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Showing posts with label girls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label girls. Show all posts

15 November 2016

Review: Kazoo Magazine

The world of girls magazines is a scary place. Walk up to the magazine aisle of your fave drugstore and flip through girl-centric magazines...then try to sleep well at night. Recently Girls Life came under fire for exclaiming the secrets of dream hair on their cover while Boys Life was all about planning for a solid career. Someone "fixed it" via Photoshop.

I have a ton of issues with the original Girls Life cover, but have some issues with the "fixed" cover as well. First of all is the shaming of the actress on the original cover. Olivia Holt is yet another young woman trying to have it all through the Disney empire. She sings! She dances! She karate chops! She acts! Having a teenager myself, I have watched plenty of Disney shows. And while there are some things to improve in their narrative, you gotta give props to these teens who are slowly building their own empires...critique of Disney aside cause I'm already on a way tangent. Next, while I love that the "fixed" cover includes a headline on careers, an equally large headline is about girls doing good. When are we going to get away from that narrative people? Maybe label that leadership? And "my first miss" as confidence? Nah...let's call that entrepreneurship 101. Anywho, even when we try to fix problematic things for girls we miss the mark.

That's where Kazoo comes in. It's tagline is "A magazine for girls who aren't afraid to make some noise." YESSSS! Erin Bried is the founder and has oodles of magazine experience behind her. She came up with the idea for Kazoo as she was searching for magazines for her 5-year-old. Now there are plenty of other magazines that I got my daughter at that age, mostly from Cricket Media, as well as New Moon Girls, but I am happy to welcome Kazoo to the land of kid media.

Bried says Kazoo is important because even girls at the age of 5 are being indoctrinated by popular media and culture to conform to gendered expectations that result in:
•Six in ten girls stop doing what they love, because they feel bad about their looks. And by age 11, 30 percent of them have already put themselves on a diet.
•Seventy five percent of girls are interested in engineering and related fields, and yet only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women.
Kazoo has a great feel to it. Bried do NOT go glossy! I think the thick paper feel is perfect, especially since there is a coloring page on the inside cover of issue 2. While the incredibility beautiful feature on Jane Goodall was amazing to read, my favorite article is the how-to on parkour. Seriously how many times have you seen a parent scold a kid, especially a girl, for climbing up where you "shouldn't" climb when walking down the street? I mean, if you didn't want a kid climbing on the ledge of building, don't put in a ledge! haha..Kinda kidding, but I was totally that kid who could find every nook to climb up and walk on. The world was my balance beam.

In addition to great content, most of the magazine is illustrated. And the diversity of illustrated girls is what we should expect from any media outlet in 2016.

So what if your girl isn't into the outdoors or climbing on stuff? Does she like puzzles? Kazoo has that. Does she like cooking? Got that too. Issue 2 has so much info on photography you might think the magazine is about photography!

Kazoo is sweet and fierce. It sends all the empowering signals we think we need to send our girls without using most of the jargon. A great example is the parkour article. Not only are there how-tos, but the how-tos come from Alexa Marcigliano, professional stuntwoman. Not once were the safety issues that impact stuntwomen brought up in a sidebar or infographic. While the issues are important, clobbering girls over the head with a negative framing can backfire as I know from working in women in STEM for almost 20 years.

I recommend getting a subscription for that girl in your life. Heck, get a subscription to all the fab girl magazines as a bouquet of magazines! 

Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of the magazine.

05 September 2012

Mijas, Baseball and the White House Need You!

I gave birth to one daughter, but I do consider every girl in the world a daughter. It's a cheesy thought, yes, but it is true. When I fight for women's rights, I am not just fighting for myself or my daughter, but for all the girls around the world.

That cheesy notion became all too real last night. Francesca Escoto wrote a quick post about a conversation she had with her daughters last night:
As we are making arroz-con-leche, my oldest asks: “Why are the major league sports male dominated?” Gulp. My middle child responds: “What? Baseball is only for boys?” I think I’m gonna cry.

Without me being able to answer coherently, my middle child goes on: “Why is everything for boys? Even my teacher says she prefers boys.” My oldest: “Mom, has there ever been a woman president?” My answer: “Not in the United States.” Middle child: “Even the president of the U.S. is a male-dominated sport?”

I wanted to get my virtual friend Veronica Arreola and put her on speaker phone. Veronica, aka @Veronicaeye is a Latina, a feminist, a mom, an activist. I’m sure she would know what to say in this kind of situation. I, however, really, could only ask myself when did my girls grow up to be so inquisitive, why is this world a male-dominated sport, and how can I help my daughters right now fight to take this load of their back? Where is Veronica when you need her???
This is not a new position for me, I get asked questions like this quite frequently. But never framed like this before. I feel like I need to get in the car and head on over to Francesca's house!

So how to handle these questions...It's tough and it's simple.

Let's start with history.

The United States was born in 1776. 144 years later, women's right to vote was written into the Constitution. 189 years after the USA was born the Voting Rights Act allowed for full suffrage for citizens of color. That brings us up to 1965. That's only 47 years ago.

In those 47 years, women have done a hell of a lot. (Yes, times like this requires a bit of swearing, even when talking to the kids.) We have gone from going to college to find a husband to out numbering men in college. We have gone from hoping that we don't get pregnant to being able to decide when and if we have babies (no girl is too young to know they control their bodies.). We have seen newspaper want ads go from containing "Men Only" sections to only being categorized by types of job.

We have made a lot of progress, girls, but we still have a long way to go.

As for baseball itself...That's complicated. On one hand, we did play baseball! Maria Pepe became the first girl to play Little League in 1972. That should be enough time for enough girls to grow up playing baseball and make it to the Major Leagues. On the other hand, according to research from the Women's Sports Foundation, quoted in the ad below, by age 14 girls drop out of sports at twice the rate as boys.

Then we add to the equation that girls are most often then not, funneled into playing softball at younger and younger ages. When I was a girl (many moons ago) girls played baseball until we hit high school. In my opinion, they are different games, not a girl or boy version of ball. And quite honestly, some people still think girls don't belong in baseball. Seriously.

As for the White House...I guess we have to say the same. Some people still think women shouldn't play politics. When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ran for President four years ago, the things people said about her were awful and a lot of it was just about her being a woman. The USA took a huge step when it elected President Obama, but just a peek at the language used against him shows we also have a long way to go in terms of race too.

I don't have a good answer as to why other countries have had women presidents and the USA hasn't. Are we that sexist here? Or as the women in the other countries more compelled to seek out leadership of the country? We got close with Clinton and hope that we can actually elect a woman in the near future. The fact is that women, far too often, need to be asked to run for office, while men just do. But when women run, women win, especially if it is an open seat. So don't ask people if you are ready, just do it. Seriously, have you seen some of the people, men and women, who are elected officials? Go visit your elected officials. Your mayor, alder/councilwoman, state representatives, Congresspeople...Some will inspire you to support them. Some will inspire you to run. We have to stop wondering if we can get elected and just do it.

My hope is that by the time I die (a very old woman living in Hawaii) we will have stopped counting women. No more first this, first that. Just presidents and baseball players. Just governors and First Gentlemen.

To Francesca's mijas...Don't despair if you don't see a woman or a Latina doing what your heart compels you to imagine. If you don't have a role model in that exact job, imagine yourself. Draw yourself behind the plate or podium. Tape it to your bedroom wall and never stop working towards that goal. Don't let the naysayers bring you down. Never stop believing in yourself. Someone always has to be first. Perhaps you will be...And if so, don't shut the door behind you, kick it open, reach out and bring another girl with you.

That way you're not the only one. Cause what's the use of being the first, if you don't bring a friend to the party?

08 March 2012

International Women's Day: Raising Empowered Daughters

This year’s theme is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” and one of the prompts is:

How can we, as a culture and as members of the global community, involve, educate, and inspire girls in a positive way?

This is easy. Listen to girls. Make space for their voices. Educate them.

Of course in reality, it's not that easy. Too often we witness the powers that be conspire to silence girls. It is this silence that Rachel Simmons outlines in her must-read book, Odd Girl Out. When we tell or show girls that their voices are not valued, they silence their feelings, thoughts and yes, actual voices. They turn inward and all the fury they should be screaming about is pushed deep into their soul. And it hurts them.

While a part of the Nobel Women's Initiative's delegation, I lost count of how many women, young and old, happened to mention in their testimonies that at some point in their lives a parent told them that women weren't worth much. That it was no use for them to continue with their education. Some listened to that silencing and dropped out of school. A few raged on with their education. Both groups of women talked about suffering for their choice.  

The women who listened felt inadequate to fight for their own rights when police or military forces assulted and/or raped them. They felt duped when multinational companies came into their communities and misrepresented their intentions when pressuring families to sell their ancestral land. Of course they overcame those feelings of inadequacy to find their inner courage to fight like hell.

The women who forged ahead with their education felt the sting of backlash. Their families turned against them. One woman talked about working up the ranks into the police force. Then being raped by her boss. Of course it was her fault for wanting a job in the first place...at least that's what the voices in her head tell her.

In Guatemala, we witnessed grandmothers admit to having been raped when their villages were attacked in the 1980s. We could see that they were courageous, but also unnerved by their own bravery. The women knew they were speaking of things they "shouldn't" be speaking about. But they were linking their decades old rapes with the violence they are witnessing today. And they do not want to see their granddaughters have to live through the same violations.

Often we hear about men "finding" feminism when they become fathers, but we mustn't minimize that some women find their voices when they are now charged with raising a girl.

Instead of waiting for women to find their voice, let's raise girls to use their voices. The hardest part is not only educating girls and telling them that they have a voice, but LISTENING to their voices.

This is what we need. We need to bring our girls to rallies, demonstrations, meetings and everywhere else we are fighting for women's human rights. They need to know that we're out fighting for them, for ourselves. They need to know they are worth fighting for and not in that "Prince Charming saves the princess way" either. Their minds, their bodies, their lives are worth it. Because they are worth it.

30 December 2011

Book Review: Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons (Revised Edition)

The newly revised and updated edition of Odd Girl Out is a must have for every person who is parenting or educating a girl.

This was the first book I grabbed once my fall classes were over. A bookshelf of books have been taunting me since August, but this is the one I had to read first. Why? I think it's because I have a daughter. She's eight and in the 3rd grade and we've already had two incidents involving bullying. The first was in preschool and the second was last year. Both incidents were handled by teachers are administrators in a manner that Simmons suggests in Chapter 12: the road ahead for teachers and administrators. That chapter gives some wonderful suggestions on how to set up a school or even a classroom to be as bully-proof as possible. Obviously no place can be bully-proof, but one thing that Simmons points out is that one way to address bullying is to have a transparent and predictable system of consequences. If a student knows that Sally and Maria are the teacher's favorite and nothing they do gets them in real trouble, that student feels disempowered to act and report bullying she may be experiencing or witnessing. Having a consistent system of consequences also sends a clear message to students who bully that it will not be tolerated.

Simmons doesn't advocate for a zero-tolerance policy that gets 7-year-olds expelled, rather a zero-tolerance policy that is just that, zero-tolerance for bullying a classmate.

As a kid I had my share of girlfriends, but at recess I was more prone to hang with the boys playing softball, football or plain old wrestling. I can't recall being bullied on the playground the way Simmons reports, I guess I'm lucky. Or maybe because the girls from my school were working class and we were all tough in our own ways. I can't recall more than a couple of girls who were overly girly. That said, I can see the girly girls in my daughter's life.

Her first experience with bullying was from a girl who was trying to enforce gendered clothing. The kid was told that when she wore pants, she was a boy. Once reported, the teachers had a great conversation with the kids about kids being able to wear whatever they wanted. Clothing does not make one a girl or a boy.

Three themes really struck me as key things to remember from this book.

One is that schools have relied on girls to maintain a certain peace for years. Without most girls maintaining that peace, the whole classroom would be chaos.To ask teachers to be aware of the quiet manner girls bully each other is asking teachers to realize that their classrooms are as out of control as they sometimes seem.

And second is that this peace that we see in girls is really silence. Society teaches girls to silence their feelings in order to "be good." Simmons outlines how this silence works in girl-on-girl violence is really just training for being in a violent relationship later in life. Because being BFFs with a girl who bullies you IS VIOLENCE.

Bullying is not just how girls are. Not if we decide that it ends today. HERE. NOW. When we teach our girls to get over it, that "that's how life is, wait until your boss is a bully," we are teaching our girls to ignore that voice in their head and heart that says, "This is wrong. Walk away."

The last theme is one that a friend and I were discussing a few weeks ago. Why are women afraid to promote themselves? I know that I can look back at my childhood and know that being "all that" was frowned upon. Pride in one's work could only be taken so far. I use to write email updates to family & friends until someone very close to me wrote asking why I only send emails when I have something to brag about. That comment still keeps me from writing updates to people I know what to know what's going on with me. Especially people who aren't connected to me via social media. Simmons really digs into how promoting oneself breaks one of the cardinal rules of being a girl -- fit in. You can't fit in if you let people know how awesome you are.

Simmons updated her book to include a great chapter on cyberbullying. If you don't have time to read the whole book, skip right to chapter four: bff 2.0: cyberbullying and cyberdrama and chapter nine:  parents speak. But you really should read the whole thing. 

Warning women reading this will experience flashbacks to high school. Men who read this may have a lot of WTF moments. Either way, I highly recommend this to everyone with a girl in their lives. Get yourself a copy at Powells or IndieBound.

Disclaimer: I requested this book for review. 

* Book links are affiliate links. If you buy your book here I could make a very small amount of money that goes towards this blog by helping me purchase books for school. Thanks!

24 August 2011

The kid will be a media critic before we're all done with her

The kid is not just a smarty pants kid, but she is also pretty observant about the world. I would like to think it is due to me being honest with her about media issues and not denying her voice when she speaks up. She also has a super cool aunt who wrote a book about Reality TV and does media criticism for a living. It is quite a proud moment for me when I get to point out Photoshopping on magazine covers to her to show her that no one is that perfect. But I know I can't do it alone.

That is why I was excited to learn that the Girl Scouts has I was lucky to get a chance to ask Dr. Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Developmental Psychologist at Girl Scouts of USA, about the new media units.

I asked her how we can raise girl leaders without feeding into the "good girl" stereotype. I know I catch myself talking to the kid about being a good role model or a leader, I find that what I'm really saying is "Don't act up in front of the other kids, cause they might think it's ok to act up too." This is one of the messages that was engrained in me as the oldest of three girls, not to mention from teachers who saw me as a class leader. Instead of hearing that I need to lead by positive example, I heard, don't get caught making fun of someone. Dr. Bastiani Archibald said that Girl Scouts does not want to see girls who are only smiles and polite, in fact she believes that girl-on-girl crime could be from girls feeling pressure to "be good" all the time. We need to realize that being a good role model comes from knowing one's self.

I have also found lately that the kid is taking some of the messages about being a strong girl and seeing a dichotomy: girly girl versus sporty girl. Which is hard to figure out because she is quite a girly girl not to mention awesome on the soccer field. Dr. Bastiani Archibald responded that it is quite natural for girls her age to still be thinking in absolutes. Whew! But I know I need to watch myself when I critique girly girl culture too. I am trying. Dr. Bastiani Archibald said that one way to support our girls is to support their choice of clothing. And whoooweee, is the kid's choice of clothing full of sparkles.

Dr. Bastiani Archibald told me about activities for the youngest Girl Scouts where Daisies are asked to taste-test different yogurts, some with cartoon characters on them, some without. Then the girls are asked which one they like the best. "The one with the bear on it!" is a typical response. Then it is up to the leaders to lead the girls through acknowledging that cartoons do not make yogurt take better, they just make kids want that type of yogurt more.

The kid's school doesn't start for another few weeks and I don't know when Girl Scouts start back up, but I am eager to get my hands on the Brownie journey and help our girls tell their own story.

You can watch my interview of Dr. Bastiani Archibald below. It was a phone interview and Dr. Bastiani Archibald was the only one video recorded.

23 June 2011

Sandals limit our daughters ability to be in the world

Dear Target, Payless and other sellers of shoes,

As the mother of an active seven-almost-eight-year-old girl, I am asking you to please, please, please stop selling a zillion types of sandals for summer and only a limited types of actual shoes, especially sneakers.

Here is a what the Target girls shoes site looks like:

Note that there are *85* different types of sandals and only 15 different types of sneakers. Yet the best sellers include a boot, a sneaker and an active sandal/shoe. The Payless site looks to have the same representation of sandal versus real shoe. We stick to the lower end of shoes because well, when you have a girl who tears through shoes faster than her foot is growing out of them, you don't want to invest a lot of cash into shoes.But even at Nordstrom there are three times more sandals compared to athletic shoes. OK, some of their sandals are actually functional...

Over the last few years the different type of sandals for girls has escalated and it is maddening. Why? Because outside of a few sturdy sandal styles, like the one pictured above, you can't do much in a sandal. Oh, sure your feet might look cute in them, but ever tried climbing a ladder in sandals? Or running in a race? The summer is the one time of the year when kids should be able to be kids. Running around like crazy! How are our girls supposed to know how awesome their bodies are, can be if they are restricted by their footwear?

The kid knows I have one big rule about shoes: No flip flops to school. Why? Just in case they get outside (her school doesn't have a consistent recess schedule), I don't want her running around the playground in flip flops. I remember what that was like. And since we're in Chicago, you can't always count on the playground being glass shard-free.

Just as some believe that stilettos are backlash against women's progress, I believe the influx of sandals is a way to keep girls immobilized during the summer.

It's not a big conspiracy in the conventional way, but it is happening because "being pretty" has become more and more important to younger and younger girls. And while flip flops have a function, a lot of pretty sandals don't. I'm not saying being pretty shouldn't be a factor for girls. But by the shear number of sandals versus functional summer shoes leads me to believe that shoe makers think girls (or their parents) want them to be pretty versus active.

Then again, maybe all these girls in their pretty sandals will just end up like me. Discovering the joy of running barefoot in the grass when the sandals just don't keep up with my life.

19 November 2010

Star Wars can help Katie & other girls by doing more than just blogging

As a blogger, I am still constantly amazed at how fast some of our stories spread around our world. The story of first-grader Katie being bullied for liking "Star Wars," hit a chord with many SW fans. It went viral with such fury that Star Wars blogger Bonnie Burton responded:
As any Star Wars fan worth his or her weight in midichlorians can tell you, there is no one single “type” of Star Wars fan. Star Wars fans are both genders, all ages, all races and all nationalities. [...]

My point is, ladies love Star Wars too, and we should all support their right to geek out just like the guys. Little girls need to know they have every right to pick up a lightsaber as the rest of us.

Star Wars itself is full of strong, independent female characters who wouldn’t have taken any guff from 1st grade boys who clearly don’t know their Star Wars characters. 
To that I say "Hell yeah!"

But I also want to say to Star Wars & George Lucas...You can do more. You can show the world, boys and girls, that you really do mean the words that Burton writes. If Lucas & Co. are strong enough to get paid each time someone uses the term "droid," then they can insist that companies who use Luke, Leia, Darth & Yoda to sell us things from bedding to clothing, do it in a gender neutral manner. You gonna slap Yoda on a t-shirt? Sell it in both departments or a special Star Wars section. If you are going to hurray the return of Classic Star Wars on bedding, you need to control how it impacts kids. How can a little girl know that she can pick up a lightsaber if Star Wars bedding is located in the boys section of the Pottery Barn Kids catalog and not the girls?

If you head over to Target's online store, do a search for Star Wars. 116 items are under "Boys Toys" and 15 under "Girls Toys." Oddly, a girl can find MLB & NBA bedding at Target, but not Star Wars. Hint, it's located in the boys section.

Kids are kids. They are constantly learning and as anyone who has spent time with a kid for 10 minutes knows, they pick up everything you say and do. They might not show it right away, but a few days later when your precious 7-year-old throws an F-bomb, you flash back to your own f-bomb from Monday in traffic. How else does my daughter know to yell at cars to "move it!"

I can already hear people mumble or yell, "This doesn't matter!"

Tell that to the boys in Katie's class who think that Star Wars is a boy thing. Where do you think they learned it? From other boys, parents who say "Don't play with that, it's a girl thing!" and from stores that so cleanly label girl things with pink & glitter and boy things with black & red flames. Hey!

Yes, girls can shop in the boys section and I can buy things online from boys categories. That's not the point. The point is that each time we separate out toys, clothing, any item between girls & boys we send a message to kids. And they are freaking listening. Then we get stories where first graders are bullying and harassing a classmate over a freaking Star Wars water bottle because she is not confirming to what they believe girls should do and act. And when that happens, you break Master Yoda's heart.

PS: Dear Katie: You are an amazing young person. My daughter is 7 and has been Princess Leia for Halloween 3 times. Don't stop being you for anyone. Ever. Not when you're in first grade or when you are in college. I'm 35, almost 36, and I still try to do my hair like Leia. Much love and strength my fellow Jedi!

24 March 2010

Women's History Month: Ada Lovelace Day 2010

For Finding Ada 2010, I would like to talk about Engineer Your Life.

It's a website that is geared towards girls, but anyone can visit and learn, and focuses on why a career in engineering is rewarding and fun. They have a list of 10 reasons why you will love your career in engineering.

Parents and those of you lucky enough to have an impact on young people's lives, please encourage them to visit this site. There is still such a stereotype that engineering is just about rockets and bridges. I blame years of physics and calculus classes for reinforcing this view. As we saw in Minnesota a few years ago, bridges are important. But we don't quite teach that in our schools. We also don't teach our children that engineering touches our lives and will shape the future. That is why we need to point them to the area about finding their dream job.

There is a stereotype, that bears fruit in real life, that girls are more likely to be drawn towards careers that clearly benefit humankind like social work, teaching and medicine.

That is why the finding your dream job section is awesome. Take computer science. This is one field where women are DECLINING in numbers around the country. It's quite a puzzle. But it becomes a bit clearer if we think about what we think about when we consider computer science as a career. Do we think of people programming computers? Creating new software for us to use? Tool makers?

They are, but as Engineer Your Life points out, computer scientists are designing new tools for doctors to use help detect cancer better. Ladies....Dreaming about a mammogram that doesn't squish your boobs into a pancake? That's a job for a computer engineer. Why not encourage your daughter to solve that problem?

There are a lot of ways that parents, teachers and everyone else can help encourage girls to dream of an engineering career. It will take all of us. Read the latest AAUW report - it's not super academic & full of jargon - to see how you can help....even the newborn girl in your life.

02 March 2010

Book Review: Getting Real Edited by Melinda Tankard Reist

Getting Real: Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls edited by Melinda Tankard Reist is a collection of essays/charges against the world-wide phenomena of the pornification of childhood thru advertising, marketing and pop culture.

This was a great book to read as the authors are Australian and sometimes I wonder how much of our collective reaction to porn and adult images going mainstream is a reflection of our country's Puritanical leanings. For the contributors to Getting Real, the problem is embedded in not just faux-feminism, but a twisting of feminism by marketers and others to make women believe that if they are "in charge" of their sexuality, then there isn't anything wrong with stripping, making out with other women to turn on men and so forth.

About half way thru the book I came across a few statements that made me think, "Wait a minute...This isn't a feminist book!" So I did some investigating of Reist and found that she is part of a women's think tank. Hmmm...Upon further digging, I came to the conclusion that the seems to be what one might get if NOW and the Independent Women's Fourm had a lefty baby. If anyone has more info on them, I'd love for you to leave it in the comments. There's just a tinge of anti-sex sentiment in some essays.

While there are some essays that wade into slut-shaming such as calling out strippers and sex workers, I think on the whole it's a pretty good book. It's definitely a quick read. The essays are well cited, but avoid a lot of academic jargon. There's an eye-opening essay on street billboards and how it is illegal for people to have porn at the workplace, but we have to walk thru porn infested streets on a daily basis.

There was also one paragraph that turned the issue back onto me. The idea that many of us are Flickr'ing and YouTube'ing our children's lives that we are teaching them to perform their lives on camera. What's to stop them...are we teaching them the difference between that and performing sexually on camera? 

The best part of the book was a new term: corporate paedophilia. "Sexualising products being sold specifically for children, and children themselves being presented in images or directed to act in advertisements in ways modelled on adult sexual behaviour. (pg 42)" This goes far beyond the dress-up of our youth to performance on a daily basis. "The task for today's teenagers is to win back their freedom from the adults who run the advertising agencies and girls magazines and the 'sex-positive' media academics who insist that 'bad girls' are powerful girls. (page 93)"

There is also a discussion about the medicalization of girls' bodies. From HPV vaccines to plastic surgery, it's all there to ponder. As I said, the book is feminist, but with a dash of moderate/conservative feminism thrown in. But this topic does bring together some usually opposing forces. Thus it's always a good discussion.

Grab a copy for yourself at
an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received was the copy of the book after the publishers contacted me. And yes, when I cite passages, I kept the spelling the same, thus all the u's.

14 January 2010

SCIENCE GRRL: Research proves girls & boys equally good at math…again

This was originally posted at Girl w/Pen

Do you ever think, “Duh!?” when you read a news story about how fattening movie popcorn or fast food is for us? I get that same feeling when I read that yet another research study has been published proving that girls and boys are equally good at math. How much more proof do we need?

Professor Marcia Linn’s paper focuses in on why there are differences in girls confidence around the world. The answer? Social expectations. [PDF link]
A society’s gendered division of labor fosters the development of gender differences in behavior by affording different restrictions and opportunities to males and females on the basis of their social roles….if the cultural roles that women fulfill do not include math, girls may face both structural obstacles (e.g., formal access to education is limited to boys) and social obstacles (e.g., stereotypes that math is a male domain) that impede their mathematical development.
Many people like to believe that we live in a post-feminist society. The evidence includes Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, and women making up half of the workforce. But girls and boys still receive messages on a daily basis that they have roles to play and only those roles. As recently as this past holiday toy buying season, Toys R Us advertised three different magnification power microscopes and  telescopes, guess which one had the lowest power? Yup, the pink one.

Some will argue that we need to pinkify science things to attract girls, but do they also need weaker microscopes too?

And that brings us to another Duh moment…Pink often does stink.

03 December 2009

Book Review: Girls' Studies

by Elline Lipkin was a great little read. I don't mean to be flip about this book. It's well written and chock full of information about the fledgling field of girls' studies. It's just that I've read enough about girls' studies that I actually knew most of the information in it.

That said,
is in the Seal Press Seal Studies line and I do believe that this would make an excellent addition to a women's studies course or even the basis for an entire course on girls itself.

It's also a great summation of the research on gender roles and how they impact our girls (and boys) as they grow. It's not pro-girl as much as it is anti-gender stereotypes/gender roles. I'll say it again, if we can smash the box girls are put into with stereotypes, we can also free our boys from the patriarchy box too. There is a lot of discussion about 'standard behavior' and how it has swung from boys to girls and how neither is appropriate.

The other sections that I really appreciated were discussions on the lack of girls of color in young adult literature and how as the realm of possibility is growing for girls, they still splinter into groups (girly girls, kick ass girls, etc). This last one is hitting home big time right now. It's hard raising a girl in this culture that tells her she has to choose what kind of girl she has to be.

I would recommend this book to every mom and dad out there with a girl. Want to know the real insanity that they are living under? How much they are targets of marketing and advertising? Why they hear you tell them that they are fine just the way they are, but still want to diet at age 8? Read this book. It's all in here. You think you know, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Get yourself an early holiday present and grab a copy thru
an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the copy of the book.  Elline and I both also write at Girl with Pen. But I received the book thru my relationship with Seal Press not Elline.

29 October 2009

Where to send the girls who do like computer science

Originally posted at AWEARNESS


I can't believe the response my post about girls and computer science on Wednesday received on Twitter. Thanks. Many of the retweets were of "don't forget us too!" variety, so to follow up on the popular post, here is a quick run down of just a handful of the amazing groups working to recruit girls to computer science and keep them interested. Please, please add additional ones in the comments!
  • Anita Borg: This is a powerhouse organization that works to connect tech companies to women. ABI offers workshops, publications and information aimed to develop leadership skills; celebrates and highlights the success of women who are changing the face of technology; and provides programs that change the way technology is created, learned and taught. One peek at their board and you'll see that the movers & shakers of technology are gathering at ABI to bring more women to the keyboard.

Read the rest of the resource list over at AWEARNESS please. Thanks!

26 October 2009

Gender Trouble Week

This week I'll be sharing reviews of books that deal with the gender of our children and our parenting.

I am the mother of a six-year-old girl and as long time readers know, I keep on eye out on how girls and their toys are sexualized. As an advocate for education equity, I keep tabs on the changed that our sons and daughters are making n the classroom.

As a feminist I get told that we're post-feminist, the battle of the sexes is over and it's our boys who need a revolution.

To that I say hell no and hell yes!

Women may be the majority of workers but we still are paid only 78% to a man's dollar (even less so for women of color), tracked into low prestige and low wage careers and we still carry the burden of caregiving for our families. The feminist revolution is far from over.

The next stage will be to free our brothers from the claustrophobic gender role box. If you read media depictions of why boys are falling behind you see feminists being blamed, but also painting boys as lazy and unwilling to learn. The boy revolution will free them from the testosterone ball and chain.

The books I will review this week include:

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood, and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids by Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne, The Trouble with Boys: A Surprising Report Card on Our Sons, Their Problems at School, and What Parents and Educators Must Do by Peg Tyre and Pink Brain, Blue Brain: how small differences grow into troublesome gaps--and what we can do about it by Lise Eliot.

As an introduction to this week's reviews, I want to emphasize that while I went into the books very biased, I learned a lot from each one, especially Tyre's The Trouble with Boys. That book gave me such a brain cramp that it's taken me a year to write a review because I've been processing it and trying to figure out how to say what I want to say. Things are changing and we need to change with it.

I do believe that in some sense the battle of the sexes are over -- And I mean that as we need to stop pitting our girls and our boys against each other, especially in terms of education equity because there should be enough education to go around.

23 March 2009

Book Review: Supergirls Speak Out by Liz Funk

Supergirls Speak Out: Inside the Secret Crisis of Overachieving Girls could be loaned out at preschool or kindergarten orientation. It should be on hand for all elementary school teachers and administrators. Reading the stories inside is one warning shot after another to parents, teachers & others in our society who keep telling our kids, girls and boys, that if you don't do well in elementary school, you can't get into the top high school and then you might as well start picking out safe schools for college. I go on a lot about being in the Chicago Public School system, but it's true. That's the name of the game. Growing up in the suburbs in a one high school district, it was more about making sure you did well in elementary so you got into at least the honors track in middle/high school. So there is a lot of pressure to get kids going on the right foot & I'm all for that - except that subtle & not-so-subtle messages we give kids about screwing up (getting a B) in 3rd grade ruining their college hopes.

Funk agrees that there is a hook-up culture that is running rampant and talks about seeing it first hand. I have to say that I'm still leary that this phenomena is actually happening, especially when one quotes Laura Sessions Stepp as an expert.

As her first book, Funk has sought to expose what some say is the ugly under belly of feminism's daughter - trying to do it all, be good, sexy & perfect. I do think that many of feminism's messages have been heard wrong, poorly stated and that any movement has negative outcomes. But I believe that the fact that girls today still think they need to be perfect & "good" means that feminism still has a long way to go at breaking gender stereotypes.

Supergirls isn't as good as You're Amazing in talking to girls about the issue. I'd say that Supergirls is more for parents than the girls themselves. Maybe buy them together and give your daughter Mysko's book while you keep Funk around to keep your dreams for your daughter in check.

You can purchase Supergirls at an indie bookstore, thru or borrow it from your local library.

This review was cross-posted at Feminist Review.

19 March 2009

And Coquí points the way (aka more on Dora)

My Dora watching started way before my daughter came along.

One day I was flipping around the TV channels and stopped on a cartoon of a Latina. A Latina that looked like my sister-in-law. My husband & I quickly got her son, our nephew, hooked on Dora. Success! Thus we knew that Dora would have a place in our life.

I've seen and enjoyed more Dora than an adult woman should admit to, but I have. I remember that my husband & I were fixated with where does Dora live? As Latin@s of Mexican decent, we always jump to Mexico first. But it was the episode with El Coquí that did it for me. One quick web search for the Coquí turned up Puerto Rico. This made sense with the lush jungles and forests that Dora & Boots spent 22 minutes discovering.

Part of the press release on New Dora that hasn't gotten a lot of buzz is that Dora & family are moving on up to the big city!

As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look.

This of course explains why Dora has to ditch poor Boots.

But it is also ironic that Mattel & Nick have moved Dora from the safety of rural Puerto Rico to San Juan? Why is it ironic?

It was in 2005 that Mattel, thru it's American Doll enterprise, moved a teen Latina from inner city Chicago to the safety of the suburbs:
On Tuesday, around 50 students from Rudy Lozana Leadership Academy picketed American Girl Place, demanding the company apologize for depicting their neighborhood as crime-ridden in the latest Marisol Luna book, released along with the newest doll in the American Girl series.

Has gentrification made big cities safe enough for our heroine to live in?

Safe or not, clearly Mattel has struck out again on trying to rope in Latinas with a tween doll. In the comments at Feministing, where they quoted my Dora post, commentors were asking why Mattel just didn't invent an older sister or cousin. The problem is that Dora does have an older cousin - Diego's sister Alicia. She would be an excellent tween doll. But Mattel knows something about spin-off dolls. Do girls go ga-ga over Skipper or Midge? No. It's all about Barbie. And Dora is money, not Alicia.

If Mattel is reading this, invite me over to a testing center. Let me, my husband and our 5-year-old a chance to check out New Dora. If she's as girl power as you say she is, I want to see. Honestly. I don't trust you to do this right, but if you did, I'll admit it.

16 March 2009

Why Mattel & Nick have it wrong

Mattel finally let us in on how the new Dora will look. I have to admit that she doesn't look as bad as I thought she would.

She looks like almost any 10-year-old you would see running around this world. If this was the image for a new cartoon with a smart and adventurous Latina as the lead, I think we'd have a party to celebrate. But it's not. It's our dear beloved Dora the Explorer.

Mattel & Nick are upset at us moms for attacking the tweening of Dora:

"I think there was just a misconception in terms of where we were going with this," Gina Sirard, vice president of marketing at Mattel, says. "Pretty much the moms who are petitioning aging Dora up certainly don't understand. ... I think they're going to be pleasantly happy once this is available in October, and once they understand this certainly isn't what they are conjuring up."

But even with a nice drawing of New Dora, I'm still not happy with this move.

First, New Dora will be computerized and one of the options will be to change her eye color. As the #1 Latina role model for girls, I think that it's inappropriate for the doll to be able to change its eye color. The dominant standard for beauty is still blond with blue eyes. There is a classic race experiment that was recreated in 2006 where black girls preferred white dolls. Is there a chance we are sending a message to the Latinas playing with New Dora that they should also want to change their eye color? (Yes, I know not all Latinas have cafe brown eyes, but Dora does.)

Second, Boots gets the boot. Dora has grown up and ditched her childhood friends for a gaggle of tween girls. Up until now most of Dora's friends have been boys - Boots, Tico, Bennie and even Swiper, who displays classic crush signs by always annoying Dora - but once she hits tweenage, she's all about the girls? Why couldn't Dora at least keep Boots as her BFF and add a few new girls to the picture? Why not Isa at least? I also admit that the first thought of Dora & gals is gossipy, mall-going-gals. Hopefully Dora & gang will be more Traveling Pants than Gossip Girl.

Third, the shoes. Yes, they are cute, but they are not adventurous shoes. Nancy Drew wore loafers. Sally Brown wore tennis shoes.

I freely admit that I'm making all these assumptions by taking in the world around our daughters and leaping. The same world that pushes our girls to rip out their pubic hair before it's fully grown in, the same world that is helping to push eating disorders from high school to grade school, the same world that says that 10 is the new 15, which is the new 22. The sexualization of our daughters can not be ignored. We must be on guard.

Nickelodeon and Mattel say that as part of unrelated research, they found parents wanted a way to keep Dora in their children's lives and have their daughters move on to a toy that was age appropriate.

What Mattel & Nick are doing is feeding our need to keep our girls as young as possible with the theory that our 6-year-olds will want an older Dora. I'm sure some will. Heck, I'm almost certain mine will.

But the real question is why do we want our kids to clutch to Dora until college? Well because we see what lurks in the other parts of the toy aisles. The dolls-we-don't-mention-and-walk-fast-past. We see how even girl clothes are snug and form fitting. That their clothes don't seem to be made for playing, rather posing.

And that's what Mattel and Nick don't get.

The outrage is not just about Dora, it is because we know that Dora is the safe one. The good girl. The toy and cartoon that we haven't had to monitor. Any tampering with our Dora rocks our world. If Dora isnt' safe, what the hell will we do?

The outrage is powered by pent up outrage over the sexualization of our daughters, of their dolls and their clothing.

The outrage is far more than just tween-ifying Dora. It is about all the other small things that inch our daughters closer to 90210 and further away from cuddling with us on the couch with the Backyardigans. It'll happen in its own time...if society let it happen in its own time.

Thanks to The Unexpected Twists & Turns, Feministing, Boston.com, Greg Laden's Blog, Alas, a blog & Metafilter for the linky love. Welcome new readers! I've also added a Dora tag to all my Dora posts for easy access to all my other Dora rantings.

08 March 2009

The Slut-ification of Dora is now complete

Over two years ago I picked up on a warning that Hoyden About Town posted about: Dora was growing up. She wasn't growing up in the Jodi Foster way. She wasn't packing her beloved BackPack for Yale, UCLA or Evergreen. She was thinning out and getting sexy.

Mattel, the makers of all things Dora (except the ones at the flea market), has said:

As tweenage Dora, our heroine has moved to the big city, attends middle school and has a whole new fashionable look. What’s more, she now has a rich online world in which girls can explore, play games, customize, and most importantly solve mysteries with Dora and her new friends. Adding to the play value, Dora’s online world is interactive with the new doll line.
Mattel & Nickelodeon somehow think that if Dora grows up with the audience, that they won't lose market share to a certain doll who is celebrating her 50th birthday. What is scary about this change is the Dr. Frankenstein aspect of the new "interactive" Dora:

By plugging the doll into the computer, girls can access Dora’s brand-new interactive online world. This exciting innovation in computer-connected play offers girls a unique interactive experience: as girls are playing online they can customize their doll and watch as she magically transforms right before their eyes. For example, by changing Dora’s hair length, jewelry, and eye color on screen, the Dora doll magically changes as well.

YOU GET TO CHANGE DORA'S EYE COLOR!! Don't like her Latina cafe colored eyes? No problem. I wonder how long it will take for Mattel to offer Dora red highlights or even going blond so she can look like Shakira.

Now we, parents & the media, can all sit on our hands and blame Mattel & Nick for taking our doe-eyed Dora and turning her into a Latina Gossip-Girl, but you better take that finger and point it at yourself if you've ever:
  • Taken your 3-7 year-old-girl for a make-over at one of those stores that drowns the girl in glitter, gives them a mani-pedi and helps them "discover" the joys of being a girl;
  • Bought your 3-7 year-old anything with Hannah Montana or High School Musical;
  • Bought your 3-7 year old clothes that were made with high schoolers in mind.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I think you get the idea.

I'm not the perfect mom, but I've kept these issues in the fore-front of my mind for much longer than I've been a mom. Much to the chagrin of friends & family who buy my 5yo daughter things that are too mature for her, I have kept the 2-year ban on all things Dora that falls in the sexy column. I want my 5yo to enjoy her childhood and grow up as slowly as possible. I've seen the looks I get when I say that I don't let her watch High School Musical or other shows like that.

But you know what...I was prepared for the slut-ification of Dora.

We can't expect to buy our 5-7-year-old girls media & clothing meant for older girls and not see a market ripple effect. Mattel & Nick NEED to let Dora grow up to have any access to our girls who skip "American Doll" and go right into the 10-is-the-new-17-aisle.

Did you really think anything good would come from Dora trading in Backpack for an "electronic adventure set" that contains "a Play Cellphone, Comb, Bracelet, Heart shaped bag and Earrings?"

Yes, I had dress-up things too, but Dora was supposed to be different and we all took that for granted. We thought we could always have Dora there to resuce our daughters from the clutches of the other crap out there. She'd be there when we tired of seeing yet another starlet on the cover of FHM. She'd pop out each time our kindergartener said that "that's a boy thing!"

Are you finally ready to get off your hands and this time WE rescue Dora? I hope so.

And to Mattel & Nick: If you're going to let Dora grow up and get all sexy, I have a few suggestions on appropriate growing-up Dora sets:

  • My first period: Boots alerts Dora of a chocolate stain on her skirt. Backpack to the rescue! Pads, tampons & pain reliever!
  • HPV shot: Mami takes Dora to get her HPV test, but not before a long debate on whether it is safe or not;
  • Space camp Dora: Just like Tish in "Space Camp," Dora heads off to sharpen her science skills wearing fashionable (althou embarrassing in 20 years) outfits;
  • My first trip to the OBGYN: While Dora is going to wait for sex, she does need to visit the OBGYN/midwife/Planned Parenthood so she can know what the hell is happening to her body and how she is in charge of her body.
And maybe, maybe Dora does need to have sex in high school. She can be in control of her sexuality and sluff off the SLUT label that so many Latinas get, whether or not we're having sex.

And Dora: It's not me, it's your makers. I still love you & your spunky ways. But I can't let my daughter join you in your new adventure. But we'll see you in re-runs. xoxo, your best mama friend, Veronica.

06 August 2008

Kiss My Math

Danica McKellar, aka Winnie Cooper, has a new book out. In reality it is the sequel to her first book, "Math Doesn't Suck" where she aims to teach you some pre-algebra topics (pdf):

By the time you finish reading them, however, you’ll be a whiz at tons of pre-algebra topics, including integers, negative numbers, absolute value, inequalities, the distributive property, working with variables, word problems, exponents, functions, graphing, and tons of ways to solve for x.

OK, if that scared the bejezus outta you, stop now. While I didn't quite like the concept of teaching "girl" math, there is a real need to make science, math & engineering more girl-friendly. Even I, the math nerd I am, zoned out each time we had to do a problem about shooting two bullets or when two rockets would meet. I'd rather spend time trying to figure out how long it would take a fish to outswim a predator.

McKellar is sticking to her girly examples and well, I have to admit, I bet it works. Here she is on GMA talking about the examples she gives in the book including how to figure out the average number of times your boyfriend texted you during the week.

I wonder if in either book she talks about the math behind purse making, knitting or MPGs on your tricked out scooter? Hmmm. I'm serious people! Now to go find a copy I can flip thru. Althou, , Winnie!

Technorati tags:
Danica McKellar, math, book, girls

22 July 2008

Book Review: You’re Amazing!

If you could be 13 again, would you?

I would if I could bring
Amazing! A No-Pressure Guide to Being Your Best Self
by Claire Mysko with me. I'm not exaggerating or sucking up to Claire, whom I met at WAM!. I don't think high school would had been too much different, but I would had felt far less lonely.

Mysko discusses body image, stress and stereotypes with the sensitivity of a loving big sister or that cool older cousin. She opens each chapter with data from the Girls Inc. The Supergirl Dilemma report (Girls Inc produced this book). While it is a source of many depressing moments (e.g. 84% of girls said that girls are under a lot of pressure to dress the right way.), it does set a starting point. Mysko goes on to discuss strategies for the girls in order to overcome obstacles and meet challenges. She also includes conversation starters for approaching trusted adults. The book is frank and doesn't talk down to the girls. Like any good "self-help" book it has activities to reach out adults and include BFFs in the discussion.

The only qualm I had with the book was within the discussion on bullying. One example of being bullied included being called "gay". While this is a top slam on the playground, I fear that a questioning girl may wonder if it really is the ultimate put down. Thankfully there is a listing for the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in the resource section.

If you are a parent and thinking of buying this for your daughter – DO IT. I would suggest either reading it first or buying yourself a copy. Mysko suggests ways for the girls to start conversations with you – Be Prepared. The questions may be as simple as "What did you want to be when you were my age?" or as difficult as "How did you handle peer pressure?" I will advocate for using honesty and not to dodge the conversation because that's what I am for with my daughter. Yet I also know sometimes we do a little of both – some truth, some dodging. Do your best and treat her with respect.

I know raising girls is a tough guy, hopefully You're Amazing will make the uncharted territory a bit less scary.

You can purchase You're Amazing through an indy bookseller, , or Amazon.

Disclaimer: The only payment I received for this review was the review copy of the book.

Girls Incorporated is a national nonprofit youth organization dedicated to inspiring all girls to be strong, smart, and bold. With roots dating to 1864, Girls Inc has provided vital educational programs to millions of American girls, particularly those in high-risk, underserved areas. Today, innovative programs help girls confront subtle societal messages about their value and potential, and prepare them to lead successful, independent, and fulfilling lives.
This post was scheduled to post on the 17th, but somehow didn't...so it's being reposted now.


This blog is my personal blog and is not reflective of my employer or what I do for them.
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