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?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Has Amelia Earhart Been Found?

During an attempt to fly around the globe in 1937, Amelia Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island. Over the years, members of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery have made trips to the island in search for Amelia. Glass bottles, makeup, a woman’s shoe and an empty sextant box were found among turtle, clamshell and bird remains.

Last spring, members of the recovery group discovered three bone fragments on the island; which may include a finger bone. Scientists at the University of Oklahoma will be testing the fragments to see if they are a match by testing it against surviving Earhart family members. If the bone fragments are a match, researchers may have a clue into what happened to Amelia. What was were her last moments like? What was she doing on Howland Island?

Ric Gillespie, director of the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, believes Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, may have landed on the nearby reef and perhaps, survived for months on scant food and rainwater. However, even if they landed safely, the plane would have been slowly into the sea by the tides. Gillespie believes his group would need $3 to $5 million dollars for a deep-sea investigation to look for Amelia’s plane. To read more about this discovery, please read “Bones found on island might be Amelia Earhart’s”.

The result of the DNA test could be revealed in two weeks, but ancient DNA can be “incredibly unpredictable.” If scientists at the University of Oklahoma have trouble with the testing, it could be months before we know if this discovery is related to Amelia or not.

To learn more about Amelia, please visit the Amelia Earhart Birthplace Museum and the Girl Museum’s Heroine Quilt
- Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Exhibition: Girl Saints

Girl Museum is thrilled to announce the opening of our final exhibition of 2010, Girl Saints.  Girl Saints examines the lives, deaths, and artistic representations of sixteens girl saints.

Part of Girl Museum's mission is to celebrate girlhood, and through our "Girlhood in Art" series we explore ways this has been represented in art history. Depictions of girls being tortured and killed, whatever the reason, is not worthy of celebration. However, the destruction of girlhood is a strong theme throughout human history, with intentions ranging from forgiveness to peace. 

Regardless of your personal beliefs, do the messages justify the images? Visit Girl Saints and decide for yourself.

Don't forget to tell your friends to visit Girl Museum and all our exhibitions!

We're always open and always free.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Virginity Pledges, Purity Balls and Sexual Education

Image via

Formal virginity pledges are a fairly recent phenomenon, starting in the early to mid 1990s.  Though individuals have often pledged to wait until marriage before having sex, it wasn't until 1993 and the founding of True Love Waits and followed by The Silver Ring Thing in 1995 that girls (and some boys) formally pledged to remain sexually pure.  True Love Waits current pledge states:

"Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate, and my future children to a lifetime of purity including sexual abstinence from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship."

For those of us not so biblically minded, this can be a rather disturbing pledge in a variety of ways.  I would never say that a policy of abstinence is a bad thing.  Abstinence is the only surefire way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, and I think most people would argue that sex and its accompanying emotions are complex enough that most teenagers are not equipped to properly deal with the consequences.  However, it is not the pledge of abstinence that I find so troubling; rather, there are several other, more insidious factors that are truly unnerving.  The implications of pledging yourself to an as yet unknown future: a future husband and future children, neither of which you may ultimately want or get.  Compounding the issue is the age of many of these girls; though the “suggested” age for girls taking a purity pledge is shortly after beginning menstruation, 7 and 8 year old girls (and some as young as 4) have attended purity balls and signed a pledge with their fathers.  At these father-daughter formal balls, the girls pledge themselves, but additionally, the fathers pledge to protect and “fight for” their daughters' virginity (and give them a ring, in what has been often described as a “creepy” wedding-style ceremony).  The fathers will vow something along the lines of:

I, my daughter's father, choose before God to war for my daughter's virginity.
I acknowledge myself as the authority and protector of my daughter's virginity.
I pledge to be a man of integrity as I lead, guide, and pray over my daughter and her virginity. (From the documentary Daddy I Do)

Again, I'm a firm believer in, if not abstinence until marriage, waiting until you are truly ready.  That means knowing the responsibilities and dangers of sexual activities, being prepared emotionally, mentally, and physically, using appropriate protection, and (occasionally old-fashioned lass that I am) preferably waiting until you have an emotional connection with your sexual partner.  These pledges, however, remove not only sexual experience from the picture, but also any knowledge.  By pledging to not have impure thoughts, you essentially remove all sexual education and knowledge from the picture, because talking about it might inspire these impure thoughts.  Additionally, the father's pledge is shockingly sexist and controlling.  I can't speak for all girls and women, but even as a girl, the notion of my father being the “authority” of my virginity would have—at best—embarrassed and grossed me out.

The truly disturbing factor of virginity pledges and their associated purity balls is the extreme lack of education these girls (and boys) receive.  Generally they receive abstinence-only education, and when they do break their purity vows (it's estimated that 90% will do so) they have no knowledge or understanding about birth control pills, condoms, or STDs.  This is made even worse if they've been surrounded by people who pass on misinformation like “condoms don't work,” as Denny Pattyn of The Silver Ring Thing does.  While condoms are not 100% effective, to say they are faulty is accurate and harmful, and can cause girls to be distrustful of any and all birth control.  Is it any wonder that so many teen mothers come from abstinence-only backgrounds?

For more information on these topics, you can watch the documentary Daddy I Do.  There, you can also look for screenings near you, or ask to be put on the wait list for the DVD.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Science Cheerleaders

Let’s be honest:  when we think of cheerleaders, we usually think of something like the movie Bring It On. Something like a bunch of bubblehead blonds in skimpy outfits, whose goal in life is to win competitions and capture the perfect boyfriend.

Blasting that stereotype away are the Science Cheerleaders. They’re a group of former professional cheerleaders who all went on to have science and engineering careers.  These women now get together and perform cheers aimed at getting girls interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).

Some people have criticized the Science Cheerleaders for sexing up science, but I disagree. I think it’s important for girls to see that any type of women, no matter what their interests are and how they perform their gender, can be smart and successful in a STEM career.

I come at this issue from the perspective of a former science nerd. When I started college I was a physics major and one of the very few women in my department. I also happened to be (and still am) a woman who likes dresses, shoes and getting my nails done Sometimes it felt like I had to struggle every day against the notion that in order to appear smart, I had to tone down these characteristics of my personality and act more “like a man.”  And it wasn’t just other people who displayed this attitude – I had to fight to keep from projecting these notions on myself.

Although I ultimately decided to switch to another major and a different career field, the memories of my days in science – of earning one of only 3 As in my Physics 301 class, of being the only women out of eighteen men selected for a summer research program – still inform how I tackle the world.

As I learned at the Reimagining Girlhood conference earlier this fall, by the age of twelve many girls are reluctant to take science classes because they fear that having a STEM career will doom their social and romantic life.  This is a sad fact of girlhood, so I applaud any effort to show girls that they can be and do whatever they choose.

- Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

One Girl, One Dress, One Cause

Sheena Matheiken, “The Uniform Project.”

For the past two years, The Uniform Project has been raising money for the charity. Last year, Sheena Matheiken wore the same black dress with donated and/or thrifted accessories for 365 days to raise money for the Akanksha Foundation, which helps children in India receive an education. Sheena raised over $100,000 for the Akanksha Foundation while being eco-conscious and experimenting with personal style.

To learn more about “The Uniform Project” and Sheena Matheiken’s adventure, please read "One Girl, One Dress, 356 Days Later: Catching Up with ‘The Uniform Project’ In Its Home Stretch."

Could you wear the same dress every day for a year? A month? This year The Uniform Project is focusing on one dress, one month and one cause. This month Aki Goto is wearing one dress to raise money for Songs for Kids. Aki hopes to raise $5,000 this during this project because it will allow musicians to play at the cancer center in the Egleston Children's Hospital for one year. To learn more about Aki Goto, please check out Year 2: Pilot Series 1 Dress. 1 Month. 1 Cause.

Want to wear a dress for a cause? Check out DIY U.P. Need some ideas on how you could wear the same dress every day? Watch The Uniform Project picture book video.

- Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rangoli - An Indian Folk Art

Girls making rangoli in Andrah Pradesh. Photographer: Santosh Korthiwada.

Rangoli or Rangavalli, literally meaning a creeper drawn with colors, is an ancient decorative art practiced by women and girls in India. Rangoli is basically designs drawn with one or many colors, drawn on the floor in a front yard, a courtyard or passage. The design ranges from quite simple to very intricate. Though it has its origin in rural settings, today even the most urbane have not forgotten this art.

Rangoli is also considered a form of worship as it has very symbolic meanings. Most of the motifs used are inspired from Indian mythology. Some of the most popular are the feet of Goddess Lakshmi- deity of wealth and prosperity, paisley- a symbol of fertility and prosperity, the planets representing the days of the week, also various geometrical patterns, etc. Some of the motifs are derived from folklore as well. It is believed that Rangoli can also be used as a protection against evil spirits or the evil eye and positively it can invoke the benedictions of gods and goddesses.

Traditionally, Rangoli is made of rice paste or slurry. Now, during the festive season, you can purchase colors of various shades in their powder form. Rangoli is commonly made outside the main door of one's house during Diwali, the festival of lights, which is celebrated in the month of October or November. However, in the Bengal and southern parts of India, making Rangoli or Kolam with rice paste or dry rice powder is an everyday practice. Rangoli in Bengal is called Alpana.

To learn more about making your own Rangoli, check out Activity Village.
- Shruti Gautam
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Eating Healthy Matters

Do you find yourself eating junk food when you aren’t even hungry? Do you eat too much or drink too many sugary drinks? Are you not sleeping a full 7-8 hours each night? As a student, I generally feel tired, hungry and even grumpy at times. What is to blame? My diet.

According to Girls’ Life magazine and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, young girls today are relying on the wrong foods, eating too much, drinking too many calories, and not sleeping or exercising enough. Many young girls and young women eat junk food to avoid stress, anxiety or difficult situations. I tend to eat junk food or drink multiple sodas while studying for a test.

Pizza, sodas and baked goods are the top three calorie sources for kids. In fact, these foods take up approximately 40% of your daily calorie intake. Instead of eating a lot of junk food at once, drink water, eat fruit or eat only small amount of junk food. 

While watching how many portions you eat is important, it is also important not to deprive yourself. Many young girls fall into dangerous diet habits, like starving themselves all day only to binge on junk food later. Instead of participating in crash diets, young girls should eat a healthy breakfast—even if it’s only an apple and yogurt—snack on healthy foods throughout the day and of course eat lunch and dinner. Small snacks like fruits, veggie, almonds, and even popcorn can keep your stomach satisfied until your next meal.

Eating right can help, but sleep is key to staying healthy. Lack of sleep can make you crave sugary foods more, so try to sleep 7 or 8 hours each night. I use to get about 5 hours of sleep each night until I forced myself to have a bedtime. Although I sometimes would prefer to watch TV, going to sleep at the same time each night has made me feel a lot better in the mornings and not as tired during while at work.

To learn more about weight gain among teens and how to prevent it, please read Girls’ Life magazine’s “Weight Matters; The Frightening Reasons Teens are Supersizing Themselves in Record Numbers”.

To learn more about the dangers of crash diets, please read “Your Feelings: Eating Disorders”
- Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Lesbian in the South Tells Her Story

Photo by Laurel Golio for We Are the Youth

The United States has recently seen too many suicides by gay teens and young adults, which has made people more conscious of the bullying these youth face.  Some good projects have come out of these tragedies, including the “It Gets Better” video series, and the “We Are the Youth” photojournalism series.  Looking at the “We Are the Youth” website, I was particularly struck by the story of Audri, a butch lesbian teenager growing up in Mississippi.

Audri talks about the usual torments from school peers, and how more traditionally feminine lesbians got treated much better than she did.  But what was interesting to me was how loving her parents were – both her mom and her dad accepted her sexuality, and her mom even joined Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

I think the reason I find Audri so fascinating is because I take such a dim view of the South.  I grew up near New York City, in a pretty liberal area, where it’s a common assumption that Southern states like Mississippi are backwards and deeply conservative.  In the North we like to pat ourselves on the back and pretend that we’re a lot more progressive than those Dirty South folks.  After all, Mississippi isn’t always helping to deter this perception:  their state flag contains the Confederate “stars and bars,” a symbol of the four years that many southern states broke away from the U.S. and tried to form a new country based on the right to own slaves.

And yet, as Audri shows, people in the South can have pretty big hearts, especially when it comes to their children.  Her family reminds us that we all need to come together to support LGBT youth in spite of our prejudices, and that we need to examine our where our own communities fall short on acceptance. 

Audri makes a good point at the end of her story about why she doesn’t want to leave Mississippi.  She says that “nothing ever changes when all the gay people leave.  And conservative people will never be used to a butch lesbian holding another girl’s hand, or two guys holding hands, if they don’t see it.” 

Here’s hoping Audri can stay strong and win people over in her home state!

- Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.