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, May 31, 2012

Career girls on the run

Today the 22nd Global Summit of Women opens up in Athens, Greece under the catchphrase “Women, the engine of economic growth.” This annual forum, also known as ‘The Davos for women,’ is an international initiative that seeks to promote women's economic advancement through the dissemination of rational strategies in all fields of leadership and management. More than 80 countries will be represented in the meeting and all the auspicious areas of economic growth will be examined at the mercy of the global crisis. The place and time couldn’t be more appropriate to focus on women, who seem to be the first and eternal victims of unemployment worldwide. So, I can’t help but wonder; how feasible is a first-class career for a modern girl?

Blogs upon blogs, as well as numerous websites, are devoted to helping young women in sorting out their professional life. Most suggestions either follow the steps of a felicitous entrepreneur or feature vague tips based on a personal point of view. I argue that it’s only a matter of helpful advice as far as the resume and interview are concerned. Nor is it about dressing codes or keeping up with the latest marketing trends. At what turning point did the career girl equate more or less to the ‘it girl'? I really can’t tell, but the pressure on behalf of the fashion industry to transform everyday girls on their way to work into cover girls is the least discomforting. I know for sure that it would be more preferable to boost female morale, rather than cultivating insecurities. Of course, actual prosperity in business depends on way more than these simplistic guidelines.

Although inspiration can be easily found in smart people and emblematic professionals, it's not as simple to climb up the ladder of success in person. I consider as one of the greatest prerequisites for any job candidate to be the awareness of the impending competition. When applying for a vacancy, the truth is that it’s like putting yourself in a pool of rivals, who are likely to be much more experienced and qualified. It is beneficial to understand this in advance, so that any further disappointment won’t be discouraging from trying again. As for advice, it is all written in the poster.

I hope that something promising will come out of the aforementioned gathering or future ones for the working girls. Let’s all hope that such proposals won’t prove to be a chimera, but a viable reality for most girls that strive in the labor arena.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Will the Olympics give lesser known sports time to shine?

Natasha Jonas, one of Team GB’s elite female boxing squad.
Photograph: Tom Jenkins

This summer, the Olympic Games are coming to the UK and I am one of those definitely looking forward to it. The thing I love most about the Olympics, in all its incarnations, is discovering a new or unfamiliar sport. Sport coverage in the UK is dominated by football (soccer). Some other sorts, notably rugby, cricket, and tennis get coverage as well, but football is the king of sports here.

I am not a fan of football. I have nothing against the game itself, but I loathe the commercialisation of the sport and so-called WAG (Wives and Girlfriends) culture, which holds having and spending money and looking good whilst doing so as the prime reason for living. I also dislike the fact that many people seem to believe that I should be interested in football...just because. I have heard people say that it is “unpatriotic” not to support my local team or even the national squad, as though my love for my country is solely bound to the activities of 12 men and a ball on a pitch.

Where is the love for other sports? For that matter, where is the love for women’s football? At last year’s Women’s World Cup, the England squad made it to the quarter-finals, further than the male 2010 World Cup squad. TV networks and advertisers clamour to show and sponsor male football because it draws in so many viewers, but how can viewers learn about a sport that is never promoted?

Women’s sport is particularly let down in this regard, not just in football but across the board. Off the top of my head, the only sports played by women that feature on mainstream media over here are tennis and athletics. Yet in the 2008 Olympic Games, 43% of the medals were won by women in events such as cycling, swimming, sailing, equestrian, and Tae Kwon Do. I didn’t even know there was a Tae Kwon Do category, let alone that we had a female gold medallist! This year, advertisers seem to have begun to take notice of female athletes; it would be fantastic if this interest could continue into the Games themselves.

I hope that I won’t be the only person to discover a new sport to follow (or even participate in) this summer.  Women’s boxing makes its debut this year, and Team GB’s competitors, including Natasha Jonas, Nicola Adams, and Savannah Marshall, have been winning medals around the world. My knowledge of boxing comes solely from watching Rocky, but I’ll definitely be following the fortunes of these trailblazing women; I just hope I’m not in the minority.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stooshe – The new generation Girl Band

'We're three girls who live by no rules' (left to right): Stooshe's Alex, Courtney, and Karis.
Photograph: Meeno/Warner

Despite urban British pop not being amongst my usual music tastes, I have recently become very interested in  new generation girl band Stooshe, who have no qualms about swearing and are not afraid to sing about the reality of urban Britain. Recently making the shortlist for the BBC Sound of 2012 artists, they have brought 90s flavour urban pop bang up to date; mixing a taste of TLC, a pinch of Salt-n-Pepa, and blending in some early Will Smith influences. 

In a recent article, the girls revealed the Spice Girls as their inspiration and I can see the similarities – both groups have a fun image but sing about real girl issues in a way that girls would talk about them on the street. Despite the vast amount of bad language in Stooshe’s lyrics their songs are about real situations; for instance their single 'Betty Woz Gone' was based on a true story and involves the rarely sung about subject of drug addiction and its consequences.  

For obvious reasons many of their singles have been watered down for radio but the strength of the subjects remain. What may be 'too hard to hear' for some ears is also voicing serious problems and views that are apparent in today’s society. These girls obviously have talent and I admire their courage to go out there and just be themselves. I look forward tracking their progress through the music scene. 

You can watch the music video of Stooshe's 'Black Heart' here.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Had I known how to save a life

Organ Donation advertisment.

The most precious act of giving in the whole world by far is that of organ donation. In reality, are we ready and willing to be accordingly generous or need the hazard knock on our door in order to become more alert?

It's true that modern societies for many years were in a vague state somewhere between complete ignorance and deliberate misinformation about this issue, partly motivated by the flourish of organ trafficking and transplant tourism. It soon evolved into a big controversy, often even a taboo. While the myths around transplantation continuously emerge as threatening, the actual facts are shocking and the list of patients is perpetually elongated.

Even as media agents and social services encourage the public dimension of organ donation and emphasize on the offering of life, it seems that there is always a fatal shortage of organs. Brave cases of girls speak for themselves: Alannah Shevenell won the odds after six organ transplants, Helene Campbell’s crusade is representative of the struggle for survival and Ashley Logan at just 5 years old is already an admirable fighter. In early May, Facebook Founder and Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced that U.S. and U.K. members can now register as organ donors through official links and hence update their Facebook status. His initiative was later criticised as too edgy or risky. I can't see how this is any different from getting information or signing up as an organ donor at booths in the middle of public squares and I don't understand why the social media aren't considered to be the appropriate platforms to speak up about such issues. We could at least give Zuckerberg some credit for passing the message on and for opening a public dialogue.

Several months ago, I received my donor card with the belief that not only had I performed something utterly altruistic (although I am siding with Joey about the selfishness within good deeds!), but what's more, I had fulfilled my inner will. I must say that a considerable period of what I would call pure negligence elapsed since my initial thought. Or maybe awareness of such critical matters has to grow on us before we can truly act. Even so, it's never too late to give and to save...

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Middletons: Role models or how to take the easy way?

The Duchess of Cambridge and her sister, Pippa Middleton.
Photograph: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

A while back I came upon this year's TIME magazine list of The 100 Most Influential People in the World. Among very interesting personalities, scientists, and overachievers, I was surprised to see the names of Kate and Pippa Middleton. It is obvious that they have accomplished strong recognition over the last year, but the Middleton sisters are considered some of the most influential people on the globe? Really? The author of the article calls them 'avatars of aspiration,' seeing their humble bourgeoisie upgraded to a palatial status.

No doubt that media marketing is in demand of duchesses, princes and royal weddings; I am pretty sure the rest of the world isn't though. It is theatrical to watch two girls from next door as they rise in class and power, on the other hand the impact of this superficial way of living is scary. From the glamorous wedding and the meticulous examination of the outfits, to the provenance of the duchess' dresses in each upcoming appearance and the analysis of Pippa's new ventures, they are continually watched. So, besides the triumphant entrance into the royal family, what is the actual reason that the Middletons are praiseworthy or influential? Maybe they will provide us with a good reason in the future.

Until then, times are harsh and the world is facing enough challenges as it is. We'd better make our icons worth our admiration. Young girls should know better than hope to find a rich 'prince charming' or emulate Kate's and Pippa's latest fashion statements in order to feel of some importance. In the era of technology and information let's not get carried away by meaningless standards, because there goes wasted any viable chance to make a difference based on own merits.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Do Not Attempt These Poses At Home

Image by Kevin Bolk

It’s only May, but the summer blockbuster season is already upon us, starting with Marvel's The Avengers (or Avengers Assemble if you're in the UK). Many of you may have already seen it, and may also have seen the image above doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter showing what the official Avengers movie poster would look like if all the male characters posed the same way that Black Widow, the only female Avenger, does.

The image was drawn by Kevin Bolk, who noticed that a lot of the promotional shots of Black Widow showed her in at best impractical and at worst impossible, spine-bending poses. Sadly, these poses are common in the comic book world. Escher Girls is, "a blog for pictures of female characters in impossible or ridiculous poses or with disturbing anatomy because the artists need to show teh[sic] sexy." As well as highlighting the worst examples of this practice, readers of the blog also submit their own more realistic versions of comic panels, drawing the female characters in a way that doesn't require the removal of internal organs or injury in order to hold the pose.

When I saw Bolk's image it reminded me instantly of a similar gender role-reversal I saw a few months ago. Men-Ups by Rion Sabean is a series of photographs taken in classic 1950s pin-up style, but with male models. Rion has said that he is interested in how we are taught to believe that gender identities and biologically assigned sex are one and the same, saying, "thought and insight on just how ridiculous and restrictive the socially created gender roles are from their very inception... How can color have a sex? How can a pose be acceptable (and even provocative) for one, and not the other?"

The initial reaction of most people I've shown Men-Ups to is laughter, followed by "these men look so ridiculous!" Why? The purpose of these poses is to show off the model's body, which they do equally well for both male and female models. It is only because these kinds of images are always of women that they have become normal; seeing a man in the same poses showcases their absurdity. I applaud Kevin, Rion and the creators of Escher Girls for their pieces, and for highlighting the disparity between how men and women are portrayed in media. I can only hope that their voices and others like them become louder and louder until seeing women twisting their spines into "sexy" poses is ridiculed the way that it should be.

Image from Rion Sabean's Men-Ups

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Let's play talk!

A Dora the Explorer doll and accessories.

At the end of April, a fairly debatable article was published on the Sun’s website concerning a Dora the Explorer doll. More specifically, a mother from London was appalled to hear her three year old daughter, along with her friends, say 'Let’s play sex.' I think we all agree that it should have been a great shock to hear that phrase coming from kids aged just three! When asked to apologize, little Jamie-Leigh Stutter replied that she learned it from Dora. The mum, Joanna Greene, realised that the harmless toy might have been manufactured to squeeze and teach much more than appropriate words. Fisher Price stated that the company would go on to investigate the weird conduct of the doll.

On a further notice though, this may not be exactly the case. The vast majority of the article’s comments maintain that the doll actually says 'Let's play fetch,' which is reasonable. Being parents themselves, some blame the mother for craving publicity, others give the young girl the benefit of the doubt due to her age and few more acknowledge a bad marketing trick on account of the makers. There is a short video available in the news article, showing Dora pronouncing the phrase at issue. You can watch it and make your own assumptions.

Nevertheless, this is only an innocent fact that still encourages the awareness amongst parents in the direction of sex education. No matter how early the question pops up, mums and dads need to be prepared in order to give the right answer and guidance. Parents might find this infographic very helpful.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Schoolgirl Bullies - how uncool is that?

Watch Jessie J’s story on school bullying.

Getting by at school without being noticed is often a real struggle for some girls. If, for any reason, they are also picked on by fellow pupils, life at school can become unbearable. 

It is common knowledge that bullies can resort to physical violence, as well as emotional harassment and cyberbullying. Make no mistake though; the verbal force can be as traumatic as the corporal one. Statistics show that one out of four kids is bullied and that increasingly, juvenile violence is more likely to occur on school premises. In the case of girls taunting their female classmates there’s a lot at stake, since the girl-bully pattern is more frequently developed during the sensitive middle school years. Any form of derision or expression of scorn is enough to cause serious mental damage to a young girl and block healthy social interactions. Tackling the problem includes speaking up and confiding in a family member or teaching staff, which at the same time brings forward the significance of the intervention on behalf of the parents and educators in identifying and preventing intimidation events. They should be alert to symptoms that tend to be the norm while girls experience bullying, for example low self-esteem, unsteadiness in grades, isolation, depression, and stress.

Many celebrities from politics, show business, sports field and fashion industry stepped forward and went on to launch a campaign in order to raise awareness of the issue of bullying prevention. Beautiful and successful women like Sandra Bullock, Kate Winslet, Rihanna, Kristen Stewart, Jessica Alba, and Victoria Beckham were victims of bullying at school because they were too chubby, too skinny, too light-complexioned, or too dissimilar. Stella McCartney, the fashion designer and daughter of the legendary Beatles member Paul McCartney, has admitted she had an ordinary childhood despite her famous parents, but while attending state school she was teased about her publicity, which resulted into herself becoming a bully. In 2011, Lady Gaga set up the Born This Way Foundation, in a movement to embrace young people's bravery and empowerment against forms of repression like bullying in schools and communities. In addition, English pop singer Jessie J spoke out about the scoffers in her school days through the music video “Who’s laughing now,” which earned her the title of Best Role Model in Pop Music by Capital FM music fans for her honest lyrics and positive attitude.

It's not top-notch, funny, or trendy to play with a girl's adolescence or to endanger her psychological integrity. In fact, it is closer to a crime!

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The learning pleasure within museums

Girls in front of Anne Frank's famous wall of pictures inside her attic room.

  The International Council of Museums (ICOM) first embarked on the International Museum Day in 1977 and since then it has been celebrated worldwide by museums on May 18th, or even on a monthly basis. It's a time of giving credit at the most intrinsic pursuits to which museums are devoted, such as fun and enlightenment.

Museum-going is always a unique experience that can unravel a child’s knowledge as well as sentiments. For a long time most museum professionals argued whether the way that exhibits are presented is suitable for their young or novice visitors. The most articulate missions for a museum are education, research, and entertainment. In addition, the great challenge of sustaining the current audience and building a new one is faced with due reverence by all such cultural institutions.

When it comes to young visitors, the possibilities of engagement and interaction are potentially volatile. My guess is that when some people think back of visiting a museum as kids in the late 80s and earlier, it was hardly a pleasant event; I dare say that for the bulk of the cases it was rather boring. The apparent answer is because many museums lacked the fun factor or even failed to attract juvenile interest. Since then, there has been a great deal of progress to ensure the positives of museum visits and thence acquired experience by means of multimedia technology, educational programmes, handling collections, and active workshops. The most popular museums in the world, like the well established British Museum are way ahead in adopting innovative and appealing methods of communication with their young visitors, receiving in return triumphant feedback.

As analyzed in Jonathan Cooper’s study,  Engaging the museum visitor, and as far as the rookie public is concerned the “personal engagement will only occur if … they (museum educators) achieve connections with the visitor's feelings in indirect ways, by the power of association … personal engagement, by working at the individual level, has a good chance of ‘laying roots’ and being truly life-enriching.” Another report points out the significance of the parents’ role in joining and advancing the interpretation process. By researching facts and figures, parents were found to shoulder blame for tending toward providing explanations for girls three times less than for boys while interacting with museum exhibits, “suggesting that parents may be involved in creating gender bias in (informal) science learning.”

It is reasonably fruitful when parents stimulate a girl's already good predisposition to museums, but it’s probably best to take some action in order to prepare her visit to a museum at least for the first time, like this simple advice suggested by Dr. Leslie Madsen-Brooks.

Professor of Museum Studies Eilean Hooper-Greenhill wrote in her 2007 book Museums and Education: purpose, pedagogy, performance “in the post-museum of the 21st century…there has been…[a] semantic shift from education to learning” and defines ‘edutainment’ “as an attempt to find words to conceptualise the characteristics of the learning experience within museums.” She also noted a “shift from collection to communication” in Museums and their Visitors (1994).

Museums never cease to correspond to their changing contexts and follow the path of advocating for the audiences. It is a low-cost opportunity to render a worthwhile experience for your offspring and what’s more, mould potential hardcore museum-goers.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why are girls afraid to sweat?

Image from Getty Images

A recent study by Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation says more than half of girls are put off by PE classes in the UK. Interestingly, the research found that eight year-olds did similar levels of activity with about 60% of boys and girls saying they did at least an hour of exercise five days a week. However, by the time children reach the age of fourteen, only 31% of girls said that they exercised regularly; meanwhile, 50% of boys continued to exercise regularly.

So, what happens between the ages of eight and fourteen that turn girls off exercise? The study found that most girls do want to do more exercise but have been put off by PE classes with some saying they did not like exercising in front of boys and were not confident of their sporting skills.

These answers depress me so much. I understand that teenage girls often feel awkward about their bodies. It’s hardly surprising considering how much a body can change during puberty; I can remember being self-conscious of my body as a teenager because I was a somewhat early developer and I looked different to many of my friends. In fact, this self-consciousness stayed with me until relatively recently when I started exercising regularly, which has taught me to respect and love my body for the machine that it is, not how it looks to other people. For me, part of the joy of exercising is that I get to be out and about in the world with no make-up on, huffing and puffing and screaming (yes, I once got frustrated on a run and screamed out loud; I scared a cyclist passing me) and generally not caring what other people think of me. It’s a time when I don’t have to care how I look and what other people think of me; it’s incredibly liberating.

Which is why encouraging girls into exercising more and taking up sport is so important. Although making PE lessons more appealing to girls is a step in the right direction, I am concerned that it will reinforce gender segregation, which is hardly going to help that problem of girls being afraid to sweat in front of boys. Exercise shouldn’t be limited to a couple of hours a week in school; it should be encouraged in all aspects of girl’s life, not as a tool to lose weight, but as something that can give them confidence, teach them new skills and make friends. And even give them an excuse to not look good and not care in public.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What happened to all those 90s starlets?

Drew Barrymore as Gertie in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial.

Current generations from 30 onwards can easily recall the famous young actresses of the 1990s. It seems that abrupt success and recognition didn’t turn out for the best in all of the cases, while others, after years of absence from the screen, have managed to make a striking comeback. One thing remains constant; there is no secret key to a sequence of success other than tons of talent and a touch of good luck.

Following her parts in John Hughes’ romance films, Molly Ringwald was the 80s and early 90s American sweetheart and has been commonly acclaimed as the greatest teen star of all time. As of 2008, she came back in safe territory, playing a pregnant teen's mother in the ABC series The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Anna Chlumsky was 11 years old when she starred in the drama My Girl (1991) and turned the character of adorable Vada Sultenfuss to a complete success. She took a long break from acting to fulfill her studies, worked as an editorial assistant, and after several guest appearances in TV shows she recently returned playing a leading role in HBO's comedy series Veep. Film history was made for the second time when 11 year old Anna Paquin became the second youngest winner of an Academy Award when she received an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her performance as the young Flora McGrath in 1993's The Piano. She undertook further impressive roles when, later on, she thrived as the waitress Sookie Stackhouse in the HBO series True Blood (2008) that earned her many awards for best actress.

During the 90s, a number of groundbreaking TV series were introduced to teenage audiences and intimate family sitcoms were launched, aiming at wider viewership. Shannen Doherty, best known for the character of Brenda Walsh in teen series Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990) gained worldwide recognition and caught media attention at the age of 19. In future years, she remained active in both the small and big screen, although she had to face the law from time to time on account of bad temper or reckless driving. The most recognizable star-twins ever remain Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who starred in ABC’s family sitcom Full House (1987) before they were even one year old! Their hits continued, as they appeared in multiple films and series, subsequently leading in their emergence as fashion icons in the early 2000s. The Olsens survived anorexia issues, overcame their wild party-animal days, and grew up to become owners of a couture label, next to other clothing brands, as well as see themselves among the richest women in entertainment.  

For selected few others, success and well-adjustment was carved on their path. Not only did they make a breakthrough performance, but they also experienced more bliss in their forthcoming careers. By choosing potent roles and acting on full potential, their list of nominations and awards is gradually increasing. Natalie Portman made her on-screen debut at age 13 as the orphan Mathilda who befriends a hitman in Luc Besson’s action film Léon (1994). Soon after, success kept coming in with roles that defined her talent, like Padmé Amidala in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In addition, she proved her smarts by acquiring a psychology degree from Harvard University. In 2010, Portman played the adept ballerina Nina Sayers in Darren Aronofsky's thriller Black Swan and won every possible award for Best Actress. One may also add Reese Witherspoon in this category of overachieving brainiacs. Fifteen year old Witherspoon starred in the romantic drama The Man in the Moon (1991), but it wasn’t until a decade later when she hit massive success with her role as Elle Woods in the comedy Legally Blonde. In 2005, she was rewarded with all of the four basic awards for best female performance for her portrayal of June Carter Cash in Walk the Line. Apart from being a first-class actress, she is an engrossed activist and owns a production company.

The example of the young actresses who soon disappeared from the spotlight or fell in decay, is also frequent. Drew Barrymore was only 7 when she became a famous child star, succeeding her breakout role as Gertie in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982). By the age of 15, she had nothing but a disturbed childhood. Having overcome her addictions, she returned in acting and established herself in romantic comedy films no later than the end of 90s. She also set up a very creative and prolific production company. Multitalented Juliette Lewis attained widespread fame at the age of 18, as ingenue Danielle Bowden next to Robert De Niro in Martin Scorsese’s thriller Cape Fear (1991). Being a teen maverick, she had often troubles with the law and went into rehabilitation for drug addiction. Since 2004, she has been the leading singer of the rock band Juliette and the Licks.

As expected, the 21st century brought in new names and faces. Despite being just 18 years old Dakota Fanning is respected for her maturity, and Abigail Breslin is only 16 and has already co-starred with major actors. Will the next rising stars manage their success in a wiser and milder way?

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Golshifteh Farahani and the calendar girls against oppression

In the western world we see scantily clad women on a daily basis, in newspapers, magazines, films, and on television. These women get a good wage and many are even considered role models; these are the lucky ones. The results of posing nude if you are Iranian or Egyptian, however, are very different.  Recently there was uproar from the Iranian Islamist community when actress Golshifteh Farahani posed nude for a French magazine, stating her protest against restrictive Islamic codes. Many Islamists believe that women should dress modestly as that is what is written in the Qur’an; some take this to extremes and choose to wear a full veil called a hijab. To cast away these beliefs and pose nude was something Iranian authorities took very unkindly to and as a result Golshifteh Farahani was cast into exile

Farahani was then joined by many other Iranian women in an online video and calendar to support a protest against oppression in the Islamic world that was sparked by 20 year old Egyptian student Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, who almost one year ago posted a full length nude photo of herself on her blog, explaining that it was her body and her choice to do so.  As a result the student was denounced as a prostitute. 

Maryam Namazie, who produced the calendar, described it as ‘a form of resistance’ against a religion that ‘demand[s] we be veiled, bound and gagged.’

It is only as their campaign gathers pace we shall see if it sparks a real change but until then these women are exiles from their country and outsiders of their religion so they need all the support we can give them. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Spelling Bee C-H-A-M-P

Image from Fox News
Do you know how to spell 'vaquero'?  Well 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison sure did as that was the word that won her the Prince William County spelling contest.  “We practiced that word several times because she kept getting it wrong,” her mother, Sorina Vlaicu Madison, said. “We really insisted on that word so I knew for sure she would nail it.”  Lori of Woodbridge, Virginia beat out 21 other contestants from elementary and middle schools, all of which were older than her.  This win makes her the youngest contestant ever in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, an incredible accomplishment for a girl so young.  Lori is believed to be the youngest competitor ever, the Cincinnati-based National Spelling Bee said on Tuesday. Based on incomplete records, the previous youngest contestant was eight, it said.

"My parents quiz me. I read lists and I have a really good memory," Lori, who is home-schooled, told Fox's WTTG-TV. It is truly astonishing the amount of dedication put forth to study these words and lovely to see the obvious joy she gets from being a part of the spelling bees, especially when she’s holding a trophy about as big as her.

The national spelling contest has been held since 1925 with this year's event to be held May 29 to June 1 in Washington D.C., with 277 spellers from the United States, U.S. territories and other countries.  Lori says she is not nervous about the national championship, because she has competed against children who are older than her before, including placing in the top 5 in last years’ county spelling competition.  “I was confident because I have been in spelling bees with older kids before and I judge them by who they are, not about age,” she said.  A wise perspective put quite eloquently from this intelligent girl who has everyone falling in love with her and wanting to lend their support.  Lori will be sponsored by the News & Messenger newspaper of Manassas, Virginia, which will cover all travel, accommodation, and meal expenses.  Good luck to Lori and we hope that she has continued success in her spelling bee endeavors.

-Marisa Lindholm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum, Inc.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Why the rush for babies after marriage?

The Duchess of Cambridge talks to father Vic Vicary (Picture:John Stillwell/PA)
One year on after the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton and all everyone seems to be talking about is how long will it be until we get another royal baby. In this day and age though is this still the one and only purpose of marriage? 

With the increasing number of women choosing a career over family and the increasing number of broken homes, does it now leave marriage as merely a symbol that one is ready to start a family as quickly as possible? Why can’t marriage be just that – a marriage between two people that are willing to support and love each other for the rest of their lives – surely it would be nice to enjoy time as just a partnership before entering into the financial drain and all encompassing mission of raising children.  

There are at least some experts that would agree that a marriage without children can lead to the most happiness. Some, however, believe that a marriage without children isn’t really a marriage at all – just a long date!  These views then drift through society and we end up with just another question in the small talk of life:

Single? Don’t worry the right bloke will come along.
Boyfriend? When’s he going to pop the question?
Fiancée? When’s the wedding date?
Married? Won’t be long before we hear the pitter patter of tiny feet then!

For William and Kate, it is just another question along in the line of what society says they should be doing. So for their sake and the sake of all young people I say we should throw out the old expectations and introduce just one small talk question – Are you happy? Because surely this is all that really matters.

-Emma Hatheral
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What do Princesses and Flowers have in common?

Little princesses at EuroDisney. Photo: Sarah Jackson
I recently read a blog on one of the latest products in the ever-expanding Disney Princess range – seeds. On the face of it, this seems like it might not be such a dreadful idea. After all, seeing their favourite characters on a packet of seeds might encourage young girls to start gardening. However, the Disney Princesses only grace the packets of seeds that grow into decorative flowers. Vegetables and fruits are branded with Mickey, Goofy and other classic Disney characters, but let’s face it, little girls are generally more attracted to Ariel and Belle than they are Donald Duck.

We’ve talked a lot on this blog about both the pros and cons of Disney Princesses. Whatever you think of them, there’s no doubt that the Princess Juggernaut is extremely popular and likely to continue blazing along for a long time to come. I do think that it’s a shame that the Princesses’ seeds are only associated with decorative flowers and not vegetables. It’s also not entirely surprising. Whilst I think the individual characters can be positive role models, the merchandising linked with them is has a strong focus on appearance, most notably with dolls and dress up costumes. The one thing that all these characters have in common is their beauty. Disney Princesses are pretty; so are flowers. It seems a perfect match, right?

A few years ago, I went to Disneyland Paris and I saw a lot of little girls dressed as Disney Princesses. My reaction was not to reflect on whether it was appropriate for little girls to be running around a theme park all day wearing a big dress or whether these princesses are good role models. Instead, my brain immediately short-circuited into the “OMG SO CUTE” reaction I get when I look at videos of cute cats on the Internet. I recently began thinking of this and wondered if this reaction is in fact problematic. Girls are under enormous pressure to look a certain way; is the Disney Princess range the first stage in this kind of objectification? Never mind what that little girl’s hopes and ambitions are – she looks so cute when dressed as Belle! Let’s shower her with attention because of that!

Does dressing our little girls in cute and girly outfits begin a lifetime’s obsession with looks, or is it just a harmless part of growing up?

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Valor of Women

'Rosie the Riveter'
I recently bought a cardigan with this emblem made popular in the USA during the 1940’s. It was suppose to give hope and courage to the women left at home whilst men were overseas fighting a war, to do their part and to keep the country buoyant. It was designed to encourage women to buck up and be active, it was not supposed to make women think that they were superior to men.

However, in this day and age, this image has been used in many different ways—to make women feel that the male population is beneath them, using slogans like, 'Women who strive to be equal to men lack ambition'. I find this kind of slogan offensive not only because I value my male friends, but also because it breeds superiority and inferiority complexes that lead to outrage, and then backlashes putting us further behind than where we started. To clarify, I am all for women being empowered and for equality, but putting someone else down for my own gain would not be to anyone’s benefit.

I think that females should stop hiding behind a feminist guise whilst spouting such ‘hilariously’ sexist things such as, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” especially as it is usually these females who would jump down the throat of any man who rebuffed them with a different sexist quote. It does not justify the situation. So, I beg you girls, please stop to think what you value as empowering and don't distort such images as 'Rosie the Riveter' to suit purposes other than giving hope and strength to others.

-Natalie Moyanah
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Girl forgoes presents to raise money for charity

Winter's appeal on the EarthRangers website

Think back to a birthday when you were a girl.  Can you imagine giving up all those toys and presents in exchange for donating money to a charity?  Well that is exactly what 7-year-old Winter Slade has done!  This exceptional girl decided that instead of receiving gifts from family and friends for her birthday, she wanted them to donate money to her favorite nature conservation charity, Earth Rangers.  Earth Rangers is a non-profit organization that “believes in the power of kids like you to take action to help protect wildlife.” 

Winter initially got the idea after seeing a public service announcement on television of the ‘Bring Back the Wild’ campaign for the charity which encourages kids to have birthday parties where they forgo receiving gifts in exchange for donating money to help protect an animal of their choosing.  The Pine Marten was Winter’s animal choice and a goal of raising $500 was set to protect her favorite furry animal. "I thought it was awesome," said Michelle Slade, who, along with Winter and her other four kids, lives in London, Ontario. "She thought that was a great idea because she had enough toys already."

Unfortunately not everyone thought Winter’s idea was so ‘awesome.’  A few of the mothers at Winter’s school commented on the idea calling it ‘stupid,’ completely crushing Winter to tears.  Well this in turn put supportive mum Michelle into action who appealed to the public on the social networking site in an attempt to restore some of her daughter’s faith in others.

Within just a few days of the posting, Winter had not only reached her initial goal but had raised over $2500.  This wonderful story that Michelle shared not only brought attention to her giving daughter but also to the Earth Rangers and the cause Winter cares so much about.

-Marisa Lindholm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Female Body Building

Kellie Everts

Body building for women is something that is often frowned upon by many, the idea of women with bulging muscles can seem unnatural to many, but is it really given a fair assessment?

Female body building started to take off in the early 70’s when, in 1975, Kellie Everts first appeared in Esquire magazine, which then led to competitive female bodybuilding competitions and the eventual emergence of the Ms Olympia contest in 1980. These were the years before steroids took over the sport and body building for women was a seen as a beauty pageant for strong and toned women.
Today, however, the professional women body builders are rarely spoken of; that was until celebrity Jodie Marsh decided to take up the sport. This has brought body building back into the public eye again, but unfortunately has not eradicated the idea that body building is still about bulging muscles and fake tan. If the idea is looked at more closely however there are many positives to taking up this niche sport. Marsh claims that body building has made her feel sexy and brought her great happiness, and with a greatly toned body along with the endorphins that all that exercise realises it’s no wonder she feels great.

Body building can tone and curve the body, which is especially useful after childbirth as it also deals with excess skin, it can also increase the metabolism rate. Many women shy away from weights as they don’t wish to end up with large obvious muscles but in actual fact it is much harder for women to build up their muscles to a great extent due to their low levels of testosterone. I for one feel that the benefits of bodybuilding have been overlooked for too long and think it’s about time that women started to go back to its basics and fit weights into their regular exercise routine – after all if nothing else it would mean that you could start moving those heavy boxes without having to wait around for someone else to help you!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.