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Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label parenting. Show all posts

14 April 2020

Frederick, A Virtual Puppet Performance - Read by Michael Shannon

WOW...this is my first post during the Coronavirus pandemic! I hope you and your loved ones are healthy and safe.

Thanks to the Chicago Children’s Theatre, the city’s largest professional theater devoted exclusively to children and families, for launching a new YouTube channel, CCTv: Virtual Theatre and Learning from Chicago Children’s Theatre. To kick if off we are treated to Frederick. Here's hoping this helps with your little ones. Or is a comfort to everyone of all ages.

Chicago Children’s Theatre’s all-new virtual puppet performance was created while all of the artists were sheltering in place, working with resources limited to what they had in their homes or on their laptops.

Frederick is directed by CCT Co-Founder and Artistic Director Jacqueline Russell. Puppets and sets were designed, built and puppeteered in a home studio by Grace Needlman and Will Bishop, CCT’s Director of Production, the creative team behind CCT’s annual series of Beatrix Potter puppet shows and the company’s hit Chicago premiere Wake Up Brother Bear earlier this season.

Chicago musician Mr. Nick Davio performs the jaunty instrumental underscore, which is inspired by songs from the popular TYA musical version of Leo Lionni’s Frederick by Suzanne Miller, with music and lyrics by Sarah Durkee and Paul Jacob. Video editing is by Shiri Nicole Gross.

Support future productions at

13 May 2019

Book Review: Everything Grows by Aimee Herman

A lot of books show up at my home that go unread - to be given away or on the never-ending TBR pile. Thankfully something about Everything Grows urged me to read it and now. And that is exactly what this books does to your heart - it plants into your heart and tears it apart as it blossoms.

Aimee Herman gives us the tale of Eleanor, a teen in 1993 (This GenXer is still floored each time she reads a book that is nostalgic for her own high school days and LOVES it. Even if it is hard to read "historical fiction" for that time.) whose bully has recently taken his own life just months after her mom attempted to do the same. At the prompting for her English teacher, Eleanor journals her way through the months after the bully's death, exploring not just their relationship, but also her relationship with her mother, and most importantly herself.

There are definitely places in this book where I felt it was a bit unrealistic, but it works in the end. It all works. 1993 was a huge year for me. I am the same age as Eleanor's sister, who struggles through her first year of college. Every step along Eleanor's journey was deeply felt due to both superb writing, but also personal flashbacks.

I am not sure how this would go over with someone who has survived their own attempt to take their lives, so please consult someone. I do know that this book is full of hope as Eleanor wrestles with what suicide means - is it giving up? Is it giving in? Why? Why not? This book is also about queer youth, as signaled by the rainbow button on the cover. According to the Trevor Project "suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 and LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth." From everything I know of LGB youth and young adults, I would like to think this book is a welcome addition to their lives as it is affirming not just for one's identity, but for the really fucked up ways we all stumble through figuring out that identity.

As a parent, I appreciated the insight into the teen mind. As I get older, I lose the finer touch of my memories. Aimee Herman reminded me of all the drama that happens in our minds and hearts. And why sometimes the best thing a parent can do it simply say, "I love you. I accept you." and the shut the fuck up.

I was going to give this to a parent who spotted me reading it at soccer, but I think I'm going to walk this over to our Gender and Sexuality Center over my lunch break.

Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review.

19 May 2017

Ole Tangerine Man and Planet

I get a lot of requests to share crowdsourced projects, but this is one of the best ones...a children's book that addresses the way Trump treats people.


After watching the pitch video I was intrigued...So instead of sending off money, I sent off some questions for Carol Steuri, the author, behind what could be a popular children's book. Steuri is not a US citizen and says that the aim of the book is to empower kids to stand up against bullies and protect one another. Once costs are covered, all remaining funds (roughly 20%) will be donated to a nonprofit that inspires women and girls to run for elected office in the U.S.

1) You're not a US citizen, so why are you invested in our story?

Steuri: The U.S has such a huge impact across the globe, it's hard not to be invested. As a Canadian, I don't want to see harm done to my neighbours. As a Canadian living abroad in Europe, I see how U.S politics affects us here with far-right candidates gaining momentum and spewing the same sort of rhetoric. It feels like very uncertain times at the moment and it scares the hell out of me. In my opinion, it doesn’t matter where you live, what nation you call home, what’s happening at moment isn’t right and if you have a voice, use it.

2) Do you have a personal story of being bullied that you leaned on as you wrote? No need for identifying details!

Steuri: I think most people have experienced some form of bullying in their life. There's no one story that helped craft the book other than Ole Tangerine Man himself. However, I wanted to ensure empathy was laced in throughout the story. This book identifies all sorts of bullying behavior, but also attempts to explain what might be going on inside Ole Tangerine Man, as a way to make sense of his antics.

My editor has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and I leaned on her and other teacher friends for their guidance and feedback to ensure the bullying messages were all on point.

3) Some people don't like to see politics in children's books. What do you say to people who might be offended by your book as being too political?

Steuri: Most parents I know are struggling with how best to discuss the current political climate with their kids. This is a conversation starter for just that. I think the elephant in the room needs to be called out because there’s no hiding from it. For those that might be offended, I would encourage them to read the story. It’s not an anti-Ole Tangerine Man attack on him or his followers, it’s a rallying cry to bring all fruits together.

For a very young child though, it’s simply a funny, whimsical little book that empowers them to stand up against bullies and protect one another. The story and illustrations are very playful with lots of rich imagery and the metaphors/puns are only for the adult reader. It was cathartic for me to write and helped me process Ole Tangerine Man's behaviour myself. And from what others have told me, it's quite satisfying and inspiring to read because I think we all need this message right now.

4) Why is it important to you to support women running for elected offices? Is that a message in your book? Perhaps a message for your next children's book?

The book ends with a brave, young blueberry girl challenging Ole Tangerine Man for his crown, as the future Miss Captain AMAZING. So there's that link.

I looked to many different types of organizations who are making it their mandate to stand up against this bully, which is so very important. But I chose to support an organization inspiring women and girls to consider a future run in politics because it felt like a positive, future-oriented approach.

The Ole Tangerine Man and Planet campaign ends in less than two weeks, so hurry and help this book become reality! 

18 April 2017

For Academic Success, We Need to #ProtectPE [sponsored post]

This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

My favorite class was gym or PE. Even though I got As in math & science, gym was still my favorite. I loved being able to run around, hit balls, jump, & just move. Now I know I can thank gym class & recess for my good grades. See, research shows that kids who are physically active, even for just an hour a day, do better in school. For many years my daughter’s school did not have recess and only weekly gym class. That is why I joined the Protect PE campaign as I see all physical activity as part of restoring and maintaining our children’s overall health.

Sadly, when our public schools have their budgets cut, physical exercise – gym and recess - is one of the first things to go. According to the Voices for Healthy Kids, only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools provide daily PE or its equivalent for the entire school year. And we all know whose budgets get cut first – the schools in communities of color. With those budget cuts come no PE and perhaps after a doubling up on reading and math because these are the same schools that likely score low in those areas. It’s a vicious cycle for children of color. The less PE they get, the less likely they can focus to score well on tests, and then the more likely time sitting at desks in those classes increase. Not to mention, less PE sets our kids up for a more sedentary lifestyle that can lead to an increase in heart disease and diabetes later in life.

This is why it is encouraging that the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) includes PE in its guidelines. ESSA is different from previous federal education laws because it includes PE and health as part of a well-rounded curriculum.

This federal law requires that all states must develop a comprehensive plan to ensure all students receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education. ALAS! This does not mean that all states must include PE in the plan. That is where we come in. As parents, teachers and community leaders, we can advocate for PE to be included in our state’s plan. We need to advocate to our state leaders that they must not just create a plan of action, but they need to put physical education into the plan and get access to significant federal funding to support PE.

First step is to find out if our kids are getting enough PE. We can do that by joining the PE Action Team. If we find out our kids are not getting enough PE, then start working in your community to increase PE. For resources, please visit http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/

We need to talk to our principals, school boards, fellow parents, and elected officials.

We can do this! This is not about world peace! This is getting our kids the necessary PE they need to be successful students and reach their fullest potential.

So PE on three…ONE…TWO…THREE!!! PE!!!!!!!!

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.

13 October 2016

The Mystery of Boy's Clothing

While I'm the mom of a girl, I wasn't shy to shop for her in the baby boy's clothing section or later as a toddler. The boy's section has non-glitterized clothing, solid colors, and superheroes. One of my daughter's favorite pajama sets was a Superman one with a cape. You can't find that in the girl's section.

Recently an 8-year-old girl made this discovery and her mom made a video of her disgust. Not only did she realize that boy's clothing has stronger language on them, but girl's clothing has some pretty dumb messages.
Daisy begins her spectacular rant by gesturing at the girl’s shirts. She says, “Well, the girl’s clothes say “hey,” “beautiful,” “I feel fabulous”.” She then points out the shirts in the boy’s section. “The boys — “desert adventure awaits,” “think outside the box,” “hero.””  

And then there are times when boy's clothing have messages that are disgusting and insulting to girls. Forever 21 sold boy's clothing with messages about only dating models before a backlash forced Forever 21 to pull them. In recent years we have seen the GAP market boy's clothing as smart and intellectual, while girl's clothing gets the cute treatment.

The divide between boy's and girl's clothing has become an issue not because of what we print on them, but as we become more open to kids blurring the gender clothing divide. Much is still speculated about Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Does Shiloh go by John? Is Shiloh transgender? Or does Shiloh just really like to dress up in suits?!

I think too many people see girls wearing suits as a rejection of femininity, but I've seen some deliciously feminine suits for women! In fact, the best suits for girls and women are fit to our bodies. And flip for boys who want a little glitter on their dump trucks. 

I forecast in the near future seeing children's clothing no longer labeled boy's or girl's, but rather we'll sort them by attribute: color, glitter, nature, superheroes, etc. This will allow for a parent to shop for a green tulle skirt to go with the Incredible Hulk tee. Or maybe some cargo shorts to with a sparkling Wonder Woman tee? And who cares which gender is wearing either of those outfits!

“This post is a partnership with Nakturnal."

28 September 2016

Amaze-ing and Smart Sex Ed

One of the toughest stops along the parenting journey is talking about sex. A recent study found that teens really don't like it when school-based sex ed is taught by a teacher they will have in the future. They prefer for sex ed professionals to teach them then fade out of their lives. It seems fairly logical if you remember what it was like when you were 12 and your health teacher asked if you had any questions.

The study notes that teens were disappointed in sex ed programs that only focused on heterosexual relationships and said that humor is something they wished was included. Again, you're a 14 learning about sex, a pretty awkward subject even for adults. A little laughter would go a long way at putting you at ease. Also...kids who hear that sex is bad are less likely to plan for sex meaning that they won't use any protection against pregnancy and STIs.

Now most parents I know are supportive of comprehensive sex ed in our children's schools, but we also know that "the talk" doesn't end there.

Amaze is a new site full of funny videos aimed 10-14-year-olds. Most are animations with some great drawings. The information is much more than simple sex ed. The topics covered include sexuality, when one might be ready for sex, and even how to handle it when you and your BFF start to drift apart. 

I think Amaze is a much needed addition to any parents' toolkit. I love how funny, cute and even poignant the videos can be. While I leaned on a book when my daughter was younger, I haven't found a good book to have for her during this middle school period. As a parent you can watch one to get a sense of how to talk to your child about a topic, or maybe watch it, suggest it to your child and then talk about it afterward. Or it might be a site where you can send a strong signal that you trust your child to make good decisions by simply saying, "Hey, I found this new site. I think you should bookmark it for when you have questions about sex and relationships."

Head on over to Amaze and let us know what you think of the videos and the site over social media using the #MoreInfoLessWeird hashtag.

This post is made possible by support from AMAZE. All opinions are my own.

25 September 2016

Parents Guide to the Presidential Debates

Civic-minded parents may be wondering how to handle this year's Presidential debates. In years past, I know I've had homework stop to make my daughter sit and watch debates. Even though she is far too young for voting, at 13 she will be living with the consequences of this election soon enough.

But since this year's election includes a world-class liar, how we do handle this with our children?

1. Before the debate gets going, ask your child(ren) what issues they hope the candidates will talk or be asked about. What issues in the world are the ones they think are important?

And don't let them off the hook if they say, "I dunno, I don't really follow the news." Ask them what in their lives is important and wish the next President would be thinking about. I find that one problem with people engaging in politics is that they really don't know where the hell Aleppo is or what to think about Israel and Palestine. In reality, most of our lives are impacted by politics.

What will Clinton or Trump do for our public school systems?
What will they do to address the lack of access to healthcare for children?
What about homeless children?

Have your kids look around their world, their life and figure out what the President might impact. If they are worried about litter, don't tell them the President isn't responsible for that. Let it slide for now or brainstorm on how to connect it to the President (maybe a commitment to a more sustainable USA?).

2. Grab a notepad and print out the NYTimes list of lies that Trump has told recently

3. Lies: Have your child(ren) keep track if any of the documented lies Trump has said get told again during the debate. If anyone is accused of lying (or you yell LIAR! at the TV), write it down. Then after the debate check in with Politifact, FactCheck, as well as the NYTimes and the Washington Post.

Guess what? You're teaching your kids how to do research online and be conscious political consumers.

4. Sex: Rumors have swirled that Roger Alles would prepare Trump with zingers about President Bill Clinton's extramarital affairs. A few days ago it appeared that Trump had invited Gennifer Flowers to the debate and she accepted over Twitter! Today Mike Pence says it was all a joke. But either way, I would not be surprised if Flowers or Lewinsky is brought up.

For me, my 13-year-old already knows about the Lewinsky affair. I swear it was in a history book! So I explained it years ago. She's also studying Hemingway right now, so one more affair mention is no biggie. That said, if it comes up address it in a manner that you feel comfortable.

5. Laughter: Keep track of these moments too. As Samantha Bee has warned, Alles is really, really good at creating a funny moment in the debate that lets his candidate off the hook from answering. Talk about how that happened, why Holt allowed it to happen, and if the other candidate tried to keep the candidate on topic.

6. Spin: You ever notice how in an interview someone will answer a question with something TOTALLY not what they were asked about? That's spin. They are spinning back to their prepared talking points. Keep track of those too. What does it mean that someone made that move? What was totally unanswered? Again, did Holt allow them to spin away from a question?

It seems like a lot of work to do while watching a debate, but I firmly believe it will help raise the next generation of voters, activists, and thinkers.

I'll most likely be live-tweeting during the event, feel free to join me or let me know how things are going!

One last thing...Momsrising created a debate bingo card too! Go get it.

31 January 2016

No Más Bebés Premieres on Independent Lens

No Más Bebés tells the story of a little-known but landmark event in reproductive justice, when a small group of Mexican immigrant women sued county doctors, the state, and the U.S. government after they were sterilized while giving birth at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

This moving (seriously, have tissues at hand!) documentary about the human rights abuses inflicted on Latinas in the 1960s and 1970s will have you up in arms. My friend and colleague, Elena R. Gutiérrez did a lot of the research work to help put together this puzzle. In a blog post about the film she says:
“No Más Bebés” also shows that socially grounded attitudes relating to ethnicity and gender can play a role in the provision of reproductive health care services; a message that is important for us to hear today. In my own research I show that the abusive practices that occurred at LACMC were not only shaped by debates on population control, but also by concerns about increased immigration from Mexico and the stereotype that Mexican women gave birth to too many children. Through tracing newspaper articles, organizational records and scholarly research in Fertile Matters: The Politics of Mexican-origin Women’s Reproduction, I show how these “stereotypes” about Mexican immigrant women being hyper-fertile and “having too many children” are deeply-rooted beliefs that are part and parcel of institutionalized racism and were perpetuated by the media, social science, and immigration control activists throughout the 20th century carrying into the 21st century. Beyond representations of the perpetually “pregnant pilgrim” who came to the United States purposefully to have children born on US soil so that that they could become American citizens (an idea perpetuated in both Mexican news media and popular culture), “hyperfertility” as a social construct became significantly entrenched in academia, and has thus gained legitimacy in both scholarly research and policy response. I argue that this context and the general public perception that Latina women are significantly more “fertile” than women of other races and ethnicities influenced medical practitioners’ behaviors.
Elena R. Gutierrez is an Associate Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies and Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago. She is also co-author of Undivided Rights: Women of Color Organizing for Reproductive Justice, which will be reprinted by Haymarket Press in April and director of the Reproductive Justice Virtual Library.

This is an important film to view and discuss. I do not want you to just watch it, think and stop there. No. This film calls for action. It demands it. I saw a sneak preview of No Mas Bebes about a year ago and was floored. And I know much of the history already. What makes this such a powerful film is that you hear from the women who were robbed of future children. They were robbed of that decision to even have future children. You hear from their families. It is just, gah...

At the moment we are in the midst of the 2016 Presidential campaign. We have candidates who are railing against anchor babies, wanting to use religious tests on refugees and then those who are calling for the end of the Hyde Amendment in order to increase women's access to reproductive services. All of these moments are connected because the government wants to say who is welcome not just in the USA, but who is welcome to reproduce and parent. Too often the feminist movement is seen as just about abortion, but an intersectional feminist movement is concerned about parenting as well.

On top of this political conversation is the recent worry over the Zika virus. A health issue that is worth of concern over who is getting pregnant, the governments that are calling for women to hold off on getting pregnant and failing to give them access to the tools (birth control and abortion) to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. 

This film premieres on February 1st on your loca PBS station. Watch it, tweet it, share it, discuss it. It's that important and not just to Latinas around the world.

01 January 2014

Book Review: League of Denial by Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada

Growing up in the suburbs of Chicago during the 1980s means that the team of all teams was the 1985 Bears. Walter Payton flew over defensive lines and on occasion did land on his head. To us, it was amazing. To his body, it was brutal.

"League of Denial" [P | I] provides amazing detail into how brutal the game of football is to the human body. On page 5, the Fainaru brothers cite a physicist who calculated a Dick Butkus hit as equivalent to the size of a small adult killer whale. HOLY CRAP!

Ultimately, the Fainaru brothers tell the story of how football players were paid a king's ransom to play a boy's game, but their bodies and brains paid the real price. The NFL told players that they were special. Weaker men, who would be hurt by concussions, had been weeded out. They were the cream of the crop in more than just playing skills, but in how their bodies reacted to injury.

Many of the men highlighted in the book clearly were full of regret for not hurting themselves, but hurting their friends, their brothers in arms. Story after story involves not just brain injury, but loss of employment and ultimately the destruction of many families due to violent behavior and/or economic strain. Even agents, such as Leigh Steinberg, began to question what the hell they were doing.

They also tell of a vast conspiracy that bled into children's lives. See, in an effort to keep NFL players in the dark, the NFL created a whole team of scientists and studies that said, "Concussions? No need to worry about them! They rarely happen and when they do, no big deal." Yet, helmet makers wanted to create the concussion-proof helmet and when they felt they did, they marketed it to parents and youth leagues too. The other issue with the helmets were not just that they didn't protect one from getting concussions, but it left players with a false sense of security -- to hit harder!

And this conspiracy began by an accident. Concussions were never under scrutiny. The chance that one former NFL player happened to die on a day when a curious corner was on duty spurred this whole discussion. Outside of one or two people involved in "discovering" the extent of the concussion issue, all the scientists involved were strong football fans. They wanted to help the NFL make football safer and to keep players as healthy as possible. They never wanted to kill football. Yet, the league quickly dismissed them and framed them as quacks, when they should have worked with them right then and there.
If only 10 percent of mothers in America begin to conceive of football as a dangerous game, that is the end of football. - page 206
And if you're the NFL who do you turn to to make sure this doesn't happen? Mom bloggers. Yup, in 2012, after a change in leadership, the NFL invited a select group of mom bloggers to NYC to listen to their side of the concussion story. The moms listened to other women: Holly Robinson Peete (Judy Hoffs from "21 Jump Street," wife of a former NFL Player and mom of 4 children), a neuropsychologist & consultant for the Chicago Bears, and a health communications specialist for the CDC (page 322). And yes, the mom bloggers live tweeted that football was safe. One mom blogger, then-Dumb Mom-now-DudeMom, blogged that her concerns arose from the fact her young son started playing tackle football:
I worry that something will get broken, or pulled, or torn, or strained, or sprain. But mostly, I worry that he will be concussed.

And that, friends, is a legitimate worry.

Because kids do suffer concussions on the football field. And, sometimes coaches and parents and other adults involved in the sport aren’t educated enough to keep that from happening; or to respond to it appropriately when it unfortunately does.

That is knowledge I acquired when I went to the NFL offices and sat in on a discussion with USA Football, the CDC, and prominent physicians to learn about a program they call Heads Up Football.

It encourages coaches to teach boys a new, head’s up way to tackle (no leading with their head) and it’s helping to spread awareness about concussion treatment and prevention.

It’s helping parents, coaches, players, and physicians really understand the severity of having your brain bounced all around in your skull in a way that has never before been done.
She goes on to bust concussion myths, but at the same time gives her thumbs up to young people playing tackle football. While this is an individual choice, I wanted to point out, yet again, why word of mouth stuff must be taken with a grain of salt. But we must ask why would the NFL go to this trouble? Because of this quote: "If only 10 percent of mothers in America begin to conceive of football as a dangerous game, that is the end of football." I asked DudeMom if her sons are still playing and she said yes. She hasn't read the book, only scanned the part where she's quoted.
The things I have learned via my work with Heads Up Football about being a proactive sports parent have helped me make this and a multitude of other decisions when it comes to my sons and their athletics.  They are passionate about the game and I support them in this by being involved and working with the league and our local team to create a better, safer playing experience.
Because the concussion issue does bleed into soccer (Ella's sport of choice & amazing skill), I get why it is important to be a proactive parent. I am merely asking all of us to question the type of junket that DudeMom was a part of.  In soccer, we are advised to not allow for players to head the ball until they are older than 10. This type of precaution is not a part of football, as far as I could find (as always, correct me if I am wrong!). If US Soccer invited me to the same type of event, I would expect you to push me too.

Overall the book will make you think twice about letting your child play football. It will also make fans look at the game differently. I wince when I see guys take a huge hit. I admit to letting out, "ohs!" in the past. In fact, I still do. I do not think that we can take tackling out of football. But we can try to minimize the injuries, especially reducing helmet-to-helmet hits. Ultimately, as fans we must question our role in the fact that our favorite players, such as Jim McMahon, and most hated players, such as Bret Favre, can not remember large parts of their lives.

The book is not perfect. As a scientist, I think they minimize the scientific process, especially the peer review process. That said, there are always points in the process that can and should be questioned. 

The racism that is evident in how Bennet Omalu is treated during the evolution of the concussion debate is often minimized. It is something that should be better fleshed out, as the sexism that Ann McKee faced was.

The cult of masculinity is the real enemy in this puzzle. The hardest part of the book was the section on Dave Duerson, a beloved member of the 1985 Bears, and his evolution from defending the NFL to ultimately committing suicide by shooting himself in the chest so his brain could be studied. His story includes all the tropes - wondering why some players are whining, that "I'm ok, why aren't you?" and on and on. We are told the tale of a smart and loving person who spins out of control. Outsiders see a washed up athlete who can't handle retirement, when in fact he is a deeply wounded person. How often did he get 'his bell rung" and sucked it up to stay in the game for job security?

As a football fan, I wondered if offsides are a function of concussions? Has anyone looked at this? Considering how former players described the sensation of "shaking it off" and heading back in for the next play, I would bet that offside calls could be a detection point.

This is a must read for every football fan and every parent thinking about letting their young children play tackle football. You may still enjoy the game, I do. You may still allow your child to play, as DudeMom does. But at least you will know a likely reason as to why Junior Seau spun out of control in retirement and killed himself.

Support Viva la Feminista by purchasing your book through Powells or Indiebound.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from a publicist. 

11 April 2013

My daughter just shook her head...

then dramatically put it on the dinner table. She's nine and she gets that telling girls to not wear leggings in order to not distract boys is ridiculous*.

I'm not using the term "rape culture" with her yet, but I hope I'm setting her up for that "Oh...this is what Mom's been talking about!" I didn't even address her when talking about the story. Rather I addressed the table where my husband & daughter were waiting patiently for the server to bring us dinner, "So, there's a middle school..."

*OK, she is my daughter, so she might be swearing in her head, but let me believe she's immune to my foul mouth.

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!

12 December 2011

Raising a Citizen (includes book and website reviews)

The kid has to complete a certain number of book reports every quarter. Included in the book reports are online quizzes from BookAdventure.com. Some of the questions on the quizzes are pretty specific about plot points. Tonight the kid took a quiz based on the book, Vote!, by Eileen Christelow.

When we were first told we had to use the site, I was skeptical. But the quizzes seem fair. Tonight though, the site proved pretty awesome. Here are a few of the questions the kid was asked about Vote!
  • What do you have to do if you want to vote?
  • What are political parties?
  • Why does a politician want to do a good job? (Answer was to get reelected)
  • Who decides who could vote?
  • What did the Constitution say about voting?
  • What do the candidates hope to do in a debate?
  • How old do you have to be to vote?
Perhaps these should be the first questions asked of GOP candidates at the next debate?

And that brings me to the awesomeness that is Vote! 

Christelow has crafted a picture book that teaches kids more about voting than I suspect most of us get in our whole K-12 education. Example? At the very end of this simple tale of an election, there is a timeline of voting rights in the USA. One of the cartoon characters, the yellow dog, remarks after a notation about the 1975 Voting Rights Act amendment, something about "1776-1975 and finally everyone can vote!" She also includes in the timeline notes about women's suffrage, the 14th amendment, ex-prisoner's voting rights and the 2002 Help America Vote Act.

I had bought the book for the kid when she was really small. It came out in 2003, so maybe when she was an infant, as we have the hard book copy. I hadn't read it to her in years and this was the first time she read it on her own...and all of it, including the supplementary material such as the timeline and definitions.

Because it is a picture book, I hadn't thought to make her reread it. But because I saw it was marked as third-grade level reading and was a 10-question quiz, I figured she could use it for her book reports. And I am so glad I did. One doesn't always read the supplementary material to an infant. Or at least she doesn't always remember that in 10 states ex-felons can't vote. But she knows that now and I saw that look in her eye that says, "Oh, hell no!" Thanks, Eileen.

10 November 2011

CFP: Motherhood/Fatherhood and Popular Culture

Call For Papers: Motherhood/Fatherhood and Popular Culture

Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA)National Conference:
2012 Boston, Massachusetts, April 11- 14

Julie Tharp and Susan MacCallum-Whitcomb write in This Giving Birth: "Ever since a pregnant Demi Moore exploded the beauty myth by posing nude for a magazine cover and Madonna cast off her boy-toy image to sing the praises of maternity, popular culture has also begun to embrace dear old mom." At the same time, Modern Family, Mr. Mom, Thomas Beatie, the At-Home Dads Convention, and Superdad: a Memoir of Rebellion, Drugs and Fatherhood are just a few examples testifying to how popular culture has been embracing dad.

Liz Podnieks is looking for papers for multiple panels for the new PCA Area Motherhood/Fatherhood which showcases (from humanities and social sciences perspectives) any aspect of motherhood and or fatherhood in popular culture.

Possible topics to consider include, but are not limited to, the following:
-TV shows, including talk shows, family dramas, sitcoms, and animation
-print and electronic journalism and gossip rags; magazines
-celebrity culture
-electronic sites/technologies like blogs, Facebook, Twitter
-advertising and marketing
-visual art including photography, scrapbooking, mixed media
-film; performance; music
-graphic fiction/memoir
-best-selling literatures including mommy lit, momoirs, and dadlit
-pregnancy manuals and "expert" parenting guides/literature
-reproductive technologies
-law and policy; maternal and paternal activism/organizations

For information on the PCA/ACA, please see: http://pcaaca.org/
Abstracts (200-250 words) will be accepted on a continuing basis up to December 15, 2011. Abstracts must be submitted online at: http://ncp.pcaaca.org/.

Please send any inquiries to the Area Chair:
Liz Podnieks, Associate Professor
Department of English and
Graduate Studies in Communication and Culture
Ryerson University, Toronto

02 June 2011

Guest Post:: School Sexual Harassment Tips for Parents

By Mandy Van Deven

Today’s guest post is part of the Hey, Shorty! Virtual Book Tour. Check out this link to find out how you can support the 25-date nationwide tour!

In the spirit of transparency, I find it necessary to let you know that I am not a parent. I am a person who has children in my life whom I care deeply about and who has worked with parents and children for a number of years; however, I understand the parameters of my experience only extend so far and there is a limit to the usefulness of my knowledge when it comes to real life practice. I say this because it is important to note that the information I have about how parents and caregivers can intervene in and respond to sexual harassment in schools is either observed or secondhand, and I encourage those who are raising children to add your own expertise to the comments of this post. Learning from each other is crucial and there are so few places where parents come together to talk about sexual harassment in schools.

There are many reasons to be concerned about the state of education in the United States, and for many, sexual harassment doesn’t receive a rating on the scale of what’s most important. But as we’ve seen in the media lately, the mistreatment of students can have severe effects. Poor grades, depression, and unhealthy decisions (e.g., drug use, eating disorders, suicide) can be the result of social interactions happening at school, and it is the responsibility of the school system to do its best to keep every child safe. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury every student is afforded.

Parents and caregivers should feel secure about sending their children to school every day, but it can be difficult to determine what is going on in the hallways and classrooms of your child’s school. It can be particularly for those who find it challenging, or impossible, to take on extraneous activities at your child’s school because of barriers to participation you face – including working multiple jobs or jobs with evening hours, familial responsibilities, disabilities, and health issues, all of which understandably take priority and can leave a parent feeling powerless and frustrated. Although it may be a struggle, it can be a great relief to join (or start!) a group for parents and caregivers where you can share their frustrations with one another, gain support from peers, and work toward solutions. Email is a good way to do that when you can’t show up in person.

For those who don’t have the option to participate in this way, here are some strategies from the newly released Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets that parents can implement in their daily lives to help prevent sexual harassment in schools:

— Encourage your child to discuss school life with you, including grades, sports, extracurricular activities, and friends. Let your child know you are interested and available to talk, no matter what the topic.

— Use language that is inclusive of both genders and avoids stereotyping individuals based on gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, or other characteristics.

— Raise your child’s awareness of other people’s feelings. Fostering a sense of respect, empathy, and compassion will help prevent your child from hurting others.

— Take advantage of “teachable moments.” When an incident of sexual harassment occurs in your presence (whether in the school, on the street, or in a store), seize the opportunity to raise your child’s awareness about sexual harassment and openly communicate to your child that such behavior is unacceptable, hurtful, and illegal.

— Encourage your child to speak up for him or herself. Promoting self-confidence in a child is the first step to prevent him or her from becoming victims of sexual harassment or other types of abuse.

— Request a copy of your child’s school’s sexual harassment policy. Keep it on hand as a reference. If your child’s school does not have a sexual harassment policy or has a policy that is confusing or inaccessible, talk to the school administrator or a school board representative.

— Discuss the school’s anti-discrimination policy with your children. Let them know that you are aware sexual harassment is a problem in schools, and that you are available to talk about it.

— Create and distribute materials to help other parents and their children discuss issues like sex education, gender equity, and sexism.

Viva la Feminista encourages you to purchase your copy from indie bookstores or Powells.com.
* 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.

23 May 2011

Men who parent are not "Mr. Moms" - They are fathers or dads.

Last week NBC Chicago did a great story about a whip smart woman on the rise and her amazing husband who stays home with the kids. My husband and I watched the piece, nodding along, happy with the portrayal UNTIL...the stay at home dad was labeled "Mr. Mom."

View more videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com.

While one new dad I know, tweeted that he wouldn't mind if someone called him "Mr. Mom," we don't really like that designation. It signals something odd, weird or out of the norm. We equally get perturbed when someone asks if he is "babysitting" the kid. Um, he is the father, parent of the kid. When he is caring for his daughter, he is her father, not a babysitter and certainly not a male version of me.

I've read a lot of feminist treatises on feminist families, ending the second shift for women and so forth. Most of those articles and books end with the same conclusion: Until men step up and contribute equally to the house (family, caregiving, cleaning, etc), women can not and will not achieve equity in the workplace or society. By minimizing when men do step up and do their fair share by calling them babysitters or by the title of a 1980s film, well, it takes the revolution out of the simple act.

And believe me it's still a revolution to get men to parent in an equitable manner. There are a lot of forces at play. Men get snickered at if they take too much time to parent.Sure, they get a pat on the back for taking time to get to the soccer match, but there's a line and they know not to cross it. Yet, I also can see, not just from my husband, a sense that men want to run way past that line. In order for them to do that, women need to support them, not mock them with "Mr. Mom." We need to let them figure out their parenting style, just as moms figure out our style. We may stay  home with the baby for the first few months, but I don't think means Dad can't figure out how to do whatever the baby needs.

Believe me when I say, it is a struggle to let go. Perhaps my life is too busy for me to get weighed down with all the details of how my husband is parenting in my absence. But the truth of the matter is that I'm not at home enough that he needs to parent on his own. Yes, there are times when I question something that he does, but he does the same to me. Heck, when he's out of town or under the weather and I have to make the kid's lunch, I kind panic. He does such a good job and knows her tastes better than I do. He has a system. I had to do it this morning, so I asked the kid to help me make her lunch. And it ended up perfectly fine.

We're parents TOGETHER. We try to check in with each other when the kid asks us for something to minimize her playing us off each other. We check in when adding things on the calendar. We both go to parent-teacher conferences. We try to go to the doctor's office together. We take turns with sick days as much as we can. Sometimes we run into days when I just can't reschedule a meeting or he can't. We need to be a team. Heaven knows that's the only way we're going to survive this journey.

02 May 2011

Coming up for air for Obama and Osama

I just can't believe it's been so long since I've written here. Then again I haven't written at my PhD blog since midterm! I think the lack of blogging sums up how ferociously tough this semester has been.

So much has happened in the world, in my life that I wish I had time to write about. Of course this is where I slap myself for thinking that my voice missing for a few weeks is a big deal.

I'm a practical lady. I understand that sometimes you need to something you don't like to keep things moving. Like say release one's birth certificate three years after you've become President of the U.S.A. to prove one's citizenship. It doesn't mean that I don't realize how racist and hateful the request is. Friends have made comments about it harkens back to slave days when free slaves had to carry their papers with them. But the best statement about the birthers demand to see President Obama's birth certificate was made by Baratunde (who is not a friend friend, but I'm friends with some of his peeps.):

Then just a few days after telling the world that he/we had more important things to focus on, President Obama freaked out everyone by calling a press conference at 9:30 pm Chicago time on a Sunday. ON A SUNDAY! Twitter didn't know what to do with itself. We were making jokes about the zombie apocalypse, speculating that we were going all in to remove Gaddafi from Libya and even just dumb jokes about the President only wanting to interrupt "Celebrity Apprentice." Then word got out that it was about Osama bin Laden, that we just might have killed him. The jokes continued as we impatiently awaited our President to tell the world what happened. Sure word leaked onto Twitter and slowly the TV news folks let the cat out of the bag. But I wouldn't fully believe it until President Obama said it.

And then he did.

I fully admit to feeling elated that bin Laden was removed from this world. And it wasn't the fear of retribution that got me to reel that feeling in. It was my conscience. I came to this fight for justice in the world via Amnesty International and my belief that an eye for an eye is never justice. Even if we had brought bin Laden in for a jury to decide to put him to death, it wouldn't be justice. Sadly, I'm afraid I can't think of what justice could be in terms of bin Laden. There are too many feelings. Contradictory feelings. Then a few friends on Facebook posted a MLK Jr. quote that lead me to this full and correct quote:
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation."
--Martin Luther King, Jr. [link]
Justice can't be found through bin Laden. It can only be found through us. How we go about the world. How we treat each other. How much love and light we put into the universe.

This morning we decided to talk to our daughter about bin Laden. My husband has a different view than I do. But he presented his view to her and I presented mine. She's only 7 1/2, so I don't expect her have much of an opinion other than "Happy the evil guy is gone." I think I struggled more with trying to explain "evil" to her than the difference in Mommy and Daddy's opinion. She's use to us disagreeing.

I'm still struggling with my emotions over all of this. I remember all too well what bin Laden did to this world. While I was not in NYC that day in 2001, I had friends, close friends who were. I remember hitting my listservs and asking for people to check in. We didn't have Facebook, Twitter or too many blogs. I remember calling Jenn Pozner and letting out the biggest sigh when she answered. But I was in Chicago and no one knew what was happening. My husband worked at a museum and I at a university. Both, we were told by the media, could be targets. We were back home before lunch. I'm not being an idiot about this. But I know I'm not being 100% practical about this either. Life is messy like that.

23 March 2011

Feminist Parenting: Searching for a Superhero

This post is part of the WAM! It Yourself Blogathon! WAM! It Yourself is a multi-city decentralized conference on gender and media run by Women, Action & the Media. Events are taking place in seven cities and online from March 20th to March 27th. Check out the full schedule of events here!

I hiked down to McCormick Place to attend the second annual Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo on Saturday. I was able to attend by requesting a press pass. I'm not writing this because it was a condition of the pass though. OK, disclaimer out of the way. How did it go?

It was fun. I could only attend for a few hours, but it was fun to sit and watch all the fans walking around. The families passing on their love of comics & comic-related entertainment to the kids. The geek couples dressed up and holding hands. The groups who dressed up in themes or didn't dress up at all. But the group that drew me in the most were the dads walking around with their daughters. 

After my pass was in hand, I headed to the expo floor to make a bee line to Dark Horse, the home of Buffy Season 8...and soon Season 9. I was disappointed at the lack of Buffy stuff, but I did get to spot a mock-up of the Buffy lunchbox, to be released in the summer, which may find a home in my kitchen. I did get to play with Dark Horse's app, which is freaking awesome. Alas, no eReader of any kind in my hands, so I'll leave the awesomeness to others. 

Then I ran to the theater to catch a discussion on "The Walking Dead" and after that a panel on "Dollhouse." It was fun to hear from the actors. The funniest parts were when the actors realized that there were kids in the audience. This usually was preceded by an actor swearing (Jon Bernthal) or describing something in a sexual manner (Eliza Dushku, "I'm so going to hell..."). 

So I offer these suggestions:

* Parents: If you are going to a comic book convention or such, please remember that there will be adult language and most likely adults dressed up in costumes not suitable for children's eyes. Some ladies like to wear corsets and fishnet stockings. Some guys do too. 

* Actors and others we pay money to gawk at: As much as you might think, "Oh, my work is too violent for a 5-year-old!" There's a 5-year-old in the audience because her mom thought it was ok to watch your movie or because his dad loves your work so much, the kid is playing on the floor. 

*Somewhere in there is a nice middle where we can be comic geeks and parents all at the same time.  

As the mom of a girl (who was not with me, she had prior commitments) I did keep an eye out for kid-friendly and especially girl-friendly comics. I found a few that I'll check out, but no real stand outs. Then I saw a few more dads walk past me with their young daughters. "What is he thinking?" So I asked. 

I walked up to a man who had two young girls in tow. "Are you the dad of these young women?" "Yes, I am." I introduced myself and asked him what he thought of comic books and the comic industry having two types of women characters, (ditzy) girlfriend or sexy hero. "They were just talking about that! Girls, you were just talking about this." He introduced me to his daughters who were about 10. Sorry, I was short on time and didn't ask vitals. They went on and on about how they were in search of a superhero. One of the girls had chosen Poison Ivy ("She's evil!"), but wanted another woman character to love. Her sister was hesitant about Poison Ivy, so was far more eager to identify a woman comic book character (didn't even have to be a hero) who was smart and wasn't "just the girlfriend." The dad also talked about the need for strong women characters for girls to read about. He was definitely disappointed about the current crop of offerings. 

If I had spent more time at the expo, I would had asked a mom with a son about what she thought comics were teaching him about women. Although, I feel like that question might feel a bit attacky if I didn't know the person. "So what do you think this busty woman is teaching your 10-year-old about women? Huh!?" 

Sunday has been kid's day and they get in free. Hopefully if the cards align properly, we'll plan a family trip to C2E2 2012 on kid's day and wander around asking parents these questions while the kid tries to find her own superhero. I really want to know more about how parents navigate this territory. Comics not only have depictions of adult bodies that are totally unrealistic, even for guys, but they are also high on violence. Are the parents who bring their kids to shows like C2E2 the "cool" parents? Or the "sketchy" parents?A little of both?

The kid knows who Buffy and Xena are. She has seen bits of Buffy, but we don't let her watch scenes that are too violent or even too "gross" looking. For example, she can't quite handle zombies right now. So vamped out vampires might not go well. While Xena is bloody and a little sexy, it's also super campy. And I want to share them with her!

Bottom line is that I just want her to have her own Buffy and Xena to obsess over. Is that really too much to ask?

23 January 2011

Book Review: Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein

"How did you get through the princess stage?" That is in the top 5 questions I get asked by other moms, especially those I truly believe are turning to me as a feminist to guide them through the forest of pink.So it intrigued me to learn that even the famed Peggy Orenstein struggls with the princess phase.

Orenstein's book School Girls was pivotal in my growth as a young feminist. It detailed the trials of being a middle school girl with such genius that if she was a mom at my daughter's school, I would have totally turned to her for guidance.

So why is the princess phase such a challenge for moms today? If it's a phase, can't we just sit back and wait it out? In her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture, Orenstein reveals why this phase isn't as innocent as the glitter makes it appear.

Orenstein talks to the moms of her daughter's classmates to find that they also have rules about princesses in their homes. Only costumes - for imagination/play sake. No movies though. Yet the girls still know the plots and have their favorite princesses. She attends toys trade shows to talk to the toys peddlers themselves. "Pink is what girls want," is the official line. But how much choice do girls have in the first place if everyone buys into the "If it's not pink, it won't sell" line? Orenstein even gives us a quick historical view of how baby dolls became a girl toy -- let's say that the feminist movement seems older than the baby doll conspiracy.

As parents we are told to expect our girls to want to play with just girls and our boys to play with just boys after the age of about two or three. "It's natural," they say, "Watch." Orenstein talks with an expert who explains why allowing our kids to self-select into single-sex groups is not something to encourage. If we allow our kids to "naturally" only know how to play with the same sex at 4 and all the way up, how the hell do we expect them to communicate with each other as teens who are dating? Working together? Leading Student Council? We shouldn't. And the princess thing helps to divide our kids into BOY and GIRL buckets. Which is why experts say if you see the same sex play divide happen, force interaction.

Orenstein points out our hypocrisies, such as gasping in horror when we see young girls dancing to suggestive music, but not thinking twice when we take them to children's movies that include those songs. Are "not too skanky" dolls really worthy to be in our daughters' rooms? Do we really need to buy hundred dollar dolls so our girls can play with a doll that looks like a girl and not a college student?

At one point of the book, Orenstein reflects on the challenge of buying a gift for another girl. Not just a friend's daughter, but a princess-loving-pinkified girl. Oh, I know that feeling. You want to buy her something she'll love, but loathe the idea of buying something you would never buy your own daughter. And your feminist credentials are TOTALLY on the line too. If you select a bad toy, it will reflect on the whole community. This by the way, would make an excellent game show.

Orenstein doesn't get it all right. She misses the mark on 1990s feminism or "girlie feminism" by fusing the reclamation of feminine trades like sewing and knitting to women who feel that being sexy is empowering. They emerged at the same time, but are from two different camps. 

Early in the book Orenstein talks about the evolution of girlhood and how 2/3 of women today classified themselves as being tomboys as children. Yet only 1/3 of girls today would classify themselves as tomboys. This confuses her. Are women today over emphasizing their tomboy status? Rather I contend that tomboy is a label from the past. My daughter asked me what a tomboy was about a year ago. "Tomboy was a name people use to use for girls who were sporty, liked to climb trees because not a lot of girls did those things. Now we don't need to use it because so many girls are athletic." So if you asked my daughter, she might say she's not a tomboy. I even got her a shirt that said, "I'm not a tomboy, I'm an athlete." It's not a bad word to use, but I think it's a relic of  a time long gone, pre-Mia, pre-Williams sisters.

And that's where we are. In a world where girls can look up to Mia Hamm and the Williams sisters. They can go out every morning and practice their sport. Yet the media will still take time to evaluate who looked the best during the opening rounds of a Grand Slam tournament or ponder who is pregnant. That's the world our girls are growing up in and we not only need to figure our own way through this forest of pink princesses, but we need to guide them through it too.

Not only are our girls faced with being girly and sporty, but Orenstein takes a moment to link the academic pressure our children, girls and boys, are under. The pressure to be super academic early on can and often does alienate them from the joy of learning. Friends know that I fear this for my own smartypants daughter.

Orenstein offers few solid solutions, but what she does is walk herself through the challenges and asks us to come with her. She does answer the "How did we get here?" question in respect to dolls, clothes, sexiness and pink. There is also a MUST READ section on children's websites/social networks. While they may be safe from dirty old men, they are NOT safe from the pressure of commercialization. I know some of you poo-poo my anti-commercialization rants, but please, please, if you read this book, you will know why the intense commercialization our children are living in is robbing them of the childhood we experienced.

I hope it's not a surprise that I'm highly recommending this book. Seriously go get this book, read it and let's get back to raising our daughters instead of the marketers doing it.

Get a copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com. Like now.

Disclaimer: I contacted the author in order to receive a copy of this book. I just had to have a sneak peek.

* 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

21 December 2010

Book Review: When Big Issues Happen to Little Girls by Erin Munroe

A quick reminder....My daughter is 7 1/2 and in the second grade. This book couldn't have hit me harder in so many ways. Big Issues Happen to Little Girls: How to Prepare, React, and Manage Your Emotions So You Can Best Support Your Daughter by Erin Munroe is a must read for every mother and father of a girl.

Munroe gives the world a great handbook on how to handle challenges and issues of raising a girl in today's world. From puberty to using drugs, Monroe walks us through case studies that exhibit how and how NOT to react to things that happen to our girls.

One criticism I had with the book was that it presents itself as something for parents, yet I felt that it was written for moms. There are subtle things about how she presents suggestions for parents that she's talking to moms.

This book will challenge you. It will challenge you to revisit how you see issues (recreational drug use, teenage sex, the drive for success) not just by what you hope your daughter will do, but also how you did it and your fears for how she might go through it. Munroe uses not just parenting fails, but also parenting fails that were done with the best intentions. Case in point a couple who didn't want to tell their 8-year-old that they were considering a divorce. She totally picked up on the body cues, the fact that Dad was sleeping on the couch and a world of other things her parents thought were going over her head.

And that's the biggest take home message. Our girls are not dumb. They see things in our world that we hope they don't. They hear us mock our bodies. They see us come home buzzed and drop the car keys on the table. They feel our pushes to be perfect at school and on the playing field. They see how we view other women in the world. They know that we expect them to be good, respectful in the face of frenemies.

Our girls are growing up in a different world than we did. Not better. Not worse. Different.

I say, "We're in the second grade," because it is a family effort. One to two hours of homework, monthly class projects that require more parental involvement than I think it appropriate and a pressure to score high enough on standardized tests to ensure a good school rating, teacher bonus and entrance into a prep high school...Yup, that's a team effort alright. Second grade is vastly different than my experience where my biggest issue was choosing between Chad and Corey, keeping my desk clean and beating the-other-Chad to end of our math workbook. Oh yeah...way different.

Parents should get a copy from an indie bookstore or Powells.com.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from a book PR firm. One that ironically is still trying to get me to say, "Yes, I'd like a copy of this book." *sigh*

* 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. 


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