Milan Simon Tuttle is 5 years old and female, and can dribble two and three basketballs better than many professional, adult, male basketball players! Check her out on YouTube, or here –
By now you’ve probably heard the horrific story of Brooke Bennett, the 12-year-old VT girl who was kidnapped and murdered by her 42-year-old pedophile uncle, Michael Jacques. Jacques had also been raping a 14-yr-old relative since she was 9 years old, threatening her with death if she did not comply. To kidnap Brooke, Jacques ordered this 14-yr-old to help lure Brooke by telling her they were going to a party at Jacques’ house.
Now, get this: ABC NEWS IS CALLING THIS 14-YR-OLD RAPE VICTIM JACQUES’ “TEENAGE LOVER” AND “ACCOMPLICE”!!! Then, the author refers to Jacques and Brooke’s 40-year-old stepfather “having three-way sex” with the 14-yr-old girl. NO, THAT IS CALLED TWO MEN SIMULTANEOUSLY RAPING ONE GIRL!
The author is David Schoetz. I want him fired. I’ve already emailed ABC to protest his victim-blaming language – please help, email ABC. The article in question is here – http://abcnews.go.com/US/Story?id=5300619&page=1 . At the bottom, there is a link you can click on to “share more facts about this case,” or you can express your thoughts through the feedback page, at http://abcnews.go.com/Site/page?id=3052660 . I chose the “share more facts about this case” option, to point out the FACTUAL ERRORS in the article. Such as, a 14-year-old cannot legally consent to “three-way sex” with two adult men; THAT IS RAPE. And incest.
Lots of people have already emailed ABC news to complain, and have posted comments on ABC’s website after the article, but, unbelievably, not only has ABC NOT changed the horrific victim-blaming, pro-rape language in the article, ABC is DELETING COMMENTS that say negative things about the way the article is written. At one point, there were 80-something comments, then the next time I checked, there were only 51. I know of specific comments that were missing, such as my friend’s comment, which she had emailed to me at the same time as she posted it on ABC’s site.
The hideous victim-blaming going on at ABC News is not an isolated incident. NO article that I have found yet about Brooke Bennett’s case uses the word “rape.” Authors repeatedly refer to children “having sex with” adults. ABC calling this 14-yr-old her rapist’s “lover” and “accomplice” further victimizes her, and takes the blame and focus off of her rapist. The only reason this 14-yr-old was following Jacques’ orders to help kidnap Brooke is because this girl FEARED FOR HER LIFE, having been repeatedly raped and brutalized by this man for FIVE YEARS. Previously, Jacques had threatened to kill her or her mother if the girl did not comply. HOW THE HELL can ABC call her his “accomplice”? I hope the girl’s family sues ABC.
In this article by Julia Dunn – http://www.fox44.net/Global/story.asp?S=8618846 – a man who lives in Brooke’s community says: “If anything comes of this I hope it wakes up some of these young girls and keeps them from getting into something like this,” Billings said.
I am outraged that this man said that, such BLATANT VICTIM-BLAMING.
DAVID SCHOETZ, BILLINGS, WORLD: STOP BLAMING RAPE VICTIMS FOR BEING RAPED. BLAME AND STOP THE RAPISTS!
I’ve been meaning to write a “Sexism in Children’s Books” post, but I need to clarify that I’m specifically talking about sexism in the books that I come across frequently, in my work as a childcare provider – not just random books floating around the universe or books in general, or the most sexist books I can find on Amazon. The books discussed here (most of them) are chosen SOLELY because they are ones that are literally in the hands of the children I love. It’s also important to note that I live in a very liberal, progressive, artsy, environmentally-conscious, GLBT-friendly, intelligent, caring town on the coast. Nowhere near the Bible belt. Also, none of the children I mention (never by name) are my children, and when I critique the contents of the books they are reading, I am not at all criticizing the children’s parents, who are, on a whole, loving, progressive, educated, even FEMINIST parents! I’m not at all suggesting that parents do a poor job choosing books for their children. My point is that sexism in children’s books is so pervasive that it frequently takes an enormous amount of research, effort, time, and perhaps money, to find the high-quality, non-sexist ones. They are the buried gems in library shelves, which you have to be specifically looking for; they are the ones you have to go to the library desk and fill out an interlibrary loan card and wait two weeks for.
Disclaimer over! Onwards we go!
Whenever I pick up a children’s book for the first time now, I assess it not just for its story, but for its ratio of male and female characters, as well as the differences between how the males and females are portrayed, and their interactions with each other. Most children’s books I’ve seen call most animals “he,” unless it’s an obviously female animal, e.g. a hen. In the illustrations, male animals are the default, and female animals are distinguished by the “extras” that have been added to them – e.g. longer eyelashes, redder lips, flowers somewhere, a bow, something pink, etc. For instance, a 2-yr-old girl I know loves a set of 4 books about 4 cats, 3 males and 1 female. The male cats are merely cats, but the female cat has a pink bow in her hair so that it becomes clear to everyone that she is female. Imagine how different it would be if, e.g., the dogs in children’s books were automatically and unquestioningly female, and if one was male, you could only tell because it had a mustache or neck tie or huge adam’s apple!
In the books about the boy kittens, they get into mischief, go hunting, and chase other animals. The only girl kitten, wears a pink bow in her hair, and her book is all about how she makes herself look pretty for her birthday and “gets a new pretty doll, but the collar is her favorite present of all!” Yes, the male cats go exploring and thus have unlimited freedom, while the female cat is domesticized even further by being given an item that will restrict her movement – and it’s her “favorite present of all.”
At first, I tried calling a couple of the boy cats “she,” as is my small way of rebelling, but the girl got super annoyed at me and kept saying, “It’s a BOY!”
Then she got out her block set, giving each cat a block, and gave the female cat the pink one, even directly saying, “She likes pink.”
The books were written in 2007, by the way.
Another example of this “animals are male by default” phenomenon is in another library book I recently read to a toddler – Goodnight, Animals, by Lena Arro. The main characters are a boy (Bubble) and a girl (Pearl), going camping. Bubble is brave and Pearl is scared, stereotypically and predictably. Some animals come camping with them – the cat, dog, and horse are all male, and only the hen is female. This is so common it’s virtually unnoticable, the way in which water is unnoticable to fish.
Piggie and Gerald books are in vogue right now amongst the preschool set (kids I know have them and ask me to read them), and both are male, as are Frog & Toad, Little Bear and most of his friends, Franklin and most of his friends, the pigeon in the books by the same author as Piggie and Gerald, the child and the animal in the popular “If You Give a [Moose, Mouse, Pig] a [Muffin, Pancake, whatever]” books, which most of the children I know have on their bookshelves. Female characters are rare in Dr. Seuss books, and Dr. Seuss books are so popular that almost every child I know who is familiar with books, knows/has/has read Dr. Seuss books. In “You Don’t Know How Lucky You Are,” which I read to a 4-yr-old a few weeks ago, all of the characters are male. The words are written as if the author is speaking directly to the reader, and includes the line, “You’re a lucky guy,” as if all of the readers are male, too. The Grinch is male, as is his dog, and most of the Whos; the Cat in the Hat is male, as are most characters in Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, etc. [More Dr. Seuss books examined in more detail later].
Popular male children’s TV/book characters,which I’ve had MORE than enough of throughout my years as a childcare provider, include Barney, Thomas the Tank Engine, JayJay the Jet Plane, the narrator in Blues Clues, Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor, and most of the characters in Winnie the Pooh and Sesame Street.
Winnie the Pooh characters:
MALE = Pooh, Christopher Robin, Tigger, Roo, Owl, Rabbit, Eeyore.
FEMALE = Kanga
Sesame Street characters:
MALE = Elmo, Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, Grover, Snuffy, Telly, the Count, Cookie Monster.
FEMALE = Prairie Dawn, Zoe…?
Thomas the Tank Engine characters:
MALE = over 83 characters, as seen on the online Thomas & Friends Character Guide.
FEMALE = 17 characters, 2 of which don’t even have photos on the site, 1 of which is pink, and 2 of which are named Lady and Queen.
I have never seen any female characters other than Annie, Clarabel, and Lady, in a child’s personal toy collection. And did you know the character of “Lady Hatt” existed, to go with Sir Topham Hatt? Neither did I, until I visited the online character guide, and I bet no one else does, either.
Recently, a 4-yr-old I was with wanted me to read her books, and the ones we semi-randomly took from the closest shelf featured a male crocodile protagonist whom I called him “her” throughout (Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile), a male owl and male firefly who became friends (I made the owl female), and a little girl whose house is taken over by approximately 5 male animals and 1 female – I made all but 2 female. (That’s What Do You Do With a Kangaroo?) And we also read Madeline, which, amazingly, had no male characters – at least, not that I remember! (Maybe a doctor?)
On another day recently, I was asked by a 2-year-old girl to read Angelina Ballerina. Angelina Ballerina is a little mouse who, you guessed it, is obsessed with ballet. In the beginning of the book, she is so obsessed with dancing that she gets lost in her own world and misbehaves by not tidying up her room, not coming when her mother calls her, and, oddly, “never let[ting] the boys catch her on the playground.” Once she’s enrolled in ballet class and thus has an outlet, her behavior improves. She tidies her room, comes to dinner when her mother calls, and “Now she lets the boys catch her sometimes.” WTF?? As if it’s a good little girl’s DUTY, along with cleaning her room and listening to her mom’s instructions, to give in and be available to the boys who are pursuing her?? I’d love a book about a little girl mouse who starts out meek, then enrolls in karate class and learns to beat the crap out of the boys who won’t leave her alone.
A couple years ago, a 9-year-old girl I babysat for, and her 10-year-old friend, were having a conversation in the backseat of my car about how guilty they felt for not having boyfriends yet, like the other girls in their class. Nine-year-old explained that she didn’t want to, but there was a boy that had been bothering her at school for years, and last week he was leaning towards her trying to kiss her, which made her lean so far backwards that she fell off the bench and hit her head. Because little girls aren’t taught to or encouraged to counter attack, to lean forward and say “GET AWAY FROM ME!” and give a shove if necessary… no, little girls are socialized to politely resist (or let the boys do what they want, as Angelina Ballerina does!), to back up, accomodate, accomodate… no matter how much it hurts them.
Children I know also LOVE Ruby & Max, and apparently so do many other children, for the books have now been made into a cartoon. Ruby and Max are brother and sister, and very stereotyped in terms of gender roles. Ruby is the traditionally rational, calm, feminine older sister – she wears pastel floral dresses and plays nice, quiet activities, and keeps her rowdy little brother in line. Sample line of dialogue: “I don’t understand what little brothers see in frogs, especially when there are such beautiful flowers to be picked!” Max is “all boy” – wears blue overalls, loves to get messy, loves frogs and tools and robots, which frequently crash Ruby’s tea parties.
I want Ruby to wear some jeans and chase a frog through the mud, or climb a tree and yell really loud.
I want Max to rock a baby doll to sleep, or dance in a field with a flower crown on his head. But I’m sure he won’t, nor will Franklin, another male cartoon character I mentioned earlier. In one of the Franklin movies, Franklin’s dad suggests he pick some flowers for his cousin, and Franklin exclaims, “Yuck! Flowers are a girl thing!” and his dad replies, “Exactly! All girls want flowers!”
As I mentioned earlier, I live in a really great, progressive town. The hub of our town is a large natural foods co-op, and in it is a playroom, and in that playroom is a bookcase full of children’s books. I decided to examine the books on just one randomly-chosen shelf. I examined the books with my usual criteria – how many male vs. female characters, and the portrayal of males and females. The books aren’t necessarily high-quality or popular books, and I chose them ONLY because they are the actual books that children in my town are reading.
Here’s what I found:
There were 28 books on the shelf. Sixteen of them had more male characters than female, two books had ONLY male characters, and 4 books had 1 or more characters that were definitely male and other characters of undetermined sex. Four books had an equal number of male and female characters. NO book had only females, and NO book had more females than males. Three books had only characters whose sex was undetermined.
Ten books had male protagonists, ONE book had a female protagonist (and the rest didn’t have protagonists).
(If you want to read the specifics about these 28 books, you can find that info at the end of this post)
And finally, Mother Goose nursery rhymes. That’s a huge topic in and of itself, and a thorough examination and critique of nursery rhymes is beyond the scope of this post.
However, one of the toddlers I work with is enthralled with nursery rhymes, owns 3-4 anthologies of them, and has many memorized. I will include here only the specific nursery rhyme books that she personally reads.
Classic Nursery Rhymes, copyright 2006 Gramercy Books, includes many sexist nursery ryhmes, such as “Georgie Peorgie, pudding and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry.” And yes indeedy, there’s an illustration of a boy kissing a crying girl. There’s nothing, anywhere, that suggests Georgie Peorgie is wrong for doing this…and the crying girl doesn’t seem to be trying to get away from him. She’s just standing there rubbing her teary eye. Is it so far-fetched to think that young children might not realize Georgie Peorgie’s a jerk? Especially if they also read Angelina Ballerina, in which Angelina’s supposed improved behavior includes her “letting” the boys chase and catch her.
In “One Two, Buckle my shoe,” in the illustration that accompanies “Thirteen, Fourteen, maids a-courting; fifteen, sixteen, maids in the kitchen” (’cause where else would they be!), there is an illustration of a traditionally masculine man on bent knee, holding the hand of the stereotypically Ideal Woman – white, blond, blue-eyed, skinny with a tiny waist, etc., and gingerly holding the corner of her apron up with her pinky extended.
It ends “Nineteen, twenty, my plate’s empty,” with an illustration of an apparently royal male teenager, holding up his fork and knife by his empty plate, with a very displeased/angry look on his face. Spoiled, self-righteous sexist brat, fuming that those “maids in the kitchen” are making him wait for his supper.
There is nothing in the text of “Eenie, Meenie, Miney, Mo” that suggests two super feminine little girls are having a tea party, but that’s what the illustration is.
In “Ring Around the Rosie,” there’s a line about “the wedding bells are ringing, the bride and groom are singing,” and sure enough, there’s an illustration of a very traditional bride and groom by a church. This is only one of several wedding scenes in nursery rhyme books, such as the one to accomany this text – “This is the priest that married the man that kissed the maiden all forlorn that [BLAH BLAH BLAH, house that Jack built].” Fairytales, too, of course, frequently glorify weddings and marriage – toddlers and preschoolers should care about marriage WHY? But again, I digress.
And then there’s “Peter Piper Pumpkin Eater, had a wife and couldn’t keep her. He put her in a pumpkin shell; there he kept her very well.” Blatant oppression – a man can’t control his wife to his liking, so he locks her up in the house, which works very well for him. There’s an accompanying illustration of a very unhappy woman staring out the window of her pumpkin house, while the man stands happily outside of it, with all that freedom and space. Ahhhh, Patriarchy, isn’t it grand!
How about Higglety, Piggelty, My Black Hen? “She lays eggs for gentlemen.” And that’s all she does. It’s chilling to imagine all of the animal characters in nursery rhymes as humans – here is a nursery rhyme that clearly spells it out: women exist to reproduce, for men.
“Old Mother Hubbard” would also be even more revolting if one read the character of the dog as a human, rather than canine, male. The nursery rhyme is about a woman (“Old Mother”) who spends all of her time trying to please the dog, buying him more and more things, only to come home and find him obliviously reading the paper, smoking a pipe, etc., and on and on. It ends with “The dame made a curtsy, the dog made a bow. The dame said, ‘Your servent!’ The dog said, ‘Bow wow’!”
In the introduction of Mary Engelbreit’s Nursery Rhymes collection, she says, “These poems are innocent and bring children the enjoyment of simpler and slower times.” Yet the book includes the horribly sexist Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater; What Are Little Boys/Girls Made Of?; Georgie Peorgie; the House that Jack Built; and Oh Dear, What Can the Matter Be? That last one is a rejected woman’s lament – her boyfriend/husband/whatever, Johnny, is supposed to be taking a quick trip to the fair to buy her a ribbon for her hair, but he’s gone for SUCH a long time that the woman frets “Oh dear, what can the matter be?” The accompanying illustration shows what the “matter” is – Johnny’s not buying ribbons at all, he’s standing and talking/flirting with (practically leering at) another woman, who is quite pretty, while the woman who is at home worrying and waiting for Johnny is frumpy and mad.
I could go on and on. This is just a small sampling, of the books that the children I care for have read in the past month or so. There are many wonderful, progressive, feminist (or at least non-sexist) children’s books out there, but does it matter, when they’re not the books in children’s hands?
* * *
If you’re interested in reading more about sexism in children’s books, and racism in children’s books, here are some good sites, which are more comprehensive than my one blog post —
[Keep going for the details of the 28 books from that randomly-chosen shelf]
Children are often overlooked in feminism. At one feminist message board I sometimes lurk at, with 3000+ members, there are occasionally threads about children’s issues, but these threads usually either get very little response, or if they get a response, it’s negative. Some of the people at this message board (and other online feminist forums I’ve been a part of) are proudly anti-children, and claim that it’s feminist to be so; or, they argue that sexism in young children’s lives is irrelevant, or trivial to the point of not being worthy of discussion, because hey, they’re just kids. I strongly disagree with this position. Young children are highly impressionable, and they will be indoctrinated by patriarchy by default, if we make no attempt to change that.
One seemingly small example is how even very young children use “he” as the default pronoun, already understanding/learning, on some level, the subject/other dichotomy, where male = “normal” and female = “other.”
Most people don’t even notice that “he” is the default pronoun, nevermind attempt to change this, but for several years now, I’ve been making a concerted effort to say “she” more than “he,” mainly in my interactions with young children. I was curious about the degree to which using the “he” pronoun is habit, how early it’s formed, and how easy/difficult it is to change/not form the habit.
Most commonly, this issue arises when there is an animal of unknown sex, either in media or real life. For instance, we’ll see a squirrel on the lawn and someone says, “Oh, look! What’s he doing?”
It took me several months, if not over a year, to say “she” habitually. Over and over again, I’d say “he,” habitually, just like everyone else, then immediately correct myself by adding, “or she; I don’t know if that squirrel is a boy or a girl.” Finally, I started saying “she” first instead of as an afterthought, at least sometimes… and now I’m at the point where I say “she” first an estimated 75% of the time.
Children’s reactions are fascinating!
Most children are startled, to varying degrees. One day I met a little boy in the library, who seemed to be 3 or 4. He was played with a stuffed caterpillar, and said something like, “Look at this caterpillar!” I replied casually, “Oh, what’s she doing?” He widened his eyes and exclaimed, “I think you’re right! I think this caterpillar is a girl!” I hadn’t directly made any proclamations about the caterpillar’s sex, I had merely referred to it with a female pronoun. But rather than answer my question about the caterpillar, he latched on to my sadly-shocking use of “she.”
I had a similar experience while watching a squirrel with a 3-year-old girl. We were sitting silent and still so as not to scare the animal, which was at the base of a tree a few feet away from us. We were occasionally whispering about the squirrel’s activity, but when I made one comment that included the word “she” – a comment so mundane I no longer remember it, like “Her tail is twitching” – the girl I was with loudly blurted out, “The squirrel has a vagina??” and the squirrel ran away! I hadn’t been talking about the squirrel’s sex directly at all!
Other children get surprisingly upset with me for saying “she.” Annoyed, almost angry. When I’m out in nature with one particular 4-yr-old boy, and he points out a bird, and I say, e.g., “I wonder where she’s going,” he semi-snaps at me, “Maybe it’s a boy. You don’t know!” I reply with total calm, “Yup, maybe it’s a boy, maybe it’s a girl… we don’t know!” I’m not trying to make children think that every animal we see is female, of course. I’m merely trying to get them to think about the possibility that some of them are female.
Meanwhile, this 4-yr-old continues to call all animals “he” unless he knows for sure they’re female, and I’ve “compromised” by saying, “Wow, she ran up that tree so fast! Or he! Maybe it’s a boy! We don’t know!”
Other children aren’t so startled by the word “she,” and even attempt to then use it themselves after hearing me use it, but aren’t so successful. Once I was in the sandbox with a 3-year-old boy who was watching a toad, and called it “he.” I called it “she,” not in a “That toad is a GIRL!” way, just in a casual way by using the pronoun “she” while talking about the toad. The boy had no visible reaction, but called the toad “she” in his next sentence, as if he took it for granted that I knew the toad was female and was self-correcting. But 2 or 3 sentences later, he had reverted back to “he,” also without really seeming to notice what he was doing.
Another time, I called a 2-yr-old girl’s caterpillar “her,” and the girl then referred to it with female pronouns once or twice, but couldn’t sustain it and brightly told me, “His name is Melissa!”
One time, I brought a 10-yr-old girl to the pet store so she could buy two pet mice. The mice were separated by sex, females in one cage, males in another. The girl knew she wanted two female mice and chose 2 feminine names for them, and was looking only at the mice in the female cage, yet she and the saleswoman both referred to ALL of the mice as “he” the entire time! e.g. “Oh look at that one; he’s so active! He’s stepping on his sister!” It was pretty amazing to witness.
And here’s a quote from a 4-yr-old boy, while playing with a toy:
“When boys turn [this lever], it keeps turning like this, see?”
I asked, “What about when girls turn it?”
He said, “Yeah, when boys or girls turn it.” Then he paused. “When I said ‘boys,’ what I meant was ‘people.’”
And another exchange I had, with a 3-yr-old boy:
The boy asked me, in reference to a toy dinosaur, “Does he bite?”
I replied, looking thoughtfully at the dinosaur, “Hmm, I don’t know if she bites.”
He looked at me in surprise. “Did you say ‘she’??”
“Yup,” I replied. “Maybe that dinosaur is a girl!”
“No!” he said, laughing.
“Because NO dinosaur is a girl!”
I’ve had numerous experiences like these over the years, in my interactions with hundreds of young children, and it’s become clear to me that “he” becomes the default VERY early in life, often by the age of 2 or 3. More specifically, by the time a child is able to even say “he” and “she,” it is almost guaranteed that s/he uses “he” as the default.
I’ll add a disclaimer here saying that I haven’t done any formal studies/research about this and of course can’t make any definitive statements about all children everywhere. But I’ve been working with young children for sixteen years, and this is what I have observed.
I am assuming this occurs because children hear the vast majority of adults using “he” as the default in everyday speech, and because “he” is the default in many children’s books/media. But sexism in children’s books/media is a post for another time!
If there’s ever any doubt about the presence of sexism in children’s lives, check out the rigid gender rules expressed through Halloween costumes.
Halloween is supposed to be, and used to be, a time for imagination, fantasy, and creativity… now, it’s a time for boys to be extra “boy,” and girls to be extra “girl.”
When I was growing up, I had a blast with Halloween costumes. I was a ballerina one year, but I was also Pippi Longstocking, Raggedy Ann, a spider, a witch (scary, not sexy!), a jester, Carol Anne from Poltergeist 3, a “cereal killer” (I carried a box of cereal with a knife through it), the color purple (head-to-toe purple and a purple wig), etc. Halloween was never just an excuse to look pretty and cute and glittery, like it seems to be now.
Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown discuss this phenomenon in their book, “Packaging Girlhood.” Reminiscing about the “good ole days” when Halloween was about having fun being someone you aren’t, with homemade costumes from Mom and Dad’s closet, they point out how much has changed – now Halloween “has become less about being who you aren’t for a night and more about fantasizing that you are the ultra-girl or uber-boy the material world says you should want to be.” (p. 23).
The authors analyze Halloween costume catalogs, and find that not only are there more boy costumes than girl costumes, but the girl costumes are quite limited, and are all about looking beautiful and sexy and cute. The costumes for boys emphasize action and power – superheros, ninjas, and warriors, ready to save the world, complete with fake, bulging muscles. The costumes for girls, on the other hand, don’t enable girls to DO anything, but merely to BE – “enchanting,” “purrrfectly coordinated,” “full of lightness and beauty.”
It’s like this in real life, not just in the pages of the catalogs.
My town has a huge Halloween festival every year (80,000 people attended last year), and I always watch the costume parade, paying special attention to the costumes. This year and last year, here’s what I saw:
About 80% of girls were dressed as Snow White, Cinderella, generic princesses, fairies, Tinkerbell, brides, cheerleaders, witches, and ultra feminine pirates.
About 80% of boys were dressed as Ninja Turtles, Batman, Spiderman, firefighters, soldiers, football players, sumo wrestlers, the Hulk, S.W.A.T. team guys, and Power Rangers.
It’s boring and wearisome to watch princess after princess after princess, with a bride thrown into the mix here and there. Ever notice that no little boy ever dresses up like a groom?
I was glad to see a few girls breaking the mold by dressing up as a PB&J sandwich, a sumo wrestler, and a caterpillar, but these girls were few and far between. I also noticed that while some of the boys were wearing gruesome, gory costumes that involved fake blood, wounds, fake teeth, zombie paint and bandages, etc., I didn’t see more than a handful girls with costumes like this. Perhaps because girls are not comfortable being even the slightest bit “ugly,” not even when it’s for Halloween. When I was a witch back in the 80s, I painted my whole face green and added a fake wart. Today, witch costumes must involve glitter, fishnets, and hats with a feathery trim.
Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown advise parents to “encourage [girls] to see [themselves] as something other than the pretty princess, the sexy diva, the veiled genie, or the glittery fairy. Help her imagine that she has power over more than how she looks, how well she serves her master, or what prince she attracts. […] If her heart is set on glitter, at least help her imagine a feisty fairy who takes on the magical realm’s evil dragon, a butterfly that saves the insect world, or a princess who can use a map to find her own way to the ball.” (p. 24)
PICK ME UP, was the scream of a huge-font book title I came across in the children’s room at the library, on the “new non-fiction” shelf. Subtitled “Stuff you need to know,” the book purports to give children all the information they need to know about, well, practically everything in the world.
The concept really appealed to me – I loved the idea of a children’s book about interesting historical events and people, animals, human biology and behavior, outer space, many countries, weather, media, and on and on. Curious, I took it home and read it.
Here’s what I found:
p. 22 applauds Beethoven
p. 24 praises Isaac Newton
p. 34-35 show “essential techniques to get you started in the world of movies,” and the only illustrations are of a man protecting a woman from a dinosaur (he stands slightly in front, with his arm shielding her), 6 more men (one with a gun aimed menacingly), and no other women.
p. 36 gives the Top Ten most memorable movie lines, and 9 are quotes by men.
p. 39 is about brains. There are photos of Albert Einstein and Arnold Schwarrzeneger in the Terminator, an illustration of a male head, and no females.
p. 45 talks about Jean-Jacques Rousseau
p. 48-49’s headline is, “How on Earth did man get to the moon?” and says, “…remember that a man blasted off into space little more than 50 years after the first airplane flew, and that humans have visited an alien world. How man (sorry, no women have visisted, yet) went to the moon is a tale of global rivalry, tremendous bravery, and computers as powerful as a pocket calculator.”
p. 52 asks, “Who’s the greatest? (sports star ever)” and answers with a full-page photo of and article about Muhammad Ali. Others top athletes profiled are Tiger Woods, Steven Redgrave, Pele, Deng Yaping, Katarina Witt. Note, 4 males, 2 females.
p. 58 has a photo and blurb about Bill Gates, bits about Alfred Bernhard Nobel and John Davison Rockefeller. No women.
p. 60-61 is about physics, and includes Democritus, Werner Heisenberg, Dmitri Mendeleyev, Charles Darwin, Richard Feynman, Einstein, Leonardo Da Vinci, Murray Gell-Mann, and hmmm, no women.
p. 62-63 says, “Imagine a world without printed words” and has a 2-page photo of a city scene with all the words erased. The intent is to show how different the world is when the magazine covers, billboards, street signs, store signs, and busses are all devoid of print. But you know what I noticed instead? There are 8 men visible/prominent, and only one woman tiny in the background.
p. 64 is a weblog of a viking GIRL, yay!
p. 66-67 is a comic of “Mister Holmes,” dog of Sherlock Holmes. The comic does feature 2 girls and a boy, but Mister Holmes is the big hero.
p. 80-81 is written for boys, so they can imagine what it would be like to be a girl for a day. Text includes the following: “Girls are born physically and mentally equipped to have children and then raise them into adults. They are biologically programmed to be more adept than boys at identifying with others. This is reinforced by society: girls are often given baby dolls to look after, for instance. This encourages them to be carers.” (This book never utters the word “sexism” or “patriarchy.”)
p. 86-87 is intended to make children think about where their food comes from. “It’s not just bakers who make bread,” the headline announces, and then there are photos of a male wheat farmer, a male government official, a male agricultural engineer, a male pilot, a female supermarket manager, and a male scientist. Yup, that’s 5 men and one woman.
p. 93’s topic is “Five speeches that changed the world.” Speeches by whom? That would be Gorbachev, Emmeline Pankhurst, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, JR – 4 men and 1 woman.
p. 96-97 has “three snapshots of the story of colonization,” with photos of 2 men, and 1 girl.
p. 114-115 lauds the “novelist big-shots from around the world” – Melville, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, Miguel de Cervantes, Franz Kafka, Chinua Achebe, Munshi Premchand, Leo Tolstoy, Murasaki Shikibu, and Virginia Woolf. Seven men, three women.
p. 130 asks, “Which animal is man’s* best friend?” Then in small font in the margin, there’s the meaning of the asterisk – “*and woman’s.”
p. 132, all of it, is about Einstein.
p. 138-139 asks, “Which revolution was the most revolting?” and features Vaclav Havel, George Washington, Robespierre, Vladimir Lenin, Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, and no women.
p. 148-151 features “The story of how Europeans got their brains working, from the Middle Ages to the Enlightenment, and discovered new things in philosophy, art, and science.” The timeline features an anonymous Benedictine monk, Peter Abelard, Giotto di Bondone, Giovanni di Bicii de’ Medici, Francesco Petrarca, Desiderius Erasmus, Christopher Columbus, Niccolo Machiavelli, Johannes Gutenberg, Michel de Montaigne, Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, Voltaire, Isaac Newton, Denis Dierot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant, Mozart, and not a single woman. Again, that’s TWENTY MEN, and no women.
p. 159 is about “How trains built modern London,” and talks of William Jessop, George Stephenson, and no women.
p. 184 asks, “Did James Watt make the most exciting machine ever?” (that would be the steam engine) and talks of Richard Arkwright, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, and…. no women.
p. 207 is all about “How Mr. Darwin changed the world.”
p. 216-217 professes, “Europe is all about people. Europe is a continent, but it is also an idea. It’s an idea shaped by individuals and based on a common history that has grown over thousands of years – right up to today’s European Union.” The people featured are: Martin Luther, Charlemagne, Julius Caesar, ABBA, Catherine the Great, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Napoleon, Karl Marx, Winston Churchill. That is, 9 men, and 3 women.
p. 225 is written for girls, so they can imagine what it would be like to be a boy for a day. The writers quote Freud, explaining that “boys’ and girls’ contrasting interests are set from birth,” because “’anatomy is destiny,’” and add, “…[S]ome research has suggested that boys use more of the part of the brain (the right side) that controls spatial awareness. This could be one of the reasons they are often more interested in sports – they may be better at judging distances and figuring out team tactics.”
p. 239 asks, “Was Freud a bit bonkers?” and answers, “… Actually, no.” There’s no mention of his sexism.
p. 254 talks some more about Leonardo Da Vinci.
p. 255 talks about Charles Babbage, Nostradamus, Arthur C. Clarke, and has quotes by Thomas Watson, Sir William Preece, and Harry Warner. Then there’s stuff about Nicholaus Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, HG Wells, Aldous Huxley, William Gibson, The Matrix, Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alexander Bain, yadda yadda. Not a single woman on the whole 2-pg. spread.
p. 260-263 is about superheros. A superhero is “a man or a woman possessed with the ability to fly, or phenomenal strength, which he or she will generally use to fight crime or rescue people in danger.” Then why are the vast majority of the superheros featured male? Superman, the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, and the X-Men.
p. 268, on slavery, mentions William Wilberforce, and yay, A WOMAN – Harriet Jacobs! The “slavery today” blurb is a 1.5”x4” box on human trafficking, and says, “Around 800,000 people, mainly women and children, are trafficked each year between countries.” Did I mention this topic has a whopping 1.5”x4” devoted to it?
p. 272 asks, “Who on Earth was Christopher Columbus?” and features a fake interview with his ghost. Sample question: “Some say you were a hero. Others think you were a villian. Which is true?” Columbus replies, “I’ll let you decide on that one. In the US, they celebrate Columbus Day – it’s a national holiday. Loads of Americans, especially those of Mediterranean descent (like me), think I’m a heroic symbol of the American ‘can-do’ attitude. But others see me as an evil rogue who treated Native Americans badly and who kicked off the Atlantic slave trade. I am so disliked in Venezuela that they renamed Columbus Day ‘the Day of Indigenous Resistance’ in honor of the nation’s Native groups. But these opinions are more to do with today’s politics than how things were in my lifetime. Honest.” Then there’s a blurb about “3 more great explorers,” which would be Roald Amundsen, James Cook, and Zheng He. No women.
p. 274 features James Dean.
p. 284 instructs children on “How to do a perfect wheelie,” and the illustrations are of a white male.
p. 292 gives kudos to Thomas Paine.
p. 294-295 are all about wars and the men who fought them.
p. 301 has illustrated warnings about not having magnets near MRI machines, and in the illustrations there are 4 males, no females.
p. 304 has a small photo and blurb about Ellen Church, first flight attendant.
p. 305-307 are all about the Beatles. There are also photos of Pete Best, Brian Epstein, Bob Dylan, Ozzy, Bill Haley, Frank Sinatra, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Bono, Run DMC, Brian Wilson, REM, Elvis, and THE SUPREMES ARE THE ONLY FEMALES ON THE PAGE.
p. 314-315 are about buildings, and Alexander the Great, Marc Antony, Napoleon, Isaac Newton, and no women.
p. 322-323 are about art – by 2 anonymous artists, Michelangelo, Edouard Manet, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol, Bansky, and guess what, no women.
p. 324-325 are on globalization. This time, there are photos of 3 men and 3 women. Then there’s this blurb: “What was the battle of Seattle? The WTO is a body that decides the rules for world trade. At its meeting in Seattle in December 1999, protestors turned up to demonstrate against the impact of gloablization. They wanted fair trade for poorer countries and a better deal for the environment. Riot police clashed with thousands of demonstrators (all captured by TV cameras, of course) and 600 people were arrested. The ‘Battle of Seattle’ put the issue of globalization on the front pages around the world.” (Riot police clashed “WITH” the demonstrators? More like assaulted them!)
So. There’s all that. And then there’s page 31, which states, “Feminism: the view that women are equal to men and deserve the same rights. Feminism is no longer relevant. Women and men now live together in equality. Discuss.”
Okay, let’s discuss! I’ve already highlighted the inexcusable male-centric focus of the book’s contents… let’s take a look at what could have caused this:
Pick Me Up: Stuff you need to know, published in 2006, was devised and produced for DK by John Brown Citrus Publishing. The Chief Operating Officer of John Brown Publishing is a man, Andrew Jarvis; the managing director is a man, Dean Fitzpatrick; the CEO is a man, Andrew Hirsch. DK’s CEO is a man, Gary June. DK is part of the Penguin Group, and the CEO is a man, David Shanks, as is the Chairman and Chief Executive, John Makinson.
This book, specifically, was created and edited by two men, David Roberts and Jeremy Leslie. The Art Director is a man, Ian Pierce; the Deputy Editor is a man, Martin Skegg; and the Staff Writer is a man, Oliver Horton. There are two women: Managing Editor Rosie Mellor, and Assistant Ed. Becky Lucas.
Female designers for this book actually outnumber the male designers by four to two, and the two Picture Researchers are women…but sixteen of the twenty-two writers are men, and five of the seven consultants are men.
p. 126 explains how the book was made: it starts with the editorial team getting together to talk – that would be the editor, the deputy editor, the art director, the assistant editor, and the staff writer. These five men and one woman decide on the book’s content, and then delegate the research and writing to the staff. “Sometimes the staff writer [male] or one of the eds. [male] is given this job, and sometimes a writer who knows a lot about this sort of subject [one of the 16 males, or 6 females] is asked to do the work instead. When the words are finished, they are edited by one of the editors [male] and passed to the art director [male]. It’s his job to have a chat with the editor [male] and then work out how the page will look…. The page has to be sent to an expect on the subject, called a ‘consultant,’ [one of the five males or two females] for them to check that there aren’t any mistakes to be corrected or better information to use.”
So there ya have it. A bunch of MEN sit around talking about what it’s important for children to know about, then write a book all about males and men and boys and masculinity and patriarchy, cross-referencing each other for validation when they’re unsure about what they’re saying, then announce that feminism’s dead because “women and men now live together in equality.” Because they say so.
For years, I’ve been annoyed with how sexist most Disney fairytales are, but it wasn’t until I read “The Disney Princess Carry Along Treasury” book, written by Rita Balducci in 2003, that it all “clicked” for me and I became truly scared of Disney’s messages, scared for the safety and well-being of the little girls who eat this stuff up like candy. The stories in this book do nothing less than groom girls to be submissive, happy victims of violence and abuse.
Full text of the Snow White story:
“A long time ago, an Evil Queen tried to kill a young Princess named Snow White. (1) She was jealous of the young girl’s beauty and goodness.(2) Snow White escaped into the woods and found safety with Seven Dwarves.(3) They love and protect her from harm.(4) In return, Snow White cooked and cleaned for her new friends.(2) Every evening, they danced and were merry, never dreaming that the Queen was still plotting to harm the Princess. One morning, an old woman (5) offered her a big red apple. Snow White innocently took a bite – and fell to the floor. The jealous Queen had disguised herself and poisoned the Princess. The sad Dwarves placed the lovely girl(2) on a golden platform and stood watch over her. One day, a Prince rode through the woods. He saw Snow White and knelt to kiss her.(6) Her eyes fluttered open and she knew at once he was the Prince of her dreams!(7)”
(1) Violence in the opening line. Also, women in Disney stories are always enemies, never friends or allies. Mothers, especially, are either dead or Evil.
(2) Snow White is valued only for her beauty, goodness, sweetness, and domestic abilities. The Queen’s jealousy of Snow White’s beauty encourages girls’ obsession with appearance, and competitiveness amongst one another.
(3) Message = “Women are your enemies, but you’ll be safe alone with seven strange men in the middle of nowhere!” It’s the direct opposite of the truth.
(4) Message = Snow White needs to be protected because she’s too weak and helpless to take care of herself.
(5) Demonization of older women
(6) Promotes sexual assault. A man finds an UNCONSCIOUS WOMAN (aka a woman who is UNABLE TO CONSENT) and kisses her.
(7) And of course, she likes it!
Partial text of Cinderella story:
“There was once a young Princess named Cinderella whose wicked stepmother put her to work as a servant. Although she worked hard, Cinderella never complained. She was kind to all the mice and birds and never gave up on her dreams.”
Again, it’s a woman, a mother, who is the Evil one.
The message this story sends to young girls is: Even if you are horribly mistreated/abused, suck it up and don’t “complain!” Don’t dare have enough self-worth to realize, ‘hey, I don’t deserve this,’ or seek help. Just be unfailingly gentle and kind to every living creature, and dream dream dream, and maybe someday your Prince will rescue you.
This story very clearly depicts abuse as acceptable.
Full text of Beauty and the Beast story:
“One day, a young girl named Belle was taken prisoner by a Beast in an enchanted castle. The Beast seemed fierce and cruel, but the other members of the household [anthropomorphic furniture, it must be clarified here] became Belle’s friends. The Beast grew very fond of Belle, and wanted to please her. He invited her to dance with him under the stars. Belle realized that the Beast had a kind heart and began to enjoy his company, too. One of the men who wanted to marry Belle was a selfish man named Gaston. When he learned of Belle’s feelings for the Beast, he gathered the townspeople together to kill him. Gaston and the Beast fought on the slippery roof of the castle. It was a fierce fight. As the Beast lay dying, Belle realized that she truly cared for him and whispered the words ‘I love you.’ Suddenly there was a flash of light, and the Beast was transformed into a handsome young Prince. Their love had broken the spell!”
This is the story I find most appalling and that chills me to the bone.
Let’s re-cap, shall we? A woman is kidnapped by a cruel, fierce man, who, BLESS HIS POOR SOUL, is really so NICE once you get to know him! He wants to “please” his victim, so does he let her go? Noooo, he dances with her under the stars, and of COURSE the grateful woman realizes how NICE her abuser is. Why, she learns to ENJOY being his prisoner.
Meanwhile, Misogynist #2 is pissed that Misogynist #1 is trying to claim HIS woman. He wants to conquer (ahem, “marry”) her, so let’s see, how shall he go about making that happen? Be kind to her and invite her to spend time with him so they can get to know each other? Of course not! Her feelings for him, or consent to a relationship, are irrelevant. No, he will claim her by murdering the person he believes she loves the most. It doesn’t matter that this would upset her, because like we’ve established, her feelings and thoughts aren’t worth shit. So, Misogynist #1 and Misogynist #2 violently fight for their prize. It would be absolutely unthinkable for the woman to choose neither violent, controlling man (that just doesn’t happen in the Disney world!), and she has no friends or support system – save the anthropomorphic furniture – so she chooses Misogynist #1, whom she has at least become familiar with after spending so much time with him – being his prisoner and all. She tells him she loves him, and POOF! he turns into a handsome, youthful Prince and they live happily ever after. (If he’s young and gorgeous, he totally can’t be abusive, right? Right!)
This is the story of a domestic abuse victim. Belle is kidnapped and held prisoner by an admittedly cruel, fierce man, who maintains her isolation from friends and family and potential support systems, and yet he is portrayed as the poor, misunderstood hero of the story, worthy of Belle’s compassion and love. When he transforms into a “handsome young Prince” after Belle declares her love for him, this wrongfully teaches girls (that is, tells girls the LIE) that abusive men just seem that way, but deep down they’re not, and that if you just LOVE THEM ENOUGH, the Prince within will be freed! If the man remains abusive, it’s your own fault for not forgiving him, not giving him more chances, not loving him enough. It’s victim-blaming; it puts the onus of responsibility on the woman.
Often, the general public’s attitude about domestic violence is, “Why doesn’t she leave him?”, when of course, the correct question is, “Why doesn’t he stop abusing her?” If anyone’s wondering where this victim-blaming attitude about domestic violence comes from, look no further than the popular media little girls are being brainwashed with at the highly impressionable age of 2 or 3 years old. (I discovered this book while providing childcare for a girl who just turned 3, actually. The book is one of her favorites). In recent years, scientists have discovered that humans’ neuronal development is most crucial, rapid, and malleable between the ages of birth and 3, that “how children function from the preschool years all the way through adolescence, and even adulthood, hinges in large part on their experience before the age of three” (p. 6, Starting Points for Young Children, Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1994). The information we are feeding to these rapidly developing, highly malleable brains matters greatly, and there is no excuse for reciting propoganda that primes them to submit to abuse.
Why was it even written? Why was it published? Why is it distributed? Why do adults buy it for young girls? Why aren’t we enraged and protesting?
What is feminism?
The dictionary defines feminism as the movement for social, political, and economic equality between men and women, but there are many, many definitions of feminism – or, feminismS. My personal feminism, however, is different and has little to do with men. I am a feminist because I love being a woman, love women, and strive to make the world a better place for women and girls.
I often hear feminists – mostly those who are relatively new to feminism – talking about how difficult it can be to “keep fighting the good fight.” It’s so exhausting and overwhelming, they say, to be aware of such pervasive misogyny everywhere you turn. How does one keep on fighting?
My response is, don’t. Stop fighting, and start living. My feminism consists not of fighting patriarchy, but of disengaging from it entirely. Back in college, when I was just getting into feminism, I was surprised by how much joy and laughter there was in our feminist meetings and classes and marches and rallies. I loved the sense of community and connection I felt with the women around me, and considered it a wonderful “bonus” or “byproduct” of the serious work we were doing. Sometimes I secretly felt guilty for having such a wonderful time at, say, Take Back the Night (TBTN). After the first Take Back the Night march I participated in, a local feminist folk singer performed, while we participants munched on cookies and snacks, talked, laughed, and danced. People’s energy and moods were high, and the air was buzzing. I found myself giggling wildly as a six-year-old girl I had just met pulled me around the dance floor, resulting in the two of us collapsing in a heap on the rug, laughing and gasping for air.
Part of me was thinking, how dare I be so full of joy and laughter? Take Back the Night is a serious event! It’s about ending sexual violence, for crying out loud – not dancing and laughing!
Then one day I realized that forging those beautiful, strong, wonderful connections with women was not at all a bonus or by product of feminist activism…I had had it all backwards. Connecting with women is now my goal, and my only goal. It is my feminism. When we women connect with each other, we are mutually empowering each other. As Sonia Johnson puts it, “If all people realized the extent of their personal power, no one could control anyone else.”
I reflected upon that TBTN march, and realized that that event of ours probably did not stop rapists from raping. The most we can say for sure is that during those hours when we women were all together, marching, singing, dancing, no men could rape us. And that’s the key. It’s not about us women being loud and angry and commanding enough so that men must wake up and start treating us with respect… it’s about us women bonding together so strongly, loving each other so deeply, creating space together that’s made indestructable and inpenetrable by our devotion to each other’s well-being. It’s not about “them,” “out there,” it’s about us, right here, right now.
I no longer go out of my way to call the White House, sign and circulate petitions, write angry letters to the editor, and so on and so forth. Instead, my feminism consists of bonding with women. If we women put as much energy into loving ourselves and each other as we put into fighting patriarchy, patriarchy could not exist. I highly recommend books by Sonia Johnson, especially Wildfire: Igniting the She/volution. [Note: I don’t agree with/endorse everything she says in it…but as a whole, it’s extremely thought-provoking and inspiring].
Her main point is: “The means are the ends. HOW we do something is WHAT we get,” and “What we resist, persists.” That is, the more energy we direct towards patriarchy – even towards “fighting” it – the stronger it becomes, paradoxically. It’s necessary instead to disengage from it entirely. The more we keep “fighting” for that “better world” that will come “someday,” the less energy we have to live free and happy right NOW. Only by living joyfully, freely, and fearlessly right NOW can we EVER have freedom, joy, and fearlessness, because the present moment, NOW, is all that really exists anyway.
I go to anti-war marches not because I actually expect them to stop the war – I don’t – but because it’s exhilarating to “party in the streets” with thousands of other peace-lovin people. I don’t stand and listen to the stodgy speakers ramble on and on and on…I grab on to the train of loud, giddy teenagers who are banging on pots and pans and singing as they dance through the crowd. I move away from the angry people yelling “peace” chants through bullhorns, and move towards the hippies who are drumming and sharing chocolate cake.
This is my feminism:
I swim naked in the river with my lesbian witch friends, and then we stay up till 3 am cooking yummy food and painting on each other with Nutella and watching happy, woman-positive movies.
I babysit for awesome sisters and we go to the playground when it’s raining so the slides become waterslides and giggle and shriek as we slide down.
I whisper in my baby niece’s ear how strong, intelligent, wise, wonderful, and loved she is and always will be.
I go to Vagina Monologue rehearsals, and join the other cast members in gleefully yelling 36 different names for “vagina” off of the auditorium balcony.
I hug and kiss my mom and tell her I love her every single time I see her.
I am in an airport and see a grandmother with her grandson, struggling to calm his tears and carry all his gear at the same time, and I let him hold my stuffed frog while I carry the diaper bag for her with a friendly smile and ask if there’s anything else I can do to help.
I celebrate Valentine’s Day by going to bell hooks’ book reading and give her a valentine that makes her grin and that makes me grin all day.
I drive around with friends and think up new lyrics for sexist songs on the radio and shout them happily to the sky with all the windows down and the sun-roof open.
I go to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival every year, camping in the woods with 6000 amazing womyn.
I take myself out on dinner-and-date movies, all dressed up, and keep a list in my journal about all the things I love about myself. I do self-love rituals, and meditate to send loving energy to my wounded self in various stages of girlhood.
I send my women friends little love notes, telling them why I love them.
I go to women doctors, [m]atronize women-owned businesses, choose women teachers, buy from women-owned stores, read books by women, listen to music created by women, and watch movies written and directed by women.
I sponsor a 7-year-old girl in the Middle East, monetarily, and send her letters to let her know I’m thinking of her and her family, wish her well, and encourage her in school.
I work for mothers, as an in-home childcare provider, under the table – a passive way of being a war-tax resister!
I honor the Goddess, and celebrate the Pagan holidays/do ritual work with a circle of women.
I went through an extensive, 9-month training in the Wise Woman tradition of herbal/natural magic and healing, to learn, honor, and apply the knowledge and wisdom of our foremothers.
This is my feminism. Loving our female selves and each other is the most radical, revolutionary act there is, and if we truly accomplished this – discovered the full extent of our personal power and empowered each other, and loved ourselves and each other wholeheartedly and unconditionally – patriarchy would simply cease to exist.