not ready for that yet”. That pronouncement is less about the nature of the content than resonance.
The newest version of Our Bodies, Our Selves has been on a bookshelf she can reach since she was eight. (I confess I forbade the Twilight books because they were such utter crap, but I recently relented. Her take on them – “Such bad writing, but you just keep turning the page!”)
Sure she can read Homer, Shakespeare or the Norton Anthology, but some books require the reader to have a breadth of literary and other experience in order to appreciate the language and ideas. Still, we let her read what she will and encourage re-reading at a later date. She does have a habit of discussing books with us, which is how the Bitch Manifesto came up last night.
She explained how the essay about what a Bitch is described one of her closest friends – a smart, strong, brash, dominant (and hilariously quirky) girl. But the essay said “Bitches are not pretty” and that bothered her, because she thinks her friend is pretty. And she is right. The girl is beautiful but not in a way that middle school kids (except friends) can appreciate.
It was an interesting discussion trying to help her tease out how a social movement can try to reclaim language. We had a similar talk about why Black kids call each other “Nigga” when “Nigger” is considered the worst swear word you can use at her school.
But I think what will churn through her brain for some time to come is this idea that she can disagree on a point with something she generally agrees with, or thought of as “truth”. From my perspective, that is the beginning of critical thinking.
I look forward to a range of interesting discussions in our future.