I was recently asked by a bloke on the internet “what is a pro-woman
The term “pro-woman” really came from a reluctance on my part to use the word “feminist” to describe my work in an open forum; this stemmed from experience of how very off-putting using the F word to describe anything can be for many people, particularly on the internet.
In any event, and perhaps predictably, this man saw straight through my sugar-coating of the feminism thing, and his question turned out to be the preamble to a really spectacular explanation for me of what fairy and folk tales should be like, where they originated, what they were for, and how they should be written. He very helpfully offered to “point you [me] towards a list of books- mainly Russian postmodern/deconstructives” to better inform me on the subject.
The whole experience was good for a laugh and an eyeroll, and a sarky reply about there being a certain comfort to be taken in the fact there will always be some dude on the internet ready to explain a woman’s book to her.
But if we’re just going to call a spade a spade, and refer to these as “feminist fairy tales”, what does that actually mean?
The definition that I initially gave to my internet pal was, “One where the women aren’t pathetic and constantly needing rescued.” But there’s a bit more to it than that. I was gifted a book of Hans Christian Andersen stories this year by a very thoughtful friend, and was horrified at what the 21st century had done to my beloved girlhood fairy tales – sanitised, dumbed-down, layers of complexity stripped off here, there and everywhere. The female characters suffered particularly, as women so often do, and reading The Little Mermaid broke my heart when I discovered that these days she’s no longer a complex dreamer making tough choices in her pursuit of an immortal soul, but just another bonny princess who gives up her voice so a prince will fall in love with her.
Growing up in 1980s semi-rural Scotland with a father who refused to let me drive a car until I could change a tyre and check the oil, and who responded with a nod and “great, do that then” to my plan at 8 years old to become the Prime Minister* was a pretty good way to learn some feminism (THANK YOU DAD); the rest of it I absorbed in the dead of night by the blue light of a smartphone, as I tried with varying degrees of success to breastfeed three babies who just wouldn’t sleep.
It was trying to perform that most archetypal womanly role, The Mother that caused me to question everything I had internalised about womanhood (weak), femininity (pretty) and feminism (BAD). Raising three boys also forced me to consider the effects of our social norms on males; how do the equally complex and sensitive humans allocated the identity of “man” at birth feel about the rules we attribute to that role?
So this book is the result of that process. I wanted to give children and young adults (and maybe even their parents) something to read that was a bit more thoughtful than the mainstream, with more modern values. And to give you the full and final answer I sent my fabulously informative internet pal, pro-woman to me simply means that my women are not reduced to a one-dimensional role in relation to how desirable (or otherwise) they are to men. It also means that many of my male characters are strong enough to overcome limiting and damaging patriarchal values. In that respect, Hans Christian Andersen was light years ahead of the modern retellings of his work, and I am an awful lot more inspired by his angle on it all.
Originally I had planned for this book to be a colouring-in book, but unfortunately budget constraints put paid to the “dream format”. It should still be possible to use colouring pencils on the pages if you fancy it though, so feel free to bring Megan’s beautiful illustrations to life in any way that feels right to you. In due course I also plan to upload printable versions of the illustrations to my website for you to download, so keep an eye on http://somethinglovely.scot if you don’t want to draw on your own copy.
I hope you enjoy The Silver Moon Storybook, and thanks for reading.
*In all fairness, an 8 year old with a reasonably well-developed moral compass might seem like a decent option these days, but that’s a rant for another time.