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?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pink Bus, Big Dreams

Amiya Alexander's Pink Bus.

When she was nine, Amiya Alexander had a dream about giving dance lessons on a pink bus.  Less than two years later, she was doing exactly that.  After sharing her idea with her mother Teberah Alexander, a registered nurse who owns a home health care business, Amiya got her school bus for Christmas 2008.  Costing $5000 (plus another $6000 for "remodeling"), Amiya's Mobile Dance Academy was born.  At only 11 years old, Amiya teaches beginning ballet, tap, hip hop, jazz, and salsa to young girls in Detroit, Michigan, and inspires many more with her drive, determination, and professionalism.  Amiya is also determined to fight childhood obesity, working against it one child and one dance lesson at a time.  Her fight against childhood obesity is directly related to her goal of attending Harvard Medical School to become a obstetrician.

Beyond offering affordable beginning dance lessons to kids around Detroit, Amiya has also founded Rising Stars Dance with Me Program, a nonprofit organization that helps children who can't afford to pay for dance lessons. For more information, visit Amiya's website or read one of the following articles:

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Teen Girl Sails Around the World

Jessica Watson, youngest sailor to circle the globe, aboard her pink yacht

Earlier this month, 16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson became the youngest sailor to circle the globe. While at sea for seven months on her 34-foot pink yacht, Jessica faced 40-foot waves, engine problems strong winds and homesickness. Although Jessica faced and overcame hardships, she also had the opportunity to sail across the world’s oceans and see beautiful sunrises. The full Associated Press article can be found at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=126848754

Before and during Jessica’s seven month voyage, critics around the world debated if she would come back from this trip alive. Critics stated that Jessica was “too immature and inexperienced” and protested her trip. Although Jessica has been sailing since the age of 8 and her parents let her accomplish her goals unassisted, critics have said claimed it was an act of insanity for parents to let their daughter attempt this feat. Do you think Jessica’s parents should have allowed her to go on this voyage unassisted?

Although Jessica’s voyage will not be considered an official world record—“because the World Speed Sailing Record Council discontinued its ‘youngest’ category”—Jessica accomplished an amazing accomplishment and should be applauded for her bravery. If you are interested in reading more about Jessica’s journey, check out her blog at http://www.jessicawatson.com.au.

Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Girl Power?


When the Spice Girls arrived on the radio, my 10 year old self was instantly hooked; a girl band with a woman I could idolise, indeed five women I could idolise. The group sang about girl power. I wasn’t really sure what that meant but I believed it involved choosing an identity for myself. Also, it seemed, a lot of high kicks and telling my brother off. I wonder, though, how such a group has affected me in the long run, indeed, affected lots of girls in the long run. Having idols that promoted girl power while singing “If you wanna be my lover” seems to promote conflicting ideals. Was it girl empowerment or girl exploitation?

More recently, the Pussycat Dolls have flirted with controversy. Song lyrics including “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me” and “When I grow up I wanna be famous”. Turn on your radio, no doubt you’ll hear their songs. The Pussycat Dolls are more obviously sexual, wearing clothes that would fit a young child comfortably and an adult more imaginatively. The Pussycat Dolls, however, seem to pedalling their own type of girl power, a power that gives a child ability to want to be famous through physical attractiveness rather than other more intangible characteristics.

But then maybe these girl bands are the smart ones. Their songs, their dances, their merchandise hints not at sexual exploitation or girl empowerment but at economic capitalisation. Because when it comes down to it, I bought Spice Girl body fragrance, Spice Girl t-shirts, albums, singles, posters and everything I could afford. The amount of merchandise available for The Pussycat Dolls is not surprising. Is it too cynical to tell a 10 year old girl that the music they’re listening to is the product of very powerful people who have created a product in order to capitalise on the fastest growing spending market. Is it really Girl Power when those who are empowered aren’t girls?

-Julie Anne Young
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Highland Park Girls Basketball vs. Arizona

Highland Park juniors Lauren Evans and Marguerite Biagi (Heather Charles, Chicago Tribune May 11 2010)


One of the bigger news stories to recently unfold in the United States involves a high schools girls’ basketball team.  This Highland Park High School girl’s basketball team was scheduled to play a tournament in Arizona, but the school district’s superintendent declined to allow the team visit that state because of Arizona’s new anti-immigration law.  The new law allows police to ask any person to produce proof of their legal resident status, at any time and for any reason.  The law is widely seen as a measure allowing racial profiling of Latinos (The text for Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070 can be found here
http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/2r/bills/sb1070s.pdf).

District 113 superintendent George Fornero has said he is concerned about the “safety and liberty” of some of players under this law, as Highland Park High School also serves the neighboring town of Highwood, which has a large Latino population.  It is unknown if any of the current  team members are in the country illegally.  Prominent conservatives, meanwhile, have denounced these actions as politically motivated and detrimental to the sports careers of these girls.

Absent from these decisions and discussions is any indication that the girls’ opinions were taken into consideration.

After all, we’re not talking about preschoolers here – this is a high school team.  These girls will soon be eligible to vote, and many will be making choices about college in the near future.  Neither the administrators  nor the political pundits who immediately jumped into the debate seem to have considered what the girls think, even though it is they who are effected by these decisions.  I wonder if the boys’ football team would have been similarly ignored.

The answer to this issue seems pretty obvious: take a vote.  See how many girls would still like to go to Arizona for the tournament versus how many would be uncomfortable traveling there.  It’s as simple as that.

Then again, when matters become political, nothing is ever simple.

You can read about this controversy at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/northnorthwest/ct-met-highland-park-reaction-0514-20100514,0,3820200.story?page=1.

- Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Makeup for Tweens is on the Rise


As a young girl, I enjoyed playing dress up, going trick-or-treating on Halloween and trying out for every school play. The costumes were exciting and fun, but I really enjoyed dressing up so I could wear what I saw as forbidden: LIPSTICK. My mom would not let me wear ANY makeup, not even in high school, no matter how many times I begged. Sometimes I would sneak some of my mom's makeup to school or buy a few items with my babysitting money, but she would always find out and ground me.


Looking back on my childhood, I realize I just wanted to be like everyone else and fit in. I wanted to shave my legs, wear short skirts and makeup, because I thought it was cool, not because I needed it. I now know that I was just trying to grow up—too fast. I never thought I’d say this, but my mother was right about makeup. I didn't need to wear it then and now that I feel comfortable in my own skin I can happily say I don't need it. If you want to live without makeup or at least less, check this link out: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/BeautySecrets/story?id=2779368&page=1.

I’m not surprised that high school girls want to wear makeup, but I am shocked that makeup is becoming more and more popular with tweens (ages 8-12). According to the research company NPD, their case study Insight into the Youth Market showed that the "overall regular usage is at much lower levels across most beauty categories for teens and young women, regular usage is actually up for a few products relative to 2007 for tweens." The NPD press release can be found here.

Tweens reported increases in regular usage of mascara, eye liner, and lipstick, relative to 2007 levels. Is the increase in make-up product due to television shows and celebrities? Yes and no. Some girls are influenced by the media, just like I was with the magazine Teen Beat, but the case study notes that girls "look to their parents and siblings to see what they are using to help decide what to buy and use."

I don't see a problem with make-up for young girls in play, like dress up and theatre, but how young is too young to make a habit of wearing make-up? Tabloid pictures have recently shown Suri Cruise, three-year-old daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, wearing red lipstick and shopping at the cosmetic store Sephora.What do you think?When did you start wearing make-up? There isn't necessarily a right or wrong answer and this topic will continue to be debated, but parents and their daughters should discuss what is it all means and what is age appropriate. If you and your parents decide makeup is fine, check out appropriate makeup for teens and tweens here:
http://make-up-application.suite101.com/article.cfm/makeup_for_teens.

- Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fashion Magazine Promotes Girls' Education



I’ve been a fan and avid reader of Glamour magazine for the past five years. I look forward to every issue because Glamour isn’t just about beauty and fashion. I find the articles in Glamour appealing to all female readers, because the writers describe female empowerment and world issues in an easy to understand fashion. Although I enjoy reading about beauty tutorials and fashion ideas for less, articles that advocate women and young girls really make this magazine stand out in my mind. In Glamour’s June 2010 issue, writer Annie Gowen describes Elizabeth Gore and Ivanka Trump teaming up to support young women’s education through the United Nations Foundation’s campaign Girl Up (www.girlup.org).

Girl Up raises donations for education, health services, and violence prevention for young girls around the world. Girl Up is uniting girls of all ages to become aware and involved of the problems young girls face in developing countries. The first step to changing a young girl’s life is to sign up for email updates about the Girl Up campaign, like I did. I’m looking forward to the campaign website information expending, particularly on girl’s education, next month, because education has always been very important to me. As a graduate student working on a M.A. in Museum Studies, I can’t imagine not being able to pursue my career and educational goals.  Young women all around the world have a hard time pursuing elementary education. This needs to change! How can you help? A gift of $5 can buy school supplies for young girls. One gift could ultimately allow a young girl to gain self-confidence, motivation and learn new skills.

For more information, read Annie Gowen's article "Ivanka Trump and Elizabeth Gore on How Your $5 Can Save a Girl’s Life."


-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Museums for Social Harmony

The Mixing Room, Te Papa Tongarewa
Wellington, New Zealand

The 2010 theme for International Museums Day is 'Museums for Social Harmony'. Museums are many things to many people-- storehouses of culture, material history and repositories of memory. Human history is not a chronicle of social harmony, quite the contrary. Social harmony seems to something we can only strive for, something to believe in, perhaps as some time gone by or a moment in the future. Harmony does not capture our imagination the way conflict does. Just look at the news. This is history in process- there is often little good to celebrate. 

The best effort I have seen recently by a museum to promote social harmony is The Mixing Room at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington, New Zealand. This exhibition explores the journeys of refugee families coming to NZ to build a new life. The photos are disturbing and moving to see, and the stories are even more heart wrenching to read. They give space to many different people from all over the world who have lived through war, famine and political unrest who all ended up in the little shaky islands in the Deep South Pacific. 

There are also stories about what they found when they arrived, the fear of an unknown place, the hardships of fitting in and the kind people who helped them on their new paths. It is the story of family, the people we know personally and our extended relatives who we have yet to meet. For me, this is the sort of exhibition that can uplift an entire country, make it reflect and embrace the reasons it can be great.  

For us at Girl Museum Inc, museums are places to see things differently, spaces of discovery of past/present creativity and knowledge, challenging the status quo of history and illuminating the voices of those unheard. For us it is girls. For us museums and social harmony means doing everything we can to raise awareness about girls in danger, in need and in celebration.

We invite everyone to visit our site, explore our exhibitions, send us suggestions for projects you would like to see or ones you have done you are interested in submitting.

-- Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

New Exhibition at Girl Museum


Girl Museum Inc. announces the launch of our new exhibition, ‘Across Time & Space: Multicultural Representations of Girlhood’. This show examines images of girls from cultures around the world from the earliest civilizations to the present. 

We hope you enjoy the show. 

It's just a click away!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Encourage Girls in Math and Science

Nadya Fouad (Credit: Alan Magayne-Roshak, UWM)

In recent years great efforts have been made to attract more girls and women to study math and science. In particular the WISE campaign (Women Into Science, Engineering and Constructing) and WiTEC (European Association for Women in Science, Engineering and Technology) have been keen to increase the number of girls and women studying scientific subjects and to help them develop careers in this area. Although these campaigns are both welcome and necessary it is unfortunate that the same attention has not been devoted to understanding the reasons why so few girls are attracted to science and maths in the first place.  

One exception to this is a body of research carried out by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) under Professor Nadya Fouad. Significantly, this study indicates that the most important factor for encouraging science and math among young girls is not the initial interest they show in the subjects but the self-confidence that is instilled in them by parents and teachers. Fouad insists that more attention needs to be devoted to boosting confidence among young girls in their scientific abilities and that this needs to be done at an early age.  

Certainly I have vivid memories of an old teacher of mine separating the boys and girls in our class for math, devoting extra time to the boys and assuming that us girls would only require a more general understanding of the subject. Interesting when we went to High School only one girl from my class went on to study a high level of maths. I myself always assumed that I was weak at maths, but after stumbling upon this study I am beginning to question the assumption and wonder what may have been if only I received extra, or any, encouragement in this area.   

“The study confirmed that old stereotypes die slowly. Both boys and girls perceived that teachers thought that boys were stronger at math and science. For boys this represented a support, while for girls it acted as a barrier….Ultimately, it’s perception, more than reality, that affects the person’s academic and career choices.” 

Read more at Science Daily.
- Sarah Lynch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 7, 2010

More Dishonor Among Families

©OWFI

More unbelievable behavior in the name of honor.

This time the news is out of Iraq.  
Young women in prison for being sold by their families into sexual slavery.  

It is beyond fathomable how this becomes an option for any self-respecting family.  But then to punish the girls as if it was their fault and not accept any of the dishonor for themselves is unconscionable. Further evidence that freedom and justice have moveable meanings and will never be for all.

Honor can have no meaning in a world where rape and murder are part of its definition.

Yet Iraqi women struggle for equality. Check out the noble efforts of the Organization of Women's Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) and see what these brave women are up against.

To read more about international Women's Rights organizations and how you can help, go to MADRE.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Killing with Dishonor

The phrase “honor killing” seems like an oxymoron in the 21st century.  And it is.  However, these controversial and tradition-bound honor killings are on the rise, not unreasonable by those who see them as justified.

In its most basic definition, an honor killing is a murder committed by an individual, family, or community group because the victim is perceived to have brought shame or dishonor upon them in some way.  Usually (though not always) the victims of these honor killings are girls or women, and their crimes include seeking a divorce, talking to or associating with boys or men, wanting out of an arranged marriage, marrying someone not chosen for them, or wearing clothes considered inappropriate by the family.

While it would be wrong to say that all honor killings occur within Islamic countries and communities around the world, the sad truth is that many honor killings—and usually the most publicized ones—do occur in Muslim communities.  Though the Koran does not sanction honor killing, stories of honor killings often come from countries like Jordan, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.  In Turkey, a 16-year-old girl’s body was recently recovered; she was buried alive and conscious, as indicated by the large amount of earth in her stomach and lungs.
 
Earlier this year in Jordan, a man killed his wife because she was meeting a male friend.  Also in Jordan, a man allegedly killed his sister-in-law, wife, and injured her lawyer because the wife had filed for divorce and was on her way to court.  A few years ago in Saudi Arabia, a woman was killed by her father for chatting with a man on Facebook.

In India, a pregnant woman and her boyfriend were killed in May 2008.  They had been childhood sweethearts, but were not allowed to marry because they were from the same village, and though not related by blood, were viewed as siblings.  Additionally, she had been married off to another man, whom she left to be with her childhood sweetheart.  The highly traditional Hindu community stood united behind the double murder.

There is another type of honor killing as well, one that is often overlooked by those of us in the US, Canada, or Western Europe, because it masquerades under a different name – crime of passion.  Until 1991 in Brazil and 1980 in Colombia, men could kill their wives with impunity, particularly if the wives committed adultery.  In many countries, non-premeditated murders carry a significantly lower punishment, and in some countries, including Brazil, the sentence can be as low as 1-3 years – or nothing, if the judge feels the murderer was affected enough by the crime that additional punishment is unnecessary.

Read two recent stories about honor killings in India and Turkey.

To learn more about honor killings and other murder crimes against women and girls, click here and Amnesty International’s Stop Violence Against Women campaign

- Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Visual Essay Contest ‘Museums for Social Harmony’


This year the ICOM (International Committee of Museums) theme for International Museums Day (May 18) is ‘Museums for Social Harmony’.  While we have our own thoughts on this topic, we would like to hear from you.  So Girl Museum is hosting a contest to interpret this theme relating to girls issues using a visual essay. 

A visual essay is comprised primarily of images (photographs, drawings, paintings, etc) to illustrate your ideas, but you can include some words as well.

The visual essay that is the most creative, thought provoking and expressive of the theme will be posted on our website on International Museums Day as a part of our GirlSpeak series. 

Submit the file as a PDF to along with your full name and contact details.  Let us know if you have any questions.

The deadline is May 16th.  So get thinking!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Selling Girls on Craigslist


Following on from my article "On Human Trafficking," this piece deals with child trafficking to the United States via sex ads that are posted on Craigslist, a much-visited website that is a clearing board for classified ads specific to different areas of the United States and foreign countries. Prostitution services are regularly posted to Craigslist, including ads for sex with minors, but Craigslist officials insist that they try to monitor the content of postings and that they have no responsibility for what users post. In the past, Craigslist has donated all the revenue they received from sex service ads, but this year the company will be keeping these profits.

If you've ever perused Craigslist, you know it can be an excellent place to find used furniture, scope out apartment prices in other cities or look for temporary work. You’ve probably also seen the "Adult Gigs" section, which is filled with thinly disguised posts written by men wanting to exchange sex for money and women advertising themselves (example: "Hot Model Wanted by Wealthy Guy").  I always assumed that Craigslist made at least some effort, as they claim, to monitor these ads for anything clearly inappropriate. Not the case Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS), an organization that helps sexually exploited women, says that Craigslist is the biggest means of bringing children into the United States for sex work.

In previous years, Craigslist has tried to offset this harm by donating any money it receives from sex ads to charity. This year, however, the company plans to keep that money–an estimated $36 million.

I am, first of all, shocked that the same site I look at everyday to see what going on in my city is a hub for child prostitution. I'm not na├»ve enough to believe that Craigslist employees are making any reasonable effort to cut down on the sex-for-money ads posted on their site, but the idea of children being sold sickens me–especially considering that Craigslist has changed its mind all of a sudden and decided to pocket their sex ad revenue instead of at least trying to mitigate the harm they're doing.

Why does Craigslist need a section for sex work anyway? As the CEO of the company pointed out, there are plenty of adult-oriented sites that offer the same ads already. It seems to be coming down to pure greed, and a lack of concern about the thousands of nameless girls who are being sold on their website.

- Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.