Many people know the story of a kind young bull named Ferdinand. He is the star of one of the most famous children’s picture books of the 20th century, and, more recently, the title role in a recent, charming animated movie. Ferdinand is not like other bulls: he would rather sit under a tree and smell the flowers than fight. Nonetheless, Ferdinand is made to fight because he is a gigantic, strong bull. In the bullfighting ring, Ferdinand stays true to his nature and does not fight, forcing the infuriated matador to surrender. Some may see Ferdinand’s refusal to fight as an act of cowardice, but arguably, the moral of the story is that the most courageous thing someone (regardless of species) can do is to take the high road and refrain from violence.
The Story of Ferdinand is one of my favorite children’s books for many reasons, but as a feminist, I love how it forces readers to rethink gender norms. Ferdinand is a bull, but he is a kind, gentle, flower-loving bull. I feel that Ferdinand’s story can be viewed as a commentary on the toxic masculinity that is far too common in today’s society. Young boys are told by everyone, from their families to toy commercials, that if they want to be strong and “get girls,” they cannot express their emotions. Otherwise, they will become “sissies” or “gays” (which is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with being gay!)
It is imperative for young boys to have role models like Ferdinand to show that gentleness and masculinity are not mutually exclusive. Ferdinand’s decision not to fight shows more courage than resorting to violence. Ferdinand is brave because he follows his heart and only does things when they feel right to him. In my opinion, real men are kind and gentle, and the bravest thing a guy can do is to be vulnerable, even when everyone else around him is telling him not to experience the whole spectrum of human emotions. I hope that more boys are inspired by Ferdinand to remain kind and continue to show empathy towards others.