MAY DAY-ARGENTINA: ‘My Mom Is a Taxi Driver’

  • by Marcela Valente (buenos aires)
  • Inter Press Service

The six books, recommended for children over seven, are 'My Mom Is a Taxi Driver', 'My Mom Is a Surgeon', 'My Mom Is a Referee', 'My Mom Is a Subway Train Driver', 'My Mom Is a Bricklayer' and 'My Mom Is an Electrician'.

'Every afternoon, Sofía’s mom picks her up at school in her black and yellow car. As you can see, Claudia drives a taxi,' says the first book.

'Although she has to work a lot, Claudia always manages to make time to take her daughter home, where her Dad is waiting. Sofía’s classmates think it’s kind of strange, because they say there are few women taxi drivers, and some even make jokes about it,' writes the author of the first book in the 'Yo soy igual' (literally, I Am Equal) series.

'’Women don’t know how to drive’, say some. ‘Woman driver, watch out!’, say others, repeating phrases they have heard their fathers say more than once. But Sofía doesn’t care what they say because she knows that the ability to drive has nothing to do with whether you are a boy or a girl,' the book continues.

The second book, 'My Mom Is a Surgeon', says that 'when it’s time to do his homework, Sebastián has a special assistant for drawing lines and circles: his mom, like any good surgeon, has a steady hand that never wavers.'

María Victoria Pereyra, director of the Librería de Mujeres Editoras, a book store dedicated exclusively to publications on women, gender and feminism, told IPS that the new series of children’s books is the 15-year-old company’s first venture into publishing.

'We wanted to fill a gap left by traditional publishing houses, and we decided to start with children’s books because we were tired of sexist publications full of princesses being rescued by men,' said Pereyra. 'Our aim was to provide a more accurate reflection of reality.'

But more than reflecting reality, the books break down stereotypes by suggesting different, non-conventional models that girls can follow.

The plot lines followed in the books do not involve adventures, but simply describe a specific task performed by the main protagonist - building a brick wall or fixing a short-circuit - with an implicit gender focus.

In some cases, like the books on the taxi driver or the referee, the prejudices faced by some women in non-traditional roles are mentioned.

On the other hand, the book about the surgeon simply shows the many years of study involved in becoming a doctor specialising in surgery, while commenting that even the most demanding profession does not necessarily mean a woman has to give up her role as a caring mother.

But all of the books have one thing in common: the child narrators proudly talk about how good their mothers are at what they do.

'In the 10 years that she has driven a taxi, Claudia has never had an accident, and among her taxi driver friends she is well-known for respecting traffic laws. She has never run a red light,' says 'My Mom Is a Taxi Driver'.

'My mom is the best electrician in the world,' says the narrator of another of the books. 'She’s an artist. She takes an electrical wire in each hand, unrolls them, lines them up, and uses pliers to cut the frayed part on each wire. Her work is perfect, careful, delicate.'

Pereyra admitted that she was surprised by the media attention to the books, which came out in March and were distributed by hand to several bookstores in downtown Buenos Aires. They won’t reach bookstores around the country until May.

The publisher also distributed several copies to a bookstore in Montevideo, Uruguay, across the River Plate, and at a book fair in Mexico, on trips to those countries.

But they have also been requested by schools, where there is great enthusiasm for publications that challenge gender stereotypes.

'One school asked us for the books with the idea of working with them for May Day, International Workers Day, in order to also emphasise the work done by women,' said Pereyra.

Another school said it was interested in using the books to combat, among the youngest students, the stereotype of the perfect homemaker, always at home engaged in domestic tasks, as the ideal mother.

© Inter Press Service (2009) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service