This past weekend I was lucky enough to take the trip home to watch my younger cousin perform in her elementary school musical, "Junie B. Jones Jr." Honestly, I was just looking forward to seeing my cute cousin sing and dance, but by surprise ended up leaving the show with a whole lot of feelings about it.
I'm not some weirdo who gets emotional over an elementary school musical, but I felt super nostalgic and thankful for Junie B. Jones. The Junie B. Jones series was my absolute favorite series as a child. It was the first book series I got really invested in (I own every single book released about Junie B. Jones, including all the do it yourself books) and I can wholeheartedly say that Junie B. Jones is what fostered my love for reading. But that's not all.
While at the time I did not realize this, Junie B. Jones was the first young feminist I was exposed to as a kid. As I watched my cousin's musical and began to remember all the different stories and quirks about Junie B. Jones, I realized that this series had an impact on the way I grew up.
In case you know nothing about Junie B. Jones, I'll give you some background. First, this is what she looked like.
She wore her big bows and mismatched socks without a care in the world. That is what stood out to me most about her; Junie B. Jones was absolutely unapologetic about who she was no matter the circumstance. This is something especially difficult for young girls (and boys) and it was something I related to as I grew up alongside her. She was not ashamed to tell people what she thought or tell boys that she liked them. She embraced situations that would otherwise be deemed "embarrassing" and made them her own. She completely dismissed the traditional ideal of being "ladylike" because she did not want to get held back from doing what she wanted to do! She was always empowering towards others around her, or if she wasn't she always learned from her mistakes and grew from it. She taught her readers that being a girl should not stop you from anything you desire to achieve. All of this together just shows how she was breaking stereotypes, embodying what it means to be confident and teaching young girls, like me, to do the same.
As I read this series, I remember admiring Junie B. and her passion for life and never getting held back based on what other people told her. I struggled as an elementary and middle school student to be fully confident in myself and my beliefs, but it was figures like Junie B. that reminded me to never be afraid to raise my hand or speak up and to always take up every opportunity that interests me no matter what other people think. The older I got the more I was able to embody these ideals and a large part of it was due to the motivation that my fictional role models gave me. I owe so much of who I am today to the strong female figures I was surrounded by as I grew up, including Junie B. Jones, and they all taught me that being a strong, confident and unapologetic feminist is something to be proud of.
Which is why I am so thankful to have grown up with Junie B. Jones by my side and even more grateful that girls today, like my cousin, are still able to grow up with her all over again to create our next generation of feminists.