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

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Ethics vs. Money on Facebook

'In spite of complaint after complaint, Facebook continues to deem content encouraging violence against women inoffensive.'
Image: dpa picture alliance/Alamy

A few weeks ago I wrote about Facebook and the perpetuation of rape culture. At the time, The Everyday Sexism Project had mobilized Twitter users to contact Facebook and its advertisers about properly moderating and removing the misogynistic pages found throughout the social networking site. There was a lot of buzz on Twitter and some media coverage (as outlined in the previous post), at least one advertiser pulled their ads, and slowly things started to die off.

Until now.

The outrage didn't go away, as I'm sure both Facebook and advertisers fervently hoped. Instead, the outraged regrouped and wrote an open letter to Facebook, originally signed by approximately 40 organizations from around the world. Within 48 hours, that number was nearly 70; in less than a week, nearly 100. The letter, written by Laura Bates of The Everyday Sexism Project, writer and activist Soraya Chemaly, and Jaclyn Friedman of Women, Action & the Media (WAM!), asks Facebook for "swift, comprehensive and effective action addressing the representation of rape and domestic violence." It goes on to say that they will be "calling on Facebook users to contact advertisers whose ads on Facebook appear next to content that targets women for violence, to ask these companies to withdraw from advertising on Facebook" until gender-based hate speech is banned from Facebook.

Specifically, the letter asks for Facebook for three things:
1. Recognize speech that trivializes or glorifies violence against girls and women as hate speech and make a commitment that you will not tolerate this content.
2. Effectively train moderators to recognize and remove gender-based hate speech.
3. Effectively train moderators to understand how online harassment differently affects women and men, in part due to the real-world pandemic of violence against women.
Because Facebook hasn't really responded to the campaign–they do respond to specific complaints with form letters–and often doesn't even remove pages that have garnered hundreds of complaints (unless the media publicizes the offensive pages), users have begun to target the advertisers who appear alongside pages that promote misogyny, rape, and violence against women. After taking a screenshot of the offending image/page and the advertisers shown to that user, the image is sent to the advertiser's Twitter account, accompanied by the hashtag #FBRape and a message asking if they're ok with their product being shown on that page.

Most advertisers have the same initial response: that they don't control where their ads appear and Facebook ads target the user, not the page. When pushed, some of the advertisers say they'll look into it, others repeat the argument that they don't have control, and some refuse to respond at all. A few, however, have pulled their advertising dollars from Facebook, because they are truly horrified by what they see.

The problem is that advertisers do have control. They may not be able to control specifically where their ads appear, but they don't have to advertise with Facebook at all. If a magazine or newspaper published articles celebrating images similar to the ones on Facebook, advertisers would move their money elsewhere, and the same has happened with radio shows. Advertisers need to understand that they are complicit when they advertise alongside images like these (trigger warning: many of these images are graphic and horrifying), and if asking them to reconsider their spending won't work, then consumers need to spend their money elsewhere.

There are a myriad of problems with these pages, but at the most basic level, anything that glorifies rape and violence against women or treats the subject as humorous normalizes the idea that it's ok. By showing women as objects, sexual or otherwise, they are dehumanized, and suddenly the violence is acceptable, because it's not really hurting anyone. And by normalizing these reactions in society as a whole, children see it as acceptable behaviour. Boys who make lewd comments to women don't know or care that it's wrong, and girls grow up thinking that it's either normal for adult men to leer at them, or even worse, that it's their fault that they're being leered at. Facebook is certainly not the only problem, but as a huge part of modern society, they should understand the effect they have on it.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

UPDATE: There have been reports on Twitter of Facebook no longer responding to reports, as well as removing the ability to track the status of reports.
UPDATE: Facebook has conceded to update their policies in response to the #FBRape campaign. More than 100 advocacy groups protested their policies, and 15 advertisers pulled their ads.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

To Boldly Go

Astronaut Karen Nyberg looks through a window onboard the ISS while Space Shuttle Discovery docks with the station.

If, like me, you were absolutely captivated by Commander Chris Hadfield's tweets, pictures, and videos from space, then you’re probably also feeling a little sad that he's back on Earth. Obviously, I'm pleased he's back home safe and sound and reunited with his loved ones, but it was amazing to see his tweets pop up on my feed, showing the world from an entirely new perspective. I'm going to miss them.

But luckily for me and other space addicts, there are plenty of other astronauts/scientists/space people who are also tweeting, pinning and blogging–and many of them are amazing, inspirational women! Here are some of my favourites:

Karen will be joining the crew of the ISS on Tuesday, 28 May, so now is a really exciting time to follow her on Twitter. She’s been tweeting photos of their preparations, revealing the tiny space she will be sharing with two other astronauts on their way up to the ISS, as well as the beautiful landscape of the Baikonur desert from which the Soyuz shuttle will launch into space.

Where Karen’s social media profile really shines though is Pinterest. Her boards include "Simple Joys on Earth," "Prep for Spaceflight," and "Hair in Space." The subheading for this latter board is "When girls see pictures of ponytails, don't you think it stirs something inside them that says, that could be ME up there!", which just sums up how amazing it is that we can have such a close interaction with people like Karen.

Michelle now works in educational outreach with ISSET (International Space School Education Trust) after spending years working in Mission Control and as an astronaut trainer. Her blog gives more details about her work with schools on programs such as Mission Discovery and Message to the Moon, not to mention her work training astronauts. If you want to know about how astronauts become, well, astronauts, this is definitely one to read!

These three ladies are (in their words) the hive mind behind the Mars Rovers and Curiosity Twitter accounts. They recently won a Webby award for @MarsCuriosity, which tweets updates from NASA's robots currently gathering data from Mars. Just in case people tweeting from space wasn't enough for you, now you can find out what robots on Mars are up to–isn't technology amazing?! However, these ladies are worth following as well for behind the scenes news and updates.

If following Rover and Curiosity has whetted your appetite for all things Red Planet, another must-follow account is @nasa_nagin, who is part of the Curiosity Flight Team. She reveals the Earth story of Curiosity, showing that working in the space industry can be exciting and interesting without ever setting foot off the planet.

Once a planetary geologist and now a Planetary Society blogger, Emily is a fervent advocate for exploration of the solar system and uses blogs, images, videos, and podcasts to "share the adventure of space exploration with the world." She's a great source of all kinds of space information and a great person to follow if you’re just getting into space and/or science.

There are, of course, many other women sharing their space adventures and thoughts online–who are your favourites?

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Girl, aged 10, gives a lesson in grammar

Rebecca Lee, 10, from Bristol, wrote to Education Secretary Michael Gove over punctuation errors in her SATs.

Grammar: a word that strikes fear into the hearts of many people, including myself. It brings up memories of finding nouns, adverbs, adjectives, and verbs, adding commas in the correct places and identifying the clauses in the sentences put in front of you at school. Grammar is also something which the current Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is keen to focus on within British schools with the aim of improving the standard of written English. The impression he gives is that current children's grammar and writing skills have been slipping over the past decades.

One 10 year-old girl from Bristol, however, has proved the Education Secretary very wrong. Rebecca Lee, a year 6 pupil at Christ Church primary school in Bristol, has written to Michael Gove pointing out the grammar inconsistencies she and her fellow classmates spotted in the recent SAT papers. Rebecca has said, "The exam wording should be setting an example and I was annoyed." Some of the issues spotted are feature in this article.  Rebecca has not yet heard back from Mr. Gove but the department for education has stated that "The commas are a matter of choice. They can be used to mark out clauses that appear at the beginning or the end of a sentence, but they are not necessary. We decided to use commas sometimes and not at others to make the tests more like real life where people will have their own styles." This is a response that serves to highlight why people struggle so much when trying to grasp the rules of English grammar, and why Rebecca and her class are streets ahead of many of us! If you, like Rebecca, are a whiz at spotting grammatical mistakes, I apologise for the many errors you will probably have found in this post!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 24, 2013

So you want to be an Environmental Technologist

Britta Riley's TED talk, 2011.

I was watching this inspiring TED talk about how one can enjoy the luxury of keeping a garden within an apartment and I came to realize that there is a whole new specialty in dealing with these kind of worries. It's called environmental technology (aka envirotech), and it conserves the natural environment and resources so as to curb the negative impacts of human involvement. It seems that studies in this field are becoming more common, which might reflect the perhaps mandatory urge of our times to control our environmental impact.

I've declared my love of the outdoors in this blogspace before, so I couldn't help but look further into this promising domain. Britta Riley and her urban farms are an amazing example of saving the world in practice. When you come to think that such a project came to life by used plastic bottles, it is truly unbelievable. If this looks like a plain DIY method, imagine what a passionate scientist could achieve to eventually provide us with simple methods to ameliorate our daily life in a tiny urban apartment.

For all those who think that life in a city is dull and gloomy, well, environmental technologists think otherwise and they promise to change your mind. Maybe we should listen to them more and answer to their call:

"Join us in rediscovering the value of citizens united, and to declare that we are all still pioneers."
-Britta Riley

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Heirloom: A Family History Project

Girl Museum is pleased to annouce the launch of our newest participatory exhibition, Heirloom: A Family History Project

Girl Museum aims to empower girls with knowledge and understanding of the present day through learning about the past. Fitting perfectly with the 2013 International Museum Day theme Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change, we are celebrating this wonderful message by launching our Heirloom project with Chick History.

The Heirloom Project is a participatory exhibition that provides an opportunity for girls to learn about their own families, and find out more about their family histories through interviews and researching old photographs, artifacts and heirlooms. 

To get started, watch the Prezis and download the guides and project worksheet found on the Heirloom Project page. Once you have gathered your stories and images, submit them to us. Then they will become a part of our community exhibition that will go online at the end of 2013.

Remember that Prezis are powered by you–they're similar to PowerPoint presentations–so you have to click to go to the next screen in each Prezi.

If you need inspiration, check out a basic Heirloom story here. And if you have any questions about anything, just email us.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sew your way into business

Photo: Getty

It seems now that baking may be old hat. Sewing is the new trend that women (and some men) are beginning to pick up and run with. This year saw the first showing of the Great British Sewing Bee on the BBC and it showcased the talent and passion out there for the hobby. Why have these kinds of craft hobbies become so popular? James Hesse, the sewing trade association's director, says, "Because people haven't been going out as much and have been cutting back on lots of luxury items, they've turned to their hobbies as a way of escapism."

Sewing, though, is not only an enjoyable hobby; it's a trend you can make a great deal of money from. Many people in the current economic climate are turning their hobbies into businesses. Megan Duckett did just this. Starting by making bedding, drapes, and costumes at her kitchen table in her free time, she soon found her skills were in demand from her circle of friends and acquaintances. Eventually she found that she was making more money from her hobby than her full time job. Alexandra Ferguson has a similar story; after creating pillowcases for friends as presents, her creations were spotted by the right person and the rest was history!

So how do you start a sewing business from your hobby? Well if you have the skills, start small, through friends, local fetes, and market stalls, and the rest should follow. For tips try reading the blog "Ideas to make money at home." The best bit? Anyone of any age can be an entrepreneur!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Inspirational Girls: Sybil Ludington

Statue of Sybil Ludington on Gleneida Avenue in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington

The Female Paul Revere: Sybil Ludington

It was a dark night in April 1777, about 9 p.m.  The American Revolution was taking over the country, pitting neighbor against neighbor. In Putnam County, New York, a 16-year-old girl was preparing her younger siblings for bed. A frantic man banged on the door, and her father opened it to reveal an exhausted and somewhat confused messenger.

The British had arrived and were ransacking Danbury, Connecticut, 25 miles away. Homes of Patriot families were burning, and the British were taking the much-needed militia supplies stored in the town. Colonel Henry Ludington swung into action, but soon realized that his militia was scattered throughout the county, most preparing to turn in for the night. The messenger was too exhausted and unfamiliar with the area to continue, and the Colonel had to remain at home so the troops could be organized when they arrived.

Sybil Ludington jumped into action, pulling on her cloak and preparing her horse, Star. Whether of her own volition or at her father's urging, Sybil rode over 40 miles that night. She evaded British loyalists and troops, and even the notorious outlaws who ransacked without cause. Alone and in the dark, Sybil alerted the militia to the north and south, ordering them to gather at her father's home before traveling to Danbury. 

Her father's troops arrived too late to save Danbury, but did engage the British, causing them to flee from the town. Sybil succeeded where Paul Revere, who had been captured by the British during his midnight ride, had failed. She had become a hero, but one that would remain silent in the history books. She lived out her life in New York, marrying and bearing one son. She died in 1839, and is buried in Maple Avenue Cemetery.

In 1907, her great-nephew published an article detailing the family legend of her ride. Over the next several decades, scholars would continue digging into her story, hailing her as the female Paul Revere. She was commemorated in poems and statues, and eventually became the 35th woman to be honored on the U.S. postal stamp. Historical markers through Putnam County, NY, trace her route that dark night. Yet her true worth remains in the legends told about her: a brave 16-year-old girl who risked her life to save a town 25 miles away, riding Star through the dark night, proving that a woman could change the course of history.

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Heirlooms: Something Old, Something New

Many mothers would love for their daughter to wear their wedding gown on their daughter's special day. In some families, it is a tradition to pass down a wedding gown or another accessory such as a garter.  Generations of women can share in a special day by passing down an heirloom. 

My own mother has never suggested that I wear her wedding gown someday, but I have tried it on just for fun. As is the fate of many daughters whose mothers were married in the 1980s, I discovered that it would be best to get a dress of my own with a little less pouf and lace. My mom agrees. 

There's even a new TLC show devoted to this topic. The show, Something Borrowed, helps brides to choose between an heirloom gown or a new dress. The mothers and grandmothers often present a strong case as to why the bride-to-be should wear their dress, making it hard for the bride to decide. A fashion designer updates the old gown while the bride shops for a new dress. In the end, she tries on the brand-new dress she picked, and the restyled hand-me-down. Then she decides which dress will make it down the aisle on her special day. The show is fun to watch because you can see how much family history means to people. There is even an interactive part of the show's website where you can post a picture of your heirloom dress for other visitors to give a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down."

Family is a hugely important part of most weddings, so heirloom pieces such as gowns and garters can be very special. Someday I hope to walk down the aisle with an important piece of family history, as long as it is not a poufy '80s dress. 

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The History of Mother's Day

National Women's History Project

Yesterday we thanked our mothers for all the love, support, and encouragement they've shown us, as both children and adults. And whether our gift to them was simply a card, a nice meal out, or a handmade clay vase (that leaks), the sentiment was sincere. Mothers do more for their children than can ever be repaid, and they do so willingly. One day a year dedicated just to them is nowhere close to enough, but like that leaky vase, it's the thought that counts.

But how did Mother's Day come about? At what point was it decided that mothers deserve a special day, named and dedicated just for them? Was it in 1858, when Anna Jarvis began organizing "Mother's Work Days" to improve water sanitation? Was it in 1872, when suffragist Julia Ward Howe created a day to honor mothers and peace shortly after the Franco-Prussian War? Or was it in 1905, when Anna Jarvis died, and her daughter decided to memorialize her mother and her activism?

The answer is all of the above. Anna Jarvis's daughter (also named Anna) was successful in her campaign when, in 1914, Congress passed a Mother's Day resolution. But all of these women and their actions contributed to the holiday we now celebrate as Mother's Day.

For more information on the history of Mother's Day, please be sure to visit the National Women's History Project page on Mother's Day. Also be sure to check out their other highlighted topics and resources.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A Girl in Ancient Egypt

Girls forming a living roundabout, a game described as 'pressing the grapes.'
From the Tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara.
Early 6th dynasty (Old Kingdom, ca. 2200 BC).

People tend to think of the past in modern terms and effortlessly make the obvious correlations. Although such a practice isn't forbidden, it lacks the underlying information needed in order to reconstruct older cultures and societies. According to theoretics, the best approach is to place each subject within its context and thus consider the whole picture. Bearing this in mind, I will try to present the experience of being a girl in ancient Egypt.

Even if we labelled the ancient Egyptian civilization avant-garde, there is a great deal of information that could endorse that viewpoint, as well as other aspects that would support a different description. Ancient Egypt is a milestone as far as our knowledge of the known world at that time is concerned, not only because of the many achievements of their culture, but also due to the societal standards and interactions that expanded in many areas of daily life. Women enjoyed almost the same rights as men in terms of citizenship and justice. It goes without saying that the discrimination between rich and poor, noble and humble, did exist and affected the development of girls and women.

Despite the high percentage of infant mortality, families in ancient Egypt were large. The names given to newborns is of remarkable interest and indicative of the parental affection. The meaning of the names given to girls, translating to things like "The pretty girl has joined us," is poetical and touching. The most common profile of a young Egyptian girl during the Old Kingdom (circa 2700–2200 BC) was wearing short hair or a ponytail and many accompanying hair ornaments. In the New Kingdom (1570 - 1070 BC), there was a wide range of hairstyles shown on girls, mainly influenced from the south. Games were characterized by imagination and variety, including handmade dolls, balls, board games, and animal toys. The most common pastime for Egyptian girls was dancing, as depicted in the image of the relief above.

Young girls between 4 and 14 years old from wealthy families attended school along with boys, receiving a decent education that allowed them to become professionals in their preferred field; some of the most common professions were doctors, lawyers, or scribes (i.e., writers). This was generally the case only for the daughters of from high-ranking families and royal children. Girls of 'lower classes' didn't get the same educational treatment, nor the typical professional settlement. Instead, their typical training involved a know-how into spinning, weaving, and cooking. 

The vast majority of girls grew up to find few career options available, although they did have legal rights, and some noble women among them became very powerful. While most girls trained for how to manage a household and the basics of right living, other girls of higher status could train to be dancers, entertainers, weavers, or bakers. On the other hand, boys were mostly trained to do the same trade as their fathers. Let's not forget that the carefree childhood of most Egyptian kids lasted until the age of twelve to fourteen, when they would be married and begin to form their own family.

If you wish to learn more about the daily life of a young girl in ancient Egypt, you can watch the story of Soha, an online narration offered by the Seattle Art Museum.

Life of the Ancient Egyptians, by Eugen Strouhal

-Magda Repouskou
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Be a Patron of Girl Museum

Girl Museum is looking for patrons to help nurture our little projects and launch them into the world.

Three projects are currently in need of sponsorship to make them happen. Below are brief descriptions of the exhibitions and how much they will cost to produce. If you are interested in sponsoring one or more of these shows, or overall Girl Museum running costs, please email us for a sponsorship package.

Heirloom Project
Launching on May 18, 2013
The 2013 International Museums Day theme is 'Museums (Memory + Creativity) = Social Change.' Because Girl Museum is about helping girls understand the present day through learning about the past, we are celebrating by launching our Heirloom Project. This is an opportunity for girls to investigate and communicate with their own families to find out about their histories through interviews, old photographs, artifacts, and heirlooms. These stories will be complied into a large exhibition that will go online at the end of 2013. By investigating and sharing their stories and images, girls will be empowered and active participants in the global dialogue about girlhood and girl culture.
Cost: $1000

Rape in Art
Opening August 31, 2013
The exhibition examines imagery of rape, abduction, and violence towards girls and women as it has been depicted throughout the history of art. We want to understand possible relationships between contemporary rape culture and images, the prevalence of this behavior, and sociocultural sanctioning of rape and violence in the past.
Cost: $1000

International Day of the Girl NGO Showcase
Opening on October 11, 2013
This exhibition will showcase the girls and work of GlobalGirl Media South Africa. Based in Soweto, they train girls in journalism, short video production, digital/mobile journalism, web 2.0 technology and leadership skills. This transforms girls from marginalized communities with few opportunities into confident young women with new skills. These girls have varying levels of education and limited or no access to modern technology; these girls have tend to have low self-esteem often resulting from poverty, abuse, violence, teen pregnancy, the position of girls in society, and other factors such as HIV. GlobalGirl Media South Africa offers a chance for real change for many girls.
Cost: $3000

Friday, May 3, 2013

Memories of Girlhood: Grandmothers and Love

Grandmother's Helper, 1899. Painting by Harry Herman Roseland.

I owe a lot to my grandmothers.  They each taught me something about how to love and enjoy life.

My mother's mom taught me what it means to love.  Whenever I got mad at my parents or was having a bad day, I could go to her house, just down the street from mine.  She’d hug me and let me talk it out, then turn on the TV. We’d just sit there for hours, but she made me feel like everything would be okay. She listened to me and let me lay my head in her lap, running her fingers through my hair while smoking a cigarette.

It's those moments that I loved most. They taught me what it meant to love: to just accept someone, no matter what mistakes they made, and always help them feel like it would be all right. She didn't have to say anything; she was just there. And that was enough to make me feel loved.

My father's mom was a bit more practical. Though I never had as deep of a bond with her as I did the others, she taught me another aspect of loving someone: providing joy–in this case, by baking cookies.   

I'd sit at the counter for hours, combining ingredients and stirring the batter by hand. Then I'd have to stay in the kitchen to watch the cookies, taking them out at the perfect time so they were crisp on the edges and gooey in the middle. I still make those cookies. My entire family loves them, and baking them brings me–and my family–joy. There's nothing like the joy found in some hard work over a hot oven, just to enjoy five minutes of melt-in-your-mouth goodness.

Finally, there's my dad's stepmother. I didn't see her as often as the others, but she taught me another aspect of love: keeping secrets. When we would visit her, I'd often have trouble sleeping at night (her cats loved to make noise). I'd wake up and go into the living room. She stayed up late, so she'd let me curl up on the couch with her to watch TV.  

The thing was, we watched what I wasn't allowed to watch at home. With her, I watched my first wrestling match. I watched Starship Troopers, probably at way too young an age for that film. And she always kept it our secret: letting me stay up until the wee hours of the morning, helping me explore new shows, and accepting me whether I liked them or not. That’s another part of love: keeping–and sharing–secrets, especially the ones for which others might frown at you.

My grandmothers taught me a bit about real love: acceptance, providing joy, and keeping secrets.  Every time I sit quietly with my fiancĂ© and run my fingers through his hair, or bake gooey cookies, or watch TV late into the night, I think about my grandmothers. And I smile. They helped me find little things in life that bring me joy, and that help me bring joy to the people I love.

-Tiffany Rhoades
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Tale of Genji

Did you know the world's first novel was written by a woman? The Tale of Genji was published in Japan around 1000 A.D. and written by Murasaki Shikibu. It is known that Murasaki Shikibu was a lady of the Heian Court and the daughter of a scholar, but her real name and exact date of birth is not known; Murasaki Shikibu is the name by which she would have been known in the court. After the deaths of her mother, older sister, and then later in life, the death of her husband, Murasaki began writing The Tale of Genji.

The story revolves around the character Genji, who is the son of an Emperor by one of his lower ranking wives. Genji's life is driven by women; he takes liberties that are only pardoned because of his beauty and status, something that could be compared to a Jane Austen novel. It paints a picture of relationships between men and women of that time, and the unfortunate circumstances the women of the court could find themselves in.

Before this novel, Japanese literature consisted of collections of poems, prose of fairy tales, and a few memoirs. Murasaki broke new ground in producing a novel with character development and a complex plot, and in doing so caught the attention of her own Emperor, ending her days in a position serving the Empress. So we thank this lady of the court, who 1000 years ago found something that still interests the world today–the novel. 

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.