The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Make the Suffragists Proud

I was able to vote for my first presidential election in November 2008. Prior to the election I had lived on my own for three years, but I hadn’t felt like an adult until I was able to cast my vote. Although I wasn’t sure who I was going to vote for leading up to the election, I took this task with great responsibility. I read everything I could about the candidates and the election process, because I knew my vote would make a difference. Not only would I help select our president, but my vote also made me feel like I was honoring all the women who did not have the freedom to vote before me.

While researching the candidates, I was also busy writing papers for my ‘Women’s History Through Film’ course. My favorite assignment for this course was reviewing the women’s suffrage movie, Iron Jawed Angels. I love period films in general, but this film moved me and made me appreciate everything that women have done in the past 100 years to allow me the right to vote.

Iron Jawed Angels primarily focuses on Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, political activists from England, fighting for the right to vote within the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) and eventually the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Towards the end of the film, the National Woman’s Party sends members to protest outside the White House. Although the protest was peaceful, the NWP members were arrested for picketing during wartime and obstructing traffic. The NWP protesters were jailed for 60 days in a workhouse where they suffered poor conditions and force fed food. This scene was both heartbreaking and moving. After watching this movie, I felt honored to be able to vote and proud to be a woman.

To view clips from Iron Jawed Angels, check out the video “Votes for Women: Are You Voting in ’08?” To learn more about Alice Paul and other suffragist leaders, please read “Profiles: Selected Leaders of the National Woman's Party.”

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Suffrage and Me

Katie Weidmann

To celebrate the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, I was asked what it means for me to have the right to vote.  I’ve been thinking about this topic for a week or so now, and, as of writing this, I’m still not genuinely sure what it means for me to be able to vote.

There are certain things in my life that I’ve always taken for granted.  I would go to university, where I would major in something interesting, not something that makes money (Check.  I’m definitely not making money off my education).  And I would vote.  I could make grand statements about how my historian parents raised me to believe in and fight for [fill in the blank with your own noble sentiment], and while I suppose that’s not untrue, mostly they raised me to have and fight for my own opinions and beliefs.  This included voting, in federal, state, and local elections.  

Admittedly, it was expressed more in the terms of “when you’re smarter than everyone else, it’s your responsibility to try and keep the idiots out of office” (my family doesn’t tend to suffer from modesty, false or otherwise).  The other arguments they made were more noble, and hearkened to duty, citizenship, and fellow man.  These are also more or less the same arguments about jury duty, another requirement of citizenship, except that good arguments notwithstanding, I had a final exam in another state the day I was called to jury duty.  I am probably one of only five US citizens disappointed that they were unable to serve on a jury.

What my parents were trying to teach me is that it’s an honor to be a citizen, but citizenship has its responsibilities.  Yes, jury duty can be drag (or so I’ve heard—I don’t know anyone who has served on a jury, as they all seem to weasel their way out of it).  Yes, the candidates' television ads can be irritating and obnoxious, but the end result, though, is that we choose who will represent us, who will write our laws, and who will stand for us on the world stage.  For that reason, voting is important to me, not as a woman, but as a citizen.

In recent months, this has been made more clear.  Though I am and always will be a US citizen, I now reside in the United Kingdom.  I am not a citizen here, though I hope to become one in a couple of years.  While I have access to many of the benefits available to citizens of the United Kingdom—the right to work, National Health Service, National Insurance—one of the privileges I do not have is the right to vote.  I was ambivalent about that; I’m passionate about US politics, and I’m not sure I have the heart or energy to be passionate about politics in two different countries, especially when I’m still trying to figure out how representation works here.  But it becomes frustrating when new laws and policies apply to me, yet I have no say in them.

To vote for someone and have his or her opponent elected is irritating, but to have no control at all leaves me feeling like Cassandra.  I felt even more disenfranchised when I went to register my UK address with the Lane County Board of Elections.  Because I am a US citizen and haven’t been convicted of a felony, I cannot be denied my right to vote.  However, as I do not technically reside in Oregon anymore I can only vote in federal elections.  While I understand the rationale behind this, and even agree that it’s unfair to cast ballots somewhere you don’t reside, it’s disheartening to no longer be able to vote on laws and issues in a place you passionately love, even if you don’t live there.

Still, I take what I can from this.  In a little less than two years I will be able to vote here in the UK, and by that point, hopefully I will even understand the details of the process.  I still have representation in the US; it is just more limited, which is reasonable, since I don’t live there.  In the end, I still have the right to vote for what I believe in, and in the not-too-distant future, I can vote for my beliefs in two different countries.  Though the world is still a long way from truly open, universal suffrage, I’d like to believe that we’re a lot closer than we were in 1920.  

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Power to Change

UPI Photo/Pat Benic

After getting my learner’s driving permit at 16, the next age-related milestone I was looking forward to was being able to vote. Two years later I was finally able to cast a ballot, and I exercised my civic duty by wading into the toxic waters of my home state’s politics. I cast my votes for governors, senators, and congressional representatives, on several occasions writing in my mother as a candidate when none of the official nominees appealed to me. But I wanted to be a part of something bigger, something that went beyond my local concerns. I wanted to elect a president.

I finally got my chance in 2008. On November 4 of that year I cast my ballot along with 131 million other Americans. I tried to feel excited that day, but it had not been my best week. I had gotten dumped by a thoughtless, immature jerk a few days before, and I was struggling to extricate myself from a simultaneous relationship with a lying, abusive jerk. My experiences with the both of them were tied up in this election: one was the spitting image of Barack Obama, minus twenty years, while the other was a staunch John McCain fan who wanted to turn the election night results into a sexual roulette.

I kept the news on all that night, trying and failing to get any work done. And then at 11 o’clock, right after the polls on the West Coast closed, the news anchors proclaimed the good news: Obama was our next president.

And suddenly I was excited again: I ran out of my apartment and dashed down to Broad Street, Philadelphia’s main road. Cars were driving by slowly, honking their horns and waving Obama campaign signs out of the window. Soon hundreds of people were in the streets – people of all colors and ages, singing and dancing, shaking tambourines and banging on pots.  

Around midnight Obama took over the airwaves to give his acceptance speech, and everyone huddled around a car that had its radio on. The whole street was silent listening to our new president, and as I heard his powerful voice I thought, I helped bring this about. Suddenly those two men in my life, and the things they had done to me, didn’t matter so much. They didn’t have any power over me.  I had the power to change a nation.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Suffrage in New Zealand

More often mistaken for an extension of Australia, New Zealand is a nation with an eclectic reputation on the world stage. With the exceptions of sheep farming, bungy jumping, the inhabitants of Middle Earth, and of course New Zealand’s fourth-most-popular folk duo, rarely do New Zealand’s achievements register internationally. However, women’s suffrage is one area in which my home country leads the world. In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote.  Instrumental in this achievement was Kate Sheppard, the movement leader who famously proclaimed: "all that separates, whether of race, class, creed, or sex, is inhuman, and must be overcome."

Although the task facing the New Zealand suffragettes proved to be easier and less painful to achieve than that faced by their British counterparts, there were still hurdles to overcome. Ultimately the right of women to vote was born out despite Premier Richard Seddon, a staunch anti-prohibitionist and anti-feminist, ordering a Liberal Party councilor to change his vote to stop the bill passing into law.  Two other councilors were so annoyed by Seddon's interference that they changed sides and voted in favour of the bill, allowing it to pass by 20 votes to 18.

With the problem of women’s binge drinking regularly cropping up in the media, it now seems a tad ironic that New Zealand women’s right to vote can be attributed to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. They believed that by giving women the right to vote there would be greater moral checks on politics. Judging by some of the behaviour exhibited by modern day politicians, it is fair to say that this hypothesis was well off the mark. This is not the only feature of modern society that must have Kate Sheppard rolling in her grave.

In the last week a former New Zealand female politician and broadcaster, Pam Corkery, has announced her plans to establish a male brothel. Prostitution is legal in New Zealand, so that’s not really the issue here. The problem lies in Corkery’s decision to defend her actions by saying that because New Zealand women were the first in the world to get the vote it is only fitting that they should lead the world in male brothels. Corkery’s words demonstrate the double-edged sword of New Zealand’s position in relation to women’s suffrage - although positive gains in the women’s movement draw attention to New Zealand’s pioneering spirit, more salacious factors which reference to our unique position in history can cause antagonism toward women’s rights.  So to Pam I say, “Go ahead, but leave Kate out of it!”

-Briar Barry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

90 Years of the 19th Amendment

To honor the passion and spirit of the women of the past who fought for a right that many in the world are still fighting for, Girl Museum is sharing personal stories about what the vote for women means to us.

Join us and contribute your story to the blog as well.

Celebrate the right and take responsibility.

-Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Girls and Finance

When it comes to financial skills, in knowledge and confidence girls still fall behind boys, according to a report from Girls Inc., an organization that helps girls understand how economics and financial issues affect their lives and prepares them for financial independence. Discover more at the Girls Inc. Economic Literacy page.

"Women, who are trained to nurture and seek acceptance, view money as a means to create a lifestyle," says Jay MacDonald, a contributing editor for "Women spend on things that enhance day-to-day living. Theirs is a now-money orientation. Men, who are trained to fix and provide, view money as a means to capture and accumulate value. Men don't spend; they invest. Men don't want something; they need it. Theirs is a future-money orientation."

Further investigations have found that when it comes to finances girls and boys are treated very differently by parents. For example, a boy will be invited to accompany his father when purchasing a car whereas a girl usually won’t be. In addition these studies have found that boys are trained to be more self-sufficient and pragmatic with their spending whereas most girls are not encouraged to the same degree and instead they are raised to expect their parents, and then eventually a spouse or partner, to provide for them. It is essential that this attitude should change. Now more than ever it is essential that we equip girls with the skills they need to be financially independent and secure. It is a crucial life skill which is too important to be taken for granted, or worse neglected.

-Sarah Lynch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Heroines Quilt

While we here at Girl Museum enjoy producing quality, meaningful exhibitions centered around girls and girlhood, we also like working with visitors to create exhibitions with a more personal message.  One of the ways we do that is by creating interactive exhibitions such as the Heroines Quilt.  Initially started here on the Girl Museum blog to celebrate Women's History Month in March 2010, the photos and stories submitted by Girl Museum staff, interns, and visitors were digitally "stitched" into a quilt as an ongoing exhibition.  And although Women's History month has passed us for this year, we're still eager to add squares to our quilt of extraordinary women.  If there's a heroine in your life that you'd like to honor, whether she's historical, fictional, famous, or just special to you, we'd love to hear about her and add her to the Quilt!

If you're interested in creating a submission for the Heroines Quilt exhibition, please email a photograph and a short paragraph (about 250 words) to the Head Girl.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Glamourizing Domestic Violence?

Currently the number one song in the United States is Love the Way You Lie, a collaboration between Eminem and Rihanna.  The song deals with domestic violence from both a male and female perspective.  On August 6 a music video accompanying the song was released, starring Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan.

I really like this song because I think it does what very few other mediums have done in exploring the aspect of male responsibility in domestic violence.  It’s also a good opening for parents and educators to talk about relationship violence.  In addition, I think it’s pretty brave of Rihanna to directly address domestic violence, since her abuse at the hands of an ex-boyfriend became a public spectacle last year.

What I question is the content of the music video, which is a little too glossy and star-studded for the subject matter.  Megan Fox (who donated her entire paycheck from this video to a shelter for battered women) is considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, and Dominic Monaghan has a rough-around-the-edges hotness to him.  Throughout the video we see them fight:  she screams and pushes him, he punches a wall and pulls her hair, and in the end we see both of them and their house go up in flames.  But there are no bruises or cuts, no trips to the emergency room, no panic attacks on her part, and in between being mad at each other they start making out.  The whole thing plays out like a melodrama of love, where the consequences of violence aren’t fully explored.  For commentary on the music video, read "Rihanna Stars In Eminem's Video About Domestic Violence" or "Does the Eminem/Rihanna Domestic Abuse Video Send the Right Message?"

Since preteens and teenagers are one of the primary audiences of music videos, and women are the majority of domestic violence victims, I wonder what message girls will take away.  Will they perceive relationship violence as just another problem beautiful people have when they fall in love?  I hope instead that they can be inspired by seeing Rihanna singing about what she’s been through and how she survived.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

11 Year-Old Girl Grows Veggies to Feed the Needy

Katie Stagliano, a sixth-grader from South Carolina, has been concerned with the environment and helping others for as long as she can remember. At age 4, Katie invented a recyclable toothbrush that sings a rap song to remind users to conserve water. In third grade, Katie talked to her school board to create a water-conservation effort and created Katie’s Krops to provide vegetables for the needy. 

Katie’s Krops, a nonprofit organization, was founded after Katie planted a cabbage seed in her family garden; it grew to an astounding 40 pounds and she donated it to a soup kitchen. After creating meat, rice and cabbage meals, the soup kitchen was able to feed 275 people! Elois Mackey, a recipient of Katie’s vegetable gardens, said that Katie shows “that you can help other people no matter how young you are.” To learn how to start your own garden, please visit Katie's Krops Kids Gardening Tips!

After donating the cabbage, Katie started planting vegetable gardens--Katie’s Krops now has six gardens, including a football-stadium size garden at her local school--with the help from her family, neighbors and classmates. Over the past year, Katie has donated over 2,000 pounds of vegetables to nearby food pantries and hopes to donate another 1,200 pounds by October 2010. To read more about Katie and her garden, please read "From Seedlings to Servings: 11-Year-Old Grows Tons of Veggies for the Homeless."

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making the Boys Cry

Chelsea Baker

Two perfect games this season, and a 65 mph knuckleball that makes batters cry (literally).  At 13 years old Chelsea Baker is indisputably the best Little League baseball pitcher in the US.  That’s right, baseball.  Chelsea is the only girl on a boys team, and she has dominated for the last four years: her Little League teams have lost only 8 of their 105 games over that time.

Surprisingly—or perhaps unsurprisingly—she often hears that she should being playing softball instead, and that she can’t keep playing with the boys for much longer.  To Chelsea’s credit, however, she’s motivated by the criticism, noting that she uses it to place her next pitch where she wants it.  She's also said that “. . . they say stuff like that because they are jealous.”  Her parents also stand behind her, with Chelsea’s mother being quoted as saying “at some point, maybe she might have to go play softball, but right now as good as she is doing and she is able to keep up … and that is her goal, I am going to stand behind her and let her continue playing baseball as long as possible.”  Chelsea, on the other hand, is more straightforward: “I don’t like to play softball.”  You can read the ESPN article and watch a video on Chelsea here.

And though a few opposing batters have gone back to the dugout in tears and nearly all of them in shock, some batters are impressed by her pitches, complimenting both her signature knuckleball (taught to her by her coach, former Houston Astros pitcher Joe Niekro) and her fastball.

It’s important to note, however, that Chelsea isn’t the first female to be successful in baseball.  In 1990, Jodi Haller was the first woman to pitch in a university baseball game.  In 1994, Ila Borders was the first woman to receive scholarship money to play baseball at the university level.  Eri Yoshida was drafted at 18 years old, the first female to be drafted by a Japanese professional team.  And in 1993, Karey Schueler was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, the first woman to be drafted by a Major League Baseball team.  Perhaps Chelsea Baker will join this list in a few more years.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Girls and Comics

Wonder Woman is finally changing her clothes after nearly 70 years in the same outfit. So away goes the corset and giant knickers and in comes leggings (very fashionable these days), flat shoes and a trendy jacket.  It’s great to see an update of a character that hasn’t changed fashion since the middle of World War II. It’s a shame she missed out on an 80’s perm or geometric eyeliner during the 60’s but one thing is quite apparent that this is a male led change; she is keeping her large breasts. An article in the Guardian points out that when the female author Jodi Picoult was drafted to work on Wonder Woman in 2006, she sought to reduce the breast size but was unsuccessful.

Women writing for mainstream comics are not at all unusual but the idea that comics are solely for boys still prevail. The TV show The Big Bang Theory contains many scenes that take part in a comic book store, where the presence of a girl is highly unusual and creates social dilemmas for the boys in the shop. The small act of keeping Wonder Woman’s breasts large shows the innate sexism that is still prevalent. Realistically, Wonder Woman’s breasts would be impractical in the work she does, and yes I know, superheroes are not about realism, but it still smacks of misogynism. And while we’re onto misogynism, why not buy a t-shirt that says ‘I Love Boys that Rock’ inspired by many Marvel comic book heroes or you can pick up Marvel flavoured lip gloss. It seems it’s ok to be a girl because things can be sold to us, but come on, at least help us out a little when it comes to realistic breast size.

Go read a comic written by a woman. Read a version of John Constantine: Hellblazer by Denise Mina, a Scottish crime writer. Read Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmond (which has been made into a film) or Unholy Kinship by Naomi Nowak. Read Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, where girls are portrayed realistically. Go read a comic where the breasts don’t get in the way and leave that to the 13 year old boys. And before you start, read the (archived) blog Girls Read Comics. You’ll not be disappointed.

-Julie Anne Young
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Female Genital Mutilation in the UK

According to an article in the Guardian, there is an increase in female circumcision in the United Kingdom despite it being an illegal practise since 1985. The article highlights that during the summer months girls 500 to 2000 girls are flown to countries where this practise is widespread, so as not to arouse suspicion during school term time. There is also an increase in women coming to the UK to practise these circumcisions on groups of children as it is cheaper to fly one person over than for families to fly together.

Female Genital Mutilation has been discussed on this blog by Samantha Bradbeer before, but the increase is worrying especially as many of the girls don’t know what is going to happen. In a similar article in the Guardian, the story of one girl Jamelia is told. Now 20 years old, she remembers being excited about travelling on a plane and packing her Harry Potter book.  Jamelia knew that something was going to happen, and she believed it was part of her religion, but nothing could have prepared her for what actually happened. She describes the pain and detachment of her body suffered afterwards.  The years of pain and medical problems--especially when it comes to childbirth--are just one aspect of the repercussions of FGM.

It is seen as clean, neat and provides increased sexual pleasure for the male, but besides the women protesting this practise, there are also men who are against the practise,  as sex is commonly painful and endured, but not enjoyed, by a woman who has suffered FGM.  Female circumcision is an issue that should be written about and publicized every day until it stops.

Julie Anne Young
Junior Girl
Girl Museum  Inc.