Social Change for the Kids: Feminist Coloring Books and the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck

Lindsay Eanet

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This is first of an occasionally-weekly ITT List series on ways social progressivism is reaching the next generation, both in America and worldwide. This edition's topics: feminist coloring books and NYC's Big Gay Ice Cream has a post this week about artists Julie Novak and Jacinta Bunnell, who have created coloring books for young children to combat the "Disney Princess" approach to femininity and gender roles. Instead of waiting to be rescued, the Rapunzel depicted in the aptly-titled Girls Are Not Chicks takes her future into her own hands with "some power tools, a pair of scissors, a roll of duct tape, a Tina Turner album and a bus pass."In its companion book, Girls Will Be Boys and Boys Will Be Girls, traditional gender roles are shattered; boys pick up baking supplies, girls drumsticks.More information on the books can be found on the Girls Not Chicks website.Douglas Quint started New York's most-discussed dessert dispenser, the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck, not necessarily to promote acceptance but to make some money with a unique summer enterprise. The truck has been featured in a number of articles and blog posts over the past several weeks, most highlighting its distinctive offerings (most notably cayenne pepper as a topping and the "choinkwich," a chocolate ice cream sandwich with caramelized bacon) as opposed to its colorful, heteronormativity-stomping logo.But the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck's added consequence, gradually dismantling homophobia (particularly in language) among the NYC youths who buy the truck's treats, is not to be ignored. An excerpt from one of Quint's blog posts sheds some light on the truck's larger implications: Lots of kids- most seem to be tourists- point at the truck banners. They tell their parents "it says GAY on it!" The first time I didn't think much of it, but it happens consistently and I've started to pay attention to how the parents react to their child. Usually the kid is between 7 and 12, I'd say. You can tell that they only think of the word 'gay' as an insult. The parents brush it off. I can see that some of them do so naturally, and others take a brief moment while they decide how to react. They shrug, or tell their child "yep, it's the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck." Sometimes they even come over for a cone.This makes me wonder if the kid might learn something. I suppose to most kids on the playground "you're so gay" is about like being calling another kid a "retard." Both of these, as a kid, don't mean much until you they hit home. It didn't hurt most kids, but I remember hearing "gay" as an insult back then, and thinking "But that's me. Why is this so terrible?"An aside: I used to throw out the term "retard" all the time. Sometimes it still slips, and God do I want to slap myself when that happens. My lesson came when I was volleying the term around and a good friend said "Please don't use that as an insult. My brother is mentally challenged and when you say that, it hurts me." I was reduced to a pulp, and I'm glad for it.I wonder if my silly banner, and the child/parent reactions to it, might be a good thing. Maybe one or two of the kids that pass by my truck will now think twice before using "gay" as an insult. If that keeps one kid from hearing it the way I (and lots of you) did- as a personal attack- I'm proud. Readers in the New York City area who want to find the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck can do so by following it on Twitter.

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Lindsay Eanet is an In These Times editorial intern and a journalism student at the University of Missouri.
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