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, February 29, 2012

Celebrate Women's History Month with our 31 Heroines of March


Once again, Girl Museum is honoring the women and girls who inspired us in our girlhood.  Every day in March we will be focusing on a different heroine in celebration of Women's History Month.  The submissions will then be added to our virtual Heroines Quilt, our ongoing exhibition that celebrates all those who have provided inspiration to young girls.

Though the deadline is past for having your heroine featured on our blog for the 31 Heroines of March, we are still accepting submissions for inclusion in the Heroines Quilt.  We invite girls of all ages to submit a short essay (250 words max) about their real/fictional, historic/contemporary, famous/local girlhood heroine, why they were important, and what impact they may still have on your life.  

If you have a favorite photo of your heroine, please attach it to your submission.  If you have no preference, we will source one--unless it is a family member, then we need your pic!

Send your submissions (preferably in Word) along with a separate image through to share@girlmuseum.org.  Let us know if you have any questions.

Have your heroine recorded for posterity and share her with the world!

Growing old is inevitable: Growing up isn’t.

Zelda Kaplan

Next month we will begin our Heroines Quilt project again, celebrating our childhood heroines. These are the ladies who inspired us when we were girls, but I don’t believe there is ever an age limit on having a role model. We continue to grow and change throughout our lives and I think these ladies are fast becoming my old age inspiration.

Advanced Style is a blog run by Ari Seth Cohen documenting “the most stylish and creative older folks” that he meets. The emphasis of the blog is on style – check out this post on 80 year old Rita’s amazingly OTT sunglasses collection! – but just because this is ostensibly a fashion blog, that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed as frivolous. Reading about these ladies has been inspiring to me. Many of them have led amazing lives, travelling all over the world, working as activists and pioneers. Zelda Kaplan (who sadly passed away on 15th February this year) once told Cohen, "If you look well, then you heighten the atmosphere of a place, but remember to always be yourself. You can't turn marble into silk." I think that’s advice that has merit in many aspects of life, not just fashion!

In Western society, age is something that has been treated as something to be feared and fought at every turn. Women in particular are under enormous pressure to hide the signs of aging with creams and make up and even more drastically with surgery. The ladies featured in Advanced Style wear their age proudly; none of them attempt to hide their wrinkles but that doesn’t mean that they feel or act "old." Watching them talk about their style, I’m reminded of the sense of playfulness that little girls have when they play dress up. The difference here is that when little girls dress up, they are pretending to be someone else; when these ladies dress up, it is to better express who they are themselves.

I would love to see more role models like these: ladies who have life experience, who aren’t afraid to be individuals and who aren’t afraid of aging! Who is your "old-age-spiration?"

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dilemmas when picking gifts for girls

Pillow Featherbed, a rag doll of the Lalaloopsy trademark.

If you are often puzzling over the best gift to buy for a girl, whether it is for a daughter, a granddaughter, a niece, a young cousin, or a close friend’s or colleague’s daughter, maybe it would be helpful to think outside the box. Let’s not forget that sometimes a gift becomes a success if it is used as a point of reference for future endeavors or when serving to raise awareness of educational and green issues. Of course there is a ‘golden rule’ in giving away, which is taking into consideration the receiver’s personal attributes and hobbies. The second factor you need to clear out is the available expenditure. So, once you have figured out for whom you are making a decision and how much you are willing to spend, you can narrow down your research to less and more appropriate choices.  Some unique and interesting choices can be found here.

A nice and handy idea is a pastry book for beginners, which could hopefully boost a hidden flair or at least add to the mother-and-daughter cherished baking moments together. Another low-cost solution, but greatly eco-friendly, is to buy her a small cactus or an orchid. Both plants can endure for years given that they are nursed properly, which is enough motivation for her to learn more about their cultivation and care needs.

In choosing a cost-effective present, a telescope is a favorable option. No matter how unusual for a girl, you can contribute to memorable stargazings. Alternatively, you can generously offer two tickets to an opera or ballet performance that she can attend with another family member or friend. Maybe it sounds boring for a kid, but reminiscing this moment in the future she will undoubtedly appreciate the experience. Instead, you can select a suitable frame of a prominent art painting and personalize it with a caption that includes some information on the artist's history and works, encouraging any cultural or artistic concern.

Besides all the aforementioned, you can always play it safe and get a cute toy, yet with a meaningful touch. Lalaloopsy, for example, are more than ordinary dolls. They stand for a ‘back to basics’ concept, supported by the different ‘sewn on date’ storytelling and the personalities related to the fabrics, from which they were made. A classical jigsaw is never out of fashion, but you’d better make sure that the theme is not too childish, in case the game is to be discovered again at an older age. If she wishes to reassemble the pieces and hang it on the wall, the picture better be worth the trouble.

On second thought, just putting your mind and heart to the gift can never fail!

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Girls in gangs face sexual abuse


According to youth workers in London, the face of gangs is changing and an increasing number of young girls are becoming involved. Girls enter these gangs often by becoming the girlfriend of a gang member with the belief that it would protect them. They often lack confidence in themselves and so feel they have to seek approval and it gives them a sense of belonging. The reality though is that they are exposing themselves to abuse and exploitation by their fellow gang members. According to one source girls are on the bottom rung when it comes to gang status; they are seen as tools, used as alibis and are often punished if they fail in their tasks by being raped. The girls are seen as disposable and abuse by their fellow gang members can be a means of the male members asserting their dominance and gaining respect.

Fortunately, this month £1.2million in funding has been announced by the UK government for a scheme that intends to highlight these problems and provide a source of protection for these vulnerable girls. The scheme involves a network of advocates that will work in areas most affected by gangs and form a support network for those affected by this type of abuse. I am all for this scheme targeting young people before they decide to enter into the gang world; all too often programmes such as this are aimed too late and it is very difficult for the young people to extricate themselves from that world. Not only should this scheme help in deterring young girls from becoming involved in gangs, I  hope that it succeeds in re-educating the young male minds into viewing women more than mere sexual objects. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Sex Education

Please visit http://www.publichealthdegree.com/reproductive-health-education/ for the full sized version.

Young people have sex. 
This is a non-partisan fact.
What to think, believe or do about it seems to make everyone go crazy.
Young people should be informed about sex.

Ignorance about sex leads to a multitude of problems that effect everyone—from the spread of disease to unwanted pregnancies to sexual exploitation and trafficking. And girls bear the brunt of all of these.

It is the parents’ job to provide information to their children because they are their responsibility. Yet confused cultural conditioning has made talking about sex too uncomfortable or taboo for many parents and an all-too-willing, all-too-invasive media has stepped in to fill the gap. And this has just made matters worse. 

Learning about sex and its far-reaching consequences is important for all young people, especially girls, who expect to have any kind of prosperous future.

Let’s just move through the mixed messages and deal with realities—sex education in schools is for the public good.

Thanks for the graphic Greg!

-Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl 
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Golden Girl

Defying it all to win gold
Photo: AFP

Hassiba Boulmerka is a legend in her native country. Two decades earlier this summer, at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Boulmerka became the first ever sportsperson to win Olympic gold for Algeria. Her achievement showed women everywhere that they could overcome prejudice to achieve their goals. Algeria at this time was suffering from a rise in Islamist militancy, and some radicals believed that "the racetrack was not the right place for a woman."  Boulmerka was the fourth of seven children and began running seriously in 1978, when she was ten years old. Her big breakthrough came in Tokyo in 1991 when she won the 1500m at the World Championships and became known as the "Constantine gazelle."
During the run-up to the Barcelona Olympics, Boulmerka and her family began receiving death threats and were terrorised by extremists who denounced her as a traitor and accused her of being anti-Muslim for wearing shorts and showing too much of her body. She became unable to train in her own country. “It was simply too risky. I could have been killed at any moment,” she reveals. Boulmerka only arrived in Barcelona the night before her races and was escorted to the stadium under armed guard. She recalls, "there were police everywhere. In the stadium, in the changing rooms – they even came with me to the bathroom!"

On the 8th August 1992, Boulmerka easily bested her competition to win the 1500m gold. "As I crossed the line, I thrust a fist into the air," Boulmerka recounts. "It was a symbol of victory, of defiance. It was to say: 'I did it! I won! And now, if you kill me, it'll be too late. I've made history!'" As she stood on the podium to collect gold for herself and her country, Boulmerka fought back the tears. "I tried to hold myself together, to be brave," she says, "but the tears just started to fall. They were tears of sacrifice, for all the people I loved that I had abandoned for this race." You can watch a short video of the race here. Following her Olympic success, Boulmerka won a bronze medal at the World Championships in 1993, and gold again in 1995. However, despite her professional achievements, she moved to Cuba in order to escape continued threats to her life. She was eventually able to return to Algeria which she describes as "my life, my roots, my family, my friends."

Since retiring from running, Boulmerka has become a successful businesswoman and is also an ambassador for female athletes. She was elected a member of the Athletes’ Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and in 1999, she lobbied the group to put more pressure on governments that discriminate against female athletes. Boulmerka sees her sporting accomplishments as more than just for her country. She says, "it was a triumph for women all over the world to stand up to their enemies. That's what made me really proud."

-Sinny Cheung
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

She's just shy.


The little girl is quiet, hiding behind her mother’s legs and bashfully peeking out at the world. It’s a common sight. “She’s just shy,” her mother explains. However, would a better description be “she’s just got mental health problems?”

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association, is the go-to guide for all mental health disorders, symptoms, and treatments. The latest edition of the DSM has proposed to include shyness in children, along with internet addiction and depression caused by bereavement, as a definable mental health problem. With the proposals set to be adopted in the UK next year, British psychologists have been voicing their opposition to the classifications. Many have seen it as a dangerous precedent which could see young girls being medicated rather than actively engaging them in social situations.

This is something which I find truly worrying because, twenty years ago, I was that shy little girl. In my case, it wasn’t extreme because my parents encouraged me to socialise. However, I always felt very uncomfortable being made to play with other children I didn’t know. But does this mean I have a mental illness? Like most children, I grew out of my shyness. My job regularly requires me to approach complete strangers, put them at their ease, and engage them in conversation. Admittedly, I do feel a twinge of the old fears when meeting new people, but it is something I feel I have overcome and I consciously try to be more outgoing and social.

So, is shyness in children really a mental illness? There can be several factors which can contribute to a child being shy and the problem can manifest itself in many different forms. There are some cases where an introverted personality, or unwillingness to engage, can be a symptom of a mental problem, such as autism. But if a child is just shy, there are several ways they can be encouraged to overcome it which do not involve a trip to a psychiatrist and a drug prescription. If a girl is shy, will her confidence be helped by attaching the stigma of mental illness to her problem?

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"Rapunzel, Rapunzel! Let down your hair!”


I was never really one of those girls who loved Disney movies. If anything, I loved the villains. To me, the villains had far more depth and intellect than the ‘princesses’ who seemingly just batted their eyelashes and were burdened with baggage, and it always saddened me that the villains never won. The only thing the princesses gave me was an improbable belief of what hair girls can expect to have.

Last week I saw the above photo, and it made me understand just why I never was a fan of the Disney females.  They are all hoping that their beauty and womanly wiles will save them and this angered me. It made me realise that the numerous females out there who idolise Disney to any extent are setting themselves up for failure. Not only does it perpetuate the search for ‘Prince Charming’ – I fear now a long, lost cause – but it also helps to keep the stereotypes of the feeble woman. There are hardly any valiant princesses out there (Mulan being the only one who springs to mind and she wasn’t even a princess!).

The Walt Disney Company should be putting a ‘better spin’ on their characters. They did try this by introducing the first black princess in The Princess and the Frog, but as yet, I am waiting for a bald princess that would shatter the unrealistic expectations of hair and would give those girls who are suffering from cancer something to relate to. Disney has a lot to answer to, and I feel that it should work on becoming more inspirational where the women are independent and may occasionally save the men.

-Natalie Moyanah
Junior Girl
Girls Museum Inc.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Who Says Girls Aren’t Strong?

Abbey Watson squats 60 kg, leading up to her 65 kg World Record-setting lift
Credit: Photo by Steve Watson/copyright Abigail Watson 2012

Having recently returned from the Powerlifting Federation national competition in Oklahoma City, Abbey Watson of Colorado is a 13 year old world record holder for powerlifting.   In fact she holds eight world records with the most recent for squats in her weight class lifting 143.3 pounds.  On top of that, Abbey is already the holder of 28 world, national, and state records.  Not bad for a 105 pound girl in middle school.   It comes as no surprise that her next goal is the Olympics.

What is surprising is Abbey’s casual start at lifting.  Having been coaxed by her father, Steve Watson, to visit Defy!, a CrossFit and strength-coaching gym with him, she immediately latched on to lifting weights.  "I came just to watch. I was wearing my school clothes and they asked me if I wanted to do it too. So, I did one of the workouts and I loved it!" says Abbey.  In just three years Abbey has managed to accomplish so much and sees no stopping anytime soon, much to the surprise of her father who quips that he was just hoping to inspire his young daughter to adopt some positive workout habits, not a competitive career!

However, while Abbey is being marked as the girl to send out a positive message of the physical and emotional benefits of weight lifting to other girls, there is also concerns and criticisms that have arisen.  The main question I think we all have is should a young girl of 13 be weight lifting?  And what type of damage might this do to her growing body?  The Mayo clinic states that while light strength training is beneficial for growing bodies, lifting heavy weights may put too much strain on muscles, tendons and cartilage that have yet to turn to bone.  A bodily concern that may arise being that Abbey can deadlift 176 pounds, nearly double her body weight.  However Abbey’s coach, Jonathan Sabar, maintains that they are training with the proper techniques and observing a healthy diet all of which should make the heaving weight lifting perfectly safe.  

-Marisa Lindholm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Everyone has a question: what’s yours?

Winners (from left to right): Lauren Hodge, Shree Bose, Naomi Shah.
Photo: Andrew Federman
http://students.egfi-k12.org/girls-sweep-google-science-fair/

Last year, Google held its first annual Science Fair, a global online science competition for 13-18 year olds. Over 10,000 students from 92 countries submitted science projects seeking to answer questions such as "Can I program a robot in English?" to "How does marinade affect carcinogen levels in grilled chicken?"  Three winners were chosen by age category, and all three were girls. Lauren Hodge won the 13-14 age category with her project to study the effect different marinades have on the carcinogen (any agent that can directly cause cancer) levels in grilled chicken. Naomi Shah won the 15-16 age category by attempting to prove that making even minor changes to indoor air quality can reduce an asthmatic's reliance on medication. Shree Bose won the 17-18 age category by discovering a way to improve ovarian cancer treatment for patients who have built up resistance to certain chemotherapy drugs.

Shree was also a grand prize winner and received a $50,000 scholarship, a trip to the Galápagos Islands with a National Geographic Explorer, and an internship at CERN. Naomi and Lauren each received $25,000 scholarships and internships at Google and LEGO - I think we can all agree that those are some amazing prizes! They also participated in the TED Women conference last December. You can watch their presentations here. What struck me watching these girls present their ideas was how confident, smart, passionate, and driven they were. They are truly inspiring and I'm sure that they have a lot more to give the world.

Google is running the competition again this year, offering the same amazing scholarship funds and internships as last year. There is also an additional Science in Action prize, sponsored by Scientific American, who will provide the winner with $50,000 in funding and a year's mentoring. Entry for the competition ends April 1st, so now is the time to get your thinking caps on and show the world for the second year in a row what girls can do with science!

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, February 17, 2012

The women of Charles Dickens

Jean Simmons, Martita Hunt and Anthony Wager in David Lean's 1946 Great Expectations.
Photograph: Allstar

200 years after the birth of Charles Dickens, are his views of Victorian women still relevant today? Charles Dickens was and still is one of Britain’s greatest writers with tales such as Little Dorrit, Bleak House, Great Expectations, and Oliver Twist. A writer of the Victorian period, Dickens would have grown up surrounded by the social view that women should be devoted to housekeeping and rearing children. Dickens certainly kept his wife to this role – they had 10 children together before becoming estranged. The female characters of his stories included some very strong, unfeeling women, many of whom were very manipulative. One of his harshest female characters perhaps is Miss Havisham of Great Expectations, who manipulates the lives of Pip and her ward Estelle, to her own detriment. Other memorable characters include Nancy in Oliver Twist, who is a fallen woman, ignorant, uneducated but with morals that the more privileged women of Charles Dickens novels lack.  Little Dorrit represents a more virginal female character, innocent and unaware. Ada and Ester in Bleak House also have the vulnerable, moral personalities of the Victorian ideal.

Were these characters a reflection of how he envisaged his wife’s personality? Many people believe so. Dickens often made his more likable women those of a lower class system, often innocent young girls. This could perhaps have been a reflection of his own preference and liking for his younger mistresses rather than his own wife.

Wherever he found his inspiration, the female characters of Charles Dickens are both memorable and wide ranging from the wealthy, manipulative women, to the poor, vulnerable young girls with morals. Versions of these personalities I’m sure can still be found in today’s society. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Where are all the women?

Shirley Williams, Sarah Montague, Jo Brand, Sarah Millican, Shami Chakrabarti and Lauren Laverne.
Photograph: guardian.co.uk

Now is not a good time to be a woman, let alone an older one. Well, at least not at the BBC.   

Following a number of scandals, Conservative MP Nadine Dorries has vowed to end a culture of “sexism and ageism” at the BBC.  The case that allegedly first sparked these accusations was the April 2007 axing of Moira Stuart (55), the first black female newsreader on television, after over twenty years of broadcasting. In November 2008, four female Countryfile presenters (Michaela Strachan, Charlotte Smith, Miriam O’Reilly, and Juliet Morris), all in their 40s and 50s, were dismissed from the programme, leading to more outcries against ageism.  O’Reilly was subsequently successful in an age discrimination case against the Corporation, but not sex discrimination. Further controversy came in July 2009 when choreographer and judge Arlene Phillips (66) was replaced on the Strictly Come Dancing panel by Alesha Dixon, a pop-star half her age. The men on the show are Len Goodman (65), Bruno Tonioli (53), Craig Revel Horwood (44), and Bruce Forsyth (81). More recently, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year nominations were also criticised for failing to include any women on its shortlist.

There is a disproportionate lack of women in all aspects of the media and research conducted by The Guardian newspaper found that in any given month, ‘78% of newspaper articles are written by men, 72% of Question Time contributors are men and 84% of reporters and guests on Radio 4’s Today show are men.’  Dorries claims that if female presenters are selected, they are generally sidelined to weekend or early-hour programmes and that there is an “unchallenged format” of pairing a young, blonde presenter with an older male counterpart.  As a result, this compromises the female presenter as the public may view her as inexperienced and lacking in real authority, therefore marginalising her comments and opinions.

What is peculiar is that 50% of BBC Trust and 42% of its executive board are female.  So the question is, why isn’t this reflected in the number of women seen on our screens? One proposed reason is that women are much more heavily criticised in comparison to men.  Moreover, the lack of women in the public eye means that other girls and women have no role models to identify with, and no examples to aspire to. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has also sworn to address the issue and states, "It is an issue that we must keep pressing at... We want to hear a balance of voices on the radio and to see a balance of presenters on the television."

However, gender balance is the beginning of what needs to be addressed. Women of all ages, backgrounds and ethnicity need to be both seen and heard with or without their male counterparts. 

-Sinny Cheung
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

7 year old Texas girl kicked off baseball team

Anna Kimball

In Allen, Texas, seven year-old Anna Kimball was told that she would no longer be able to enjoy one of her favourite pastimes, playing baseball on the same team with her six year-old brother, Carson. This news came after the coach for the team had a phone conversation with Anna's mother, Tami Kimball, informing her that Anna would no longer be able to play for the team because she was a girl. "I can't believe that she's 7 and already having to face this," Tami Kimball told KDFW. "She's already having to hear someone say, 'Because of who you are, because you were born a girl, you're not allowed to go do something.'"

However the coach goes on to explain that it simply does not comply with the new league rules as he is now trying to progress the baseball team to a more competitive level. Along with Anna, another girl and a handful of boys are not making the cut onto the new team. This comes as a surprise and disappointment to both Anna and brother Carson who have greatly enjoyed playing on the same team, and Carson now faces a difficult decision whether to stay on the team. As of 1974, girls have been allowed to play Little League baseball due to the efforts of the National Organization for Women (NOW), and after two years of legal proceedings Little League was opened up to girls, as well as creating Little League softball targeted at girls. However in Anna's case the same rules do not apply as the baseball team she was cut from is not a Little League organization.

So what does this mean for Anna?  Is she facing gender discrimination at seven years old? Or is this an unfortunate byproduct of the natural progression for this team? The coach readily admitted to Tami Kimball that Anna was a better player than brother Carson, so why should the "more competitive" team only consist of boys then? With opportunities to play on other teams available to girls, should Anna compromise what she wants or fight to stay on the team that she had enjoyed for years? Although saddened by recent events, Anna and the Kimball family have yet to express how far they are willing to pursue this issue. 

-Marisa Lindholm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Running like a girl – and proud of it!

Girls react to the starting gun at the "Girls on the Run" 5K event, which took place at
Eastern Michigan University's Rynearson Stadium May 22, 2011.
Between 2,700 and 3,000 runners participated in the race.

With the UK hosting the Olympics this year, it’s no wonder that sports are heavily in focus again; in fact, we’ve already talked about the lack of female role models in sport this year. Exercise is extremely important to our health, and events such as the Olympics can have an important affect on encouraging everyone, especially the young, to exercise more. But one element of sport that isn’t discussed as frequently as the physical health benefits are the mental health benefits. It’s a subject close to my heart as last September I ran my first half-marathon after a lifetime of being an avid non-runner. Obviously I have seen physical changes in my body and fitness levels but for me the biggest change has been a mental one. Any runner will tell you that the biggest hurdle is just stepping out the front door, let alone actually running anywhere! Running has given me greater mental discipline and changed the way I feel about my body. I used to hate my legs but now I love them, not because they look good but because I know they can run for 13 miles without stopping. They are the source of my strength.

If running can have this effect on a 26 year old, imagine how it could help younger girls, who are perhaps even more vulnerable to body issues! Girls on the Run is a preventative program in the US that uses running to encourage pre-teen girls to develop self-respect and a healthy lifestyle. It combines training for a non-competitive 5km run with lessons that teach girls how to celebrate their inner selves. Sport is celebrated for promoting team work, but it can also have a profound effect on how we relate to ourselves; Girls on the Run strives to combine both elements to improve girls’ self-esteem.

We often focus on exercise as a way to look good, and whilst that is a factor in why exercise is so beneficial, it’s not the only reason. I hope that through events such as the Olympics and programs such as Girls on the Run, more girls can learn to love their bodies not because they look good, or conform to particular standards, but because they are a source of strength and self-respect.  

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, February 13, 2012

We welcome Lana to the stage!

Lana Del Rey, 'Video Games'

Late last year, there were whispers of a mysterious starlet with the grace of old Hollywood and a voice to hypnotise into submission - the talent that was Lana Del Rey emerged. Sultry and soothing, her music and homemade videos certainly filled a hole that many had in their musical hearts (see the "Video Games" video above). She was fresh and unique and drew you in with her self-styled “gangster Nancy Sinatra” meets Lolita chic.

However, lately her authenticity has been called into question, and her past has seemed to have caught up with her. It seems that she previously released an album under the name "Lizzy Grant" which did not do too well and has since inexplicably disappeared from iTunes. Now, little trace is found online of Lizzy Grant’s music and background. It also seems that she has a millionaire father; something people are sure is the only reason why she has become a success. Furthermore, she has also had plastic surgery. "Quelle surprise! An unauthentic musician again!" people are shouting.

But I say "So what?!"  So what if her father is rich? It doesn’t mean that he helped her career. Even if he did, that in my mind is the equivalent to giving your child vocal lessons and then showing them off on an endorsed show like The X-Factor – it’s just a little less sordid. So what if she shed "Lizzy Grant" for "Lana Del Rey" and has had surgery? In her business, this is simply rebranding and reshaping (for example Reg Dwight became Elton John, not to mention Madonna's rebranding throughout the decades).  I mean, no one was in too much of an uproar when the cleaning brand "Jif" changed its name to "Cif."  What gets me is that Lana Del Rey won the Q Award for "Next Big Thing" and has appeared in numerous "Top 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012" lists; yet even before her album was released on January 31st of this year, many had forgotten about her music in favour for rumour-mill gossip.  I really feel that Miss Rey should be judged by her music and her current and future actions alone. After all, if we were all judged solely on our past, who - apart from Mother Theresa - can honestly say they’d be looked upon favourably? Del Rey’s album does have a few filler tracks but on the whole its melodic sounds and resonance can give you goose bumps. The music business is already a gory business. We shouldn’t be trying to deflate anyone, especially females, if we can help it.

-Natalie Moyanah
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Europe’s Little Match Girls

The Little Match Girl, from the homonymous story by Danish author Hans Christian Andersen.

The European continent recently welcomed the New Year with rather ominous black clouds, under a deep and longterm recession. In many cases, such as countries with preexistent ailing economies, this resulted in grave social problems being magnified right in front of our eyes.

The unemployment rates are rising in Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and if that wasn't enough, it looks like economic cutbacks in both wages and social welfare are also here to stay. The burden of this development is often too much to handle mainly for families, thus turning homelessness and abandoned children into the new age phenomena. Greece’s abrupt rise in people living on the streets is remarkable and indicative of the seriousness of the times.

Stories like this one of little Anna, others regarding young pupils who faint at school due to starvation and their teachers trying to ensure for them portions from the communal meals or news like this are revealed far too often. It’s tormenting enough for anyone to imagine the elderly and adults striving under such difficulties, much more when children are involved. Especially these last days, when the whole of Europe is experiencing a freezing cold winter, it's at least comforting to see that private initiative is activated anew in multiple ways, for example giving away supplies in local community centers or on the spot and volunteering in relevant groups of action like Boroume.

For many young girls, instead of mentally travelling in fairylands and other fantasy places with enchanting creatures, they end up as if they were the leading character in Hans Christian Andersen’s story The Little Match Girl. The real notion from this beautiful tale is surprisingly optimistic, since in a life of absolute poverty and hardship a girl never stops dreaming.

So, my first and warmest thoughts from this stand are addressed to all these girls - fighters. May they come out of this misfortune stronger and full of hope. 

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Eve-Teasing: Sexual harassment on the streets of India


Sadly, it’s a situation we are all familiar with: the cat-calls, the wolf-whistles and the lewd suggestions. Most young women have fallen victim to this unwanted harassment while committing no greater crime than walking along the street. In India, however, the problem has become so prevalent that it has sparked several high profile campaigns calling for renewed respect for women and an end to this so called “Eve-teasing.”

The term “Eve-teasing” does not really do justice to the traumatic experience that Indian women are experiencing and there is a campaign to change the terminology used by the media when reporting this kind of harassment. The situation in India escalated towards the end of last year when two young men were killed when coming to the aid of female friends suffering this “teasing.” Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandes left a restaurant in Mumbai with a group of friends when several men began harassing the women in their group. Santos and Fernandes came to their friends’ defence and confronted the men. Initially the men were intimidated and ran off, however they quickly returned and attacked the pair. Both later died from their injuries.

This tragic incident occurred in a busy area of the city and there were several bystanders who saw the whole incident and did nothing to help. Regrettably, this is not an uncommon situation. The majority of “eve teasing” happens in broad daylight and in busy areas. The victims do not fit the stereotypical profile of those who some men consider to be “asking for it” – the women are more often than not modestly dressed – and even young school girls have been affected. 

Similarly, those committing the “teasing” offences are also from varied backgrounds. The reluctance of bystanders to come to the defence of women has only encouraged their behaviour. There have even been reports of groups of young boys emulating their elders by harassing women in broad daylight. 

The government is trying to counter this disturbing trend. Undercover police officers, both male and female, patrol the busiest areas attempting to protect women and identify offenders. There are also calls for changes of policy in how cases of sexual harassment are handled, including an end to the right of the accused to drastically alter their appearance before formal identification by witnesses. Action must be taken. This unacceptable behaviour is now being learned by the next generation and, if left unchecked, it will mean a big step back for women's rights in India.

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Cost of Sanitary Protection in India

Arunachalam Muruganantham (centre) and the machine he invented to make sanitary towels.
Photograph: Jayaashree Industries

Once every two months or so I find myself standing in the pharmacy glaring resentfully at the huge array of sanitary products available and thinking, “Why do I have to waste so much of my money on these things? Men don’t have to pay for this – it’s so unfair!”

Maybe it is; but I am grateful that I have never had to choose between buying sanitary products and food. This is the reality for many women across the developing world. A survey conducted by A C Neilsen called ‘Sanitation protection: Every Woman’s Health Right’ in October 2010 revealed that over 88% of India’s menstruating women could not afford to buy sanitary protection and resorted to using ashes, newspapers, dried leaves, and even husk sand during their periods. Using such unhygienic materials has an appalling effect on women’s health, with over 70% of the women surveyed suffering from some kind of Reproductive Tract Infection. As if this wasn’t enough, girls in the age group of 12-18 years miss 5 days of school in a month and 23% drop out of school after they start menstruating. In the Hindu faith (as is the case with many other faiths), it is broadly accepted that menstrual blood is culturally polluting and that the menstruating woman must be separated from her family for the first three days of her period.

Getting your period is a pain, sometimes literally. But no girl should ever be made to feel ashamed or afraid of her body. The taboo surrounding menstruation means that educating girls on the importance of proper sanitary protection is difficult, even if they could then afford the sanitary towels. There is hope however; as well as a government scheme to offer affordable sanitary towels to girls aged 10-19 years, a company called Jayaashree Industries is now providing rural women with the means to manufacture low-cost sanitary towels, thus providing them with both improved health and an income. The founder of the company, Arunachalam Muruganantham, was inspired to begin his research into creating a low cost way to manufacture sanitary towels after discovering his wife attempting to bury the filthy rags she used as sanitary protection. His research led him to be ostracised by his local community; even his wife and mother left him. Now there are over 600 of his machines across India, providing women with income and safe sanitary protection.

I find this kind of grass-roots social change exciting and inspiring to hear about, but does it do enough? Muruganantham says his “greatest compliment” came from a woman who told him that thanks to his machines, she was now able to send her daughter to school; the first woman to have made enough money to do so in the history of her community. He may have only set out to provide the women he loved with basic sanitary health, but Muruganantham has also brought hope to a new generation of Indian girls and that is certainly something to celebrate.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Queen Elizabeth II: 60 Years


On February 6th, Queen Elizabeth II of England celebrated 60 years on the throne. Now in her 86th year, she became queen as a young woman of 25, and her reign has seen enormous cultural, social, and technological change. At the time of her ascension to the throne, Britain was still reeling from the shock of WWII: she has witnessed decolonisation, depression, miners’ strikes, the Falklands War, and the controversy over the death of her daughter-in-law Princess Diana. However, despite these trials, and ruling over 13 successive Prime Ministers, she shows no signs of slowing down, and was this week marking the anniversary with public events and speeches.

Following in the impressive tradition trail-blazed by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, and distant ancestor Elizabeth I, the Queen has ruled alone (her husband Philip holds the title of consort, rather than king). Yet she has also had to juggle this responsibility with the pressures of raising four children and being a grandmother of 8. Whilst there are clearly admirable aspects to Elizabeth’s reign, the issue of the monarchy remains a thorny one, with many questioning the relevance of such an ancient institution in the world of today. However, the Queen herself has instigated modernising changes: she abolished the presentation of debutantes at court, and allowed Prince Charles to remain heir despite his divorce, whilst awarding his second wife Camilla a royal title (of course, her uncle Edward VIII famously abdicated over a similar issue). Royal tourism also contributes an enormous amount to the British economy.

Whatever your politics, it is clear that Queen Elizabeth II has been a strong female figurehead for her country. As the second-longest-serving British monarch in history, she has provided consistency to a nation often in need of direction: it now remains to be seen what sort of shape (if any) the royal family will take in future.

The official Diamond Jubilee celebrations will take place over the extended holiday of 2-5 June.

-Chloe Grant
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Women are key to Chinese New Year


The Year of the Dragon dawned last week. Not only the Chinese community, but many communities throughout the world always anticipate Chinese New Year. On Sunday 29th January, London’s Trafalgar Square filled with people waiting to see the colourful celebratory parade. But most people don’t wonder about the traditions during the preparations and festivities. I wanted to find out more about the different parts men and women play during this time. So I interviewed* four Chinese women and one man who told me about the female role at New Year.

First is the role of dutiful wife and daughter. While any member of the family can participate, females are usually responsible for making the feast for their loved ones to enjoy. The females of the household gather in the kitchen, helping one another to prepare the meal and catching up on family matters. There is also the tradition that on the third day of the New Year, married women are expected to go and visit their mothers. This symbolic gesture allows women to reunite with their family and shows a mark of respect for her birth family.

However, all the interviewees felt that there was one thing that most represented the spirit of the New Year—the willing for good luck and how females aid this. For instance, the women tidy the house in a sort of ‘ritualistic spring cleaning’ before the New Year. This is an old age custom done to scrub away any bad spirits and make the home inviting for good ones. Another tradition for luck and goodwill is that of the distribution of red envelopes - known as the Lei See - which contain money and are also believed to ward off evil spirits. They are given to the younger members of the family and women normally see to their distribution.

The symbolic nature of the colour red is also associated with women. For the older females, department stores also display a multitude of red outfits. This, I was told, is because during the New Year, friendly gambling games are played and the females would usually wear red underwear and clothes hoping that it would bring them more luck. Younger girls are usually dressed in traditional dress such as a cotton-padded jacket with their hair in pigtails.

It seems that the force that keeps Chinese New Year running smoothly is the women behind it. All of the interviewees agreed that men really don’t have a role in the celebrations, beyond perhaps saying a prayer at the temple and then enjoying the feast. Nonetheless, these women enjoy doing the tasks the do in order to keep the traditions alive and to fan the flame of enchantment.

*The interviewees were Catherine and Sophia Huynh, Helena Lee and Cathy Yip and William Lau.

-Natalie Moyanah
Junior Girl 
Girl Museum Inc.

Natalie Moyanah, Chinese New Year, women’s roles, Chinese tradition

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Legacy of the Iron Lady

British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher celebrates her first general election
victory in Flood St, Chelsea, London.
(Central Press/Getty Images)

Having seen trailers for the film The Iron Lady, I can see why Meryl Streep won a Golden Globe for her performance as Margaret Thatcher and has been nominated for an Oscar—the accent and mannerisms are spot on. The film has given people the chance to reflect on the Thatcher era and some of her achievements as the UK’s first and only female Prime Minister. As a minister she had already brought in controversial policies, including stopping free milk in primary schools for children over 7 years old, giving her the nickname ‘Thatcher the milk snatcher.’

As Prime minister from 1979–1990, she divided British society by privatising many state owned industries and closing coal mines which resulted in a year of strikes by two thirds of Britain’s miners. Margaret Thatcher reduced spending on social housing and higher education and took a hard line approach to politics, which was arguably all the more important as she was a woman who needed to prove she was in charge.

A role that holds such power is rarely taken on by a woman and requires, I imagine, nerves of steel and a lot of determination and ambition. Whether this idea that for a woman to be in charge she has to hold a steely persona has resulted from women’s own insecurities or whether it is an attempt to imitate men in power is unclear, but Margaret Thatcher certainly gave the impression of an ‘Iron Lady’ and many people took a personal dislike to her.

However, the persona she portrayed worked for her role, people followed her and she was taken seriously as a leader. Thanks to a victory in the Falklands and a recovering economy she was voted in for three terms, and her policies have continued to influence lives, including allowing people to buy their own council-owned homes. 

The film brings to the surface women in high level politics and thankfully it is no longer such a fantasy as it may have once been before Margaret Thatcher’s terms in office. With Australia having a female Prime Minister, Germany with a woman at the helm and even America getting closer to having their own first female President, ‘women in politics’ is becoming more accepted. Even so, politics is still very much male dominated and not an easy world for a woman to enter, but let’s hope that the release of the film at the very least inspires more women to try. 

If you’ve seen the film, do you believe it does the Iron Lady justice?

For more information on Margaret Thatcher you can go here or here

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

'Grubs Up' and other winners

'Grubs Up' by Georgia Harding, aged 12
RSPCA Young Photographer Awards 2011 Winner of 12-15 years category

On 16 December 2011 at the Tower of London, the RSPCA announced the winners of their annual contest, which seeks out the photographic talents of individuals 18 and under for the Young Photographer Awards.  The aim of the annual contest is to “encourage young people's interest in photography and show their appreciation and understanding of the animals around them.”  The categories available to participants include Under 12s, 12-15 year olds, 16-18 year olds, Pet Personalities, Portfolio, Making Life Better, Garden Wildlife and People’s Choice.  An overall winner is also chosen from the winners of the individual categories.

While there were many exceptional entries, it was great to see so many girls at the top.  Twelve year old Georgia Harding won the 12-15 years category with her photo entitled ‘Grubs Up.’  Sophie Bramall, aged 10, won the under 12 years category with her photo ‘Black-tailed Godwit in the Mist,’ while sixteen year old Amy Wilton won the Pet Personality category with her photo entitled ‘Running Whippets.’  Jo Cock, aged 15, won the Making Life Better category with her photo entitled ‘Happy.’  And these were just some of the winners!  Girls also received runners-up and highly commended awards in each category.  A couple of my favourites that won the highly commended honours include Emily Biggs “Conquering a Blustery Peak” and Hemma Jari “Running through the Waves” photos.  They are too cute!  The winners' gallery can be viewed here.

In looking through the winners’ gallery 2011, there truly is some amazing young talent out there.  And what an extraordinary opportunity for these individuals to have such a platform in which to share their beautiful photos!  It is a commendable outlet for young aspiring artists that the RSPCA has facilitated as well as a wonderful opportunity to showcase animals and highlight a continued awareness for animal well-being, love, and respect.  Have a look for yourself.   You won’t be disappointed!

-Marisa Lindholm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.