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, September 28, 2012

In avant-garde Greek music we trust


Little admirer of Keep Shelly in Athens.

Detached from the Greek music scene for as long as I remember myself listening to music, I am more of a committed admirer of international music waves. From time to time, though, the few remarkable exceptions are worth mentioning. Being my recent explorations, I would like to introduce you to three interesting cases, originated at large by the innovative spirit and abundant talent of three young women.

Keep Shelly in Athens is an electro-chillwave band, formed by the producer RPR and the amazing vocalist Sarah P. Since 2010 their production rhythm has been quite prolific and their live performances have been extensive in Europe and US. Due to the Internet hype the band turned quickly into the buzz of the town, with rave reviews and comments like “They'll make you happy to feel sad” by Paul Lester of The Guardian. Their videos are known for their artistic sense and masterful formation. 

Marietta Fafouti is another example of gaining publicity and recognition via the Internet. Her debut album Try a Little Romance (2010) and especially the song ‘Don’t stop’ stood out for its sensational melodies and vocals. Marietta Fafouti is also one of the members of Bankit.gr, an online resource for various art forms as well as a collective forum for creative people.  

Last but not least, the multi-talented Nalyssa Green. Theremin (I was under the impression that only Sheldon could play the theremin!), percussion, guitar, keyboards, and accordion are only some of the instruments with which she accompanies her intimate story-telling songs. Reading about her personal influences (the Gossip, Fiona Apple, Cocorosie, Joanna Newsom, PJ Harvey--an all time favourite, White Stripes, Warpaint, and Velvet Underground, to name a few) I came to understand why she is a particular and out of the ordinary ‘kind of girl.’ 

Enjoy!

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Breakfast Club


Breakfast at Keyworth primary in Kennington, south London.
Photograph: Richard Saker for Observer Food Monthly

Now that the euphoria of the Olympics and Paralympics is beginning to wear off in the UK, the media’s attention is starting to return to the far gloomier news that the continued recession is bringing us. There have been many articles in the press on the increased pressure being felt by food banks as more and more families are finding themselves unable to stretch their budgets to buy even staple foods. Earlier in the year, the Royal College of GPs, the National Association of Head Teachers and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health called on the UK government to give the 1.3 million children already entitled to a free midday meal at school a free breakfast too. At the moment, MPs are saying there are no plans to make this a reality.

Breakfast, we are frequently told, is the most important meal of the day, but there are perhaps millions of children who are not receiving it. A new survey by the Guardian Teacher Network has revealed that 83% of teachers were seeing children coming to school hungry and almost 50% admitted to using their own money to buy children food. For these reasons, it is obvious why school breakfast clubs are so important. For parents whose working hours make it difficult for them to prepare breakfast at home, or with little money to spend on food, a breakfast club not only provides their child with a nutritious start to the day, but also an opportunity to socialise with friends before school. There is also an educational benefit; figures gathered by the charity Magic Breakfast show that 88% of schools questioned said that the breakfast club had led to improved attendance and attainment.

Unfortunately, charities and local authorities alike are now struggling to provide children with this vital service as funding dries up while need increases. It seems crazy and shameful to me that after such a spectacular summer, children in the UK are suffering from a lack of such a basic need. As much as I loved the Olympics, I can’t help but think of the injustice that at the same time that so much money was being poured into East London, so many local children are going hungry.

For more information on Magic Breakfast and how you can help them, please click here.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tags: Sarah Jackson, breakfast clubs, school, food, recession, UK

Monday, September 24, 2012

Baby Bikinis


Jessica Simpson's 4 month old baby, Maxwell.
Photo: ABC

Jessica Simpson caused outrage recently after showing the picture above of her four month old daughter Maxwell in a bikini. British Child Welfare group Kidscape accused the star of sexualising her child too soon and called the image "totally inappropriate."

How though is this image any different from those of kids running around at the beach in just a nappy or knickers? Perhaps it is the pose in which the baby is being held, hinting perhaps at a one of Jessica's own centrefold shoots. At four months though, with all that cute baby fat can anyone be sexualised?

Many people disagree with the backlash Jessica has received seeing the bikini for what it was intended–a cute outfit in which to dress up a little girl. I for one remembering sporting a bikini when very young, they have been around for a long time and perhaps it is only the nature of the media nowadays that means everything is viewed in a more sordid light.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Back to school and loving it!



The bitter truth for kids (unfortunately, this goes only for the industrialized countries) is that September is the month of the ‘back-to-school psychology.’ I remember myself never being completely ready to enter the classroom after the nonchalance of summer vacation; nor were my fellow pupils. It takes time for every kid to adjust to the changes of a new school year.

As it goes with every uncomfortable situation, the best norm is to focus on the bright side--in this case, the pros of school life. To begin with, parents and teachers can reverse the negativity of children with tiny ‘distractions.’ Sooner or later, kids will have to encounter the obligations and the challenges of being a student, so principally they must be reminded of the things that they subconsciously love about school, like mingling with coevals, building friendships, having fun at recess/breaks, or going on field trips. The good old-fashioned shopping therapy might be another way of getting kids back on track by emphasizing on the classroom equipment, such as basic stationery and backpacks.

Teachers have their own considerable share in making pupils feel welcome in the classroom, especially the first day. They can encourage kids to exchange their summer memories or maybe photographs, thus making the passage to responsibility more accommodating. Collaboration activities are highly recommended to create an ambiance of community amongst the students. For the more daring teachers, the engagement of students in a worldwide educational program might be the best introduction to the new school year and inspire the desired appreciation of education, which is often taken as granted.

Whatever means applied, the key is communication. In the learning process there isn't anything more critical than getting through to each and every student, so a strong impact from day one is a prerequisite.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Superwomen and their stories


Hannah Cockroft wins gold.

After a very successful British Paralympics with a whopping 120 medals in total – of which 34 were gold – I thought I’d look back at some of the Superwomen of the games and their stories.

Take Stefanie Reid, an avid sportswomen and rugby player until a boating accident resulted in her right foot being amputated. Unable to take part in rugby any longer she then turned to athletics and took part in the 2008 Paralympics games, winning bronze in the long jump. This games she managed to better her bronze and won silver in the F42/44 women’s long jump.

‘Hurricane Hannah’ also had fabulous games, winning her 100m and 200m finals and breaking world records in the process. Hannah Cockroft had suffered two cardiac arrests during birth, leaving her with damaged areas of her brain, deformed legs and feet and was not expected to live past her teenage years. After an encounter with Lady Tanni-Grey Tompson and her husband at a Paralympic talent day and getting the chance to try out a racing wheelchair, she has continued to defy the odds and broken record after record.

Another amazing story is that of Martine Wright. The former marketing manager who lost both her legs after being caught up in the 2005 London terror attacks threw herself into sport and made her Paralympics debut this year in the Great Britain sitting volleyball team

These women are just a handful of the strong and amazing athletes of the Games and they show that no matter what happens in life, if you have enough determination success could be just around the corner.

To read more amazing Paralympic stories click here.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Playing Outdoors: An Important Part of Girlhood?



Girls today have many options when it comes to toys and play activities. Just look at any online retailer with a page labeled “girls” and find everything from electronics to arts and crafts kits. While these playthings can be great, they seem to take away from the imaginative part of play.

A wonderful source of imaginative play is the great outdoors. This does not have to be a big beautiful forest; it can be as simple as a local park, a playground, or even the tiniest of backyards. According to the National Environmental Education Foundation, children have lost 50% of their unstructured outdoor activity over recent decades. Outdoor imaginative play is not just about keeping kids fit and healthy (though studies show that it reduces stress, can help alleviate the effects of ADHD, and helps prevent obesity) it is really about fun! The outdoors provides many opportunities free of cost. Instead of playing a video game, kids can pretend to be their favorite game character on an adventure. Rather than using a craft kit from a box, why not make your own jewelry using real flowers? Think about the possibilities of building a secret hideout, or making a mud meal. These types of unstructured play can provide hours of entertainment, and also build motor skills, problem solving abilities, and teamwork.

I asked three different age groups of girls and women about their favorite toys and ways to play. There was a distinct difference over just a few generations. Older women recall fond memories of playing with dolls, swimming, and playing outside with the neighbors until the streetlights came on. Girls from my generation responded similarly, with a couple suggestions of computer or video games. The girls still in the midst of their girlhoods had a variety of answers as well. They suggested many types of electronic games, and it seemed important that their dolls talk or move on their own. Could these answers be due to the statistic that parents are 16% less likely to take their girls outside to play than their boys? I hope that the current generation of girls will find inspiration to use their imaginations to play outdoors, and that those of us who have graduated from girlhood will be there to encourage these activities. Remember, there is no harm in making mud pies, your girls will hose off quite easily!

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Legacy on the Landscape

From above it is clear that Northumberlandia is a reclining female figure, but from the ground only certain parts of the form can be easily identified. The two circles to the left of the piece are viewing platforms to see the artwork better.

On 5th September the exciting centrepiece of a large park in Northumberland opened to the public.  This unique piece of public art called Northumberlandia or the Lady of the North is a landform sculpture of a 100 ft high reclining lady designed by Charles Jencks. The sculpture lies adjacent to the Shotton Surface Coal Mine and it is the restoration of the mine that has created this unique opportunity for art and open parkland.

The design concept came from the idea that people naturally pick out shapes they recognise in a landscape, so the flowing and graceful curves of the hills at Northumberlandia are interpreted as a female form, the curvy body of a woman.  The site is managed by The Land Trust, a charity which aims to enhance environments for local communities providing enjoyment and improved health, social, educational, economic, and environmental benefits. The project is run in partnership with Northumberland Wildlife Trust, who identify and care for conservation sites such as Northumberlandia.  It is a living, growing site which will change with the seasons and will “evolve through generations.”  The benefits are clear-cut but I also wonder if there potential for the site to become an important symbol to girls everywhere, showing that there is nothing so natural as the body of a woman no matter what shape or size?    

The innovative design, planning and forward thinking of The Land Trust look set to make Northumberlandia a landscape legacy. This ever-changing green space was once empty land surrounding an open surface mine but has been transformed into a community space and attraction in the area.  At the very least the site should provide a talking point for locals and potentially will stand as a celebration of the female form and a sense of pride in the area that lasts for future generations. 

-Kay Whitehead
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Legacy on the Sports Field

Grass running track at Bath Lane Recreation Ground
   Copyright David Martin

With London the stage for the Olympic and Paralympic Games the heroes and heroines of our nation have been brought to the fore and celebrated accordingly. While I have enjoyed “the greatest show on earth,” the politics of the whole affair have not escaped my notice. Words like diversity, legacy, and inclusion are being thrown around until all meaning of the words is lost. This point is apparent in the wonderful BBC parody Twenty Twelve, which gives us a comedic insight into issues the Twenty Twelve Deliverance team might have to face.

Though the word legacy might be spoken by every politician over the next month, many might not be considering what this really means. My hope is that serious attention, funding, and support will be the legacy of London 2012 to many sporting organisations. There are several organisations out there who have contributed directly and indirectly to our sporting success and it would be fantastic to see them get some recognition.  One of these is the Women’s Sports and Fitness Foundation who are running their excellent GoGirl campaign to create the biggest ever celebration of female sporting achievement. Another example is kidshealth.org who provide inspiring information for parents, kids, and teens about health and sports and have a specific outline with suggestions from the Women’s Sports Foundation, founded by Billie Jean King,  encouraging young girls to get involved.   

My interest in sport developed quite late in life; in fact I only discovered the joys and benefits of team sports when I was at university and used to be indifferent to and almost dread sports when I was at school.  Hopefully the next generation will be inspired by organisations like these and the Games and be provided with the support and equipment they need to feel the benefits of sport from an early age.  With the end of the summer holidays and a return to the classroom will the London 2012 legacy see that sports are promoted in schools for all to enjoy?

-Kay Whitehead
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The determination of a Chinese geisha


Chinese national Rinka, formally known as Zhang Xue.

When it comes to geishas, my knowledge is limited to some basic facts on the term and the 2005 film Memoirs of a Geisha. Although it’s strongly regarded as a tourist attraction, especially for western visitors, the geisha profession is fading out.

I recently read about a Chinese woman who is training to become a geisha so as to spread this unique Japanese tradition in China. Rinka, formally known as Zhang Xue, was born in Shengyang, China and moved to Japan when she was 14 years old. There, she came into contact with a geisha and decided to undergo the necessary apprenticeship, aiming at returning to China with her approved skills and her dream of 'opening a fine Japanese inn in China to help Chinese people better understand Japanese tradition.' The training is anything but easy. Aged 29, Rinka endures hard training five days a week, learning the traditional forms of singing, dancing, and music, as well as the proper walking postures at the geisha school based in Shimoda.

I consider this woman’s determination and will to be very inspiring. She is committed to the noble purposes of keeping a deep-rooted tradition alive and cross-cultural exchange. No matter what happens in her future plans, she is an exemplary case of a thoroughly implemented vision. In this sense, I think Rinka represents strong women who can survive in hardship as long as they have a dream.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Join Girl Museum and support our mission



Girl Museum is always looking for community involvement and support, and we've got a wide range of ways to get involved. We're always interested in taking on new interns, or if you're not interested in a longer-term commitment, why not get involved with an exhibition? If you've got an idea for an exhibition, we'll help you develop it and put it online. If you're part of an organization who would like to partner with Girl Museum to produce an exhibition, we'd like to hear about it.

The Girl Museum blog is another way to get involved. Have a news story about girls?  Know something cool that girls would like to know? Go ahead and tell us about it, and we can post it on our blog. Know a girl who's excited about a book she just finished? Have her write about it and submit it for the Girls Book Blog.

There are plenty of other ways to support Girl Museum as well. Tell your friends and neighbors, and promote us within your social networks. Visit the Girl Museum Boutique, or send us a donation.

As always, be sure to visit Girl Museum and take a look at all our exhibitions! Also, please visit Girl for Sale, a collaboration between Girl Museum and the American Poetry Museum.

The Head Girl can be reached here. And remember, Girl Museum is always open and always free.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Wacky new trends


Chinese swimmers wearing ‘facekinis.’

Fact: Skin protection is of primary importance for a woman. The complexion needs intensive care--especially the face--even from a young age. But it looks like some women go the extra mile to protect their skin from harmful solar radiation. So to avoid suntan, women in China on a large scale started a new trend, facekini mania. Actually these masks exist for seven years in the market, but it wasn’t until this summer that the vast majority of women in Qingdao beach converted them into a basic accessory. They are an online bestseller and available in a variety of colors and designs, some also being adequately effective as a camouflage against sharks and jellyfish. What is most interesting is the sociological interpretation behind the facekinis. They seem to support a Chinese tradition against tanned skin, which is associated to a lower working class. 

Although it’s understandable why we should not walk carefree under the sun--the serious effects of long-term UV light exposure such as photo-aging and skin cancer have become a common knowledge, there must be less daunting ways of prevention. I advocate the statement ‘pale is the new tan,’ but still, we should be able to recognize each other on the beach.

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Only Women, Women Only


Despite seeing a slight dip in ticket sales due to an overlap with the Olympics, this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival was still a great success and in amongst the up-and-coming comedians, playwrights, and performers was an art exhibition with an interesting entrance policy. Only Women, Women Only was an exhibition showing art by women and, for the first month, only allowed women in to see the works.

The exhibition included line drawings, spaces for women to create, a chance to chat to artists in residence, as well as paintings, videos, and work exploring the female form and sexuality. The exhibition's more controversial works included photographs of strippers by artist Jannica Honey, intending to show the grey areas of working in a strip club.

Sarah Wilson, curator of the exhibition, stated 'it’s a kind of experiment' and the work was 'very personal to women.' Surprisingly this entrance policy only seemed to frustrate women, with men not being that bothered. It also came to light that not all men were turned away, if they held enough clout, men were let in and given a tour of the works; those that were let in seemed to enjoy it.

It is not just Edinburgh where this idea has taken shape either. Wellington's Dowse Art Museum is to host a short film by Qatar-based filmmaker Sophia al-Maria which was shot in female-only quarters. As it shows Muslim women without their veils, the artist's wish is that men should not see it. I can understand the reasons behind restricting these forms of art – they hold something deemed sacred to women and so the artists believe that should remain within a women only audience. However is it not time we opened up a little in hope that by making these exhibits available to men they may be able to gain more of an understanding about women?

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.