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, July 31, 2012

Olympic Girls

Marianne Vos winning the Women's Road Race.

Love it or hate it, the Olympics are finally here. The Opening Ceremony confused and delighted worldwide audiences and medals are being won and records broken. We’ve already talked here about  how this is the first Olympic Games that has allowed women to compete in every event and, until the last minute withdrawal of Afghan boxer Sadaf Rahimi, that every country sent at least one female athlete to.

To celebrate the Women’s Games, we’re trying to promote the amazing female athletes, like Zoe Smith, a teen British weightlifter, or Marianne Vos, the gold medallist for the women’s Cycling Road Race, who are proving how amazing women in sport can be. As a Brit, I am thrilled that two of our three medals (so far) have been won by women: Rebecca Adlington and Lizzie Armitstead. I can’t wait to see who else will blow me away with their athleticism and sportsmanship.

Join us on Twitter and Facebook, as we celebrate and watch with baited breath the female athletes who will inspire a generation.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Diary of Laura Dekker

There and back again: A map on Laura Dekker's website showing the route she completed.

With the Olympic Games on the go we are all enthralled by athletic evolutions. But if you are interested in some fun reading that smells like summer, you really don't want to miss Laura Dekker’s blog. The 16 year old Dutch girl became the youngest-ever solo circumnavigator formerly this year, when she reached her goal of completing a voyage around the globe single-handedly on her sailboat. The maritime expedition started on August 4th 2010, when she sailed away from the port of Den Osse, Netherlands and ended on January 21st 2012, when she managed to dock her yacht in Simpson Bay of St. Maarten. Her reliable comrade was a French-built 11.5-metre (38 ft) Jeanneau Gin Fizz ketch called Guppy. In numbers, she travelled more than 27,000 nautical miles and spent 518 days at sea.

Laura was born on a yacht in New Zealand waters, she spent the first four years of her life at sea, and at the age of six she owned an Optimist boat, with which she learned sailing. She later grew up in the Netherlands, where she announced her intention for a world solo sailing bid in 2009, provoking a great deal of negative reactions on behalf of the government. Having undergone many court sessions and authorities supervision, she managed to convince everyone about her vision and her capabilities. She was critically disappointed by all this interference and reported that she lost any will to return back to the Netherlands. Laura found out that she was also denied the record of the youngest round-the-world sailor from the Guinness World Records and the World Sailing Speed Record Council, on the grounds that they no longer accept records for youngest sailors to discourage other dangerous attempts.

The fearless teenager keeps on sailing and writes from all these amazing places, like Bonaire, the San Blas Islands of Panama, the Gal├ípagos Islands, Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands, Rangiroa, and Tahiti. You can ‘sail away’ with Laura Dekker here and gawk at some exotic photos.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Condolences to the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting

All of us here at Girl Museum would like to extend our sincerest sympathies to the victims and families of the Aurora Colorado shooting. Although there has been much in the media about the shooter's possible motives/reasons and commentary about the age some of the victims and their presence at the cinema, Girl Museum will, for the moment, refrain from commenting. Instead we simply offer our support in this sad and painful time.

A list of charities offering support and assistance to the victims of the shooting can be found here and here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Female Genital Mutilation: hidden horror in our UK communities

Female Genital Mutilation
Image from Medscope

According to some traditional beliefs, female circumcision is part of becoming a woman – it reduces a girl’s sexual urges, thus ensuring a virgin bride and a faithful wife. The truth about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), however, is one of brutal disfigurement carried out on young girls who are often too young to understand what is happening. These girls grow up scarred in every possible sense.

The girls are left feeling “different” and have very real physical problems when embarking on a sexual relationship: removing the clitoris means that sexual pleasure is diminished or non-existent; the stitching of the vaginal opening can make sexual intercourse painful or even impossible; and the dangers of giving birth are increased, with many mothers requiring emergency treatment.

I have always thought of FGM as an atrocious crime against women carried out in faraway places, but a recent TV report by Sue Lloyd Roberts for BBC’s Newsnight reveals that this brutal circumcision is being carried out on girls in UK towns and cities. One victim of FGM, 23 year old Ayanna, told the BBC’s reporter that she knew of girls as young as two weeks old being cut with scissors and knives by “the elder women.” Ayanna lives in Glasgow – a city where I lived for many years during my university studies. I find it appalling to think that this is going on in a place I once called home.

A further revelation which I find truly horrendous is that the UK is becoming a FGM tourist destination, with families in France sending their girls over the Channel to be cut. French FGM activist, Isabelle Gillette-Faye, puts this down to the difference in the countries approach to immigrants. France has a strict integration policy, with mothers and baby girls attending compulsory clinics to check for possible mutilation. Although some may see the policy of targeting of girls from “high-risk” ethnic minorities as racist, it is clearly having a greater success than the UK’s lack of cultural intervention. French girls who have been mutilated find that there is a support network on offer with psychological counselling and the possibility of getting reconstructive surgery.

The UK does have 17 FGM specialist clinics, but they are now overwhelmed by the high numbers of immigrants and refugees. More support is needed and the government is scared to address the issue. FGM was made illegal nearly 30 years ago. With the practice continuing in our own towns, it is shocking that there has never been a prosecution for FGM. Hopefully, with this shocking report, public awareness of Female Genital Mutilation will grow. The Home Office has recently released a pocket guide which details the illegality of this abuse in the UK.

Female Genital Mutilation is a cultural cruelty which can no longer hide behind the shield of tradition. Change needs to happen within the immigrant community and education has to be at the heart of that. We need to acknowledge that the problem is happening and involve the women and girls, as well as the men, in promoting a healthy, abuse-free, female sexuality.

Sue Lloyd Roberts’ report for the BBC’s Newsnight programme is available for viewers in the UK to watch here.

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Unforgettable Amy…

Amy Winehouse’s last recording with idol Tony Bennett on one of her dad’s favourite songs, Body and Soul.
Today it's been one year without Amy Winehouse. No matter how predictable it was for some, the music community as a whole was shocked at the news of Amy's death due to alcohol poisoning on 23 July 2011. Her admirers all around the world spared no tears for the 27 years old wondergirl. As is often the case with the tragic event of a young person's loss, what was truly sad was the mere fact of the farewell to such a great potential and future productivity.
Amy Winehouse was more of a living legend, on account of being highly and repeatedly acclaimed as a striking artist, an amazing voice, an incomparable talent of the kind that hopefully comes along once every other decade. Our generation had found at last its own landmark vox, hoarse and brassy, personified by a brilliant musician that created new trends out of the old times. All of a sudden soul-jazz sounds, vintage clothing, and beehive hairdos were everywhere. Once you've heard her particular music, you would probably end up indulging or singing along accidentally. Her deep contralto vocals also had this compelling power that made you want to listen more and more. To me, she was the only representation of the retro attitude that I allowed myself to enjoy.
Born in 1983, Amy Jade Winehouse was raised in Southgate of North London by a jazz-influenced family. By the age of ten she formed the music band Sweet ‘n’ Sour; later on she attended a private school aimed at performing arts, while at her fourteen she unfolded noticeable composing and songwriting skills. So it seemed quite natural when her debut album Frank received triumphant criticism in 2003 and, soon after, her raspy voice was compared next to some of the most extraordinary voices of the 20th century. In 2006 Back to Black was released, containing legendary tracks like the titular song, You Know I’m No Good, and Rehab, which earned her historically mainstream success and plenty awards of worldwide significance. Many British singers like Adele, Lily Allen, and Duffy have admitted the staple influence she had on building their career. Amy became a dashing rebel at her own music vision in no time.

Amy Winehouse at Bowery Ballroom, 13 March 2007. Photo: Daniel Arnold. WikiCommons.
Unfortunately she wasn’t so resilient. Whether her dysfunctional marriage, substance abuse issues, or the tension of being under the public eye is to blame, the thing is that somehow she found herself in tatters. Posthumously, it became apparent that her potent autobiographical lyrics were a big cry for help, or better, an unambiguous reflection of a perpetual struggle with her inner demons. Young and vulnerable people do not necessarily cope with stardom at ease. It’s no secret that behind the sparkling lights of the stage there is often a suppressed fragility well hidden that can come out in numerous ways of self-destructiveness.
On September 14th 2011, date of the late singer’s 28th birthday, her family launched the Amy Winehouse Foundation, a charitable organisation devoted to young people in need. Music heritage certainly seems insufficient without its defining talents, such as Amy Winehouse. A gifted girl, a warm-hearted person, a promising artist, a memorable figure...
Long Sing Amy!
-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

2012 Olympics: The Women's Games

A warm welcome for the athletes.

With just over a week until the Olympics start here in the UK, it's pretty safe to say that the festivities and competitions--along with the attendant controversies such events bring--are at the forefront of everyone's mind. Despite concerns about security, rooftop installations of surface-to-air missiles on residential blocks of flats for the duration of the Games, athletes getting lost on the way to the Olympic Village from the airport,  and distress about the weather (the UK has received record-breaking amounts of rain this "summer"), people are excited for the competitions to start.

The 2012 Olympics feature a variety of positive notes for women. For the first time, the US Olympic team is sending more women than men as competitors: the US team of 530 consists of 269 women and 261 men, and the athletes will compete in 25 out of the 38 Olympic disciplines.

For the first time ever, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei are sending female athletes. The 2012 Olympics marks the first time every competing country has at least one female competitor.

Afghanistan is sending women to the Olympics for only the second time, and Sadaf Rahimi is one of Afghanistan's first female boxers, competing in another first: Women's Boxing as an Olympic sport.

In many ways the 2012 London Olympics are being touted as the "Women's Games." Not only will every competing country have female entrants, but with boxing now open to women, all the Olympic disciplines are available for women to compete in (men cannot compete in rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming). Just under half of the approximately 10,000 athletes are women, compared to just 42% at the 2008 Beijing games. It is also thought that the female athletes competing for Great Britain will win more medals than the British male athletes, which would be another first.

Behind the scenes, 20 of the 106 members of the International Olympic Committee are women--less than 20%, but 20% more than there prior to 1981. The London Organizing Committee is more than half female, and Debbie Jevans, the Director of Sport, is the first woman to hold that title in the history of the Games.

All in all, the London 2012 Olympics are breaking down barriers for female athletes around the world, and I for one will be supporting athletes like Sadaf Rahimi (Afghanistan, boxing), Jessica Ennis (Great Britain, track & field), Allyson Felix (USA, track & field), Mariel Zagunis (USA, Fencing), Lolo Jones (USA, track & field), Kerri Walsh and Misty May Treanor (USA, beach volleyball), Dara Torres (USA, swimming), Kim Rhode (USA, shooting), Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani (Saudi Arabia, judo), Sarah Attar (Saudi Arabia, track & field), Maziah Mahusin (Brunei, track & field), Nada Arkaji (Qatar, swimming), Noor Al-Malki (Qatar, track & field), Aya Magdy (Qatar, table tennis) and Bahiya Al-Hamad (Qatar, shooting, also carrying the flag for Qatar), and all the other women competing for themselves and their countries this summer!

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Two Lost Girls

Private Thomas W. Timberlake of Co. G, 2nd Virginia Infantry found this child's portrait on the battlefield of Port Republic, Virginia, between the bodies of a Confederate soldier and a Federal soldier.
Photo: Steve Helber / AP

Sometimes real life can be unbelievable and like an exaggerated screenplay, and I think that this is one of those times. I was intrigued lately by the story of two young girls, whose images were found on Civil War battlefields and their data remain still unknown. In mid-June the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, USA gave publicity to these two portraits in order to shed some light onto the undiscovered identities. The only known fact is that the photographs were discovered among the lifeless bodies of soldiers during the American Civil War. Other than that, the rest is history and mystery. Both postures are staged and much alike; the girls are standing on chairs with the right hand touching the back of the seat. They are dressed in nice outfits and have neat hairstyles. 

Actually, these are only two of the eight images in total, which were made known by the professionals of the Museum of Confederacy in hopes of tracing any descendants through facial resemblance or other means. Another interesting point of reference is the fast-growing appeal of photography at that time. 

Who would have thought that museums could take up the role of mediator in bringing together people with their lost families? Then again, if it serves the common interest, why not?

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Big Bang girls giving science a good name

Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), Penny (Kaley Cuoco), and Amy (Mayim Bialik) from The Big Bang Theory.

The new Friends is The Big Bang Theory. Starting out with a group of geeks and one girl, the American sitcom has expanded its cast in the past couple of series to include more girls. The newer characters – Amy and Bernadette  add a touch of lighter, more feminine humour and fly the flag for women in science. Amy Farrah Fowler is an intelligent neuroscientist  basically the female version of Sheldon  but at heart is a true girl’s girl. Bernadette Rostenkowski is the alpha female in her relationship with Howard and is the biggest wage earner as well as the more qualified of the two.

Some viewers have not appreciated the influx of women into the show and suggested they have changed the premise of the sitcom, however there is also a great deal of support. The addition of women to the main cast has given the characters a chance to evolve and grow but the main themes of science and comic books remains.

The show has been able to demonstrate how girls can hold their own with intelligent men. Even Penny, who started as ‘the pretty, dumb blonde,’ has now grown to show the stereotypes that the geeks have can be wrong and that she is more clever than she may initially appear.

Let us hope the next season carries on with the quick witted humour and physics based quips that it is well known for and that it inspires a new generation of women in science like Amy and Bernadette.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Positive Objectification?

Gok Wan helps insecure ladies feel good about their bodies
Photo: Channel 4

Confession time! I normally dislike reality TV shows, be they the semi-staged nightmare that is Keeping Up with the Kardashians or ‘self-help’ type shows like The Biggest Loser. Except one: Gok Wan’s How to Look Good Naked.

For those unfamiliar with this concept, stylist Gok Wan helps women with extremely low body confidence to embrace their bodies, no matter what they look like, by showing them how to dress their particular body type. This is achieved through various shock tactics, including a headless shot of the woman’s body wearing only her underwear in a public space and then asking strangers for their opinion; shooting a (tasteful) naked photo of her; making her strut down a catwalk in a shopping mall in her underwear; and posing her (once again, tastefully) naked in a shop window in a busy high street.

Writing it all down makes it all sound ... pretty awful, actually. It’s objectification of a woman’s body, pure and simple, which we’ve often talked about as a negative. But can it ever be positive? It is nice to see an ordinary female body on TV and hear positive comments about it. Women of all ages and body types appear in the show and it does appear that Gok’s interventions have a positive effect on many of their lives, with some going on to change careers, start new relationships, or mend old ones. These women’s opinions of their bodies are so negative that it has an impact on their self-esteem as a whole – and therefore their entire lives. Much of this loathing probably comes from society’s obsession the ‘perfect’ body and a constant bombardment of impossible to recreate in real life images.

Promoting real women’s bodies as beautiful no matter what they look like is in my opinion a positive step. Still, I can’t help but feel that maybe we need to start celebrating women for their lives and achievements, and not just their bodies.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Titillating Titian?

Mark Wallinger's Diana, on display at the National Gallery, London.
Photograph: Graeme Robertson

To coincide with the Olympic Games, London is hosting a Cultural Olympiad, celebrating the arts in British collections. The National Gallery is showcasing Titian, an Italian Renaissance artist, in its exhibition Metamorphosis: Titian 2012. Working in collaboration with the Royal Ballet, poets, and contemporary artists, the exhibition examines the theme of change and the influence of the Master's works on modern artists.

The centrepiece of the exhibition are the three Titian works, Diana and Actaeon, The Death of Actaeon, and Diana and Callisto, which were recently saved for the nation in collaboration with the National Galleries of Scotland. Based on the Roman poet Ovid's (43BC-17AD) Metamorphoses, the paintings highlight key scenes in the story of the goddess of chastity, Diana. The mortal hunter, Actaeon, was caught spying on the goddess while she was bathing and, as punishment, she transformed him into a stag which was then killed by his own hunting dogs. These paintings have had great influence on artists through the generations and the myth is a stern warning to any would-be voyeur.

Titian's works are set against contemporary pieces referencing the paintings and it is Mark Wallinger's modern work for the Metamorphosis which is courting some controversy. Titled Diana, the former Turner Prize winner's live action installation features six women named Diana who are, like the goddess, bathing naked. In this response to Titian's work, it is the gallery visitor who is cast as Actaeon: from a darkened room, the viewer can "spy" on the Dianas through little peep holes and sections of opaque glass as they wash their bodies, gaze into the mirror, or recline in an armchair. So is it art or just plain voyeurism?

It is true that if you were caught peeping in at a window in the real world, you'd be punished (although perhaps not quite as severely as Actaeon). We are undoubtedly made to feel like this is an invasion of privacy; however, I feel that Wallinger's work does more to highlight the issue than condone it. Titian's Actaeon is severely punished for his crime of gazing at the naked Diana, yet his goddess is on display for all to see. She was commissioned by a man, made by a man, so are we to believe that this work was not meant to be enjoyed by the viewer for its aesthetic qualities? The only difference between this Diana and Titian's is that Wallinger’s model is live and in the flesh. In the role of the female nude, women have been viewed and "spied on" by men throughout art history. 

Whilst we may not agree with the idea of woman as object, Wallinger's Diana cuts through the hypocrisy of viewing art. By placing the spectator as a knowing voyeur, it exposes the purpose of some of the greatest works of art. I believe that if we can chose to view the work, and allow parents the option to screen the content for their children, then Wallinger's Diana is a truly innovative critique of Titian's masterpieces.

Metamorphosis: Titian 2012 runs from July 11th to 23rd September at the National Gallery, London (admission free).

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fashion for the under-fives

Looks from Roberto Cavalli's Angels and Devils line will be shown at petitePARADE.
Credit: petitePARADE

Amongst the many pages of adverts in August's Marie Claire UK magazine, I came across an advert for Roberto Cavalli's Junior range. I’ve been reading Marie Claire for about two years now and it's the first time I can recall coming across an advert for a designer clothes range for children, so it made me pause in my page turning.

I'm not a parent myself, so I can't pretend to be an expert on how to dress children. However, I've never understood the point of buying expensive clothes for children, especially babies and toddlers, because (again, not an expert here) don't kids tend to grow really quickly at that age? So, spending a lot of money on an outfit that will soon be outgrown by your child seems somehow wasteful to me. But if people can afford such luxuries, that's up to them.

Inside the same magazine, there was also an article on four mothers who work in the fashion industry and how they are encouraging their daughters to share their love of fashion. This passion acts as a bond between parent and child. It is something they can share and create together, and although onlookers might question whether such a focus on image and looks is healthy to teach a young girl, the bond they have with their mothers appears strong.

One of the mothers featured explains how her four month old daughter "has attitude and needs clothes to match her personality." Can a four month-old baby really have any conception of fashion beyond what feels comfortable? Her mother then goes onto explain how she realised that "shopping for your baby is [...] just an extension of what you put yourself in," which seems to suggest that the attitude being embodied in the baby's clothes is actually the mother's.

Is there much doubt then that her daughter will grow up to love fashion? I guess it depends on which side of the nature/nurture debate you fall on. All I can hope is that mothers who put such emphasis on fashion in their relationships with their daughter use it as a means of bonding and not as a measure of self-esteem.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Bend it like Jamie

Martha Payne and Nick Nairn at his cookery school.

Have you ever wondered why the vast majority of chefs are men? Sure, successful female chefs do exist, but men clearly transcend in this profession. Such an acknowledgement contradicts to the bone the far-fetched notion that cooking is traditionally a woman's thing or that the kitchen is naturally a woman’s place. If I need to guess as to why male cooks prevail, I would arbitrarily say that maybe it’s because they are tougher and faster. It appears that they are also considered to be bolder, more creative and according to a statement by the father of modern French cuisine, Fernand Point: “Only men have the technique, discipline and passion that makes cooking consistently an art.”

On top of this, the gender bias is expanding to the earnings. A survey from last year, conducted by the American Culinary Federation, showed that women executive chefs were paid on average $18,000 less than their male counterparts. This disparity alone is enough to get women to refrain from fighting their way to the restaurant kitchens. Even now, some girls aspire to be chefs out there and those sporadic women who made it, struggle to keep up with the pressure of working in a discriminatory domain. Why not try to explore their full potential in lieu of cutting their wings? 

On the other hand, chances are, if you are of the kind that searches diligently the press and the web for articles associated to food, you will find out that female writers outnumber the male ones. Writing is a safer getaway and, for the time being, an impartial battlefield for the women that didn’t survive as professional cooks. English chef Jamie Oliver proved that not only is he unprejudiced, but he can also be more than supportive of young girls who are into healthy nutrition. He went the extra mile and elevated a young girl's food blog by posting a comment on Twitter and by sending her a signed book. The visitation proliferated and Martha Payne's blog became a heavy hitter within only a couple of days. The 9 year old blogger recently announced she was awarded Blog of the Month by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. Maybe we shouldn’t be looking for more women in the cooking industry, but for more inspirational mentors like Jamie Oliver.

For another perspective on women in professional kitchens, read "From Donna Reed to Alice Waters."

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Royal Blood has the Olympic Gene

Zara Phillips and Toytown carry the Olympic flame at Cheltenham. © Getty Images

A female royal that is more famous for being a sportswoman than for being a royal is a rare thing. While most female descendants of the queen can be found doing various charity events, opening buildings, and generally showing off various varieties of hats and outfits on public occasions, Zara Phillips has inherited the Olympic gene. Following in the footsteps of her mother, Princess Anne, and her father, Captain Mark Phillips, she will be representing Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics this year.

Despite being a royal she will be staying with the other athletes and using the same security, but why wouldn’t she? This is Zara’s day job so these are the arrangements – and who wouldn’t want to brush shoulders with the likes of Usain Bolt?!

This is one hard working royal – after her previous horse Toytown retired she had to find a new horse, train him and get him up to Olympic standard. On Toytown she won the Eventing World Title in 2006 but due to injury Toytown (and thus Zara) never made it to an Olympics. Her new horse, High Kingdom, however seems to be injury free and ready to compete. If she does achieve a medal position she won’t be the first royal to succeed in the Olympics, she will follow in the footsteps of Olav V of Norway who won Gold in the Sailing in 1928 and Princess Nathalie of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg who won Bronze as part of the Denmark Dressage team of 2008.

Never one to bask in the limelight, Zara Phillips has earned her place in the public eye and will have a great deal of support when she competes.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Race for Life

Since 1994, every summer in the UK thousands of women and girls take part in 5 km fun runs on behalf of Cancer Research UK. Over £457 million has been raised by six million participants during the Race for Life. I’ve taken part in the past, as have many of my friends, some of whom are doing so again this year. In my experience, it’s a wonderful event, both fun and heartbreaking. Fun because there’s an excitement in the air – I think for many of the participants, Race for Life is their first experience of running any kind of distance at all – and because so many women are in fancy dress or running with their friends. It’s heartbreaking though for the reasons these women are running. Along with your race number, you are also given a card to pin to your back explaining why you’re running – or rather, who for. I can remember when I took part, seeing a little girl with a long list of names on her back. It seemed too long a list for someone so young and as well as making me feel tearful, gave me extra determination to run the race.

In their adverts for the Race for Life, Cancer Research UK say “It’s all of us versus cancer.” So why does their biggest fundraising event exclude men and boys? On their website, Cancer Research UK states that their research shows that a “significant number of our Race for Life supporters would strongly prefer to keep it a female-only event as it is a unique opportunity for women to come together in a non-competitive environment within an atmosphere of ‘sisterhood’.” They have in the past held male-only 5 km events but there was “insufficient interest” from men and so the Run for Moore event series was cancelled.

I’ve always thought it strange that Cancer Research should emphasise “It’s all of us versus cancer” and then hold women-only events, however I can attest that the “atmosphere of sisterhood” is real. Longer distance events are available for both men and women, and Cancer Research UK is also working on allowing boys and girls to host events in their schools for any distance.

Race for Life certainly has a fantastic and unique atmosphere, and is one of the biggest fundraising event series in the UK. I understand the organisers’ reasons for keeping it women only and appreciate their efforts to create other events to allow everyone the opportunity to fund raise. It seems almost a shame that its special atmosphere can only be preserved by not allowing men and boys to participate.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Posed to Perfection?

The Spice Girls in London, promoting Viva Forever, the new Spice Girls musical.
© Rex

We all want to look good in photos, especially posed ones at weddings, birthdays, and other special events. Many women I know have a go to pose for photos and they subsequently look great in every photo. Nothing wrong with that, right? What’s wrong with wanting to look good in a photo? Well, nothing, of course. But sometimes the poses can start to take over the photo.

For instance, in this slideshow from Yahoo, we can clearly see how Victoria Beckham has perfected her photograph pose to show her body off at its best. The slideshow is not called “Victoria Beckham’s History of Awesome Poses” however; it’s called “Victoria Beckham’s History of Awkward Poses.” Her signature pose doesn’t always look great in the context of the photo. In the latest pictures of the Spice Girls, the other women are standing with their arms around each other, smiling happily to the camera, whilst Victoria is standing slightly away from them, apparently to give herself room to pose. She looks as though she cares more about looking good than she does reuniting with her former bandmates, which seems to clash with the Spice Girls’ new musical, Viva Forever’s message about the importance of friendship in the face of fame.

Thanks to social media, we are sharing more photos of ourselves with the world than ever before. Looking through these photos, you can see the same posing tricks over and over again. It’s starting to look not only a little boring, but also worrying. Young girls are seen posing in the same way as adult women; sometimes, in ways that are arguably supposed to make the poser look more sexually attractive. I don’t need to tell you why this is a problem.

Yes, we want to look good in photos. But I also want my photos to reflect what was happening in my life. In all of my graduation photos I am either looking the wrong way, blinking, or laughing; I look, at best, like an enormous dork. But that’s fine, because I also look proud, and happy to be with my friends and family. To me, that’s the memory I want preserved; not that I know how best to angle my body for the camera. 

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Relying on others – a treasure or a curse?

As girls have been able to become economically and socially independent, many of them embrace this and like to do everything themselves. Sadly, this is not always possible. Since the economic downturn many women are having to scrape by on the poverty line or stay living at home because it is just not financially viable to move out. It can be incredibly hard to get by alone and because of this more and more people are relying on others to help them.  With higher tuition fees, high youth unemployment, and the now proposed scrapping of housing benefit for the under 25s in the UK, this financial dependence is only set to rise. 

It is not only financial help we rely on others for, we rely on others for communication, emotional support, and travel. In some extreme cases people can end up depending solely on one person for their social life.

But does relying on others benefit or hinder our lives in the long run? 

One of the dangers of relying on a particular person for an aspect of our lives is that if that person leaves or is no longer around we can become lost – what happens then? Often this reliance can lead to a very restricted life as you are limited by other peoples’ lives and abilities as well as your own. Girls in particular can end up using a relationship as a crutch – letting their partner handle bills, drive everywhere, and make social arrangements. This leaves the experiences and skills set of the dependent far behind that of their partners.

Independence is an important step in finding out who you are, what you like and what you want from life, if this is not gained then we can often fall back to others to make decisions that may not always be in our best interest.  

On the other hand too much independence can lead to stubbornness – many feel it is a sign of weakness to ask for help but this can often the best and quickest solution to a problem. Personally I like to stand on my own two feet – but a little help can sometimes go a long way, especially in today’s climate.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

All eyes on Aelita!

Abstract expressionist painter Aelita Andre.

You might already be familiar with Aelita Andre, owing to the massive fuss over her lately. However, for the rest that this name doesn’t ring a bell, you might feel awe to learn that she is a 5 year old acknowledged painter of abstract expressionism.

This girl from Australia is special, considering that she started painting before turning one year old and it was crystal clear that she mastered a sheer perception of color as well as a thorough understanding of the craft itself. Both of her parents are artists, so she had all the impetus she could ask for, but further on she seemed to surpass her inspirators’ expectations. Aelita adopted certain techniques with the use of acrylics and three-dimensional objects on canvases, which developed to an openly abstract expressionist and surrealist style. Many media sources dubbed her 'the next Jackson Pollock,' 'the Pee-wee Picasso,' and even paralleled her artworks to those of Salvador Dali. At the age of two, she was given the opportunity to display her work in a group exhibition at the Brunswick Street Gallery in Melbourne. Last summer she presented her first solo exhibition, The Prodigy of Color, at the Agora Gallery in New York, while her second solo show, Secret Universe, is currently running at the same art space until the beginning of July.

Confronting widespread doubts regarding Aelita's genuine talent and brainstorm, the parents denied that they had any interference--non genetic at any rate--in their daughter's artistic process. This is why Michael Andre published a number of short films with his daughter painting in real time. As you can see in this video, Aelita remains a normally cheerful and energetic kid. These qualities of her age along with an exquisite talent dominate her work. Although it’s too early for her to be attached to nicknames of great art masters, slowly but surely Aelita is heading to a bright future and a mainstream approbation.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Just another book about vampires?

A Discovery of Witches is a book by Deborah Harkness about a witch called Diana, who accidently stumbles upon an important enchanted manuscript from Oxford's Bodleian Library.  She is subsequently bombarded with daemons, witches, and vampires all wanting information about her discovery. The only one who seems interested in protecting her from all this is a vampire called Matthew and what follows is a beautiful forbidden love story between the two. Having a very ordinary first chapter I wasn’t expecting a great deal from this book, perhaps a half hearted attempt at emulating the Twilight series. By the end of the third chapter however I was well and truly hooked!

Perhaps what made the book so engaging was the plethora of well-rounded, interesting characters. So much thought had been given to the jobs and personalities of these different creatures and how they would slot into today’s society. The constant tension created by the author and the attention to the senses of each of the characters pulled you into every scene, keeping the reader's interest right to the end. I am now itching to read the second in the trilogy, Shadow of Night, which is due out this July.

For any women over the age of 16 this is a must-read; it has certainly made my top 3 vampire/witch books along with Bram Stoker's Dracula and Witch Child by Celia Rees. For anyone under the age of 16 though I’d stick to Witch Child, which is along similar lines but much more teenage orientated. You can read a review of A Discovery of Witches here.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.