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?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

15 Year Old Porn Star?

Left:  Bieyanka Moore’s MySpace picture.  Right:  The missing child photo the Florida woman submitted.

If you visit our newest exhibit, Girl for Sale, you’ll learn that the trafficking of girls is a lot more common than you might think. When talking about trafficking, we often mention how girls are forced or coerced into prostitution. But as one recent story shows, girls are also at risk for exploitation in the porn industry.

Bieyanka Moore, who says she's 19, has appeared in several films for the porn company Reality Kings.  A couple of weeks ago, a woman from Florida filed a lawsuit against Reality Kings, claiming that Bieyanka is her daughter, and is actually a 15-year-old runaway.

In the United States, any person who appears in pornographic material must be at least 18 years old, and the burden of verifying every performer’s age rests on the porn company (The US legal code regarding pornography can be found here.). Companies are also required to keep accurate records verifying each performer's age and to make these records available to their state Attorney General's office at any time. Reality Kings is arguing that Bieyanka provided ID saying she was 19, and that since she lied to them, they are blameless. But the law requires a thorough background check for every performer, and it's pretty doubtful that a teenager could pull off such extensive identity fraud. It seems likely that either Reality Kings didn't do enough to check Bieyanka’s age, or else some adult was helping her get into porn.

There has been a precedent for cases of minors in porn. In 1983, a 15-year-old Traci Lords convinced porn executives that she was 20 and began appearing in adult films. In this case, Traci was assisted by her mother’s former boyfriend, who had begun molesting her a few years earlier. By the time she turned 18, she had appeared in nearly 100 adult films; but that same year the FBI uncovered evidence that she had begun her career as an underage performer. As a result, stores and porn theaters were required to get rid of any merchandise they had that contained footage of her as a minor. 

It remains to be seen what will happen in the case of Bieyanka Moore. Hopefully, Reality Kings will pull her film and get her the help she needs as an exploited girl and as a homeless teen. And let's also hope that porn companies learn to be more cautious in checking performers' ages, and be aware that runaway girls are at a high risk of exploitation.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tallahassee Lady Fest 2011

The Tallahassee local music scene is reflective of those in many cities in that the Tallahassee music scene is predominantly a boys club.  This fact was the key inspiration for Tallahassee Lady Fest 2011.  On April 16th, the F Word (Florida State University’s feminist RSO) made Tallahassee a more woman friendly city by putting on Lady Fest as their end of the year fundraiser. 

When I was elected fundraising chair for the F Word, it was my goal to come up with an event that not only raised money to support the feminist action that the F Word does on the FSU campus, but that also improved the way that women are treated in our community.  As I began to think about the ways that women and girls are affected by sexism in my community, it became obvious to me that my event had to involve helping women to express their creativity. 

Early in the semester, I proposed the idea of The F Word programming a Lady Fest, a concert showcasing women musicians in Tallahassee.  Everyone in the organization loved the idea and I went forward with planning.   The first step to planning a Lady Fest was to find musicians.  I found that the best way to find musicians was to get suggestions and connections from people I already knew.  Other ways I found acts were to reach out to people in different communities and to put out a press release on the internet.  I used social networking sites like Facebook and Tumblr to get the word out that we were having a show and looking for bands interested in playing.

We received many positive responses from musicians who were excited about the opportunity to play.  I listened to many stories from the bands about having struggled to find spaces to play and be heard as girl performers.  While this first stage of programming made us think we would have too many bands to pack in to the one night we had space to stage music, we quickly learned a lesson most concert programmers have to learn.  Musicians can be flaky.  We had many acts stop responding to our emails and phone calls and some drop out in the middle of planning because of conflicting plans.  This was discouraging, but through this experience we learned how important it is to be persistent and not to give up.  In the end of the programming stage we ended up with four bands and one dance performance lined up for the concert. 

The night of the show was incredible.  We had a team of 10 volunteers, a table selling crafts and art donated by women in the community, and an audience of about 200 people.  The bands consisted of Bastards Out Of Carolina, an acoustic folk band; Adriana Rodriguez, a multicultural belly dancer; Buffalo Bluff, a singer-songwriter; Gorgeous, a punk band with a stand-up bass; and The Cicada Ladies, an all-girl blue grass band.  The crowd loved each act despite of and because of their musical diversity. 

After the show, we got wonderful positive feedback.   People were excited about the idea of staging women artists and came away from our show with the realization of how unique it was.  They realized that this uniqueness was a problem.  In the days following the show, I have gotten emails from girls wondering about programming events similar to Lady Fest, and asking me if The F Word will do another one next semester.  This reaction gives me hope that my idea has empowered others in my community to create events like Lady Fest that in turn empower girl musicians in my city to play their music for enthusiastic audiences.  Every city needs a Lady Fest and any girl (or boy) can be the person to organize it!

-Kaitlin Froom
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bethany Hamilton, Soul Surfer

Bethany Hamilton at the premiere of Soul Surfer

The movie Soul Surfer is based on the true story of Bethany Hamilton. At the age of 13, Bethany lost an arm after being attacked by a shark near Kailua. Yet months after the attack, she was back in the water. Bethany was determined to accomplish her goals.

AnnaSophia Robb played Bethany in the film, and did a great job, but I was more impressed with Bethany Hamilton herself, who played Robb’s stunt double. Hamilton landed wave after wave! It felt like the audience was cheering her on to succeed, just like Hamilton was cheered on years ago by fellow surfers.  It’s amazing to me that Bethany could relive such a painful experience over and over again during the filming of Soul Surfer.

Bethany, now 21, says: “For me, the idea of not being able to surf was definitely scarier than the idea of getting back in the water after I lost my arm. To not surf again would be impossible. So for me it was essential to at least try surfing again and to see how it went. And it went good. I’m still doing what I love and scoring surf all over the world, just with one arm.”

Bethany’s experiences, depicted in Soul Surfer, show that anyone can triumph over adversity if they try harder every day and do not give up on their dreams. 

Soul Surfer is now in theaters. Check it out!

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

France Bans the Burqa

A veil-clad woman
Photograph by: Khaled Abdullah, REUTERS

As of April 11, women will no longer be able to wear the traditional burqa or the niqab in France. However, according to the Interior Ministry, the law “does not target the wearing of a headscarf, headgear, scarf or glasses, as long as the accessories do not prevent the person from being identified.”  

Approximately 60 women have already been arrested for protesting and/or ignoring the new law. Kenza Drider, age 32, was the first woman arrested for wearing a burqa in France. Drider said, “This law infringes my European rights, I cannot but defend them that is to say my freedom to come and go and my religious freedom." 

Women who break the law will have to pay a fine of €150 and/or participate in community service. If family members or friends force women to wear a burqa or niqab outside a place of worship, the enforcer can be fined up to a year in prison and €30,000. The fines and prison time are double if the woman is a minor.  

Is the law unconstitutional? The law does not prohibit wearing a burqa or niqab in places of worship, therefore the French Constitutional Council believes this law does not prevent the free exercise of religion. 

Is the law anti-Islamic? The law, which is officially called "a bill to forbid concealing one’s face in public," was passed for security and identification reasons. 

Is the law a symbol of enslavement? Nicholas Sarkozy, president of France, told French lawmakers last year that the Burqa is a “sign of enslavement” and it "will not be welcome in the French Republic." 

To learn more about the arrests, please read "Burqa Ban Yields 60 Arrests Early Monday in France." 

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Teen Moms Combating Teenage Pregnancy?

A few months ago, I wrote about how the young mothers on the MTV reality shows 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom were turning into celebrities, complete with tabloid covers and daily mentions on gossip websites.  I focused on the negative side of this show’s huge popularity:  how it seemed to glamorize teenage pregnancy while glossing over the real hardships faced by most girls who become mothers.  This week, though, I read an article to counter that view, in which many sex educators praise these two shows for putting the topic of teenage pregnancy in the spotlight and presenting opportunities to talk about teens and sex.

The New York Times profiled several different adults who teach teenagers about healthy and safe sex, both in schools and in independent nonprofits.  These educators praise 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom for showing how many challenges having a child presents in a teenage girl’s life, and letting teenagers relate what they see on the screen to consequences of the actions they take in their own lives.  One educator reports that she has her class watch an episode and then draw up a budget for themselves and a baby.  Another talks about how she plays the two shows in the waiting room of the teenage sexual health center where she works, so that girls better understand why they need to practice safe sex.  Even the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy endorses the show, and has sent episodes on DVD to Boys and Girls Clubs across the country.

Not everyone is comfortable with the message MTV is sending, however.  Dr. Sari Locker, a professor of adolescent psychology at Columbia University, has criticized 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom for not talking enough about contraceptives and healthy dating.  

As for me, I’m skeptical that there’s any redeeming value in reality TV, but I’m also not a sex educator who interacts with teenagers every day.  The next few years should present statistics to test whether these shows are effective, and if they help girls avoid teenage parenthood, then perhaps they do serve a purpose.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Inspirational Hockey Player Succumbs to Cancer

Mandi Schwartz (Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Mandi Schwartz was a student at Yale University and a center on the women's ice hockey team.  In 2008, she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia.  Last fall, Mandi underwent  stem cell transplant surgery, and though initially successful, her cancer returned a few months later before her new immune system could take over, and she passed away on April 3rd.  

Though Mandi may have passed away, her fight continues.  The Yale athletic department began it's annual marrow donor registry drive after Mandi was diagnosed in 2008, and has since renamed it the Mandi Schwartz Marrow Donor Registry Drive.  Since it began, more than 1,600 people have been added as possible donors to the Be The Match Registry.  At least five of those new additions have been genetic matches for patients in need.  Though Mandi may have lost her battle with leukemia, through her efforts to spread awareness, thousands have been added to the Be The Match Registry, all with the potential to save someone's life.

One of those inspired to add her name to the registry was Lexy Adams, another student and a field hockey player at Yale.  She went to the registry drive, had her cheek swabbed, and forgot about it, as most potential donors are never contacted again (the likelihood of being a genetic match is rare).  A few months later, Lexy was contacted and asked to come in for more tests to confirm.  She was a match, and soon after, she spent six hours hooked up to a machine which siphoned her blood and returned it to her body.  Though sore for a couple of days, that was all it took for Lexy to give someone a second chance at life.  Due to confidentiality requirements, Lexy does not know who she donated to, but she will receive updates at one month, six months, and a year.  After that, if both parties agree, they can choose to meet.

If you're interested in becoming a part of the Be The Match Registry, all it takes is a simple cheek swab.  You must be between 18 and 60 years old, in good health, and be willing to donate to anyone in need.  For more information, visit the Be The Match website.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Nine Year-Old Girl Saves Sister’s Life

Anaiah and Camry Tucker

Anaiah Tucker, a nine year-old from Atlanta, saved her five-year old sister Camry from being hit by a truck driving down the road. On their way to catch the school bus in March, Anaiah pushed her sister out of the way and was critically injured herself in the process.

Anaiah is now being hailed as a hero for saving the life of her sister. Anaiah recently told the press that her sister “was too young to be hit like this, and if she got hit she would hardly be alive.  She would probably be gone forever.”

After weeks of hospital care, Anaiah was welcomed home by her neighbors lining the streets to cheer her on. She will have a long period of recovery after breaking her neck and both her legs, one of which was amputated, and damaging her spleen and losing a kidney. Since the accident, friends and neighbors have shown their love and support by helping with medical bills. 

To learn more about Anaiah, please read “Heroic nine-year-old loses her leg after leaping in front of a truck to save her little sister.”

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Women's History Month Thank Yous

Thanks to everyone who has read and followed our A-Z exploration of women in March.  Thanks also to our contributors, Miriam Musco, Samantha Bradbeer, Vanessa Jorion, Julie Anne Young, and Katie Weidmann.  Lastly, a very special thank you to Jone Johnson Lewis, whose Women's History emails from inspired this project.

We hope you enjoyed Women's History Month.  For more exhibitions, please visit Girl Museum and, in partnership with the American Poetry Museum, our newest exhibition, Girl for Sale.