Saturday, 27 April 2019

Why calling Greta Thunberg 'a girl in pigtails' is so deeply troubling

All children's and YA authors will have been on the receiving end of the question 'When are you going to write an adult novel?' Maybe one day I will, maybe I won't but what I think is at the core of the question is a perception that writing for young people is somehow of a lesser quality or importance than novels written solely for adults.

I know I'm not alone in hearing from adults who have picked up my inter-generational stories that they spoke to them powerfully, but sometimes this is said with an element of surprise.

I fear that what is deeply embedded in our society is an attitude towards children and young people that denigrates their abilities and by extension those who create work for them. As an author and Amnesty Ambassador I am constantly inspired by the young people I meet, their vision, clarity and bravery. I have often written  young women characters who put themselves on the line and stand up to inequality when they see it.

As Greta Thunberg has stated again and again... she has not mobilised children throughout the world to leave school to make governments of the world listen.... for fun! She has done so because time is of the essence.... she is a young woman with all her life ahead of her... and that life will be compromised by lack of action.

So for adults to denigrate a young woman who has ( unlike so many world leaders) used social media as a force for good and speaks to power with clarity, passion and wisdom.... is for me a deeply troubling sign of disrespect to young women and young people in our society.

It disrespects girls, women and  childhood.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Rights of The Child.

I've heard people talk negatively about young people knowing their rights countering the argument by the suggestion that 'they should know their responsibilities.'

In a week where children experiencing hunger in this country spoke in Parliament of the shame of child poverty I am incredulous at some of the commentary I read by adults in relations to children and childhood.

In my mind it is the children today who are showing responsibilty with great dignity and honesty. When adults choose to respond by calling one extraordinary young woman 'a girl in pigtails'
it speaks volumes to me of who needs to learn some respect... and it's not the children.

I for one am proud to be a children's and YA walk side by side with them, help with the power of the imagination to speak to their humanity in these tender present times and to narrate them into a brighter future.


Greta Thunberg - ' You're never too small to make a difference'

Greta Thunberg - Full Speech to UK Parliament