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, July 31, 2013

A Quiet Read



I don't usually opt for non-fiction books, but when I read a few quotes from Susan Cain's book Quiet, I rushed out to find a copy. The book describes the world from an introvert's point of view, the need to recharge the batteries, and the preference for in-depth one-to-one conversations as opposed to group discussions:
Introverts, in contrast, may have strong social skills and enjoy parties and business meetings, but after a while wish they were home in their pyjamas. They prefer to devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family. They listen more than they talk, think before they speak, and often feel as if they express themselves better in writing than in conversation. They tend to dislike conflict. Many have a horror of small talk, but enjoy deep discussions.
Not only does the book describe the experiences of introverts, including Susan Cain herself, it explains the need for an introvert to step back from over-stimulated environments. 

Susan also describes how the world has become increasingly geared towards extroverts, to such an extent that some introverts have started to try an emulate extrovert characteristics and in doing so are causing themselves undue stress. Susan believes that "quietness, shyness and solitude have come to be seen as second-rate, weak and almost shameful, while the projection of confidence and being (or at least pretending to be) outgoing and verbally voluble has come to be seen as the cultural ideal." Our classrooms and office spaces now have a "group working" layout, good-talkers are rewarded and quiet workers often sidelined.

If you are an introvert or not, the book is an interesting read and certainly a book you will find yourself quoting out loud to anyone that will listen!

-Emma Hatherall
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 29, 2013

More than just a museum and blog

Girl Museum is more than just an online museum and blog: we have a variety of online portals for education, inspiration, and involvement. Be sure to check out our Twitter page for fascinating links about girlhood, and visit our Pinterest boards for all things girl-related. You can find us celebrating girlhood on Tumblr, and you can watch our exhibition videos on YouTube.

If you've been a victim of sexual violence, you can submit a post to our PostViolence project, where we'll make sure to maintain your privacy and anonymity. We also encourage girls to submit to our Girls Book Blog, as well as our Heirloom Project. Have an idea for an exhibition or want to get involved in some other way? Let us know!

And don't forget to follow us on Facebook, connect with us on LinkedIn, and circle us on G+!

Friday, July 26, 2013

So you want to be an Astrophysicist



Astrophysicists study how stars, planets, galaxies, and other celestial objects work and interact with each other. Their research provides information on how the universe works. Although astrophysicists deal specifically with the physics of the universe, to study such a wide field they need to be familiar with many types of physics, including quantum mechanics, relativity, electromagnetism, and nuclear physics.

To study the universe, astrophysicists need to observe the universe, which means needing radio telescopes like the Very Large Array and space telescopes like the Hubble. Astrophysicists also do research in space, using things like the Mars Rovers and the unmanned Voyager probes. Research is also performed on manned space missions: the International Space Station researches everything from how the human body changes in low gravity to how plants are altered when grown in space. Although research like this isn't examining how the universe works, it gives us important information for longer manned missions, either to Mars, an asteroid, or beyond!

To become an astrophysicist, more education is better, and you'll most likely want to get a Ph.D. in physics. Beyond needing to study a wide range of fields within physics, you'll need a strong background in math (calculus and beyond), and a good working knowledge of computer programming (some physics courses will teach the necessary programming). Depending on your interests, geology, biology, and chemistry can all be useful as well: astro- and exobiologists, who study the possibility of life in the universe, can benefit from a background in these fields.

Astrophysics is a heavily research-based career, and astrophysicists are are primarily employed by universities, research labs (usually government-funded), and space agencies such as NASA, ESA (Europe), CSA (Canada), ROSCOSMOS (Russia), and JAXA (Japan). This is largely because the knowledge discovered by researchers is made available for free to anyone for the good of humanity instead of for profit. Occasionally, though, some private companies in fields like aerospace may hire astronomers or astrophysicists to perform research to give their company a competitive edge. Regardless of who you work for, studying astrophysics can lead to a wide variety of closely related careers: aerospace engineering (for companies like Boeing and SpaceX), designing and building scientific instruments, and advanced energy research to name just a few.

For more information on astrophysics and astrophysicists, check out NASA's Ask an Astrophysicist.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Nothing to Prove

A female Captain America.

Despite awesome girl geeks like actress/singer/gamer Felicia Day, Kari Byron (of Mythbusters fame), and Veronica Belmont, there is still a perception among that girls can't be "real" nerds. Most gamer girls who participate in online gaming, whether it's through Xbox Live or another console, or through games like World of Warcraft, face tremendous amounts of harassment, abuse, and threats, as sites like Fat, Ugly or Slutty and Not in the Kitchen Anymore show. Women and girls went to ComicCon in droves, dressing up as their favorite comic characters and superheroes (and heroines) of their own volition, despite the fact that in most cases, comics and superheroes aren't targeted to them.

Girls and women can be just as geeky, nerdy, or dorky as boys and men. We can love the same things just as much, and in the same ways. And nerd-folk duo The Doubleclicks want to remind people of that with their new song, Nothing to Prove. In their words, "This whole 'fake geek girl' situation, and the wider 'geek elitism' situation, has been a stupid thing stuck in our craw for a while now." The song and video set out to remind people that anyone can be a geek, regardless of gender.


But one day, you grow up, come into your own 
Now geek's not rejection - it's a label I own 
Then ignorant haters come to prove me wrong 
Tell me I'm not nerdy enough to belong

---

You can stop - never say "fake geek" again 
Our club needs no bouncers - all who want in get in 
But go ahead, if you want, to own that role fully 
I ain't got nothing to prove to a bully!

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Girls have a proven ability to succeed in STEM fields



Looking at some of our past posts, you would think that a career in science, technology, math, or engineering is all the rage for women these days. However, statistics show that women are much less likely than men to pursue a career in science and maths. The Chairman and CEO of L'Oréal and Chairman of the L'Oréal Foundation, Jean-Paul Agon, is a strong advocate for women in science, and argues that the talents of women should be nurtured, and they should bring their innovation to science.

The metaphor of a "leaky pipeline" is frequently used to describe the fact that women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. This "pipeline," carrying students from secondary school through university and on into STEM careers "leaks" students at various stages for a variety of reasons, and sometimes students who express interest in science careers will change their minds, selecting other areas of study at university. Whilst the gender gap in mathematics has narrowed recently, females are still less likely to pursue STEM than their male peers.

The under-representation of women in science and technology is not because they are less skilled in those areas, nor is it always due to specific gender barriers in those fields, but instead may be because they find better opportunities. In one study conducted by Ming-Te Wang at the University of Pittsburgh, women were found to possess broader intellectual talents, which provides them with greater occupational options. The study analysed data involving 1,500 college-bound students of above-average intelligence. They were first surveyed in 1992 as high school seniors and were then re-interviewed by phone in 2007, as 33 year-olds. This study identifies a critical link in the debate about why women are underrepresented in STEM fields. The results varied according to gender, in terms of the areas in which men and women excelled. Nearly two-thirds of females displayed higher scores on both the verbal and the math sections of the SAT.

Even though more women tend to show greater aptitude in math and language skills, the rate of women choosing STEM careers remains low. A study questioned participants about their math and English "self concepts," or how good they thought they were at those subjects and how much they enjoyed them, to find out whether women are discouraged from these fields or simply not interested in them for other reasons. Results show that participants play to their strengths: for those who think they are best at English, it may not matter that they are also skilled in math; they will choose the option where they can get the most support. Cultural stereotypes may be indirectly pushing women away from scientific fields. Girls will inadvertently choose the area that is more in line with social stereotypes and has richer social support affirming that skill, rather than another area in which they may also be highly skilled. Due to these cultural stereotypes, women are often lured away from pursuing a career in science despite their aptitude, and this places girls at a great disadvantage in entering STEM fields.

-Ayesha Khalid 
Junior Girl 
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Inspirational Girls: Claressa Shields

Olympic gold medalist  and Flint, MI native, Claressa Shields, graduated from Flint Northwestern High School on June 4, 2013.
Jake May/MLive.com

Last summer everyone was excited about the Olympic Games. It is especially exciting when a local athlete is competing. Claressa Shields, an 18 year old boxer from Flint, Michigan, USA (near my hometown) not only competed in the London Olympics, but took home a gold medal! 2012 was the first year for Olympic women's boxing, so Claressa was not only the first to win, but was also the youngest boxer present. Her boxing career began at age 11 when she first went to the gym with her father. She has only lost one fight in her 7 year career.

In addition to being a star athlete, she is also a good student. Claressa graduated from Flint Northwestern High School this year and is planning to attend university on an academic scholarship at Olivet College in the fall. Her academic achievements are something to be proud of, as she successfully balanced her boxing and schoolwork. She was the first of her siblings to earn a diploma and she encourages her younger brother and sister to stay in school.

It sounds like she is also looking forward to returning to the Olympics for the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro; her twitter bio includes "Already won Gold once that’s why I want it twice.! Getting ready for Rio right now!"

Claressa's Olympic participation and subsequent gold medal win united Flint and gave the struggling city something to celebrate. Her picture hangs outside of Atwood Stadium near downtown, reminding local citizens that people from Flint are successful and important. It was good to see the whole city supporting a local girl in such a big, international event. Later this summer Claressa plans to entertain her hometown fans in a boxing match at Kettering University in Flint. She is an inspiration to her hometown and to female athletes worldwide. Congratulations, Claressa!

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

PostViolence




Sexual violence is everywhere and affects everyone, irrespective of gender, background, class, or education. One reason this terrible cycle is so hard to break is because it is often shrouded in silence and invisibility. 


PostViolence is an online space to discuss, encourage, and celebrate the capability of victims of sexual violence to get out of and heal from this terribly common cycle of violence. 

PostViolence aims to offer a safe, creative, and educational space for people to express their experiences, encouraging healing, recognition, and realization.

Taking the lead from PostSecret, PostViolence encourages the anonymous sharing of stories and experiences through imagery and text in the hopes that such a "post" may help the creator heal "post"-violence, inspire others in similar situations to seek safety and reach a state of "post"-violence, and to educate victims and non-victims about the personal side of such an insidious problem across societies.

PostViolence is a creative project started by Girl Museum to participate in and celebrate One Billion Rising, a global movement to end sexual violence.

If you or someone you know is interested in contributing, the details can be found here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

GoldieBlox takes toy world by storm

Goldie Blox and the Spinning Machine
Photo courtesy of GoldeBlox

Back in December, we wrote about a new toy for girls that was funded through Kickstarter. Goldie Blox is a girl who uses her engineering skills to solve problems for her friends. Combining construction toys with story books, designer Debbie Sterling created a toy that appeals to both the imaginative, story-telling side and the spatial, construction side.

Less than a year after GoldieBlox received its funding, it's a top seller on Amazon, and is in about 1,000 toy stores in the United States, including 600 Toys "R" Us stores. But Debbie is more excited about the stories she hears than the sales.

"My favorite story was when a mom wrote in about being in a public restroom with her daughter where the toilet paper dispenser was broken," Sterling said. "The girl said, 'Mommy, it’s missing its axle!' She'd learned the vocabulary from GoldieBlox."


With Goldie Blox, girls have finally found a female engineer they can relate with and look up to. This means there's more potential to get girls interested in engineering and other STEM fields from an early age, as well as to better develop their spatial and construction skills, which in turn can build self-confidence in problem-solving abilities. Having the "pink aisle" broken up a bit with GoldieBlox is a great step toward involving more girls in STEM fields in the future.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A Girl in the Great Depression (America)

Young girls having fun at a tea party. Their table and chairs are made from crates!

Do you have an elderly relative who insists on washing, flattening, and saving aluminum foil for reuse? Or maybe a grandparent who hoards change? Did they grow up during the Great Depression? Life for children in the Depression was very different from the way later generations experienced childhood. What exactly did girlhood during the Depression entail? Read on to find out!

The Depression was a hard time for people throughout the United States and the world. Those in urban areas were hard hit when factory workers lost their jobs. The Dust Bowl hurt farming families in the prairie regions of the U.S. and Canada. As unemployment surged, daily life changed for families. Children began doing odd jobs such as selling eggs to neighbors. Many had to stop attending school to work or because their family had to move often. Over 250,000 teenage girls and boys left their families so there would be fewer mouths to feed.
The previous decades had been relatively prosperous and young girls had grown up with nice dresses, hair ribbons, and dolls. That all changed during the depression era, but girls still found ways to enjoy being a kid. Many toys like race cars or scooters were made at home from recycled items such as orange crates. Dolls could be made from old rags and buttons. Flour companies began putting different attractive prints on their flour sacks so that mothers would be more likely to buy their flour so that the sacks could be made into dresses.

A great book about girlhood in this time is Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse. This Newberry Medal winning novel is about a young girl growing up on a farm, facing the many hardships presented by the Dust Bowl.

Life during the Depression was tough for kids, and many young girls had their childhood cut short as a result. However, with some creativity girls were still able to wear pretty dresses and play with dolls. The generation of girls who grew up in this era learned at a young age to value the things they did have.

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Drug addiction in girls on the rise globally

A female addict and her son at the U.N. funded Nejat drug rehabilitation center in the old quarter of Kabul.

The primary factors that make girls vulnerable to substance abuse include low self-esteem, peer pressure and depression, all of which motivates girls to alleviate negative mood, increase confidence, reduce tension, cope with problems, lose inhibitions, enhance sex, or lose weight by using drugs and/or alcohol. A 2002 study found that girls as young as 12 who have low self-esteem, are nearly 2-5 times more likely to engage in heavy alcohol use at age 15 as opposed to those with higher self-esteem. This relationship wasn't found in boys. Apart from being more likely to begin abusing substances earlier than boys, once girls use harmful substances, they become more dependent upon them than boys. Peer pressure is associated more strongly with drinking for girls than it is for boys. Whilst the relationship between peer pressure and alcohol was not found for boys, girls who report high levels of peer pressure to drink are twice as likely to use alcohol, compared to those who report less peer pressure. This is increased when many of the girl's girlfriends choose to smoke or drink. Among 8th and 10th graders, girls drink more than their male counterparts, and are also more likely to use inhalants and stimulants than boys. Strong family bonds are linked to lower substance abuse for all young people, whilst low parental attachment is correlated more highly with smoking, drinking and drug use among girls than among boys. When parents fail to monitor their children's activities, girls can become at risk of substance abuse, as well as an unstructured home environment.

It's important to stop substance abuse in young girls whilst they are still young. Substance abuse exists as a complex brain disease which originates in adolescence, and adolescence is the critical period for the initiation of substance use. There are enormous and costly health and social consequences of teen substance use. This has been noted in the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) "Women Under the Influence" study, which declares that teen smoking, drinking, misusing prescription drugs, and using illegal drugs has become an epidemic public health problem.

The underlying biological mechanisms are not identical in males and females. Studies on animals show fundamental gender differences in the reinforcing and stimulus properties of abused drugs. The progression of drug involvement is different for men and women. Women are more likely to begin or maintain cocaine use in order to develop more intimate relationships, while men are more likely to use the drug with male friends in relation to the drug trade. The onset of drug abuse is later for girls than boys, and the causes of female drug abuse often lie in predisposing psychiatric disorders prior to abusing drugs. There is a pattern of breakdown of individual, familial, and environmental protective factors and an increase in childhood fears, anxieties, phobias, and failed relationships in females. The relationship between substance abuse and other psychiatric disorders is relatively high for females.

Unable to cope with constantly fighting parents, a 15-year-old girl began sniffing whitener as an escape from reality, and her addiction caused her to start neglecting her studies. Even in more conservative parts of the world, female drug addiction is on the rise, such as in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Afghanistan produces more than 90% of the world's opium, which is used to make heroin. Like many of Afghanistan's female drug users, Anita picked up the habit from her husband, and is now afraid to nurse her newborn son, for fear that he'll become addicted as well. Due to the stigma attached to drug use, female drug users are hardly ever mentioned in Afghanistan. A Kashmiri news story by Dr. Arif Maghribi found that Kashmiri women took nicotine by puffing hookah which was prescribed by hakeem sahibs (a sort of tribal doctor in Pakistan), and this continued until the uprising in 1990. Following this, there was a change in pattern of addiction for females. Local chemists are now required by law to keep a record of all patients receiving sleep inducing medicine and medicine containing medicinal opiates. Problems surrounding young girls in Kashmir today are often "removed" by taking sleeping pills. Drug use has recently increased among school and college girls.

A period of about one month allows the substance abuser to undergo counselling, de-addiction, and psychological recovery, all of which are part of the process of detoxification. Once completed discharged, substance abusers are encouraged to go to their families and work places and regain their normal, healthy lives. With effective implementation of the necessary factors, we can help to solve female drug abuse. By highlighting the many reasons to quit drugs to young girls and women, girls worldwide will be able to recover from addiction and have the chance for a better future.

-Ayesha Khalid
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

#WhoAmIJustGuess: Is this what Surfer Girls do?


Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013 Official Teaser

Roxy's new ad for their upcoming Roxy Pro 2013 women's world surfing championship in Biarritz, France, has left me not only baffled, but also slightly enraged. The entire video centers on a mysterious pro surfer waking up, getting ready for the day, and heading to the beach. All while very skimpily clad.

Not once does this mystery girl surf. She paddles out into the water, but I never actually see her surfing.

So...what is Roxy actually having a competition for if the women are only there to model swimsuits that seem a size too small?  Is this what surfer girls do?

Given the latest results for a Google search on "surfer girls," it appears so. Though the results do show girls actually in the water, most results also feature the "hottest" or "sexiest" girls. In fact, it wasn't until the bottom of the first page of results before I even reached a decent result on surfer girls, from SurfGirl Magazine (who, coincidentally, is also enraged at Roxy’s latest ad).

In fact, even looking at some of the competitors, I'm surprised these girls haven't boycotted the competition. Most of the profile shots don't even feature the girls in swimwear, let alone surfing! While most of their stats are amazing, their bios are sadly lacking.  

The Roxy competition websites shows off only the statistics of the girls, never mentioning whether any of them faced significant challenges in their careers, and the bios I have found (courtesy of Red Bull) are just as enraging as the ad. For example, Sally Fitzgibbons's bio on the Red Bull site only talks about how she is a "crossover" of the barrier between "physically attractive [surfers] and the girls who ripped."  And though it alludes to her skills, it is all with language highlighting that she'll "look damn good" in whatever competition she wins.

It's a pity that Roxy can't showcase the fiercer side of surfer girls. The girls who are braving the dangers and stereotypes to perform feats that leave me baffled, without having to pose half-naked for a camera. Especially the girls who go against social norms to do so, like Shoruq and Rawan Abo Ghanem of Gaza.  In order to pursue their passion, they enlisted the help of international friends and NGOs to get surf gear and even had custom surf wear made to adhere to the strict dress codes of their culture. Yet once they turn fifteen, their culture will forever forbid them from surfing. 

Shoruq and Rawan try out their new custom swimwear, designed by the Surfing 4 Peace team and delivered as part of the Gaza Surfer Girl Project. Find out more about the design process here.


Shoruq and Rawan are only two of the many brave surfer girls that I've begun researching for Girl Museum's upcoming exhibition, Surfer Girls. There are so many more amazing stories, from the well-known Bethany Hamilton to the thousands of unknown girls braving cultural barriers, physical handicaps, and dangerous waters to pursue their passion.

I'd like the next Roxy ad–or any ad on surfer girls–to show that. It would make me actually want to watch the competition to see what these girls are made of, rather than think I’m watching a Victoria's Secret ad and switch the channel.

And if you happen to be a surfer girl–or know any surfer girls–who would like to be part of our upcoming exhibition, let us know! We're searching for the stories of surfer girls around the world, along with pictures, videos, and artwork, to help us show how surfing empowers girls.

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 8, 2013

We Want Equality...Now!



On June 28th, Ed Miliband, the Leader of the Labour Party in the UK, made a speech to the Women in Advertising and Communications group in London. In it, he urged politicians, business leaders, advertisers, and editors that equality between all members of society was vital for the future success of the UK.

He laid out three "urgent issues" that need to be addressed by the whole of society:

  1. That we must "drive further and faster" towards creating equality between men and women at all levels of society, from shop workers to cabinet ministers;
  2. To become a more equal society, we must change the structures of society to enable equality to be achieved;
  3. And finally, to change the representation of women in culture, particularly in the media.

It's not uncommon to hear people say that things are equal between the sexes now. Although it can't be denied that things have much improved since suffragettes were chaining themselves to railings and generally causing havoc, hearing that the war has been won is immensely frustrating. Just because things are better doesn't mean that they are perfect or that there is no reason to fight anymore.

In the current UK cabinet (the collective decision making body of the government) only 16% are women and these kinds of figures are found in many industries. Only 17% of FTSE 100 Directorships are held by woman; just 14% of senior judges and 5% of national newspaper editors are women.

Women are also more likely to be the carers for the elderly and disabled, as well as having primary responsibility for looking after children. Because of this, the swathing cuts to UK public services have disproportionately affected women: that cannot, surely, be seen as fair and equal.

Ed's final point on the representation of women in the media is certainly a hot topic at the moment; he quotes an entry to the Everyday Sexism Project from a 15 year old girl:

I am 15 and I feel that girls my age are under pressure that boys of my age aren't under ... I always feel like if I don't look a certain way, if boys don't think I'm sexy or hot then I've failed and it doesn't even matter if I am a doctor or writer, I'll still feel like nothing....
I wish people would think about what pressures they are putting on everyone, not just teenage girls ... I wish the people who had real power and control of the images and messages we get fed all day actually thought about what they did for once.

It can be hard to see how the ordinary person on the street, struggling in economic hardship and uncertain times can effect great change in society; it can be dispiriting to see how much work there still needs to be done to achieve true equality.

However, changing how women are represented in the media? That's something we can all do. We can sign petitions calling for an end to soft-core pornography in a family newspaper, or we can add our voice to campaigns like Everyday Sexism and Miss Representation, which unite and empower women across the world. We can even just simply choose to show our young girls representation of women that are strong, clever and resourceful; let’s introduce them to Hermione Granger, and not Paris Hilton.

Although I am always weary of what politicians say, especially in speeches such as this, I do agree with the heart of Ed's argument: that the battle for equality is ongoing and that it requires everyone, from all levels of society to work together to achieve it.

You can read Ed Miliband's speech to Women in Advertising and Communication London here.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Memories of Girlhood: Barbies


Who wants to be a Barbie girl?

Barbie: My Love-Hate Relationship with a Doll

When I was little, I loved playing with Barbie dolls. My fondest memories of my sister include spending hours taking over the entire house to create Barbie worlds. We'd set up their houses, drive through rooms as if on long road trips, and create elaborate story lines for our dolls.  

Barbie allowed us to explore a multitude of careers and lifestyles without ever leaving our rooms. Barbie always held a different dream. Whether it was a veterinarian who owned a ton of dogs and horses, or a world traveler who spent hours climbing the Himalayas (also known as our couch), Barbie did everything and went everywhere. Whenever we talk about it, we always remember our most common theme: Barbie being the career woman with the family and home, but Ken always ended up being an unemployed jerk watching football. (Little did I know that would foreshadow a lot of my dating life!)

As I grew up, my love for Barbie waned. The dolls were packed up and sent to cousins. During those years, there were a lot of news stories about how Barbie was bad. Her idealized body was impossible to achieve. She set standards so high that she was blamed for eating disorders, self-mutilation, and an unhealthy fascination with the imperfection of the female body. So I banned Barbie from my life, swearing that my daughter would never have one.

Then, two years ago, my mind changed. During a graduate course in material culture, my professor challenged me to analyze an object that I detested for my final papers. My fiancée said I should analyze Barbie.  Was she really as bad as we believed? Was her perfect body a good enough reason to detest a doll that I had loved so fiercely?  

I took up the challenge. So few scholars had looked at anything but her body that there was a large gap in the research. I spent months analyzing Barbie’s careers between 1959 and 1989, comparing them to U.S. Census data to see if Barbie was the ideal or reality of working women. What I found shocked me.

Barbie was good for us. She embodied ideals, but those ideals had given girls the opportunity to explore who they could be, what they could do, without ever leaving their rooms. Barbie let us be anything we wanted, and better still, she let us figure out how to get to those dreams by any means we could imagine. Despite her bad reputation, Barbie was probably the best thing to girls of my generation. She let us figure out how to make our dreams into realities and gave us the confidence to pursue them. If a doll could do it, why couldn't we?

In the end, the paper has become my life's work. After winning two awards, it is now taking up half of my desk space, where I analyze countless Barbie dolls and read every book there is about her. It's not just about the careers anymore. It's about redeeming a doll so many have shamed into silence.  

Yes, Barbie gave us standards that seem nearly possible to achieve. In some ways, especially her body, we will never be able to (and medically shouldn't try) achieve them. But Barbie isn't about giving girls a doll to become. Barbie is about giving girls the freedom to dream, to do, and to be absolutely anything they want.  

There's no better role model for my little girl. Granted, her first doll will likely be Captain Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager, but why give her one dream when I can give her two?

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Cyber-bullying has a major effect on the self-esteem and happiness of girls


Gabriella Molina, 12, hanged herself in the room she shared with her older sister, Georgina, who discovered her body.

All over the world, teenagers suffer from cyber-bullying, sometimes leading to suicide. Victims and perpetrators of cyber-bullying are more likely to binge drink, face suspension from school, suffer from depression, and commit self-harm. What's more, according to the Cyberbullying Research Center, approximately 20% of students experience cyber-bullying in their lifetimes, and adolescent girls are more likely to have experienced it. Some female names that may be familiar due to recent cyber-bullying incidents in the news include Gabriella Molina, Felicia Garcia, Alexis Pilkington, and Amanda Cummings.

The lack of face-to-face contact on the 'net means bullies can do and say things that they never would in real life, and instead bully in chat rooms, through computer text messages, and by email. A one-off act is all it takes on the part of the bully, and it can be picked up by others and repeated again. According to Dolly magazine, a cyber-bullying attack on a public platform like Facebook can involve multiple people and affects the person on the receiving end, as well as damaging the reputation of the person doing it. As this has become a huge issue, how can we put a stop to cyber-bullying?

Alexis Pilkington
Photo: AP

Girls should not feel threatened, ignored, or disrespected–online or offline. Issues concerning body image, sex, relationships, and schoolwork can result in psychological problems that can have a major effect on girls during adolescence, right up into adulthood.

Celebrity Paris Jackson had been cutting herself and overdosing on pills in an attempt to take her own life. Her father's death and the doubts expressed over her real father were identified as the reasons for her suicide attempt, yet cyber-bullying was indicated as a major instigator of this: she suffered from vicious insults and online taunts.

Extreme examples of cyber-bullying happen because teens are able to access online sites 24/7 to successfully isolate the victim. A Melbourne student, Sheniz Erkan, took her own life a week before celebrating her 15th birthday, after being tormented on Facebook by her peers. Queens girl Gabriella Molina committed suicide at just 12 years of age, due to taunts of "slut" and "whore." Felicia Garcia, a 15-year-old Staten Island teenager who was "slut-shamed," committed suicide by jumping in front of a subway train. These tragedies highlight the issue of slut-shaming, which puts down girls who act in perceived "slutty" or "promiscuous" ways. 

Felicia Garcia jumped as the train arrived at the Huguenot station, Staten Island. The platform was packed with nearly 200 students, witnesses said.

So how do we put a stop to it? We can start by not engaging in cyber-bullying ourselves, no matter how pressured we may feel by peers. Secondly, by talking to school administrators and reporting the bully to your service providers, you can help prevent cyber-bullying from occurring. Third, it is important to look for signs of harassment, public humiliation, and impersonation, and make an attempt to identify the cause. Lastly, focus on protecting yourself; don’t share your private information with people you don't know. Don't respond to messages when you are angry or hurt–either to strangers or people you know–as this encourages harassment. Stop messaging and log out if you feel that you're being harassed. Don't retaliate; avoid going from victim to bully! Be aware that with sexting, you may not be aware where else the pics may turn up. Ensure that you're aware of the privacy settings on social media sites that you use. Limit your time online. If you use Facebook, regularly change your password, don't post anything too personal, don't accept friend requests from people you've never met in real life, and choose the option to get notifications when others tag you in photos (so you can ask someone to take down a pic of you that you don't like, or report them if they don't). All of this will help to put an end to cyber-bullying.

Amanda Cummings
Photo courtesy of the Cummings family.

Let the images of Gabriella Molina and others act as a reminder to us that we need to end cyber-bullying to prevent these tragedies from occurring.

-Ayesha Khalid 
Junior Girl 
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives


I think most people will agree that child marriage, whether culturally traditional or not, is a human rights violation. It's estimated that nearly five million girls under the age of 15 are married every year. These marriages are linked to multi-generational poverty and poor health. Child marriage also ends education, and leads to increases in violence, instability, and a general disregard for the law. All of this affects not just girls, but entire communities and economies. This, in turn, affects the foreign policy interests of the United States, interests such as economic development and prosperity, as well as domestic stability and respect and adherence to the law.

It may be arrogant to consider the economic and political benefits over the moral ones, but more often than not, it is the clear and tangible benefits that move governments. With this approach, Rachel B. Vogelstein, the Fellow for Women and Foreign Policy for Council on Foreign Relations wrote the report Ending Child Marriage: How Elevating the Status of Girls Advances U.S. Foreign Policy Objectives.

You can watch Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and member of The Elders, and Geeta Rao Gupta, the Deputy Executive Director at UNICEF, discuss this report below, or you can check it out over at Girls Not Brides.


-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.