Need a last-minute gift that fights gender stereotypes and racial oppression? Khadijah Costley White offers 20 awesome ideas.
As we face the last gift-buying weekend before Christmas, I’m sure many a procrastinating feminist is wondering what to buy that little girl (or boy) in their lives. While most feminist gift lists focus on toys that aim to diminish the achievement gaps between boys and girls, this list is going to aim even higher. This is a black feminist gift list.
The Black Feminist movement grew out of the increasing discrimination and marginalization that black women experienced in their work with white women in women’s liberation struggles. Groups like the Combahee Collective, social theorists like Audre Lorde, and activists like Ida B. Wells realized that when white women push for equality with white men, they often fail to address the racism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression many women experience. And the struggle to build solidarity across these boundaries continues to this day.
So, I figured I’d take a stab at creating a gift list for girls that does more than just undo patriarchy, but aims to undo the kinds of overlapping oppressions and cultural divisions experienced by billions of women across the world. Plus, a list that helps girls appreciate all sorts of different ways of being. Here are some of my personal black feminist faves for girls ranging from the little wee ones to teens:
1. The Magical Adventures of Pretty Pearl, by Virginia Hamilton
2. Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie
3. Grandmama’s Joy, by Eloise Greenfield
4. Nappy Hair, by Carolivia Herron
5. My Princess Boy, by Cheryl Kilodavis
6. Telescope: What girl doesn’t want to be able to look up into the sky and learn more about the universe? Many a scientist got their start by gazing at the stars. Let’s kickstart that love for the earth and all its intricacies with a telescope and some constellation maps of the heavens.
7. Musical instrument: Not every girl will be Arasala Kanyakumari or Sheila Esccovedo, but music is the gateway to the soul. Even better than listening to music is being able to make it yourself. Take a little girl, stand in the middle of a music store, and let her choose whatever instrument she wants. Giving her an opportunity to explore what gives her joy at an early age is setting her on the exact right path. And, if you’re lucky, that music will give you joy right back (at the very least, you can always donate the instrument if things don’t quite work out).
8. Canvas, paint, and brushes: Every little girl has an inner visual artist. Scrap the crayons and coloring book for a full-on artist’s experience. Lay down some newspaper and let your painter have at it. She’ll have some space to just sit and create, and you’ll love anything she makes—it’s a win-win.
9. Martial arts lessons: Nothing was as key to my early feminist development as doing karate. Gymnastics was awesome, but karate made me feel strong, tough, and capable. I wasn’t a little girl in karate, I was a practitioner learning ancient skills that would help me defend myself, teach me a little Japanese, and fill my head with dreams of becoming a black belt master.
10. Guess My Race App: Want to talk about race with your daughter, but don’t know how? This is a great iTunes app that can help you start talking to your little girl about race as a thing we make up, but racial inequality as an issue we must all fight. This can also help start a conversation about gender as a social construction. (More on how to talk to your kids about race here.)
11. Save Your Do Gym Wrap: Created by a black actress, this item aims to help your little girl keep from sweating out her ‘do when she’s off climbing, kicking, and running.
12. Hair fun kit: There’s nothing quite like putting your hands into the stuff that crowns your head and figuring out all the ways you’d like to present yourself to the world. You might not feel comfortable giving your little girl scissors, but you can give her a bunch of items that will unleash her inner self on her outer looks. On this list, I’d add hairspray, hair gel, washable hairspray color, barrettes, hair pins and clips, ponytail holders, nourishing crèmes/oils, and a brush/comb.
14. Capes: Fine, this isn’t really clothes as much as a costume. But seriously, every little girl needs a superhero cape. If you can’t find one, make one. In fact, letting her come up with her own superhero (who fights things like poverty and homophobia, just a suggestion) and self-designed cape might be the best and most badass gift ever.
15. A T-Shirt of her own design: There are hundreds of websites where you can design your own T-shirts. I suggest letting her find her own black feminist hero, locate her favorite quote, and design a T-shirt around it. Clearly, creativity is the name of the game when it comes to my gift list, but I can’t imagine anything more fun.
16. Whale Rider, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes: Basically the best fairy tale about a little girl ever. The fact that it involves a little girl of color from an indigenous group in New Zealand and is about honoring traditional cultures just blows it out of the park. Plus, it’s written and directed by a woman from New Zealand.
17. Akeelah and the Bee, starring Keke Palmer: There are basically no words to describe how adorable and endearing this film is.
18. Pariah, starring Adepero Oduye: This coming-out film about a black lesbian teenager living in New York City is definitely for teens and not little people. It’s beautifully shot and incredibly well-performed. And, it’s written and directed by a woman.
19. Hairspray, starring Ricki Lake/Nikki Blonsky: So, I know most folks might not agree with this choice, but I loved that this movie is about recognizing the artificial boundaries that race and racism erects when it comes to doing the things we love. A film about a young white girl challenging racial boundaries and you get to do the twist? Sorry, but this is definitely on my list.
20. Wadjda, starring Waad Mohammed: This is a Saudi Arabian film about a little girl who dreams of owning a bicycle, against social norms that control her life. And, it’s written and directed by a Saudi woman. (Since it’s subtitled, it might be better suited for girls 10 and older.)
This, of course, is not a definitive list by any measure, just a way to get us started. What sort of black feminist gifts would you add to the list?
Khadijah Costley White is a faculty member in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. Find her on Twitter here.