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?

Monday, April 29, 2013

The females of Formula 1

Suzi Perry, the BBC's new anchor for F1 coverage.
Photo: Geoff Pugh

Female sports presenters are a rare thing and even more rare is a female presenter who gets to take the lead on presenting a sport is dominated by men. Earlier this year, it was announced that TV presenter Suzi Perry would be taking over from Jake Humphrey as the lead presenter of the BBC's coverage of Formula 1, after Jake moved on to new pastures. On this occasion the BBC have not only gone for a 'bit of glamour' –as I feel many of their presenting choices do–but have found in Suzi someone who really knows her stuff. As well as knowing her tech, Suzi spent 13 years covering MotoGP motorcycle racing and is an avid petrol-head who is no stranger to working in a male-dominated world.

In its 62 years the sport itself has only had 5 women entered into their grand prix, compared with 822 men. This could be increased to 6 women in the near future with Susie Wolff, a German touring car driver, signing for Williams earlier this year. So as the number of intelligent and competitive women visible to the watching public in Formula 1 rises, girls may be inspired to infiltrate this male world and perhaps the Formula 1 of the future will involve a feast of fabulous females!

You can see Suzi Perry's entrance to Formula 1 here.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, April 26, 2013

So you want to be a Museum Curator

Curator for the USS Constitution Museum, Sarah Watkins, describes the Constitution's rigging to Secretary of the Navy, Gordon R. England, and British Ambassador, Sir David Manning, during a tour of the museum on June 25, 2004.
Photo: Wikicommons

Do you love visiting museums? Do you love learning new things and sharing what you learn with others? Then you may enjoy a career working in a museum as a curator.  

The word curator comes from the Latin verb curo, which means "take care of." A museum curator cares for objects in a museum's collection, and uses these objects to create a story that educates visitors through museum exhibitions. The role of a curator in a museum can vary widely depending on the size and type of museum. Some museums have many curators working together that specialize in different subjects, like a Photography Curator or Curator of Modern Art at an art museum.  A large museum like the Louve in Paris will have many different curatorial departments. Some smaller museums have only one curator who cares for the entire museum collection. Taking care of a museum collection as a curator includes deciding what new objects the museum should add to their collection, researching objects in the museum, deciding how objects should be displayed in the museum, and what visitors should know about the objects.

Museum curators can be found at many different types of museums, including art museums, science museums, and history museums. 

The educational background you need to be a museum curator depends on the kind of museum that you want to work in. For example, if you want to work in an art museum you will need to study art and art history. To be a museum curator, you will usually need to earn a bachelor's degree related to the field you want to specialize in. Some museum curators also earn a degree in Museum Studies or Museology. Many museum curators also have masters and doctoral degrees. Before being hired as a curator, you will need experience working in a museum. A great way to gain museum experience is by volunteering or interning. You can learn more about what it would be like to work for different museums around the world from the International Council of Museums, or ICOM.

If you want to start to learn more about museums, find out how a museum near you is celebrating ICOM's International Museum Day on May 18th.  According to ICOM, "This day is an occasion to raise awareness on how important museums are in the development of society."

A number of major museums have fun interactive websites just for kids that let you learn more about the museum. These include the Smithsonian, the Getty, the American Museum of Natural History, the British Museum, and the Australian Museum. On the websites of some museums, such as the Whitney, you can even practice "curating" your own collection based on objects from the museum.

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Standing against child marriage through film

Almost half of girls in Malawi are married before they turn 18. This limits their chances of education, and puts them at greater risk for sexual violence. To combat this, the Girls Empowerment Network (GENET) was formed in 2007 in Blantyre, Malawi by a group of young female activists. They work to promote women's rights and help disadvantaged girls and young women address the challenges they face. Now, in partnership with the Global Fund for Women and using the Catapult fundraising platform, they want to further spread their message, but need your help to do so.
Through press conferences, panel discussions, and community awareness campaigns, GENET amplifies the voices of girls. GENET has found that by broadcasting even one young woman's story about the harmful effects of traditional practices, such as child marriage, she can begin to change the attitudes and beliefs of an entire village. Young women are condemning harmful traditional practices by telling their stories in GENET's powerful documentary. So far only 200 people have seen the video because GENET does not have the equipment to show the documentary in rural villages. GENET needs a projector and video screening equipment to show what girl’s leadership looks like–four times a month, in over 42 remote villages, and reaching over 50,000 men and women.
The project still needs a little more than half of it's $4000 goal. By sharing their stories, the girls and women of GENET can begin change the futures of all the girls of Malawi, so please consider donating to this worthy cause.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Girl Power through the Ages: Women and Ships

Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge

A lot of students come into history classes thinking that women have been constantly subjugated and discriminated against throughout history. While (unfortunately) that’s the case throughout a lot of Western history, women have had some roles that certainly hint that we're worth more than we've been given credit. 

One of those roles is as Godmothers to ships. Yes, ships have godmothers (and godfathers...but who wants to hear about the men again?). As most history tends to emerge when a famous person steps in, the tradition of having godmothers for ships came to light when it was announced that Kate Middleton has signed on to be Godmother to Princess Cruises' newest ship, the Royal Princess.  

The tradition dates back hundreds–maybe thousands–of years. No one really knows where or when it started, but it is probably as old as ships themselves. It grew from older traditions, such as the Babylonians sacrificing an ox, the Turks a sheep, and the Vikings and Tahitians human blood when a new ship was about to set sail.    

These early ceremonies were mostly religious and changed into secular ceremonies around the time of the Reformation in Europe (the 1500s). This adopted a tradition more closely aligned with Viking-era traditions, with royalty or nobility drinking from a special cup and calling out the ship's name, then throwing the cup over the side of the vessel. Eventually, when nobility got tired of throwing expensive cups into the ocean, they began using a bottle of champagne. This tradition continues today.

Over the centuries, it largely became the task of royal and celebrity women to oversee this. So, in June, we’ll be seeing Duchess Kate continue the British tradition by posing for the photos while performing the blessing.  

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Selma Rubin: Earth Day co-founder, environmental activist

Selma Rubin (28 March 1915 – 8 March 2012) in one of her many hats.

Stay active.  ~Selma Rubin

Selma Rubin was raised in Toledo, Ohio as one of three children. Her father was a Ukrainian Jew who owned a music store along with several five-and-dime stores where Rubin worked, developing book-keeping skills that would serve her well later in her life. Following World War II, where she served in the United States Navy, Rubin moved to Los Angeles with her first husband, Alex Elber. After Elber's death in the 1950s, Rubin married a 'gifted engineer' by the name of Bill Ruben.

Rubin was described as "the little old lady with gaudy window-pane sized eyeglasses and a collection of hats that refused to quit," but she was also so much more. Best known for her environmental and activism work, Rubin worked with more than forty organisations as a member or adviser including the Environmental Defence Centre (EDC), the Community Environmental Council (CEC), and the Fund for Santa Barbara. Bill's ill health prompted the couple to move away the smog of LA, and the Rubins relocated to Santa Barbara, California in 1964. The couple had already been involved with activism work prior to their move, including anti-communist and civil rights struggles. When China was being touted as 'Red' China and there were calls to drop the atom bomb, the Rubins demanded that the United States extended communist China full diplomatic relations. As a result, when President Richard Nixon established relations with China in the 1970s, Selma and Bill were amongst the first Americans invited to visit.

Her turning point as an activist came in 1969 during the Santa Barbara oil spill, the greatest environmental disaster in the United States at the time. It now ranks as the third largest US spill in history. The spill began on the 28th of January, 1969, and lasted for 11 days, during which it is estimated that nearly 100,000 barrels of crude oil bled into the Santa Barbara Channel, killing thousands of seabirds and other aquatic wildlife. Selma, along with thousands of other volunteers, responded to the spill. Rubin’s next big fight came just one year later, when in 1970, an out-of-town developer by the name of Jules Berman tried to construct 1,535 new houses along the Gaviota Coast, near El Capitan. Amazingly, approval was given by both the County Planning Commission and the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors but there was no governing body to appeal to–neither the Coastal Commission nor the Environmental Quality Act existed yet. Instead, it fell to the then 55 year-old Rubin and her friend Anna Laura Myers, who launched a petition drive to put the proposal to a vote. The pair surpassed their 9,000 signature target, collecting 12,000 signatures. The proposal went to a vote and was rejected by a margin of two to one. However, all was not over. A District Attorney, David Minier, had real estate interests and filed criminal charges, accusing Rubin and Meyer of forging signatures. Had they been convicted it would have been 28 years imprisonment but the case was thrown out of court. Along with her other many environmental causes, Rubin is also known as a co-founder of Earth Day. 

Selma (right) with her brother

Selma Rubin died aged 96 at her in Santa Barbara, on the 9th of March, 2012. Perhaps the greatest of Rubin's achievements is the inspiration and love that she passed on to the people she met and worked with. You can read testimonies and memories in tribute to her here.

-Sinny Cheung
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Inspirational Girls: Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

If you've heard of Malala Yousafzai I imagine that, like me, you've been impressed at her bravery and determination. She has been an outspoken education activist since she was 11 or 12 years old, literally risking her life in order to tell the world her story.

Born July 12, 1997 in Mingora, northwest Pakistan, Malala was named after Malalai of Maiwand, a Pashtun poetess and warrior woman. This first Malala was famous for rallying the Afghan army and inspiring them to victory against British troops in the Battle of Maiwind. She is a national folk hero and many schools and hospitals in Afghanistan have been named after her. I doubt that Malala Yousafzai's parents had any idea that their own daughter would one day too have schools named after her; that she too would rise up against adversity and not only triumph, but inspire others with her courage.

Malala's father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet, school owner, and educational activist, encouraged her to aim high with her education, suggesting that she become a politician–she reportedly also considered being a doctor or a pilot.

By the time Malala began writing her then-anonymous blogs for the BBC, she had already spoken out about her education rights being stripped away by the Taliban. In 2009, Ziauddin was asked by BBC Urdu if a girl from one of his schools would be willing to write a diary about life under the Taliban. One, called Aisha, did agree but was then subsequently forbidden to by her parents, who feared Taliban reprisals. Malala stepped into the breach, changing her life forever. Her diaries have been compared by some to those of Anne Frank, and there are some resemblances. Both girls wrote whilst under extreme forms of oppression, and their diaries reveal the brutalities of living under such conditions as well as the more personal details of everyday life that make their work so much more poignant.

Malala's diaries shone a light on the difficulties and horror of living under extremism and she has continued to do so with her activism work to support and promote education for girls everywhere. Since her name was made public in 2009, Malala has been issued with threats from the Taliban, who claimed that "We did not attack her for raising voice for education. We targeted her for opposing mujahideen and their war."

On October 9, 2012, a gunman boarded her school bus and shot her in the head and neck, as well as injuring two of her classmates, Kainat Riaz and Shazia Ramzan. Although her condition was at first critical, she has continued to improve and is now recovering in the UK with her family, even returning to school.

The call of "I Am Malala" has been heard all over the world. Leaders and ordinary people alike have demanded change, inspired by Malala’s fearless defence of a girl's right to education. UN Special Envoy for Global Education and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown launched a UN petition in Malala's name demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015 and the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has announced that 10 November will be celebrated as Malala Day. She has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize–the youngest person in history to have been given the honour.

Malala's influence has been global, bringing the voice of the millions of girls who are denied an education to the world's attention. Her fearless devotion to her cause has cost her dearly but she shows no sign of wavering. I can hardly think of a more inspirational girl.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Facebook and the perpetuation of rape culture

Over the last week or so, there has been a backlash against Facebook. Tired of their complaints falling on deaf ears, women–and men–organized by the Everyday Sexism Project have been calling on Facebook to stop their implicit support of "rape culture." I am one of those people.

In the interests of full disclosure, I have never had a Facebook account, in large part due to privacy concerns. But Facebook is arguably the most used social networking site on the planet, seen by hundreds of millions every day, including children and teens (there are at least 7.5 million children who are under the 13 year old age restriction). Equally enormous is the revenue generated by companies who advertise on the site. Many of those companies are now being targeted by Twitter users, who are encouraging companies to pull their advertising until Facebook changes some of its policies (kudos to WestHost, a hosting company who has completely pulled their advertising from Facebook because of the pages their ads were appearing on). Additionally, individuals have suspended or closed their accounts because of Facebook's inconsistent application of their policies.

But what are these policies exactly, and why are we making a big deal about them? Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, wrote about them for The Guardian. Facebook's community standards state that "Facebook does not permit hate speech, but distinguishes between serious and humorous speech." Additionally, a spokesperson for Facebook said, "There is no place on Facebook for hate speech or content that is threatening or incites violence." Though these policies seem fine at first glance, they are in fact vague and prone to ambiguity. When questioned about how the policies were applied, Bates was told by the spokesperson that:
We take reports of questionable and offensive content very seriously. However, we also want Facebook to be a place where people can openly discuss issues and express their views, while respecting the rights and feelings of others. Groups or pages that express an opinion on a state, institution, or set of beliefs–even if that opinion is outrageous or offensive to some–do not by themselves violate our policies.
All this vague doublespeak comes down to one thing: pages that advocate rape and domestic violence are accepted through Facebook's moderation queue (which is dealt with by humans, not automated image scanners, according to what Laura Bates was told), while images of women breastfeeding or two men kissing are deleted. Ironically, images of two women kissing are allowed, as shown on a page entitled "This is Why Indian Girls are Raped - II" (the II refers to the fact that the first page was eventually taken down by Facebook). There are innumerable examples of such pages on Facebook, and even more "jokes" that get passed around on indivduals' pages. I won't link to them directly, but a few examples can be found here, and even more are documented throughout Everyday Sexism's Twitter account.

Under the guise of protecting free speech, Facebook leaves pages up that advocate rape, beating women, and sexually abusing children, because they don't want to censor humor. Apparently these pages are meant to be darkly humorous. While I find them horrifying, I could potentially accept their continued existence if Facebook didn't remove images of cupcakes iced like labia (not actual female genitalia, but baked goods), women breastfeeding (whether a nipple is visible or not), and post-mastectomy photos (no nipple visible, as the breast has been completely removed).

Section 3, number 7 of Facebook's polices states that "You will not post content that: is hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence." So why does Facebook actively censor nudity in the form of breastfeeding or a woman celebrating beating breast cancer, but not gratuitous violence when it's of a bound and gagged woman with the caption, "If she really didn't want it, she would have said something"?

Why does Facebook, quite possibly the world's largest public forum, think it's ok to condone violence against women and children?

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Dear Marvel, Black Widow Might Pay You a Visit...

Thanks, Marvel, but I’d rather be my own hero.

Recently, Marvel–the comic book publisher–released new t-shirts based on The Avengers series. The problem is that the t-shirts are so stereotypical that it’s hard to understand how Marvel could include a strong female character in The Avengers (Black Widow) and yet release a t-shirt that equates girls to nothing more than damsels in distress.

The t-shirts include one for boys and one for girls. The boys' shirt is your traditional blue tee, featuring Iron Man and the saying "Be a Hero." Fair enough. Who wouldn't want to put on a metal suit and fly around, saving the world on a daily basis?  

But the shirt for girls made me cringe: form-fitting, bright red, emblazoned with "I Need a Hero" and the pantheon of male characters–and, sadly, not a single female in sight. So not only am I supposed to wear something that shows off the aspects that make me a girl, now I have to publicly display myself as a damsel in distress?

Thanks, Marvel, but I'd rather be my own hero.  

So, instead, I’m opting for this: Fruit of the Loom recently released superhero underwear for girls.  Granted, no one will see it, but I’d rather wear Superman (or Superwoman) underwear and feel like a hero than advertise being a damsel in distress.  

Why? Because girls can be their own heroes, and heroes to others, too. This includes Hannah and Haylee Smith, who heard their father screaming for help after getting trapped under his tractor near Lebanon, Oregon, on April 1. They ran to his aid and together lifted the heavy tractor–weighing a whopping 3,000 pounds–enough for him to slide out.  Rather than screaming for Iron Man (and waiting for him to put on that suit), they jumped into action. Now there are two heroes for you, Marvel.

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Girl in Constantinople

The Tyche of Constantinople: a woman wearing a turreted crown with a Greek inscription mentioning her as "the flourishing beauty," i.e. Constantinople. 600 until 550 CE.
Louve Museum.

The capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, Turkey) was founded in 330 AD by the Roman emperor Constantine I. A girl in the Byzantine Empire would have spoken Latin until 700 CE, when the official language of the empire was changed to Greek. Christianity was the official religion of the Byzantine Empire. In 1053-54 the there was a split between the Eastern and Western churches in what is known as the Great Schism. Constantinople became the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

In the history of the Byzantine Empire there were two main sets of laws, Emperor Justinian I's Corpus Juris Civilis (issued between 529 and 534), and the Basilica, which was a collection of laws completed around 892 AD in Constantinople by Emperor Leo VI the Wise (named after the work of his father Emperor Basil I). The Emperor Justinian gave women several rights, including the right to buy and own land themselves. At age 12 a girl was legally entitled to marry and write a will. Additionally, girls in the Byzantine Empire could choose to enter a convent instead of marrying. Basil the Great stipulated in his code of laws that they could only commit to a life in the church "at an age when wisdom is fully formed," which meant at least 16 or 17 years old. All young people in the Byzantine Empire were considered subject to parental authority up to the age of 25, as long as their father or a grandfather was still alive and they had not been legally emancipated. A guardian could apply for a young person to be granted legal majority, or venia aetalis, early. For a girl this meant once she had turned 18. In civil law, only children over the age of seven received permission to be betrothed.  

Girls in Constantinople had limited educational opportunities. Girls did not regularly attend school, but rather they were taught in groups at home by tutors. For most girls, the focus of their education was limited to learning to read and studying the Bible, and most of their time would be spent learning different domestic tasks in preparation for marriage. However a few royal girls, such as the Princess Anna Comnena were very well-educated. She studied a wide range of subjects including literature, science, medicine, and math, and she wrote the Alexiad, a historical account on the reign of her father the Emperor Alexius Comnenus.  

There is very little information on what kind of clothing girls of the Byzantine Empire would have worn.  Children in Constantinople probably wore miniature versions of adult clothing. The basic article of clothing for men and women was a tunica, a loose tunic. The tunica for women had a long skirt and long sleeves. The lower classes would have a tunica made of cheap linen or wool, the wealthy would wear brightly colored tunics made of expensive silk.

-Emily Holm
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

The Emperor Justinian And The Byzantine Empire, by James A. S. Evans
Daily Life in the Byzantine Empire, by Marcus Louis Rautman
Becoming Byzantine: Children and Childhood in Byzantium, edited by Arietta Papaconstantinou and Alice-Mary Maffry Talbot

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Girl Guides take a stand against Page Three

This month the Girlguiding movement publicly gave its support to a campaign to urge UK newspaper The Sun to drop its page three topless pin-ups.

The Sun has been featuring topless models (known as Page Three Girls) in its papers since 1970 and has featured an online version since 1999. For some time this feature has been seen in many eyes as out of date and derogatory towards women. After a poll of Girl Guides resulted in almost 90% voting in favour of banning the feature of topless models in the newspaper, the movement took action and wrote a strongly opinionated letter to The Sun’s editor Dominic Mohard, stating:
It is impossible to nurture your ambitions if you are constantly told that you aren't the same as your male equivalent. It is disrespectful and embarrassing. We need to get used to the idea that women are not for sale.
The guides also added their signatures to a petition to remove the feature. The idea of a poll among members of the association was that of 17 year-old guide Katie Wormald and the Guides have now adopted the campaign as part of their official policy. The organisation stated that 'as a leading UK newspaper The Sun should be promoting positive role models to inspire girls and young women. To add your support there is more information on the Girlguiding website.

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Margaret Thatcher: Loved and Loathed

Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.
Courtesy of Ronald Reagan Library.

On April 8th 2013, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, the first woman Prime Minister of the UK and the longest serving prime minister for around 150 years, died from a stroke at the Ritz Hotel in London.

To say that Margaret Thatcher and her legacy were divisive is an understatement. Even as politicians trip over themselves to offer condolences and insist that she was a remarkable woman who saved Britain from obscurity, long-running website asks how people are celebrating, and a Facebook campaign has been launched to get "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" to Number 1.

I was born in the mid-80s, when Thatcher was still in power but I was (as you might expect for a baby) fairly oblivious to it. Growing up though, her influence was made clear to me, not least because terrorists once tried to assassinate her by blowing up a hotel in my home town. Her critics accused her of destroying communities, particularly in the north of the UK, but her admirers praise her for saving Britain. That such opposing opinions can be held in the same country at the same time seems extraordinary to me; perhaps we are still too close to the events of her tenure to judge for certain what their effect truly was. It may be that both opinions are true, for it is true that some people suffered greatly thanks to her reforms whilst others profited.

A line I have heard frequently in the news is that whether you admire or despise her, we can all agree on her influence, particularly to women. I remember the Spice Girls citing her as an inspiration, branding her the "original Spice Girl." I can just imagine the look on her face when she heard that; I'm not certain she would have been flattered. She went to great efforts to distance herself from the feminist movement, calling it "poison," a dislike that was mirrored by many in the feminist movement of the time and today. She was criticised for breaking through the glass ceiling but then failing to bring up any women with her, or even implement any positive policies for women; many have called her an anti-feminist. And yet others, including Meryl Streep (who portrayed Thatcher to great acclaim in The Iron Lady) have called her a feminist icon.

Can a woman who was so divisive be inspirational? It seems so; current UK Prime Minister David Cameron has cited her as a positive inspiration, as has Labour politician Oona King who said Thatcher "guaranteed my lifelong passion for politics–the only means of getting rid of the occupant of No 10." One of Thatcher’s many famed quotes was "The lady is not for turning," a line remarkably similar to a quote attributed to Queen Elizabeth I: "though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind." Both these women proved that a woman could wield power and high office, the same as any man. Is that all we look for in our female role models? Strength, no matter what the cost?

I can safely say that I am not a fan of Thatcher's policies, but I don’t rejoice in her death. The changes she made to the country are still lingering on. Recent events in the UK have a great deal in common with Thatcher’s time in power: unemployment, great social change, civil unrest–even the Falkland Islands are hitting the news again.

For good or ill, Thatcher was a powerful and influential woman whose effect on the UK is long-reaching and complex. Should we celebrate, even respect her? Love or loathe her, one of her many legacies has been to raise expectations of what women in power can do; for this at least my gut tells me–reluctantly–that she is worthy of some respect.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Como Amar on Girl for Sale

Girl for Sale, Girl Museum's exhibition about about girl trafficking, has just added a wonderful new video from Global Girl MediaComo Amar: How to Love is a six-part webisode series that explores local issues related to girls, including reproductive rights and health. Episode 3, which is featured at Girl for Sale, is on human trafficking, and includes interviews with survivors.

Global Girl Media is dedicated to empowering high school age girls from under-served communities around the world through media, leadership and journalistic training to have a voice in the global media universe and their own futures. All six parts of Como Amar: How to Love can be seen here.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Memories of Girlhood: The Grandpa Figure

From the author's personal collection.

According to a notable archaeologist, "Our childhood memories constitute our own personal archaeology." I for one am totally on board with this saying; digging in the past is utterly meaningful and revealing as regards the interpretation of present and future experiences.

What I remember most vividly about my childhood are the summer holidays at the family's cottage house situated on an island of Western Greece and the person who is most directly linked with this land. My grandfather was an easy-going and lenient character, making him the coolest company to hang around for both children and adults. Whether he was narrating incredible stories, like the anatomy of a rooster–who was meant to be cooked and served as our dinner–or he was telling hilarious jokes, my grandpa was one of a kind. Indeed, he was a great 'performer' and thus received the lion's share of his offspring's worship. I have images imprinted on my mind of my sister and me blocking the door so that he wouldn't be able to leave our house. I also recollect his aptitude for gardening and general craftsmanship, some of which attributes were successfully inherited by the rest of the family.

Since my grandfather died while I was very young, I came to understand the magnitude of such a figure posthumously and when I was mature enough to reappraise any given education, especially each time life presented me with people who knew my grandpa and reminded me of his unique nature. My answer to such remarks every single time was "I know," because I think it sums up all of my reactions to what I could potentially hear.

There are many turning points in life, when small or big farewells need to be addressed. And this is one of those points considering the end of an era that coincides with the demolition of my grandfather's cottage house. The place where we grew up, where we often mistook the sea for our normal habitat, where we used to collect wet sand to take back with us to the city, where we cried and laughed out so many times that we finally lost count. Above all, this will conclude the most historic landmark, grandpa's storehouse. It was built to store his collection of tools as well as machinery and remains almost intact for more than 25 years with only minor interventions in the space. I am sure that this is another imprinted shelter that will accompany me in the years to come.

So, there goes "my own archaeology."

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Why do Chinese girls want to study art in China?

Girl at the museum, 2005-06. Oil on canvas.
Private collection, USA.

大家好! Hello everyone! I am writing from a university in Beijing, where I am teaching spoken English and art appreciation. So far, it is my experience that a Chinese classroom is quieter than an American classroom. I've asked students about this, and it’s because Chinese education is heavily lecture-based whereas American education is often discussion-based. A similarity, though, is female students' drive and eagerness to learn. Granted, there are still those busy texting away or ogling their fingernails, but—alas—we are all but human. I also know another necessary caveat is that the population doesn't offer a fair sampling. There are far more young women than young men in general, especially in my classes.

As I get to know my students, both as a mass and as individuals, I am trying to pick up on not only how they interact with each other versus with me, but also what sort of gender roles they play into. Before coming to Beijing, I had a conversation with a Beijing native about the Chinese woman's two conflicting roles. She is expected to be both highly educated and motivated, achieving the same level of intellectual success as her male counterparts, but she must also revert to more traditional female roles of domesticity. Granted, this is only one woman's opinion, and I've already seen exceptions to the rule. But it's a pretty difficult dichotomy to live up to. You study or work alongside your male colleagues, and then you go home and run a family. 

My students don't have families yet, but the same mindset is present. I asked my students to write notes introducing themselves. The one that jumped out at me first and nearly broke my heart opened with, "I am [name withheld] a fat girl who wants to lose weight for all her intair? life." Another note: "…also I think art give make girls more charming. So I come to this class to learn more about art." I thought it was interesting that art specifically makes girls charming rather than improving the cultural sensitivity and broadening the minds of all people. Finally, the last note I’ll mention included this: "I wonder that for a girl, I should have some knowledge about arts. That will make me more quiet, elegance, and make at same time, I [illegible] that I will be a imagination girl and be curious about life." Here is another form of the dichotomy. She wants to be quiet and elegant, the traditional female virtues, while also being curious and imaginative, much more modern allowances for girls and women.

I was surprised by these notes and similar emails, especially those commenting on my physical appearance as a reason for attending my class. I’d never comment on my professors' appearance to their face, it has no place in the American classroom. But I suppose it does here, where looks are an important commodity. However, having carried these notes with me for the last two weeks, I’ve thought a bit more about them. They really aren't that shocking. Despite wanting to excel in my studies and pursue a career, I still tend to chide myself if I realize I’ve been particularly loud and crass. I gladly step into the stereotypical role of maternal educator, volunteering to tutor my colleagues' kindergarten-age children and giving them big, warm hugs when class is through. I also make a point of being well made-up when I go to teach my classes. Not just tidy, but what falls well within the realm of "pretty." Why can't a girl or woman study the same things or do the same jobs as men without worrying about the volume of her voice or the attractiveness of her appearance? The latter is always under scrutiny. Just think about Hillary Clinton and all the trouble she's gotten in the last two years alone…or me, a person out of the limelight, receiving emails from students commenting first on my appearance and then on my class material.

-K. Sarah Ostrach
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Thank you, everyone!

With April upon us, Women's History Month 2013 has come to a close for another year. Thank you to everyone who has read and followed our exploration of fabulous women born in March. And a huge thanks also to our contributors: Hillary Hanel, Emma Hatherall, Emily Holm, Sarah Jackson, K. Sarah Ostrach, Tiffany Rhoades, and Katie Weidmann.

We hope you enjoyed Women's History Month. For more exhibitions about amazing girls (and the women who inspired them), be sure to visit Girl Museum and don't forget our external exhibition, Girl for Sale. You can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, G+, Tumblr–as well as our Post Violence Tumblr, which is open for contributions–Pinterest, and YouTube. And be sure to check back in regularly, as Girl Museum has some exciting things on the horizon!