The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Exploring history for GOOD

The Research Archives at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago. Photo by Foy Scalf.

Here at Girl Museum, we are very excited about being able to participate in the GOOD Maker Project to Empower Women and Girls. Our mission is to celebrate girlhood, past, present and future, and answer the question "Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?" The aim of Celebrate Girlhood: The Exhibition is to help girls to discover who they are and why they are so important by sharing their stories and images. We hope that this will empower them and encourage them to become active participants in the global girlhood dialogue.

How do we hope to do this? If we win the GOOD $2500 grant, we will put out a worldwide call for girls to participate and then produce a downloadable resource designed to help girls find out more about their own families and communities.

This is a subject close to my heart; my previous job was working as an Archive Assistant in a local record office. In the UK, county record offices and local history centres are places where anybody can go to research their families and communities. During my two years working there, I helped people researching their family history, some visiting from all over the world to find their ancestors, as well as students working on school papers (from secondary school to PhDs) and local people interested in finding about their own homes and communities. 

Visiting local record offices and history centres can be extremely worthwhile, not just in terms of what you can discover, but how you discover it. As well as learning how to conduct research, at local record offices you can actually see and hold old documents! It’s truly amazing to learn about your ancestors or local community by looking at documents that are contemporary to them! Not to mention some of the beautiful maps, drawings and calligraphy.

I love history, but I know that some people find it dry and boring; however, viewing original, sometimes ancient, documents can bring the past to life in a vivid and exciting way. I urge you to visit your own local history centres, and to support our bid to create a resource that will help girls all over the world discover how amazing and empowering the past can be.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Girl Museum is growing up

It's hard to believe, but Girl Museum is no longer an infant—at 3.5 years, we are an excited and inquisitive toddler in desperate need of room to grow, play, and explore. Thankfully for us, that doesn't mean building a big, expensive new wing, but rather a new website, one designed to grow with Girl Museum.

While we don't have to pay for marble flooring or health and safety compliance, virtual expansion still requires funds for a designer, web developer, maintenance, and all the little costs that come with owning a virtual home. To achieve this, we are raising a minimum of $5000 by December 14, 2012. Your donation will support Girl Museum's expanding programs, innovative exhibitions, the Girl Culture Archive, and an online Girlhood Resource Center, as well as cool interactive art history and girl culture games for young and old!

If you donate as an individual, your name will be added to the Patrons' Roll of Honor and you'll be invited to submit a photo of a girl in your family to become part of the Girl Museum collage showcasing the beautiful faces that make up our online community. Alternately, if you make an organizational donation, we can add your logo.

Every bit takes us closer to our goal, so please spare a thought, and a coin, for the girls of today and tomorrow to help Girl Museum move into a new home. With your help, Girl Museum can remain always open and always free.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Head Girl Ashley E. Remer on #HerStory Podcast

Here at Girl Museum, we're interested in girls of all ages, from all generations, and from all places (you might know that already). Well, Rebecca Price over at Chick History feels much the same. She created Chick History to explore and share the stories of women throughout history, "to find new and interesting ways to tell the stories of women's roles and contributions to history; always overlooked, often watered-down, and sometimes all-together edited out." 

Over the course of this year, Chick History is telling the stories of 52 women through the podcast #HerStory. #HerStory is a project for 2012 in which each week, a contemporary woman shares the story of a historical woman who inspires her. Hear elected officials, academics, mothers, filmmakers, authors, activists, CEO’s, and more provide a snapshot of these women’s lives, from the headliners to the lesser-known gems.

As Rebecca says, "Chick History is a place to come together and (re)learn about all the cool things chicks have done that, like the dishes, otherwise might go unnoticed."

We're all for leaving the dishes undone ourselves, so instead of doing the washing up, visit #HerStory and listen to contemporary women tell the stories of the historical women who have inspired them. On this week's podcast, listen to our own Head Girl, Ashley E. Remer, talk about one of her heroines, sculptor Augusta Savage.

Augusta Savage with her sculpture Realization (1938)
Photograph by Andrew Herman
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Augusta Savage was born in Florida in 1892 and, despite her father's wishes--he was a preacher who interpreted the concept of graven images literally--began sculpting in clay at a young age. She persevered, however, and her father relented after seeing a sculpture she made of the Virgin Mary. Wanting to pursue sculpting professionally, Savage ultimately moved to New York, where she studied art at Cooper Union and was chosen to participate in a summer program in France. She was rejected by the judging panel, however, because she was black. Though she publicized the incident their decision was not reversed. The one committee member who did support her, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, invited Savage to study with him.

Over the years, Augusta Savage continued to fight for equal rights and became one of the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance. The social and political causes she espoused brought about the realization of many opportunities for black artists and the Harlem community at large. She was adored in the Harlem community both as a talented artist and dedicated teacher, selflessly ignoring her own work to mentor gifted children. She was appointed director of the Harlem Community Arts Center, an institution founded by the Works Progress Administration (WPA). From this position, she highlighted racial bias in the hiring practices of the WPA, and successfully gained the inclusion of black artists in WPA projects.

Augusta Savage's Gamin (1929)
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of Benjamin and Olya Margolin

Though she sculpted busts of leading black figures like W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, one of her most famous works is Gamin, on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Unfortunately, most of Augusta Savage's works are not available as they were never cast in durable materials (bronze was expensive) and they were either lost or destroyed. This includes one of her major works, The Harp (originally titled Lift Every Voice and Sing, after the James Weldon and Rosamund Johnson song of the same name), which was commissioned for the 1939 New York World's Fair.

Augusta Savage's Lift Every Voice and Sing (1939)
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten
James Weldon Johnson Papers

For more information on Augusta Savage and to view more of her work, visit the following links:

Visit Chick History's #HerStory blog and podcast here, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Snap out of it!

Girl taking snapshots in nature with a digital camera.

About a month ago Hillary commented eloquently on the importance of playing outdoors, but I would like to focus on a doable way to make it appealing to children. An expedition to nature should would stimulating if it weren't for its big rival, the Internet. Social media and online activities are the natural habitat for modern kids, and parents should begin with this fact in mind. So, instead of cutting their kids off from technology, they could have it shrewdly interact with nature.

One of the most intimate tools that can engage a direct connection with nature is digital photography. Who doesn’t enjoy the improvisation of taking pictures? Seth Spencer, an environmental graduate student at the University of Minnesota in Duluth, carried out research maintaining that digital cameras can influence the “connectedness to nature” levels in children. Considering that in developing societies 75% of kids over the age of six own or use a digital camera, the results of his thesis weigh even more. The model used for the analysis of the questionnaire data was the Five Cs of youth development: competence, confidence, connections, character, caring/compassion. All these features are fundamental in every child's development and long-lasting prosperity. The lure of technology, along with an increase in the number of youth visiting public landscapes, shows that the digital camera in a suitable medium with which children can easily and freely explore nature in its numerous details.

Being in close relation to nature is extremely important in children's physical and mental health. Parents and educators must elaborate on building a sense of environmental consciousness. A simple way to divert children from the network and cultivate an eco-friendly attitude is by encouraging them to take pictures inspired from the natural scenery.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Dressing Down for the Occasion

I recently read an article by Liz Jones pondering why it is that we no longer get dressed up anymore and I found myself questioning my own wardrobe choices. In 1908 books were published with specific dress codes for every occasion – even down to receiving a visit at home; ‘shirt and blouse or simple house dress, low shoes, small and delicate jewellery.’ In the 1940s a women got dressed up every morning before she left the house, they always looked smart and well turned out.

Nowadays, however, not many people seem to know what kind of dress is appropriate: the clothes are getting smaller, tighter, sloppier, while the amount of make-up is increasing. It is in the modern day we see people doing the food shopping in their pyjamas, celebrities turn up to award ceremonies in little more than handkerchiefs and, due to too many turning out like ‘commoners,’ Royal Ascot has to tighten its dress code. It is a trap we have all fallen into at one time or another, myself included. There are the days when you go for comfort over style, scrape your hair back and fall out the house in your comfy jumper.  The lack of defined rules also makes dressing for occasions very difficult: is it ultra-formal, or do they just want you to look smart?

The answer to the problem of an increasingly dress down and glam up generation? Do the opposite perhaps – dress up: wear a tailored suit and lose the false eyelashes.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris

The Blue Room (La chambre bleue), by Suzanne Valadon (1865–1938).
Oil on canvas, 900 x 1160mm. Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Musée national d'art moderne.

I don't paint like a woman is supposed to paint. Thank God, art doesn't bother about things like that.
-Alice Neel

How is a woman “supposed” to paint, or express herself as an artist? 

Do you see most female artists as being “feminists?”  Do you have the opportunity to see the work of many female artists in general?

If you have the opportunity to travel to the Pacific Northwest of the United States, there may be no better place to contemplate the role of women in modern and contemporary art than Seattle. The Seattle Art Museum recently opened the exhibition “Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris.
This exciting new exhibition is a survey of the work of  female artists organized by the Centre Pompidou in Paris, a complex that is the home of Musée National d'Art Moderne, Europe’s largest modern art museum.  This exhibition at SAM is a version of the exhibition elles@centrepompidou, which first appeared in Paris in 2009.

At the time this exhibition was opening in Paris, curator Camille Morineau told the LA Times  "In the States, you think about women's art. In France, never. It's not a subject. If the subject does not exist, there is no possibility of discussion. For me, that's the big issue about doing this. We are turning it into a subject."

The more than 125 works of art on display include paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs, videos, and installations made by 75 women artists from 1909 to 2007.  This exhibition includes works by notable women from around the world including Frida Kahlo, Diane Arbus, Marina Abramović, Atsuko Tanaka, and Cindy Sherman.  

Seattle is the only US city this exhibition will be traveling to.  Female artists will not only be featured in SAM’s main museum in downtown Seattle, but at the Seattle Asian Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park, and SAM Gallery as well.  The SAM downtown will also feature an original companion exhibition installed in its contemporary galleries, Elles: SAM—Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists. This exhibition consists of nine interrelated shows and installations with 30 artworks from its permanent collection along with loans from local collectors. The Seattle Art Museum is encouraging the public to respond to the exhibition online by contributing to their “Wall of Women" page on Tumblr. Users are encouraged to share text, images, or videos of women who have inspired them.  

Outside the walls of the SAM museums, Paris SAM, and a number of organizations in the Seattle community are joining together to present Elles: Seattle, a series of exhibitions, talks, gatherings, conferences, and performances.   “This project will galvanize our community around art, culture and societal issues that are important to women and celebrate the contributions women have made across a variety of sectors.” More information on these events can be found here.

According to Catharina Manchanda, SAM’s lead curator of modern and contemporary art, “This is not a definitive survey of everything women have done over the course of the 20th century.” During a recent walk-through at SAM, Manchanda said “We look at this as the tip of the iceberg, a beginning from which you can ask many other questions and tell different stories.”

Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris is on view at the Seattle Museum of art now through January 13, 2013.

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Women and Power in Crisis

On Saturday October 13th I attended a debate put together by The Fawcett Society on the subject of “Power in Crisis – what would more women bring to the table?” The panel consisted of Dr. Caroline Lucas, the sole Green Party MP in the UK Parliament, Mary Riddell, a columnist and political interviewer for The Daily Telegraph and Dr Ruth Sealy, the Deputy Director of the International Centre for Women Leaders and co-author of the Cranfield Female FTSE report on women on boards.

It was fantastic being in a room with so many other women (and a few men too!) who want to see equality between men and women in all aspects of society, not to mention hearing what the panel had to say. It’s far too simplistic to say that having more women in power would lead to better policies or even just more women-friendly policies, but at the moment most of the so-called representative democracies in the world do not accurately represent their populations. In the UK Cabinet at the moment there are more millionaires than women. By percentage Afghanistan, Mexico, and Sudan have more women in Parliament than the UK in at least one of their houses.

Despite that sobering fact, there was some good news. Dr Ruth Sealy reported that if current rates are continued, then by 2020 around 40% of board members will be women. Again, having more women in such positions doesn’t automatically mean that things will get better, but it does mean that the pool of potential talent and experience has been widened considerably.

Even as a supposedly grown-up 27 year-old woman, I found it inspiring to be in a room with such successful and driven women (both in the panel and the audience), which really drove home to me another point made by the panel and Fawcett Society as a whole. Having more women in positions of power, be it in politics, business, or media, is vital if we want girls to be inspired to follow in their footsteps – and even to one day overtake them! As the saying goes, “you can’t be what you can’t see.” Gender equality is vital for all of society – but especially for girls (of all ages!) searching for role models.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Sylvia Plath: “A passionate, fragmentary girl”

Sylvia Plath in 1957

October 27 would have been Sylvia Plath’s 80th birthday.  It has been nearly 50 years since Plath killed herself but her legacy as one of the most famous female poets and feminist icons of the 20th century looks set to continue.

I first read The Bell Jar when I was about 14 or 15 years old. I read it avidly, practically devouring it and feeling, perhaps for the first time, a book speak to me. I didn’t understand all of it but there was something about it that resonated with me. That doesn’t make a lot of sense on paper – The Bell Jar is a semi-autobiographical novel about a girl who has a nervous breakdown, feels she has lost  her creativity and undergoes electroconvulsive treatment.

None of those things had happened to me, and still haven’t, but nevertheless, certain passages have stuck with me, particularly the metaphor of the fig tree. The protagonist, Esther, imagines her life as a fig tree with various branches, each with a different possible future, ready for the picking, only Esther cannot decide which branch to take: “I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”
At the time, the outcome of starving to death because of too much choice was definitely something that frightened me. At the time of reading The Bell Jar I was expected to make all kinds of decisions about my future that I felt wholly unqualified to make – even today, over ten years later, I still don’t feel qualified to make them! Too much choice definitely felt like a burden, rather than the gift it really is.

One of the most wonderful things you can feel when reading a book is to suddenly realise that you’re not alone, that you’re not the only person to have thought or felt a certain way. Sometimes, authors can even give us the words to describe our feelings when we have been unable to. Sylvia Plath was one such author for me, and thousands of other women. Even though times have changed dramatically since Plath was writing and will no doubt continue to change, I have no doubt that new generations of teenagers will read her work and feel a powerful connection to her experience of being a young woman in an uncertain world.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Importance of Museum Collaboration

Attending the unveiling of a new exhibition.
Photo courtesy of Hillary Hanel.

Do you ever wonder how your favorite museum got their hands on such cool artifacts, or how they came up with their great ideas? This is something I often thought about, and I think I found the answer recently at the annual Michigan Museums Association conference. Many museums belong to such associations, including the international ICOM and the national AAM, for the purpose of collaboration and networking. Conferences provide a way to enhance the relationships between members. Once these relationships are formed, museums often borrow artifacts from one another, or work together on an exhibition or special event. The Michigan Museums conference was held in beautiful Muskegon, Michigan. We had the opportunity to tour the incredible Hackley and Hume Historic site and other area museums, as well as attend inspiring sessions about museum work. There was a great presentation on technology in museum education programs, and it seems that many institutions are looking at that as an option for expanding their reach. I thought this was really cool, because Girl Museum already does this! Other issues discussed included museum horror stories (let’s just say it's lucky that we do not have any taxidermy specimens), volunteer programs, and historical provenance research. All of these are important topics in the museum world, especially as the field changes with the needs of our visitors.

My favorite thing about the conference was that it gave Museum Studies students like me a chance to talk with other students and professionals from around the state. It really was a great way to collaborate and learn how we can work together to create an amazing network of museums throughout Michigan, and even reach out to other parts of the world! I left the conference with a notebook full of ideas, and felt inspired to advocate for the cause of our museums. As the logo of the MMA says, “Join the conversation,” get talking about museums, and you can make a big difference!

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Voting is open for GOOD Maker Grant!

As we mentioned last week, Girl Museum has been accepted to compete for the GOOD Maker Challenge to Empower Women and Girls, a $2500 grant that's voted on by the public--which means your vote will help us win! Voting is open from today until November 2nd. You can only vote once, so please spread the word and ask your friends, neighbors, and your classmates and/or workmates to do the same. We can't win without your support!

To vote for Celebrate Girlhood: The Exhibition, visit Girl Museum's project page and click “Vote for this Idea.” If you need to register, please remember to validate your email address (you’ll receive instructions after you vote) so your vote gets counted. You’ll see a notification at the top of the screen once your vote has been successfully counted (you'll also see this notification on later page visits to confirm that you've voted).

As always, thank you for your support!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Shooting in the name of blind terrorism

Pakistani schoolgirls pray for Malala’s recovery.
Photo: AFP

On Tuesday October 9th, two days before the International Day of the Girl Child, 14 year-old Malala Yousufzai and two more Pakistani girls were assaulted while returning home from school in Swat Valley. A Taliban gunman opened fire against the unsuspected schoolgirls and Malala was wounded in the head and the neck. Luckily all the girls survived the irrational attack; one having fully recovered and the other two remaining in critical condition. The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have taken responsibility for the assassination attempt and told a Pakistani newspaper that "Malala was shot because 'she was a ‘secular-minded lady' and that this should serve as a warning for other young people like her."

Malala started writing an online diary in 2009, at first as an anonymous blogger under the pen name Gul Makai on BBC Urdu. She confessed about her everyday reality in a province of Pakistan and the difficulties in enjoying the right to education. Her identity was revealed later on and in 2011 she was both nominated for the International Children’s Peace Prize by the Kids Rights Foundation and won the National Peace Award in Pakistan. Malala spoke up against the Taliban's ban on girls’ education and she found her life often threatened. She soon became the official face of "progressive Pakistan" and expressed her aspiration to form a political party devoted to the dissemination of education.

The assassination attempt provoked massive anti-Taliban protests all over the world. Many organizations and rights activists strongly condemned the shooting, while the local authorities announced a sizable reward for any information that could help with the attacker’s arrest. This outrageous, almost fatal, incident proved that Malala was a lonely fighter against a severe political and religious system. She needed more protection and advocacy. She will surely need real support in the future. All Pakistani girls--and girls everywhere--deserve a fair and real education, a safe environment, and the freedom to dream without the fear of ruthless extremism. They should never have to feel like this: 
I had a terrible dream yesterday with military helicopters and the Taleban. I have had such dreams since the launch of the military operation in Swat. My mother made me breakfast and I went off to school. I was afraid going to school because the Taleban had issued an edict banning all girls from attending schools.
Only 11 students attended the class out of 27. The number decreased because of Taleban's edict. My three friends have shifted to Peshawar, Lahore and Rawalpindi with their families after this edict.
On my way from school to home I heard a man saying 'I will kill you'. I hastened my pace and after a while I looked back if the man was still coming behind me. But to my utter relief he was talking on his mobile and must have been threatening someone else over the phone.

Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.
Photo: Reuters

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Active kids

Early start: Trainer Jane Woodhead keeps a close eye on six-year-old Jasmine's technique

As the amount of overweight children increases, parents are continually looking for solutions to the problem. One such solution that is on the rise is the hiring of a personal trainer for children. The benefits of personal trainers are aplenty – not only do they teach correct posture, techniques, and stretches to prevent later injury problems, but they also install a exercise routine at a young age which is more likely to stick throughout the adult years.

It is recommended that children should get at least an hour of physical activity a day but many fail to get this. By hiring a trainer there would be time set aside to make sure this is happening. However is something once only used by yummy mummies to maintain a certain body image really suitable for young girls? Girls in particular are vulnerable to worrying about their body image and by starting them with a personal trainer at such a young age is there a danger of adding to this? Yana, a mother who hired a trainer for her six year old daughter Jasmine, disagrees. ‘I’d like to think they’re not swayed by images of skinny women in magazines. Certainly, at Jasmine’s age, it’s not an issue. If anything, they are learning to equate exercise with fun, feeling good and being healthy, not as a desperate attempt to lose weight.’

Certainly a lot depends on having the right personal trainer with experience in dealing with children and who is able to make exercise fun, get this right and you could be on to a winner!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Spoilt for Choice

After reading some of the other girl’s blogs this week I started reflecting on how lucky I am to live the life I lead. Every day I am faced with choices and a variety of options in all areas of my life from my lunch and my outfit, to my career and my education. Being able to make decisions and taking responsibility for them is something we might avoid every now and then, but we should not take it for granted and in fact remember to take pleasure in this privilege that is considered one of our basic rights.

Unfortunately, many girls in the past went without this basic right. Even more unfortunately, many still do today. Hopefully campaigns such as United Nation’s Girl Up and their first successful International Day of the Girl Child on 11th October will make progress in rectifying this issue and raising awareness.   
During the 19th century the lives of women in Britain improved dramatically, as this interactive quiz will show. For instance, it wasn’t until 1857 that women who were legally separated from their husbands were given some control over their own income. Each point in history where women’s lives in Britain have improved is a startling reminder of how far we have come and how far many women in many countries have yet to go. It is still difficult for me to comprehend that women in Britain have had the vote for less than 100 years. I just hope the progress going on today doesn’t take quite so long.   

-Kay Whitehead
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Help Girl Museum win $2500

GOOD news! Girl Museum has been accepted to compete for the GOOD Maker Challenge to Empower Women and Girls. If we win, we'll be awarded $2500 to create Celebrate Girlhood: The Exhibition. The grant would allow us to produce the resources needed to directly work with girls worldwide to create this on-going exhibition.

But we need your help to win. GOOD Maker grants are voted on by the public, so the only way we can win is with your help and your vote. This grant would go a long way in helping Girl Museum to fulfil our mission of celebrating and empowering girls worldwide, so please, vote for us, and ask your friends, your neighbors, and your classmates and/or workmates to do the same. We need your support!

Voting is from from October 18th until November 2nd, 2012. Our GOOD Maker page is here for more information and voting.

With your support, Girl Museum is always open and always free.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Girl Up

In honor of the United Nations' first International Day of the Girl Child on October 11th, and in conjuction with UN Foundation campaign Girl Up, Girl Museum is proud to launch our latest exhibition, Celebrating Girl Up.

The Girl Up campaign "[gives] American girls the opportunity to become global leaders and channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls." We here at Girl Museum know just how vital this mission is, and we're highlighting the participation of five girls involved in the program. Read about their goals and accomplishments, and explore through photographs their lives and five themes crucial to the Girl Up mission: Girls Helping Girls, Importance of Girls’ Education, Leadership, the Power of One, and Altruism.

This is an exciting time for girls, Girl Museum, and the Girl Up campaign. Please celebrate the first International Day of the Girl Child with us by visiting Girl Museum and viewing our Celebrating Girl Up exhibition.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The simple life of happy teenagers

Still from the TV series 2 Broke Girls.

Yesterday an enthralling title drew my attention to the Guardian: “Teenagers value the simple things in life.” Doesn't it sound utterly explicit? The article reviews the recent research on Life Satisfaction and Material Well-Being of Children in the UK, conducted by Gundi Knies on behalf of the Institute for Social and Economic Research at the University of Essex. The results of the paper unveil an apparent improvement in children’s poverty rates and further a real difference in the lives of children aged 10-15. Among the significant findings was that child life satisfaction is affected both in direct and indirect ways by the family’s overall concreteness. Whether parents are able to provide their kids with conventional enjoyments or quality food consumed on a daily basis matters most in the degree of happiness of children. Other factors include close friends, playing sports, a healthy lifestyle, sense of community, and prudent Internet use. Stability and possession also play significant part in attaining more contentment.

Girls form the happiest group of children (aged 10-12) and the least happy children (aged 12-15). The researcher attributes this paradox to puberty pressures, which are experienced by girls at a greater percentage, and points out the need for an emphasis on increasing social contacts when it comes to families with children. It’s true that children in the UK tend to be less materially deprived than adults and that there was no difference in the average life satisfaction score of children in families with lower incomes compared with those living in families with higher incomes. Is happiness so simple? Maybe it is. Reading these figures makes me ponder on the weight of the parents' choices. Every time they decide on house rules, diet habits, or scheduling hobbies, they have a strong say in their children's well-being and happiness. It is as simple–and intimidating–as that.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Women at Work

Proto-feminist: The artifacts found in the grave of this woman in Austria are the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago.
Photo: AP

What does the phrase “womens’ work” bring to mind for you? If it sounds slightly old-fashioned, you may think of duties that were historically considered to be a woman’s responsibility, such as housework or childcare. How about metal working?  

At a bronze age site in Austria, archaeologists believe they have discovered the remains of a female metal worker, the first discovery of this kind. The skeleton was found buried with metal-working tools and some pieces of jewelry, indicating that the skeleton was probably a fine metal worker. Researchers say the skeleton is definitely female, and she was between 45 and 60 years old when she died.  

This find has scholars rethinking what was generally thought about the division of labor between genders thousands of years ago. It is exciting to think about what this could mean for reevaluating our ideas about prehistoric women, however experts caution against  jumping  to conclusions. In the Daily Mail’s coverage of this story Professor Sue Hamilton, of University College London, points out that “We shouldn’t presume. . .  Maybe her father was a metal worker or she herself was a metal worker.”  The article continued to quote Mike Pitts, editor of the magazine British Archaeology: “Metal working across all ages and cultures has traditionally been seen  as a male occupation and, in some cases, female participation has even been taboo. . .  Past that, smithing can be a strenuous, physical, manual occupation. It is very macho, with fire and fireworks and magic involved.” 

It is never a good idea to make assumptions without clear evidence in any academic field, including archaeological finds. However, could cultural stereotypes be coming into play here, that some experts are so reluctant to consider this find as evidence of a woman metal worker? I think that researchers will need more evidence than just one skeleton to say anything with more certainty, but if we can’t assume that women were metal workers, why should we assume that they weren't?  

Metalwork has not always been just “macho,” we actually do know that women have worked with metal for centuries. Another article from the Daily Mail back in 2007 focused on female blacksmiths in UK, and mentioned that they were really nothing new: “Although the work of a blacksmith has long been a male domain, there is historical evidence of woman doing the job in centuries past. An ancient bible 'picture book' created in England during the early 14th Century includes a picture of a woman making nails at a forge.”

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, October 8, 2012

What to choose when you're expecting

Georgia and ­Danielle Trathen. 
Photograph: Thom Atkinson.

Although I am miles away from babies, I am familiar with the agonies and insecurities that most of my friends experienced on their way to parenthood. Why some wannabe parents tend towards the preference of the sex of their future child is so beyond me. Isn't the element of surprise part of the pregnancy process in the first place? Despite the inner will of each parent, there comes a time when the gender is announced to both of them as an ultimatum. Some couples don't even bother to find out; it's revealed ultimately at the time of the birth.

Of course, the procedure of gender selection is still illegal in some countries, while in others it's a flourishing business. Couples like the Simpsons and families like these can be the ideal victims for fertility experts and all this novel market of medicine. 

I believe that it’s more a matter of missing the true meaning of bearing life, rather than an issue of morality or legitimacy alone. The humble desire for an able-bodied kid is replaced by the possibility to order a daughter or a boy. What happens if this demand gives way to new desires that will exceed the normal prenatal tests? I wonder how far human avidity can go and what could be foreordained in the future? Being able to choose exactly how pretty or intelligent the newborn girl will be? Instead of meddling in nature so drastically, it would be safer to return to the basic notion ‘just as long as it’s healthy.’

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Everyday Sexism

Four F-15 Eagle pilots from the 3rd Wing walk to their respective jets at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. (L-R) Maj. Andrea Misener, Capt. Jammie Jamieson, Maj. Carey Jones, and Capt. Samantha Weeks.

Have you ever experienced any of the following: bum pinching, wolf-whistling, being heckled at in public, being overlooked for promotion at work? If you have then you are not alone.

There is an assumption today that we are in a modern liberal society, that feminism has done its work. After all, women in the West have far more rights today than ever before in society. So why is it that so many women still face daily harassment – whether they recognise it as such or not?

Five months ago, 26 year-old writer and campaigner Laura Bates set up the Everyday Sexism Project, inviting women to contact her with their everyday stories of sexism. These stories feature from small niggling instances of sexism–a comment on a TV programme that a wedding dress was the most important item of clothing a woman will have–to being passed over for promotion at work while less-qualified male colleagues scale the corporate ladder. "We are encouraged to celebrate the advance of women into the cockpit," says Laura, "yet Ryanair still releases an all-female nude calendar and Virgin flight attendants go to work every day on a plane emblazoned with a cleavage baring, swimsuit clad caricature."

Following the project's Twitter account can make for a depressing read. These instances of sexism that women and girls encounter everyday may seem like small issues individually, but taken together they paint a picture of a society that teaches girls that the world is a frightening place for women, that they will be judged on their looks, and that they are somehow lesser to men. The project is not designed to only make us depressed however. What Everyday Sexism has shown is that these problems are widespread and very often not recognised as problems but rather as "just the way things are." It's hoped that by dragging those moments into the light that it will become impossible to dismiss them as "whining." As a woman living in 21st century Britain, I know that I am extraordinarily lucky in many ways. But that doesn’t mean that I am fair game to be shouted at in the street or grabbed in a club.

The project has become a viral success largely due to word-of-mouth and I hope that it continues to grow. Just last week, the blog was awarded the Liberal Democrat's award for Best non-Liberal Democrat Political Blog of the Year–perhaps not the most glamorous of awards, but it certainly shows that as a movement, the Everyday Sexism project is growing.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What your nails say about you

Alice Bartlett's nail art.

I’ve always enjoyed experimenting with my nails and I feel they can often reflect the personality and lifestyle of the person. When, then I came across the photograph above by Alice Bartlett I wondered just how important nails have become in expressing oneself.  

Many are aware that clean and healthy looking nails are important as they reflect how well you take care of yourself. Obviously a builder’s nails are going to be very different to those of an office worker and not everyone has perfect nails but the hands are something that are on show every day and the perfect way to show a bit of your personality. 

Some say the colour we decide to paint our nails has a hidden meaning – red is sassy and dramatic whereas navy is the colour of sophistication. Over the years there have been flirtations with patterns and metallics, while this year the growing trend is textured nails.  Whatever the trend, nails are not only a fashion statement but can be a work of art and a way of advertising ourselves, our feelings, our patriotism, our ideals, or simply showing a concept like Alice having ‘the world at her fingertips.’

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Frida's Legacy

Frida Kahlo and La Casa Azul

Mexican painter Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is best known for her self-portraits, which often used bright, vibrant colours to portray a sense of pain and passion. Her work is celebrated as an emblem of Mexican national tradition and for “its uncompromising depiction of the female experience and form.” Frida Kahlo was not just an artist but an icon, her beliefs, her style, and her identity alongside her art have provided a legacy that influences many creative spheres.

I find Kahlo’s tangled mixture of art and life inspirational and intriguing. The 2002 film Frida, a biography of the artist, gave me an insight into the problems in this woman’s life and the obstacles she overcame. She survived polio in her early childhood and at the age of 18 was in a tragic accident when the bus she was on was hit by a tram. While Kahlo spent many months in bed recovering from her injuries she found an outlet for her pain and limitations in painting. Spending much of her time alone it was natural for her then to choose a subject for her paintings that she knew best, herself. It is her perseverance and self-expression that make her such an admirable figure and role model for young women.

Today Kahlo’s legacy is not only an inspirational message of determination and purpose but also an idea of creativity and self-expression. Her most recent influence has been at London Fashion Week. Make-up artists at Vivienne Westwood have been channelling her vibrant and colourful style and emulating her dramatic brows, showing that her iconic look still has an impact. Kahlo is an impressive example of how far an artist’s legacy can spread.

-Kay Whitehead
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Evolving University Girl

Collage of photos from CMU’s Facebook timeline

Every fall, thousands of girls around the word embark on a life-changing journey – university. Pursuing a higher education has become a very important, and in many cases expected, part of growing into a responsible adult. You might be a university student now and find yourself just thinking of it as a required step to getting the career you want, with a bit of fun thrown in. But what does the history of girls in university look like? Have you ever thought about what it might be like to have been a female student 120 years ago? I had this thought when my university, Central Michigan University, celebrated its 120th anniversary this week.

CMU celebrated by creating an interactive timeline of the school’s history on their Facebook page. While looking their posts I found many interesting facts about the history of girls who have walked campus decades before I arrived here. Below are some interesting issues I learned about. You might find some similarities or differences with your own university experience, and I encourage you to comment with your own stories!

Many young women decide to join a sorority sometime during their university career. CMU’s first sorority was Alpha Sigma Tau, which was founded on campus in 1902. Girls also participated in athletics. Intercollegiate women’s basketball and field hockey began in 1905. Interestingly, these activities were banned for girls at Central in 1911 due to a belief that playing sports was too high pressure and would be detrimental to the health of female students. Sports for women did not return until 1945! Other activities that women have enjoyed on campus have included band (which they were allowed to join in 1926), knitting bees, and dances. Things such as these are still popular at universities today, but with some changes. For example, when attending a dance with a date today, admission is not based on paying a half cent per pound of the girl’s weight. Can you imagine how girls would react if we tried that today?

It is easy to see even from these few examples that life as a female university student has gone through many changes over the years, especially in aspects outside the classroom. It will be interesting to see how the role of girls in university will continue to evolve. 

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.