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?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Climb Inside the Music


The Baltic - Newcastle Gateshead Quayside
Photo: Glen Bowman

The Canadian born artist Janet Cardiff gained international recognition for her signature audio and video walks, which lead participants along a predetermined path listening to Cardiff’s hypnotic commentary and direction.  She is fittingly part of Library and Archives Canada’s celebration of women’s achievements, where her awarding winning work and outstanding contributions to culture are recognised.  The walks, which can be found online, take place in New York, London, Berlin, Montreal, and many more places, and I am eager to try them all.  They have the power to reinvent a place, mixing memories and new experiences to build a narrative through a landscape.  

The artist recently came to my attention after I visited her incredible exhibition at BALTIC Contemporary Arts Centre, Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  The Forty Part Motet is a reimagining of the 1573 Thomas Tallis renaissance choral work Spem in Alium Nunquam Habui.  Each of the forty voices from the piece is played back through an individual speaker, and the forty speakers are separated into eight groups of five in a circle around the room allowing the audience to hear the voices from every direction, with the possibility of weaving in and out, focusing on a particular voice or group.  Cardiff’s innovative use of space and sound is what attracted me to her walks and exhibitions and the result is spellbinding and really draws in the listener.  

What interested me most about the exhibition was the fascinating mixture of sculpture and sound that the prearranged forty speakers on stands created.  Each speaker acted as a physical and digital representation of the voice it played back.  The music was loud and powerful and as I sat in the centre of the room letting the various sounds and voices wash over me, I was aware of the smiles it brought to the faces of people around me.  This new way of hearing music was enchanting and I would have happily sat in that calming, remarkable space for hours, which is an element I am always looking for in an exhibition or work of art.  I believe an exhibition should trigger an emotion or create an experience, either challenging expectations and provoking thought or providing a space for reflection and relaxation.  I thoroughly recommend experiencing Janet Cardiff’s work either at this harmonious exhibition or through an eerie audio walk.

-Kay Whitehead
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eleanor de Clare


Drawing, by Stephanie Decavallas

After reading Magda’s blog earlier in the month about a "lust for scandal" I decided to do a bit of digging and have a look at some of the scandals of the past to see if those in history have also focused on the women. As a member of one of the most powerful medieval families–the de Clares–Eleanor went down in history as "the traitor's wife." The daughter of an Earl and of high status, Eleanor de Clare was married to Hugh le Despenser the Younger when she was just 13 years old. She bore Hugh 9 children and had a great deal of ups and downs within her life, being married to the most hated man in Britain. Hugh was known as one of King Edward's favourites and used his influenced to his advantage, grabbing land and leading the country into civil war. In addition, rumours began to surface that he was having an affair with Edward II and later that Edward II was in fact having an affair with Eleanor, who was actually his niece.

Queen Isabella escaped England to invade later, forcing Eleanor to hide out in the Tower of London while her husband fled with the King. It is thought that at this point Eleanor would have been pregnant. After spending two years imprisoned in the Tower when her husband was captured and executed she was then released and married the man who captured her husband. After further accusations of theft and another spell in the Tower, Eleanor eventually died in 1337 and is thought to have been buried at Tewkesbury Abbey with the rest of the de Clares and later the Despensers. This story had so much scandal, if it happened in today's time it would surely have been all over the papers. Did Eleanor marry her husband's captor willingly? Did she love her husband? The answers to these questions we may never know, but what is interesting is that not much was written about Eleanor at the time, many sources focused on her husband–Hugh the Younger. Would this have been the same today? Maybe not.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rape: Sexual Politics


Anti-rape police campaign poster.

In the past week, I have been truly appalled by the attitudes being demonstrated by our politicians towards rape. On both sides of the pond we have had controversial statements given to journalists which demonstrate a less than enlightened view of this traumatic and horrendous crime.

In America, current Congressman and Missouri Republican Senatorial candidate Todd Akin insulted women across the country with his extreme views on abortion. During the interview for KTVI-TV the Congressman was asked if he would consider an exception to an abortion ban for pregnancies which were the result of rape. His response was truly shocking:
It seems to me, from what I understand from doctors, that is really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
It is beyond comprehension that this educated man could have this view on rape. Aside from being medically unsound, his use of the term “legitimate rape” lends credence to the belief that there are varying degrees of culpability for rape. Carrying this man’s logic through, a woman who was subjected to a violent rape which resulted in pregnancy was no victim at all. She must have wanted it, she’s pregnant isn’t she? Little wonder Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney has called for the would-be senator’s resignation. The Democratic party’s claim that now is a scary time to be a woman  seem to have some foundation within the views of the radical right.

In the UK, that horrible phrase “legitimate rape” also reared its ugly head in the furore surrounding Bradford MP George Galloway’s comments on the Julian Assange–who is wanted in Sweden to face sexual assault charges–deportation case. Speaking about the allegations, Galloway claimed that Assange’s behaviour was no more than “bad sexual etiquette:”
Let me tell you, I think that Julian Assange's personal sexual behaviour is sordid, disgusting, and I condemn it. But even taken at its worst, if the allegations made by these two women were true, 100 per cent true, and even if a camera in the room captured them, they don't constitute rape. At least not rape as anyone with any sense can possibly recognise it.
Referring to the allegations that one woman woke up to find Assange having sex with her after engaging in consensual sexual activity the previous evening, Galloway said that “not everybody needs to be asked prior to each insertion.” His comments prompted charity Rape Crisis to respond that his understanding of rape was “factually inaccurate” and that if a woman is asleep, then consent has not been given. The idea that a woman having sex with someone once entitles them to have sex with her again without consent is the kind of thinking which legitimised rape within marriage for hundreds of years.

We supposedly live in the modern world and it’s time that our politicians’ attitude to women was brought up to date. Equality between the genders will never be achieved while there is still an assumption that, on some level, women are asking to be raped. Legitimate rape? - I don’t even understand the phrase. 

Rape is Rape – full stop.

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, August 27, 2012

The art realm and the unmasked truth


Scene from the Gallery Girls.

I was never into reality shows, yet I decided to give it a go and watched an episode of Bravo’s new series Gallery Girls, under the guise of being myself a gallery intern lately in downtown Athens, therefore I could use the empirical correlation. As a matter of fact, I wasn't able to trace a discernible link to any of these seven girls! I don’t want to seem over-judgemental, but the show somewhat distorts the reality.

As a format, docu-series do endorse a concept of deception and pretentiousness, for the viewers need have a strong motivation in order to sit in front of the couch and keep watching the upcoming episodes, but I seriously doubt the everyday life of a middle-class intern in her early twenties is like that. On the other hand, it makes sense that an ordinary girl, without the spicy details of her personal life and the necessary conflicts with her fellow interns, doesn’t amount to a competitive TV program. Young female viewers should keep in mind that it’s all hype and don't let the spectacle decide their careers. If practice at a gallery space is what they are looking for, they shouldn't be discouraged from trying nor get their hopes up. This is only the producers’ perspective of the breed of ‘gallerinas’, who look more like the cast of Sex and the City.

From my experience, being an intern at a respected gallery is by far a positive experience. It involves a range of administrative and physical tasks, all essential in the everyday running of a gallery (don’t forget that it’s a business after all). Getting to meet established and breakthrough artists, socialize with interesting people in general, and listen to informative conversations come also as perks of the job. In reality, it’s more about the art itself and how to communicate it.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, August 24, 2012

London 2012: The Resurgence of the Suffragettes


Suffragettes carrying a banner at the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. Photo: REUTERS.

This year’s Olympics has been billed as the "Women’s Olympics." For the first time, every participating country fielded female athletes and there was more equality in the women’s games, with the inclusion of sports like boxing. In the UK, we have been celebrating out Heroines of the Women’s Olympics; rejoicing that the likes of Laura Trott, Nicola Adams, and Jessica Ennis have shown the next generation of young girls that they can be just as good as the boys when it comes to achieving their goals.

The spirit of equality ran throughout the games, even from the start of the quirky opening ceremony. In the History of Britain routine which saw the stadium transform from a pastoral landscape to an industrial city, there entered a marching band of women representing the Suffragette movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Adopting drastic tactics, such as chaining themselves to railings and setting fire to mailboxes, these women fought for their right to vote. Many were imprisoned and there was scandal as stories emerged of force feeding when the female activists went on hunger strike. Prominent suffragette Emily Davison died for the cause when she attempted to throw a protest banner over the King’s horse at Epsom race course. Their struggles inspired the feminist movement which pervaded the 20th Century.

In the 21st Century, the Olympic volunteers who were chosen to represent these brave women have been enthused by their cause: they’ll once again don their Edwardian costumes to march on Parliament. Lesley Covington, a 57 year old Olympic volunteer, told journalists, "But why shouldn't we take this opportunity? Women are still under-represented in parliament and the upper echelons of business; childcare is a huge issue. I want to get involved and I want to make a difference. You can change things – you have to believe that, or you would never try." Led by Helen Pankhurst, great granddaughter of the great Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, the march on Parliament is planned to coincide with the UK Feminista Rally on 24th October.

It is wonderful that this great sporting event has inspired girls, not only to compete in sport, but to once more take up the banner and fight for gender equality in the UK. Come on girls, let’s get active!

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

(Re)Acquaintance with the Archaic Girls

A tour at the Acropolis Museum, Athens.

Given that this is my first August spent in Athens (instead of the ordinary summer drifting on a picturesque beach on a Greek island), I'm trying to make the most of it. One of my first expeditions in the city was the long awaited visit at the Acropolis Museum, something that I’ve been postponing for long enough. Ever since I was an undergraduate student of archaeology, my favorite place of antiquities was the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, which still remains the 'Met' of the town. It's absolutely classical and scientifically valuable. But the fairly new Acropolis Museum brings a novel modernism that supports rather than contradicts this conventional style of bygone centuries. Such a blend is suitable and necessary in the urban landscape, because it discloses a well balanced continuity.

Overlooking the Acropolis hill, the museum is a living embodiment of the past and the present. Almost all of the ancient citadel’s masterpieces are housed in a slender shell; a building that manages to be doric and at the same time imposing, austere, although hefty (well done, Bernard Tschumi!). As an archaeologist, of course I was thrilled by the visible excavation site under the glass floorings, but who wouldn’t be? For the first time I felt like a welcome tourist in my birth city under the umbrella of an intimate hospitality and consistent infrastructure. I consider this to be a major success on behalf of the museum’s professionals. The Acropolis Museum, together with the expected new building that will host the National Museum of Contemporary Art, the renovated halls, inaugurated collections, and future expansions of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens, as well as the recent Benaki Museum building at 138 Pireos Street, manifest the cultural democratization of modern Greece and the highly-developed awareness of a glorious background. It is invigorating and promising to finally see this multi-tormented city, and by extension country, is tangibly heading to a new age through the investment in cultural recovery.

My visit happily coincided with the ongoing program ‘Archaic Colours.’ The female votive statues, formally known as Korai, epitomize the beauty ideal of the young girls during the archaic period (700 BC – 480 BC). Unlike the statues of young men (aka Kouroi), who are normally presented nude, the korai are always dressed up with the doric peplos or, later on, with a chiton and a mantle. Other distinct features include elaborate hairstyles, accented ornaments or jewelry and of course the identifiable archaic smile. The use of colours on the marbles was very common and in many cases is still visible. This one-year project will seek to explore the effects and interpretations of the colour usage on the viewers of then and now. It’s an open know-how to a more thorough observation of these artworks. For instance, did you know that the white face skin of the korai is indicative of their elegance and freshness? This exact symbolic value of the colours proves that they were more than just decorative. There is also an interactive game available, which kids can use to practice the knowledge acquired from their museum experience.

If you are nearby, you wouldn’t want to miss a walk through all these amazing sculptures and artifacts. All in all, it’s a worthy tribute to the Acropolis marvel!

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Prom Fever


High school students ready for their prom.

When I was in my final year of secondary school, we had what was the British equivalent at the time of a prom, a dinner dance.  We all got dressed up, although the dress code was somewhat confused. Most girls opted for some kind of elegant evening dress but others were more casual (although a close friend of mine hired a seventeenth century style dress and looked like something out of Marie Antoinette!). In fact, that dress was the most memorable part of the occasion. We were driven in a coach to a country club, where we ate a lacklustre meal and after dancing for a bit to a fairly dire DJ, we sat outside and chatted.

This was just over ten years ago; today, proms are a much bigger business. Its season is short, only lasting for four weeks between mid-June and mid-July but it was worth £80 million last year. Considering the UK is still in the grips of a recession, this seems like an extravagant cost.

So what has happened in the ten years between my dinner dance and the new prom season? We could point the finger at the continuing rise of celebrity culture. Dr Caroline Schuster, a chartered psychologist, believes that the appeal of a red carpet prom comes not just from US sitcoms and reality shows but a wider world where young girls measure their lives against those of celebrities. They want to experience that fantasy world, even if it’s just for one night.

Personally, I think having some kind of celebration when you finish secondary school is important; it’s a chance to spend time with your friends before you start to drift apart to college or work and to celebrate the end of an important part of every teenager’s life. But is such extravagance over the top? It encourages the near-worship of celebrity and material culture that reduces a person’s worth entirely to how much they are able to spend. Is this really the message we want to be giving teenagers before they enter the working world?

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Laters, Baby


Fifty Shades of Grey this month became the fastest-selling paperback since records began.
Photograph: Rob Kim/Getty Images

It is the book everyone is talking about, has sold over 10 million copies since being published in March and is the fastest selling e-book ever; I’m talking about the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy by E. L. James. The trilogy is about a young English Literature graduate, Anastasia Steele, who meets the young, rich, and good looking Christian Grey when she interviews him as a favour for a friend. Inevitably, she gets mixed up in his world of many shades. Filled to the rafters with sex scenes, fetishes, and BDSM, the books have been surrounded with controversy and brought what has been called ‘porn’ by some into the mainstream. Is it really that bad?

I admit I got sucked into the hype and the first book in particular has some scenes that are intended to shock, but having just finished the last in the series I have to say that I was mildly underwhelmed and disappointed with the ending. Although they may not be linguistically exquisite in their writing they are certainly an easy read, and popular because they play to the fantasies of many women – girl meets handsome, rich, powerful man who falls in love with her, educates her sexually and lavishes her with all she could want. However what could have been a thriller of a story turns out to be more of a modern Jane Austin with a few saucy bits thrown in.

As to whether young girls should be reading this – inevitably it would be pointless trying to stop them getting their hands on a copy – the romance and the story is still present in these books but parents should be wary. The plus points however are that young girls who would never even pause near a bookshop are reading, the books promote responsibility and safe sex – oh and you finally know why Ann Summers (a lingerie and adult shop) are selling so many sets of handcuffs!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Pre-Marital Sex: for love or honour?

Protesting legalised violence against women in Morocco.
Image from Getty, via www.huffingtonpost.com

Pre-Marital Sex: it’s a loaded topic. Personal belief, familial duty, or religious faith all play a part in our attitudes towards having sex outside of wedlock. Whether it is an expression of love with a long term partner, a casual fling, or for the sheer enjoyment of the physical experience, having sex is our choice. Others may choose to judge us, but in most Western countries this will be confined to silent condemnation or a snide remark. If the disapproval extends to physical or verbal abuse, we have the protection of the law. Sadly, however, this is not the case for all girls in the world.

In Morocco, pre-marital sex is illegal. Those who are caught engaging in sexual activity outside of marriage face more than public condemnation; they can be sent to jail. In this conservative society, the justice minister for the Islamist government has gone on record saying that “legalising sex outside marriage is an initiative to promote debauchery.” There is however, a noticeable shift in attitudes within some sections of the Moroccan community. The legal denunciation of pre-marital sex does not mean that sex doesn’t happen. The younger generation are being influenced by western culture and are looking for ways to explore their sexuality. 

The editor of the Al-Ahdath Al-Maghribia daily newspaper, Moktar el-Ghzioui, recently supported a call for repealing article 490, which bans pre-marital sex, during a television debate. He is now in hiding after a cleric released a fatwa for his death. Opposition to the relaxing of these laws is bringing deep seeded violence into the debate. This much darker side of Moroccan sexual restrictions was exposed this year with the tragic case of Amina Filali. This 16 year old girl committed suicide after being forced to marry the man who raped her. Current Moroccan law allows rapists to escape jail by marrying their victims, thus keeping her all important family honour intact. Amina was brutally beaten by her new husband and took her own life in March this year. 

Women’s groups organised protests in Amina’s memory and there is some support for change; however, those in power - the political and religious leaders - are still violently espousing the ultra-conservative line. If a girl chooses to express her love for her partner, she is jailed; if she is raped by a man, she becomes his wife. The struggle for sexual equality in Morocco has a long, bitter fight ahead.

The protest’s Facebook page, We are all Amina Filali, can be found here.

-Vhari Finch
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

London 2012: the ‘Women’s Games’ after all?


Women's heptathlon, 100m hurdles, Tatyana Chernova, Sara Aerts, Jessica Ennis, Hyleas Fountain
Photo by Steve Fair

All over the world, and particularly in the UK, the world is suffering from an Olympics hangover. No longer can I turn on the TV and watch the world’s best athletes compete in sports that previously I hadn't cared about – some of them I hadn’t even heard of before this summer! Even better, this was the first Olympic Games where every country fielded at least one female athlete and female athletes could enter every event (although men still couldn’t enter synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics).

In such a historic year for female athletes, it was heartening to see women do so well. On the US team, women won more medals than men. Female athletes from every nation proved that women are capable of greatness in sport; even if that greatness was having bravery and perseverance just to make it there.

On Twitter we celebrated Olympic Girls: women who excel in their sport, particularly young women. Many of these I’m pleased to say did extremely well, winning eighteen gold medals, six silver, and four bronze. In the medal table this would put them in fifth place! As well as medals, records were broken: Jessica Ennis set a new hurdles record in the heptathlon and Zoe Smith broke the British weightlifting record.

Despite these amazing achievements, there were still, unfortunately, some problems with commentary on female athletes. Many news articles still focused on female athlete’s bodies in a way that they didn’t for men. This can be seen in this article, highlighting the absurdity of how photography at the Beach Volleyball captured the athlete’s bodies in action compared to other sports.  Andrew Brown in The Telegraph wrote about how shocking he found watching women’s judo. “I couldn't help wondering about their soft limbs battered black and blue with bruises,” he says, although he is at least able to recognise that this “will probably sound appallingly sexist” (that’s because it is, Andrew). Worst of all, whilst the Olympic Stadium cheered female competitors from Saudi Arabia, in their own country, some branded them as “prostitutes of the Olympics.”

Although great gains have been made this year for female competitors, there is clearly still a long way to go in terms of reporting women and sport. Let’s hope that despite this poor reporting, young girls can still find athletes like Gabby Douglas, Jessica Ennis, and Sarah Attar to be a source of inspiration in their own lives.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The ‘Lust for Scandal’ Syndrome


Cover, Us Weekly.

Doesn't the world have a weird craving for brand new scandals? Especially when fresh and successful faces are tangled up, bad publicity gets even more interest. It feels as if there is a need to create a new rumor as soon as the previous one fades out. One thing is for sure; there is never a drought season in the pink pages of the press.

This time the stormy petrel is a 22 year old young woman who publicly admitted having cheated on her boyfriend after the revelation of some pretty candid photos proving her love affair with a married man. Up to this point, everything sounds quite everyday and uninteresting, right? Right up until the root of the trouble is linked with the famous names of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, and director Rupert Sanders. Then it gets creepy interesting. Besides being a good occasion for funny acts, there is a universal hysteria for malicious gossip, which in the case of the celebrities reaches phenomenal proportions. Expert paparazzi are devoted to the surveillance on the lives of the stars, creating the media necessary for special editions of magazines and TV shows. Of course this industry is supported by a deeply absorbed audience. 

If seen closely, I cannot help but reflect on why the most shocking scandals worldwide were largely focused on the female 'culprit.' The Lewinsky scandal, although it brought about Bill Clinton's impeachment, centred on Monica Lewinsky as the seducer that led to an "improper relationship." Even in the case of the famous Brangelina, the blame for the Pitt and Aniston marriage wreck was flatly put on Jolie's enticement, as if Brad Pitt didn’t have his share in the process. And tabloids promote these scandals, judging by the financial impact.

So, why do we even bother? Why does the urge to look through a famous keyhole is so appealing? The best reason I can think of is because people obviously enjoy the deconstruction of their idols. From a psychological point of view all this interference can be seen as pure sour grapes. At the end of the day, we should not forget that actors are only human; it’s the admirer’s worship that makes them look like shining stars. So, it’s up to the fans not to go into the personal lives of the celebrities, but care exclusively about their professional run.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Better think twice before bigotry pops up

Fleur Pellerin, the French Junior Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Innovation, and the Digital Economy.

I suppose we can all agree that recognized success in a field of activity is the major career goal regardless of ethnicity and sex. Well, the French journalist Daniel Schick thinks otherwise. Whilst interviewing Fleur Pellerin on Europe 1 national radio at the end of July, he thought it was appropriate to start by asking her the following:
Do you really know why you've been chosen? Is it because you're a beautiful woman from a diversity background? Because you belong to a little-visible minority? Because you are the proof of a successful adoption? Because you are a strong signal to Asian markets? Or also because you are competent? Do you really know?
First off, let’s point out who the interviewee was. Fleur Pellerin is the current Junior Minister for Small and Medium Enterprises, Innovation, and the Digital Economy in the new French government of President François Hollande. The 38 year old politician was born in Seoul, South Korea, abandoned by her parents in the first days of her life, and was adopted by a French couple when she was six months old. She received a first class education at the prestigious École Nationale d'Administration (ENA) and rose through the ranks to of the state’s economic departments. It seems that there are many reasons to admire and respect her background, despite some of the practices of the French government.

Considering that an interview is conducted by a human being, is 'politically correct' journalism doable? Being a reporter is definitely a role that occasionally entails an edgy play against the rules. In the effort to attract larger audiences, it can be advantageous to sound more provocative and audacious than a public speaker should. Schick crossed the line by firing questions not only sexist, but also indiscreet and offensive. I am pretty sure that he wouldn’t be asking the same if the interviewee were a male French-Korean politician. Pellerin remained cool, calm, and collected, reversing to her advantage the disastrous opening. Fortunately, capable women are here to prove that we are no longer "off to a very bad start."

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Girl Power at London 2012!

Dani King, Laura Trott, and Joanna Rowsell won gold and set multiple world records in the cycling Women's Team Pursuit.

The women in Team GB at the London 2012 Olympic Games have had an amazing record to date. They have achieved almost half of the very impressive total medal haul of the GB team, either individually or as members of teams - either mixed gender or all girls!

The first medals to be won by Team GB in London were following the success of female members of the team - Lizzie Armitstead brought home the country's first cycling medal in the Women's Road Race while Heather Stanning and Helen Glover rowed to glory achieving gold in the Coxless Pairs - incidentally the first ever gold won by a female rower for Great Britain. Jessica Ennis achieved some phenomenal personal bests in her journey to a gold medal in the Heptathlon - in which she achieved one of the greatest total scores of all time and Beth Tweddle proved that you should never give up on your dream by finally achieving an Olympic medal in what is undoubtedly her last Games before she retires as a gymnast.

Meanwhile in another cycling achievement the Women's Team Pursuit girls - Joanna Rowsell, Dani King and Laura Trott - succeeded in breaking the World Record not once but THREE times as they sped around the Velodrome track to Olympic glory this week. Laura Trott has since gone on to become a double Olympic Champion, winning gold in the Women's Omnium. As a volunteer Games Maker at the Velodrome, BMX, and Basketball precinct I was lucky enough to witness first hand two of the world records which the GB Team Pursuit girls smashed which was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

I have also seen every other medal achievement by Team GB on television and have been a part of the amazing and electric atmosphere within the Olympic Park on a daily basis - seeing it grow since two days before the Opening Ceremony on July 27th!

We still have a few medal hopes within our women - Shanaze Reade is the World BMX Champion already. However, whatever the achievements of the GB Team athletes - male or female - in the final few days of the competition, it must be recognised that the Team GB girls have achieved exceptional things in these few short weeks. They have excited and inspired a young girl I know already, who has regularly forgone her usual cartoons in order to watch the Olympic Games coverage on television, as well as myself and I am certain that they will continue to inspire generations of girls for years to come.

-Jessica Galley
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The rise of the female DJ

Hannah Jaacques

With Ibiza’s summer season in full swing, this week saw the lunch of British Radio One’s Superstar DJ competition. The winner was Hannah Jacques who mixed her way to the top, beating 5 other finalists. A great achievement, especially for a women, as there are very few successful female DJs that get to mix in regular clubs let alone in the club capital of the world – Ibiza. 

With female singers such as Adele, Rihanna, and Jessie J dominating the music industry as a whole, it may come as a surprise that on the 2011 list of the top 100 DJs there was not one woman! The female DJs are out there though; amongst them is Radio One’s Annie Mac who admits that without the profile of her radio show she may not have been given the opportunities she has. Ellen Allien, a DJ of the Berlin techno scene, has made a success of DJing as well as founding her own music label, and there are many others breaking through in the industry. It seems that female DJ’s are ready and waiting to take over decks all over the world, all they need is the opportunity, so here’s to Hannah who has just been given hers!

You can vote for this year’s top 100 DJs list here.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Who let the trolls out of the dungeon?

British weightlifter Zoe Smith

I love the Internet. I love how it allows people from across the world to communicate and the way it can provide instant news. The Internet represents a triumph for freedom of information and freedom of speech. Unfortunately, as with many things in life, there is a downside to this freedom. Whilst the anonymity of the Internet helped fuel the uprisings in the Arab Spring last year, they have also allowed for the existence of the Internet Troll.

The term troll is often used to reference hateful remarks made online:  for example, in June 2012, Frank Zimmerman received a suspended sentence for asking British MP Louise Mensch which of her children she wished to remain alive. This was clearly a hateful comment, but not necessarily one made by a troll. Internet trolls make hateful remarks, but not always because they believe what they are saying. It is, essentially, bait: trolls want to stir up people’s emotions and cause conflict by making comments that are deliberately inflammatory.

Of course, it can be hard to tell a poster’s intention, which is probably why the term has become synonymous with any kind of hateful or inflammatory remarks made online. One of the latest victims of this is 18 year old Zoe Smith, who is an Olympic weightlifter in this year’s Games and featured in a recent BBC3 documentary called Girl Power: Going For Gold.  After this aired, some viewers chose to make derogatory comments about her choice of sport, calling her “weird” and making sexist remarks. Smith responded to these attacks on her blog, saying, “we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive?”

Indeed. Surely when we look at female athletes, we shouldn’t be focusing on how they look: we should be focusing on how talented they are. Whether the negative comments about Smith and her fellow athletes were true opinions or actual trolling, we cannot know for sure. What we do know is that the anonymity of the Internet makes it a tool that can do great good and great harm. Luckily, Smith is a confident young woman, certain of her own strength. Time and again though, we hear of instance of young girls, such as Olivia Penpraze and Natasha MacBryde, who do not have the strength to withstand the pressure of trolling.

So, what can be done? I don’t want to start advocating censorship on the Internet as to me trolling isn’t an issue of censorship or free speech; it’s about basic manners and human decency. It’s easy to forget that the people we talk to or about online are actually real people. Sometimes I wish that this particular strip in XKCD is something that could happen in real life: then we really might see an end to trolling.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

More Than A Body

Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson

Summer is synonymous with blockbuster movies and over the last ten years or so, these blockbusters very often have their source in comic books. Two of this year’s biggest blockbusters are no exception to this as both The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises have their roots in hugely successful film and comic franchises.

Although it can't be said that the films have perfect gender parity, there are at least some strong female characters who are able to hold their own amongst the men. Both Natasha Romanov/Black Widow (The Avengers) and Selina Kyle/Catwoman (from the Batman franchise) are physically and mentally strong, often besting the boys at their own game. They are interesting characters, to me at least as complex as the male characters–and yet both Scarlett Johansson and Anne Hathaway were asked by the same interviewer questions about their character's that focused on their bodies: specifically, if Scarlett was able to wear underwear with her costume and what special diets and exercise regimes Anne went on to fulfil the role.

I’m pleased to say that both Scarlett and Anne responded brilliantly, calling out the interviewer on his question in a way that left him in no doubt that they were unhappy. I hope that more female actors speak out in this way, letting interviewers know that it is not okay to ask male actors one set of questions and female actors another. This disparity can be even more clearly seen in this clip from The Avengers official UK press conference, where Scarlett was asked the question at ComicCon whilst her co-star, Robert Downey Jr., was asked a much more meaty question about his characters motivations (you can see their brilliant reactions to this question from the 3.05 minute mark).

I have no doubt that both Scarlett and Robert (and for that manner Anne and Christian Bale) both worked hard to realise their characters mentally and physically. I want to know how they both did, so let's end this ridiculous partition of questions.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pregnant before your body can cope

Kate Tumuhimbes, 26, had her first child at 14.
Tadej Znidarcic

Teenage pregnancy is something that is frowned upon in the UK and other developed countries and it can lead to social exclusion and financial difficulties. In developing countries however, a teenage pregnancy is not a mere inconvenience but it can mean an early death for the mother. A recent report by Save the Children has highlighted the dangers of teenagers having babies before their bodies are able to cope. Many die of infections, injury, or disease, while some are left incontinent or in a great deal of pain.

Every year over 350,000 young women die from complications in pregnancy and being under the age of 20 mean that these complications are more likely. To try and combat this high mortality rate the UK government, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation this month held a Family Planning Summit in London and took steps in helping deliver access to family planning for 120 million women across the world’s poorest countries. This will highlight to teenagers worldwide the risks of having children as well as increasing the knowledge of contraception. Not only will this give girls more choice when it comes to pregnancy but it will save many lives, not only of the young mothers but of their babies too. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.