Thursday, March 8, 2018

Why #Kidlitwomen Matter on International Women's Day by Kell Andrews

Today is International Women's Day, a day for "motivating and uniting friends, colleagues and whole communities to think, act and be gender inclusive" amid the longer Women's History Month. It's also a day that in past years seemed to be recognized mostly with a flurry of social media posts that got lost amid trivial celebrations of International Pancake Day and Talk Like a Pirate Day.

This year is different, and it's about time. It doesn't feel like just a hashtag, and that's partly because of other movements defined by hashtags, like #yesallwomen, #metoo, #weneeddiversebooks, and now #kidlitwomen.

The #kidlitwomen conversation is wide-ranging and intersectional, and we can turn conversations into action. (Follow on Twitter, Facebook, or view an aggregated list of posts)

#Metoo brought a reckoning in industries including film, and now extending to children's literature, as spurred by Anne Ursu's article about sexual harassment in kidlit.. #Weneeddiversebooks launched a nonprofit and challenged the industry to reexamine how they acquire, market, and honor books, engendering #ownvoices as a call to move beyond publishing diverse stories to promoting diverse creators.

International Women's Day is so much more than books. It's about equal rights and opportunities for women, girls, and nonbinary people around the world. Lives, jobs, education, and bodily and legal autonomy are at stake. Of course children's publishing is just a small slice of it, but it still matters. And as a children's book author, I can advance change in my own industry more effectively than I can influence another one.

#Kidlitwomen matters to me. 

As a middle-aged, mid-career, mid-list author, I am easily overlooked. Women in similar situations can never know why.

As with everything in publishing -- from getting an agent and being published, to marketing support, reviews, awards, and speaking fees -- there are so many factors that it's difficult for an individual to know when bias exists. The system relies on imposter syndrome -- you have to wonder, "Maybe I didn't get that award (panel, agent, contract, review) because I'm not that good."

I am not an official part of #kidlitwomen or its organization, but the conversation has let me know that I'm not alone. It's given me a place to wonder aloud when even questions once seemed forbidden.

#Kidlitwomen matters to the industry. 

#Kidlitwomen has generated hard data about illustration awards and conference participation, and more data is a prod to change, as we've seen in reports about diversity (see
Yamile Saied Méndez's post about CCBC's 2017 Multicultural Report ).

There's not a lot of transparency in the industry around promotion and money. On social media, everyone's books and careers appear to be doing great, but only because we're only showing a small part of the truth. Shining this light means that we in this industry -- creators, editors, publishers, marketers, book buyers, reviewers, teachers, librarians, and consumers -- can examine how we are maintaining a system that lifts male stories and creators over women -- especially since it's often other women who are doing that lifting.

And most importantly...

#Kidlitwomen matters to kids.

Children of all gender identities need to see books that reflect the panoply of experiences from the voices and imaginations of women around the world and from every community. The only way that happens is when those stories are published, promoted, and put in front of them. Kids need to see that stories and voices of women and girls are lifted up, both for their universality and their specificity.

We need the talent of all children, of all genders, and the books we create can help ensure that children recognize and develop their own talents.

About Kell Andrews: Kell is the author of Mira Forecasts the Future (Sterling, 2016) and Deadwood (Spencer Hill Press, 2014). Her next picture book, The Book Dragon, will be out from Sterling October 2, 2018. She lives outside Philadelphia with her funny husband and two brave daughters.

1 comment:

  1. Such an important topic.
    I particularly liked your call to "examine how we are maintaining a system that lifts male stories and creators over women -- especially since it's often other women who are doing that lifting."

    Change is coming, I firmly believe! Thanks for being a part of it, Kelly.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!