I just realized I haven’t even talked on the blog about the book project that has been getting all my attention lately. My friend Eden, who was my teacher in High School, and an absolute inspiration who helped make me the person I am today, recently emailed me with a great book idea she came up with when she was pregnant with her first daughter. She wanted me to illustrate and collaborate on it. It’s a book which flips a lot of negative societal ideas and images about girls and women on their heads, and portrays “Girly” and “Like a Girl” as things that are honest and genuine, and lets little girls be proud of who they are. It also is an alphabet book, and because of this, it will teach the power of literacy. Not only that, but reaching out to very young girls, and reaffirming from a young age that they are awesome, will hopefully combat any negative messages or ideas they come across later in life. They’ll remember the ideas and images in this book, as ingrained as the letters, and have unshakable confidence in themselves.
Through this book, I hope to combat, not just the sexism inherit in our society, but many other negative perceptions many of these girls may someday face. I have “Princess” type girls, and “tomboy” type girls, girls with short hair, long hair, straight hair and Afros. Girls with glasses, girls with prosthetic limbs. Some girls will grow up to feel more stereotypically feminine, and I want them to know that’s fine. Some girls will grow up to feel more stereotypically masuline, and that’s fine too. I want trans kids and trans parents too feel positive about this book. I want families of color to see their faces in here. This is a book about breaking down those social stereotypes and flipping them on their head, and saying to our young people, “You decide who you are.”
The ABCs in the book are attributes, and careers that many women, period, and often especially, women of color, and disabled women are told from a young age they can’t have. I’m specifically including actual trailblazing, real-life women as my inspirations for many of these illustrations. They aren’t labeled as such, because I want kids to be able to envision themselves in each letter. But many of these illustrations are based on real women. One of my favorite, A is for Astronaut, is drawn from an incredible photo of Ellen Ochoa, the first Hispanic-American woman into space. It was difficult to choose between her, Sally Ride, who broke barriers for the LGBTQ community as well, Valentina Tereshkova who was the first woman in space, and the list goes on. Nevertheless, women were barred for many years at NASA, and are still under represented. I wanted girls to know that despite that, it could be them. There have been incredible female astronauts before and there will be more in the future.
Another favorite of mine was G is for Gamer, which I painted while listening to amazing Game critic and journalist Anita Sarkeesian. She writes about misogyny towards women and girls online, especially in video games, and ways we can work towards a future where video games are safe and fun for all. She has been physically threatened for her views, but many women rally to that belief and continue to play games online and off that some view as “male-only”.
There are numerous examples of female sailors who set records solo sailing around the world, or biologists who saved entire ecosystems. The qualities they had, and the careers they worked in are continuing to open more and more to women, and the little girls of today may be tomorrow’s saviors. The researcher who cures cancer, or the engineer who finds a way for us to terraform other planets, there is no way to know what the future holds. However, what we can know is that if we continue with the status quo of oppressing more than half of the population, mentally, educationally, and financially, none of us will be able to succeed. None of us will get anywhere if all of us aren’t coming.
Stay tuned for this book, and if you want to watch as I finish the illustrations, look for them on Instagram: @wimahl 😀