The daughter of a close friend recently turned 10, and I went to a children’s book and toy store to look for a gift. I made my way past the picture books, marvelling at how fast the time has gone since I was buying her a Scaredy Squirrel book for her sixth birthday, and stood looking at the chapter book display, which was fairly small. It had none of my own childhood favourites, but one title did catch my eye: Girls Who Rocked the World.
I picked it up and flipped through. The book consisted of short chapters about a number of different powerful women from throughout history and into the present, representing activists, politicians, artists, authors, performers, scientists, and athletes, among others. Interspersed throughout were profiles of contemporary girls who were active in their communities, and quotes from girls about how they wanted to rock their world. According to the back cover, “They all changed the world before hitting twenty, and so can you!” It was a bit cheesy, and I had concerns about some of the women included within the book, but it was also informative and engagingly written, and something I thought my friend’s daughter would enjoy.
I also noticed that, on first glance, the women listed in the Table of Contents appeared quite diverse. While white women dominated the list, which was also heavily American, women of colour both from the U.S. and from a variety of other areas were also present (at least, more than I would have expected).
It wasn’t until I had bought the book and was walking home that it occurred to me to check whether there were any Muslim women among those profiled. I looked through the Table of Contents again, and was disappointed that only one Muslim was listed among the 46 chapters. This wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker in itself, although it was annoying, given how many Muslim women there are in the world; surely the writers could have found more than one. I also noted that there were no African women, which is also an inexcusable oversight.
Even worse was that the profile of the one Muslim woman listed, Yemeni journalist Amatalrauf al-Sharki, more widely known as Raufa Hassan, revolved primarily around one thing. Any guesses? [Read more...]