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?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Connecticut Cheerleaders Ask for Uniforms with More Coverage

Bridgeport Central High School cheerleaders Tedah Chan and Heidi Medina aren't happy with their skimpy uniforms.

Every year, young girls’ clothes seem to get shorter and tighter. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that it’s hard to find an age appropriate costume for young girls and perhaps even harder to find cheerleader uniforms that aren’t skimpy.

Last month, Heidi Medina, the captain of Bridgeport Central’s cheerleading squad, asked the Board of Education members if they would allow their daughters to wear an outfit that shows her midriff. Heidi Medina and her teammates told the board that their uniforms do not meet cheerleader regulations for meets. Cheerleader uniforms should cover the athlete's midsection when standing at attention.

"It really hurts our self esteem," Bridgeport Central senior Ariana Mesaros told the Board of Education, according to the Post. "I am embarrassed to stand up here dressed like this. Is this really how you want Bridgeport to be represented?" The Bridgeport cheerleaders’ uniform plea was requested just a month after a recent study of college cheerleaders linked eating disorders to bare midriffs. 

To learn more about this study, please read, 'Study: Eating Disorders and Bare Midriffs - Cheerleaders At Risk'. To prevent possible parent concerns and possible self-esteem problems among the girls, the Board of Education has decided to purchase black bodysuits for the cheerleaders to wear under their uniforms.

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Typical Girls

Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Ari Up died last month. You might not know who Ari Up was but she was a member of the punk group The Slits. The Slits were formed when Ari was only 14, a product of growing up in a household that had many musicians staying and passing through. The Slits became known for their provocative performances and lyrics which explored the role of women in their society.

“Who invented the typical girl?
Who's bringing out the new improved model?
And there's another marketing ploy
Typical girl gets the typical boy.”
- Typical Girls by the Slits

Punk, with its DIY attitude, meant that women could start their own bands with the same ease as men. Patti Smith arguably heralded the start of punk in America, with her lyricism and music style. And from Punk (The Slits, Siouxie and the Banshees and Xray Spex), through to Post-Punk in the 80’s and the Riot Girrrl movement in the 90’s (Bikini Kill), women have had a presence in music that gets superseded by whoever is the current pop princess. While the Britney Spears of the world sing about perfect love and pleasing your man, bands like Breeder and L7 sing about the issues that affect women.

 Women playing in their own bands, playing their own instruments and writing their own songs has constantly remained underground.  Though I’m a failed musician (could never quite get the hang of the guitar) these women have influenced me in the way I live, in the way I seek to be treated by others and in what I hold valuable in people. Don’t be a Hannah Montana when you can be an Ari Up.
- Julie Anne Young
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Barbie Video Girl?

Image courtesy

For years Barbie has been the target of criticism for her unrealistic proportions, occasional lowbrow career choices(McDonalds cashier; bride; or my personal favourite - Christian Louboutin Cat Burglar), lack of cultural diversity and questionable choice in men.

However, the most recent backlashaimed at the famous blonde has come on the back of her most recent attempt to reinvent herself for the 21st century and embrace technology.  Manufacturers Mattel have fitted Barbie with a video camera hidden in her necklace and a small colour LCD screen in her back which has the capacity to record 30 minutes of video which can then be uploaded to the internet. 

Understandably psychologists and privacy experts are concerned about the potential negative impact of placing this sort of technology in the hands of children. As Lawyer Michael Pearce of Australian civil liberties firm Liberty Victoria has said, “It's possible that the Barbie camera might pick up some personal and private events that you would rather not be publicly disclosed.”  

And as people are fast realising, once something makes it onto the internet it really can be near impossible to ever remove completely. I know that I certainly would not appreciate footage of myself plastered across the internet eating dog biscuits, sporting my self-executed bowl cut or any number of other embarrassing milestones from the days when I was brushing Barbie’s golden tresses.

However, I think that boycotting toys of this nature is not the answer to these publicity and privacy issues. Children are growing up in an ever increasing technological age and simply willing marketers to refrain from targeting internet capable toys at this young market is unlikely to have any substantial impact. Instead we should be encouraging our children to approach such devices wisely, to understand both the positives and negatives associated with them and treat them accordingly.

With new parents creating an online presence for their children often from the day they are born (and sometimes even before they arrive), their exposure to the internet is no longer a question of if, but when. Barbie should not be the only one taking the fall for this – children require guidance dealing with the internet on all fronts, not only to avoid later regrets, but to protect them. Adults the world over should have the foresight to realise this now. 

- Briar Barry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Universal Children's Day

Once upon a time there was a little girl. 
She was born into a family who loved her and watched her grow with delight. She spent her time running around, falling over, fighting with her siblings, playing with her friends, making up with her siblings, fighting with her friends, cycling towards magical kingdoms, spending never-ending days on the beach, and being happy. 
She was me.

The magical kingdoms still exist.
Celebrate Universal Children’s Day and find yours.

-Julie Anne Young
Junior Girl

To celebrate Universal Children’s Day, I share with you the 1954 poem of the late, great Dorothy Law Nolte who so eloquently expresses guidelines for older generations to help children navigate the perilous waters of their youth - to emerge as strong, successful and compassionate adults.

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with hostility,
they learn to fight.
If children live with ridicule,
they learn to be shy.
If children live with tolerance,
they learn to be patient.
If children live with encouragement,
they learn confidence.
If children live with praise,
they learn to appreciate.
If children live with fairness,
they learn justice.
If children live with security,
they learn faith.
If children live with approval,
they learn to like themselves.
If children live with acceptance, and friendship,
they learn to find love in the world.

-Briar Barry
Junior Girl

Celebrating Childhood

A new born child is like clay. An adult is a reflection of the circumstances that has moulded him/her to his/her present. As a child, a human being lives in his/her purest form. The world calls it innocence. Does a newborn baby know what its religion is? Does the baby know whether it is rich or poor? Does the infant know which region does it belong to? We are born with a mind as blank as a slate. We are an echo of the hand that has written on our slate.

November celebrates the spirit of childhood universally. In India, Children's Day is celebrated on November 14, the birthday of India's first prime minister Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru or Chacha (Uncle) Nehru as he was fondly called by kids. Nehru believed that children should be nurtured carefully as they are the citizens of tomorrow.

I remember as a kid we used to have cultural program in school on November 14. Unlike kids performing on stage, which was a usual affair, on this particular day teachers used to perform for us. After the program was over we all used to go to class where the class teacher distributed sweets and snacks. Those days will not come back, but it’s difficult not to watch 'Tom & Jerry'. I know I am not the only person in the world when I say as a kid I hated drinking milk.

Once I was stuck in a heavy traffic jam in the scorching heat of a June afternoon. People were impatient. Horns  honked madly. Amidst all that chaos I saw a smiling face. The child was sitting on the wooden plank of a bicycle cart. Her age could not be more than two and amidst all the confusion and swearing she was giggling in all her glory. Her mouth was covered with saliva, but that did not bother her. She was enjoying the chaos.

When her luminous eyes met my eyes I could not help but smile back. That was one scene in the stage of life which got etched in my mind forever. This picture not only celebrates innocence, but also sends an important message. Life can be harsh at times. Confront your problems with a smile and you will feel things getting easier.

-Shruti Gautam
Junior Girl

November 20 marks the day that the UN ratified the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989.

Get to know your rights and help protect children.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is Facebook Good for Girls?

Sometimes it seems like all we hear about Facebook are the negative things:  how it sucks up people’s time, how it allows your moments of bad judgment to follow you for years, how it’s just a poor imitation of real life.  So it’s refreshing to hear that Facebook may actually be doing some good for teenage girls.

In a recent study issued by the Girl Scouts, more than half of the girls responding to a survey reported that social networks enhanced their friendships.  The researchers also speculated that Facebook may help girls who feel isolated to connect with others who share their interests. 

Of course, there are some qualifications to the study’s positive findings.  68% of girls reported being bullied or gossiped about on social networks, and 40% said they thought badly of someone after seeing some of their online content.  In addition, 41% of girls admitted that they try to make themselves seem cooler online.

As for me, I’m quite relieved that Facebook didn't become popular until the summer before I went off to college.  I was a pretty lonely teenager, and I can only imagine that my lack of friends would have been all too clearly spelled out on an empty social network page.  It was only as I started college that I began to truly feel comfortable with myself, and comfortable in sharing myself and my thoughts.

But I admire today’s girls, who are forging ahead online without any guidance from the past.  If social networks are going to give girls confidence, and let them feel that they have something to contribute to the world, the let the Facebook away.
- Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Women of the Year

Katie Spotz, Constance McMillen and Dr. Hawa Abdi & her daughters, Glamour Women of the Year 2010.

For the past twenty years, Glamour magazine has celebrated women’s achievements through their Women of the Year Awards. Both celebrities and everyday young women are celebrated for their actions in this year’s Glamour Women of the Year awards. The Women of the Year award winners have taught us that we should fight for what is right, one person can make a difference, to love yourself and that we can learn from failure.

The Glamour Women of the Year 2010 winners include the singer Fergie, the young sailor Katie Spotz, the actress Julia Roberts, Queen Rania, Dr. Hawa Abdi and her daughters, the high school student Constance McMillien, the fashion designer Donatella Versace, Our World’s Female Heads of State, and the athletes Lindsey Vonn, Mia Hamm and Lisa Leslie. The Lifetime Achievement Award winner for this year went to the actress and singer, Cher.

Constance McMillien was honored at this year’s Glamour Women of the Year Awards because she had the courage to stand up and say she is proud of who she is. Constance just wanted to go to the prom, however her high school objected to Constance brining her girlfriend as her prom date. Constance called the American Civil Liberties Union to report the harassment and injustice she faced at school; however the result was not what she’d expected. Constance was soon faced with a lawsuit, prom was cancelled and many of her fellow students were angry with her. After standing up, her high school eventually enforced a nondiscrimination policy and provided a large settlement. Constance plans to use her settlement for college. To learn more about Constance, please read 'Constance McMillen: The Accidental Activist'.

To learn more about this year’s winners, read 'Women of the Year 20th Anniversary Special'.

To learn about previous Women of the Year honorees, check out 'Women of the Year Turns 20: A Look back at Honorees'.

Over the years, Glamour readers have responded to past Women of the Year honorees by donating to the charities they support. This year the Glamour Women of the Year Fund is helping thousands of women and children being cared for by Women of the Year 2010 honoree Dr. Hawa Abid’s refugee camp in Somalia.  Life saving medical treatments and literacy training is needed. 

To learn more about the refuge camp’s needs, please read 'How to Help'.

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birth Control for 13-Year-Olds?

In what has been a very controversial decision, the National Health Service Trust for the Isle of Wight has started a new pilot program.  Emergency contraceptive services—namely, the “morning-after” pill—can be given to anyone between the ages of 13 and 16 (16 being the legal age for sexual consent in the UK) but those under 16 cannot receive regular birth control pills without parental consent.  Noting the “gap in the arrangements,” Dr. Jenifer Smith, the Director of Public Health at NHS Isle of Wight said that “It is not for the health service to moralise on the rights and wrongs of underage sex . . . .   A girl aged 13 to 16 could access emergency hormonal contraception whenever needed but would not be referred to the Sexual Health Service for counselling and a discussion about the longer term effects of their sexual activity such as sexually transmitted infections.”

In essence, the program allows for specially trained pharmacists to, after a private discussion about potential side effects and complications of hormonal contraception (including the morning-after pill), provide a one month supply of a progesterone-only birth control pill.  The pharmacist would also discuss sexually transmitted diseases and make a referral to the Sexual Health Service.  Additionally, after a week, there would be a follow-up by the pharmacist, and after 21 days, a follow-up by a nurse from the Sexual Health Service.  Anyone under 16 would be automatically referred to the Sexual Health Service, and if someone were to try and access the service a second time via a different pharmacy (without seeking an appointment with a GP), the individual would be contacted again.  Lastly, everyone using the service is strongly encouraged to talk to a “parent or other responsible adult.”

The Isle of Wight NHS decided not to publicize this new program, presumably because of the outrage it would potentially cause.  Even so, an article in the Daily Mail was critical of the program, and was also, according to the NHS pharmacist interviewed for the article, highly inaccurate.  You can read his response here.  The Guardian also published an editorial with both sides being represented.

Though I am appalled that kids as young as 13 (and younger, sadly) are sexually active, denying them access to birth control will not prevent them from having sex.  And though condoms are available at any age for anyone to buy or access from the free condom distribution scheme available from Isle of Wight pharmacies, I think it's unreasonable to expect or assume that one or both parties would want to use a condom.  The program is no substitute for parental involvement and sexual education (which are not substitutes for each other, either), but it's a step in the right direction.  While providing assistance, it also offers some education and encouragement to talk to an adult.  And yes, in a small percentage of people, the pill can have serious side-effects.  But those side-effects are no different if you're 13, 16, 18, or 30.  And though perhaps a 13 year-old is less inclined to look for the signs of a blood-clot, I'm not truly convinced a 16 or 18 year-old is much more responsible.

This program is a mixed blessing.  While it won't solve teenage pregnancy by any stretch, perhaps it will lower the rate slightly, and hopefully it will educate girls about their options and the consequences of their decisions.  What I really hope for, though, is a breakthrough in allowing girls to be sexually responsible—whatever their age—without the stigma that so often goes along with girls and sex.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.