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?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Botox Mom vs. the Truth


In the past few weeks, the American media has been alternately convulsing and salivating over the “Botox Mom” story.  In case you’re one of the few lucky people who missed this news, here’s a recap:

Earlier this month, a woman from San Francisco named Kerry Campbell appeared on the TV program Good Morning America, and claimed that she was preparing her daughter for beauty pageants by injecting her daughter with Botox (a facial filler made from the botulinum toxin that freezes wrinkles).  She also said she was waxing her daughter’s legs and pubic area in order to prevent hair from ever growing in those places.  The girl in question was also featured on the program and seemed to take this all in stride, explaining that she had requested Botox and waxing because she wanted to be more “ladylike.”  Campbell claimed that she obtained Botox from a secret source and administered it herself.

A few days, the San Francisco Human Services Agency began investigating Campbell and ultimately took custody of her daughter.  Then finally, Campbell decided to tell the truth:  she was really Sheena Upton, a woman who was paid by the British newspaper The Sun to lie about injecting Botox into her daughter (The Sun referred to the woman as "Kerry" in the article text, but "Kelly" in the photo captions).  When Good Morning America heard about this article, they offered $10,000 for her story, so Upton took her daughter on television and played this story out.

There are so many levels of wrong in this story, I don’t know which is worse:  that the media is willing to pay for freak-show stories?  That a mother would distort her daughter’s life for cash?  That a woman who gives Botox to a girl was a believable character?

This isn’t the first time a parent has staged an elaborate hoax to get on television – let’s not forget 2009’s “Balloon Boy” incident.  But the “Botox Mom” story seems even worse because it centers on the insecurity too many girls have about their looks.  In times when girls wonder if they’re fat and have makeup marketed to them, it may just be plausible that an 8-year-old would ask for Botox.  No amount of hand-wringing over the state of the news media is going to fix that.  Only the self-confidence we instill in girls can mitigate the pressures of a world that tells even very young women that looks are everything.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Head Girl presents at AAM Annual Meeting

Presenting "Wanna Start Something?"
Photo by Maria Mortati

Hello from windy and warm Houston! 

This year I had the great fortune to present in two sessions at the American Association of Museums 2011 Annual Meeting and MuseumExpo—"The Future of Exhibiting: Voices from NonTraditional Museums" and "Wanna Start Something? Programming from the Ground Up." Creating an AAM session proposal last year, navigating the selection process and then finally getting to be up on the panel was a long and ultimately rewarding experience. 

I want to thank Paul Orselli of POW! for being our enthusiastic and provocative chair and Maria Mortati of the San Francisco Mobile Museum project and Jon West-Bey from the American Poetry Museum for sharing their stories and the views on the multivalent definition of ‘museum’ and how we all fit together into the world family of museums.

Booth at the Expo with Mannequins
Photo by Maria Mortati


Also many thanks to Leslie Howard, chair of the National Emerging Museum Professional Advisory Council, AAM for inviting me to share the birth of Girl Museum to encourage others to have ideas and the confidence to try them out. Also thanks to my fellow panelists, Ian Kerrigan of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and Sheetal Prajapati of MoMA for providing helpful advice and examples of hard work and dedication to make ideas into reality.

There were several sessions I made it to that were inspirational, challenging, and frustrating, so that is probably the right balance for a national conference.

Thank you to everyone for being welcoming of Girl Museum and we hope to see you all again next year.

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Taking the Slum out of the Girl

The students of Kibera School for Girls
Bella Zanesco (www.bellazanesco.com)

Kibera is Kenya's largest slum.  Young girls in Kibera can be seen selling sex for food; they have little to no value in the eyes of the community, and are thus brushed aside.  But at the back of an alley, there's a cheerful, bright pink and blue building.  The girls there are running around, cheerful and happy.  They're at the Kibera School for Girls, and, as young as they are, they know exactly how lucky they are to be there.

The Kibera School for Girls is completely free for the girls who attend.  They pay no tuition, are given uniforms and school supplies for free, and are provided with (free) meals.  Instead of paying for these services, parents volunteer at the school and the attached community centre for five weeks a year, which serves to invest all parties in both the success of the girls and of the school.  In this way, whole families get access to clean water and facilities, and a better way of life.  To read more about the Kibera School for Girls, read "A Place Where Girls Matter."

Organizations like the Kibera School for Girls can transform both the lives of the girls who attend as well as communities.  Girls who attend school are less likely to be exposed to HIV, and are less likely to get married or pregnant while young.  They have more self-confidence, and are more likely to stand up and fight for their rights.  For more benefits of girls' education, visit The World Bank's Girls' Education page.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where are the Girls in Museums?

Marilyn Lysohir, Good Girls, 1968.  Installation detail, ceramic sculptures.  Missoula Art Museum

Wednesday 18 May marked International Museums Day for 2011.  While this is a day to celebrate the important role that museums play in our global community it is also an opportunity for us to question the direction in which museums today are heading and the approach they are taking to representing girls.

Walk into any museum and the imbalance between male and female representation is immediately apparent. In major art museums few women’s names are listed against the works that hang on the walls; science museums rarely pay homage to female scientists or inventors and more often than not the significant historical figures who feature in the stories museums tell are men.

To say that the representation of females in museums is a primary cause of any of the major issues affecting women and girls today would be overstating the problem. However, just as the media’s representations of the girl sends subconscious messages to both male and female viewers, so does the material contained within the walls of our educational institutions. A further complication of this issue is the potential for mixed messages that such representations may send on account of the subjective nature of viewing them.

One such example is the plethora of female nudes in Renaissance painting compared against the absence of naked men during the same period. This could be viewed either as a celebration of the feminine form or, conversely, reinforcement of the notion that a woman’s true value lies in her physical attributes and sexuality rather than her intellect or actual abilities – a message which may be internalised negatively by young viewers of either gender.

So how can parents, caregivers, other visitors to museums, museum educators or curators respond to or predict the subconscious gender views that may be forming when visiting museums with girls? Accepting that we cannot change the past is an important first step. Understanding how the portrayal of women and girls throughout the ages has evolved is essential in understanding current trends.   So engaging girls in conversations about why the females in art works are presented in certain ways could be beneficial. Or discussing modern women making their mark in world history or scientific advancements today could help show girls how society has progressed and may differ from the world they encounter within the museum walls. The search for gender equality is still a major problem facing society today, but by recognising and responding to these issues positive steps forward can be achieved.

-Briar Barry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MUSEUM & MEMORY- International Museum Day 2011



Each year the International Council of Museums promotes March 18 as International Museum Day. This year’s theme, Museum and Memory, is very important to us here at Girl Museum. Girlhood is a valuable time worth exploring, recording, preserving, and celebrating. IMD 2011 is focusing on Africa, “whose cultural contribution to the world is often unknown and deserves to be promoted.”

From our perspective, girls worldwide have been neglected in the canon of human archives. Their thoughts, desires, activities, and achievements are rarely included. As a museum without objects, we draw on found images, information and experiences of contributors to inform our collection.

To participate in International Museum Day, we suggest you pick an object that sparks a memory of your girlhood or ask a girl in your life about a significant event or object from hers.  Have a conversation, create a memory. Write to us about it and we will post shared memories on our blog throughout the next year. 

Thanks for participating and celebrate girlhood!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Shape-ups for girls.


Skechers Shape-ups, made popular by Kim Kardashian’s Super Bowl advertisement, are now being advertised for young girls. Shape-ups are toning shoes that are supposed to help the user burn more calories. Do Shape-ups work? Do young girls even need Shape-ups? 

The Shape-ups commercial for girls features an animated girl singing “Heidi's got new Shape-ups! Got everything a girl wants! She's got the height, got the bounce, yeah she's looking good and having fun, 'cause Heidi's got new Shape-ups,” while being followed around by young boys dressed in junk food costumes.  The commercial’s jingle makes the toning shoes sound fun, but will parents want to buy them? The shoes cost roughly $50 to $75 dollars. Aside from the price, parents are petitioning online to have the sneakers pulled off the market. The petition on Change.org already has nearly 2,000 signers.

Leonard Armato, President of Skechers Fitness Group, believes the message behind Shape-ups is to “get moving, get exercise, and get fit.” This message is similar to the Let’s Move campaign and Beyonce’s “Move Your Body” music video, however some believe that Shape-ups are showing young girls that they should worry about their weight.

According to Augusta Christensen, who launched the online petition against Shape-ups, "Women have plenty of time to be targeted for their weight throughout their lives. By not only marketing a shoe line to young girls, but also not even having an equivalent for boys, Skechers is sending a clear message to girls and women: You're never too young to start hating your body." 

An additional problem with Shape-ups is their potential for injury.  Adults have reported injuries as severe as stress fractures in both hips, allegedly from wearing Shape-ups, and rolled or twisted ankles are far from uncommon.  Somehow, it's hard to image fewer injuries occurring in young girls. 

Please read “Do little girls really need Shape-up toning sneakers?” for more information. 

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Social networking, sexuality, and private schools


What would you do if, as a girl, you were suspended from school for posting a fact about yourself on Facebook? Would you call it unfair? Would you try to fight back? Unfortunately, as one girl in California found out, it’s acceptable for private schools in the United States to kick students out for some of their personality facets.

In this case, 15-year-old Alexandria Kraft says a teacher at her Christian school came to her with the knowledge that Alexandria had come out as bisexual on her Facebook page. This teacher told her that her sexuality was not accepted at the school, and that she would need to leave. A school official followed up with Alexandria's mother to confirm that she could not return to school. School officials also asked Alexandria's mother if she knew of any other gay or bisexual students at the school.

This is all perfectly legal in California, because two years ago the California State Supreme Court ruled that civil rights and anti-discrimination laws don’t have to be upheld in private schools. So while a public school would not be allowed to discriminate against a gay or bisexual student, Alexandria's school has the right to dismiss her.

It's disturbing that an institution dedicated to helping children learn and grow would disrupt a student's education because it believes that her sexuality is a sin. It's also worrisome that teachers seem to have taken it upon themselves to monitor their students' online activities. I only hope that this school can look at all their students as people who want and deserve to learn, and who should be allowed to conduct their private lives without harassment.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Tell Somebody


According to Glamour magazine, nearly 60% of young women have suffered relationship abuse, whether verbal or physical, in America.  Approximately four women a day are killed by relationship violence.  How can you help?  Stand up by telling somebody.

The “Tell Somebody” campaign was created after Glamour’s Liz Brody started to research relationship abuse with the help of criminology expert James Alan Fox, Ph.D.  Their findings showed that “domestic-violence deaths overall have dropped markedly over the past decades,” however “among women who are dating—as opposed to married—the homicide rate is climbing.”   The Glamour/Harris Interactive survey, completed by more than 2,500 women, showed that relationship abuse is common.  A full 29% of respondents said they’d been in an abusive relationship—and an additional 30% said they hadn’t, but then went on to acknowledge that at some point they’d been degraded; threatened with a gun or knife; or otherwise harmed by a partner.

The “Tell Somebody” campaign allows women the opportunity to feel open about talking about relationship violence.  Seven women have shared their stories on Glamour’s website in hopes that other young women will stand up, tell somebody, and take action. To hear these women's stories, please watch the “I Survived Relationship Abuse” videos.

To learn more, check out Glamour’sTell Somebody” campaign and take a look at “How You Can Help Put a Stop to Relationship Violence.”

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Teen Fakes Pregnancy

Gaby Rodriguez (MSNBC.com)

Gaby Rodriguez gave up her senior year.  While her classmates at Toppenish High School in Washington were preparing for prom, getting ready to go to college, or considering jobs for after graduation, she was attending prenatal appointments and considering if she would be able to attend college, let alone to graduate high school.

Except Gaby Rodriguez wasn't pregnant.  It was a grand-scale social experiment that she performed as part of her senior project, entitled "Stereotypes, Rumors and Statistics."  With a 3.8 GPA and plans to attend college, Gaby surprised a lot of people when she became "pregnant."  Only a handful of people knew the truth, including her mother, the principal of her high school, two advisers from the Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital's Childbirth Education Program, her best friend, and her boyfriend of 3 years.  The truth was kept from nearly everyone else, including Gaby's siblings and the parents of her boyfriend.

As her belly grew, Gaby learned a lot of things.  How people whispered behind her back.  How people treated her differently, were disappointed in her.  And how Latina and black teens have a higher pregnancy rate than that of white teens.  51% of Latina girls become pregnant before they're 20 years old, compared to 30% overall.  As 85% of the students at Toppenish are Hispanic, this hit especially close to Gaby.

After six months,  Gaby shared her findings--and the truth--in a school-wide assembly.  As students and teachers read out statements that had been said about Gaby over the previous six months, the gym where the assembly was held grew quiet.  Then Gaby removed her homemade "baby bump" and announced  "I'm fighting against those stereotypes and rumors because the reality is I'm not pregnant."  The assembly ended with a standing ovation for Gaby.  And though some may be hurt that Gaby lied to them, and others thankful that she's not actually pregnant, everyone admires the courage it took for her to undertake this project.

Associated Press

You can watch a video on Gaby and her project here.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Move Your Body


First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let's Move! campaign, which promotes health awareness and the wellbeing of all girls, is making the news once again.  Last year, Girl Museum reported Michelle Obama joined the board of directors for Girls Inc. to promote better eating habits, but now celebrities like Beyoncé and comedian Wayne Brady are becoming involved to promote exercise and a healthy diet.

Beyoncé rewrote her 2007 hit Get Me Bodied and created Move Your Body in support of the Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.  In the video, Beyoncé dances with hundreds of students from a junior high school.  Last week, Beyoncé’s video reached over 2 million YouTube plays.

To learn more, read “Beyonce Says ‘Move Your Body’ to Fight Child Obesity.”   Beyoncé’s “You’re your Body” video can be viewed here

And check out this behind-the-scenes clip to learn more about why the Move Your Body music video was created. 

-Samantha Bradbeer
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.