The folks over at CRAP! (Child Rearing Against Patriarchy) have released a feminist kidzine, Spratz!. It sounds cool, but the thing is: I don't really get it.
CRAP! has just made the zine available for download in PDF form. It's a good idea - parents can print out the zine and distribute it to their kids and young feminists can search out the alternative form of media on their own, maybe even circulate copies amongst their friends. However, reading through Spratz!, I found myself confused as to who its creators are targeting. The zine is compiled by a group of kids and adults, who clearly have very different ideas about the message they want to disseminate. As one might expect, it's the kids who have a better handle on what children might want to read. The stories and illustrations created by children - including The Tough Cinderella and a short cartoon about sexism - are more lighthearted and fun than just about anything else.
Which is the major problem with Spratz!: it's just not very much fun. I can't imagine a time in my childhood when I would have picked this up and thought how exciting! let's read about sexism and discrimination! While, yes, it must be difficult to make learning about these topics enjoyable, I am not sure why one would try. The word-searches and crossword puzzles are a fun inclusion (although somewhat poorly executed) but the feminist quiz, featuring questions like "How many women and children were murdered in total as part of the 'witch hunts' between the 14-17th century in Europe?" and "How many of the world's poor are women and girls?" is baffling. As is the inclusion of a blurb about Andrea Dworkin, who is described as "famous for her passionate campaign against pornography." The entire thing goes back and forth between sending the message that "Sexism isn't funny!" and trying to make learning about sexism fun. I'm no expert, I can't help but think that the children young enough to enjoy this sort of thing are also too young to appreciate the true meaning of homophobia, and probably too young to be discussing the evils of pornography.
That said, in the end, Spratz! is probably more a zine for feminist parents than anyone else. It highlights the difficulties of teaching kids about something as pervasive and nuanced as the patriarchy, or as frighteningly real as domestic violence. However, these topics are probably something best approached not through a zine filled with cartoons and games, but an honest, serious conversation. I don't believe in coddling children, or shielding them from reality, but there are ways to introduce children to feminism that are a lot more fun. As a kid, my favorite books were a series of fantasy novels by Tamora Pierce about a girl who wanted to be a knight. I read that series - which this site revisited in a post back in May 2008 - until the spines fell apart and the pages were stuck together with maple syrup. Alanna was a far more accessible feminist hero to me than Germaine Greer, and I don't think there is anything wrong with that. She may not have been real, but she opened the door for me to discuss sexism and gender discrimination with my openly feminist mother. There are so many books out there about strong girls and admirable historical figures, that it doesn't make much sense to set kids looking for "Dworkin" in a word search. Parents should be able to speak with their children about violence and injustice, but to indoctrinate them into feminism through anger seems somehow counterproductive. Kids need positive role models, people to admire, more than they need someone to hate. There is time enough for that when they're a bit older.