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

Friday, September 27, 2013

So you want to be a Chef

Who wouldn't want to make desserts for a living?

Girls since time immemorial have learned to cook. Or, at least, tried to learn. (Admittedly, it took me over 20 years to learn how to cook more than the basics.) Yet cooking can be very rewarding, especially as a career path.

Being a chef is a highly demanding field: it requires stamina for long hours on your feet, the ability to handle high-volume orders (whether catering a wedding or handling the Saturday night rush), and a high degree of expertise in cooking skills. It can also involve 50+ hour workweeks, late nights, and working weekends and holidays in high stress–and often low pay–situations.  

Yet it is also a very creative and rewarding career: trying new recipes, making up new dishes, and watching you create works of art with one of humanity's most basic needs. So if you like what you've read so far, here's what you need to know to become a chef:

  1. Learn to cook. Try taking a cooking class at your local community college; many do non-credit night classes in basic techniques or specific recipes. Or just ask your mother or grandmother for some lessons.
  2. Practice at home, with friends and family. Learn old family recipes, new recipes, and even try modifying or creating new ones. Chefs are all about innovation.
  3. Look at the greats. Several episodes of Julia Child's show are available for free, and there's always the option of cooking through The Art of French Cooking to see if you're up for the task!
  4. If you like it so far (and hopefully your friends and family concur that you've got mad skills), consider looking into advanced culinary classes at your community college or getting an entry-level job at a restaurant. Though you might not like stuffing raviolis and peeling potatoes, it's the best way to figure out if working in a fast-paced restaurant is something you can handle and might enjoy. Plus, you're also gaining an understanding of the jobs that people under you will have to do–and the greatest leaders all respect those lowest on the totem pole, recognizing that even the smallest person can make a big difference in everyone's success.

So you've found that you like to cook and can handle a high-volume restaurant (and maybe even enjoy it!). Congrats! Now, it's time to get some more formal training. While many Chefs can rise through the ranks by working, your best option is culinary school. Research schools in your area. Talk to guidance counselors or the advisers at that school, and see if you can talk to students at the schools as well. Find a program that fits your needs, but remember that a culinary degree won't make you the Executive Chef right away. 

Rather, the degree will prepare you with the physical skills and general knowledge needed to become a chef garde manger (the appetizers and soup person) or a line cook. With years of education and experience, you might become a sous chef (the second-in-command) and, hopefully, the executive chef or even a restaurant owner. But remember that, like most goals in life, being a chef takes hard work, dedication, perseverance, and a willingness to always be learning, trying, and doing new things.

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Growing Up


Girl Museum is four and a half years old now, and like many little girls, we long to be more grown up. We've finally gotten our wish, and soon we'll be living in a radically redecorated and redesigned space—one better suited to our wants and needs.

Our address isn't changing. You'll still be able to find us at www.girlmuseum.org. But we'll have a new look and feel. You can expect a more interactive space and more multi-media to explore. And everything will be in one place, so you'll be able to find the blog there as well. And don't worry, we'll post here when the new site and blog launch, so you won't have to worry about missing anything. Plus, you'll still be able to find us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Pinterest, so don't hesitate to contact us. After all, Girl Museum is here for you!

We're really excited about all the new changes, and we hope you'll like them, too.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Inspirational Girls: Sam Gordon


Sam Gordon (Courtesy of Brent Gordon)

Samantha Gordon is a breakthrough for American football; her recent stats of 1,911 yards on 8.2 yards per carry and 35 touchdowns in her youth football league are pretty impressive. She brings new hope to girls playing football everywhere, not only as a representative of female football, but also because she  plays alongside all-male teams, despite weighing only 60 pounds at nine years of age. Likened to running back Walter Payton, she has achieved the status of the only girl to play in a (mostly) all-boys tackle football league in the Salt Lake City area. Sam Gordon is a great inspiration to girls everywhere who want to play a sport that is not traditionally seen as female, and to excel doing what they love. Sam has received much media attention and fame for her impressive abilities as a football player, and has appeared on Good Morning America, the NFL Network, and is also the first female football player to appear on a Wheaties cereal box, due to her strong personality.

Football is traditionally seen as a male domain. Whilst women attend football matches, they remain excluded from football communities. Girls often have to fight off the stigma that surrounds women and football, as well as the fact that they can understand football, as it is often considered to be a man's sport. Yet women have been playing football for many years, though this may remain hidden from the public eye. The film Bend it like Beckham brought the issue of whether or not girls can play soccer into the entertainment sphere. An athletic career for women, specifically in traditionally male-dominated sports such as soccer and football, is significantly more difficult to obtain than it is for men.

Sam Gordon has begun to change these attitudes about women in football. It is more difficult for women than men to try out for football, due to gender stereotypes. This stems from belief that men are genetically apt at playing football, whilst women are not. Furthermore, girls who are playing football are not gaining the recognition that they should be. These ingrained beliefs in society stop women from trying out for pro football, and only in 2011 did the NFL allow women to play. Though she's got a few years to go, perhaps Sam Gordon will play in the NFL someday.

-Ayesha Khalid
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, September 13, 2013

A Girl in pre-Columbian Maya


Ixchel, the jaguar goddess of midwifery and medicine in ancient Maya.

Today, when most people think about the pre-Columbian Maya people, they think about the long-count (Mayan) calendar and sites like Chichen Itza. But a lot of people don't realize that the descendants of the ancient Maya still live southern Mexico and northern Central America. There are an estimated 6 million Maya living today, and many of them have kept portions of their Maya heritage.

A Maya girl making a hammock in Yucatan, Mexico.

The Maya standard of beauty was very different than what we think of today. While their skulls were still soft, babies had a board pressed against their forehead to create a flattened surface. Crossed eyes were also desirable, and objects would be dangled in front of a baby's eyes so they would become permanently crossed. Children were also named for the day they were born; there were specific names associated with each day of the year, and parents were expected to use those names. 

Children in the Maya city-states were cherished and valued, but from about the age of five, expected to help their parents, and their duties followed traditional gender roles. Agriculture was a central part of life: boys would accompany their fathers into the fields during the day, and would help them hunt and trap as well. Girls were expected to learn and help with household duties, such as preparing food. Women were responsible for the "economics of food;" in other words, ensuring that there was enough to eat. Deer was a common meat, and sometimes deer were kept in the household, so while men were responsible for killing the deer, the women made sure that there was enough deer to hunt. Households also had religious shrines which the women were responsible for, and, as religion was important to the Maya, girls were taught how to maintain these domestic shrines.

Some, if not all girls, would have also learned the arts of spinning and weaving. Textiles were an important part of the economy, and they were produced by women. Archaeological finds suggest that textiles were created and valued as art, not just for household uses. As such, women would have been valued for their ability to create something with lasting value.

Outside of the household, there were limited opportunities for girls to aspire to, though there is evidence that some girls learned to read and write (and thus could have become scribes). Some girls had the chance to become matchmakers, while others because midwives.  Around the age of 15, children were expected to become independent, and soon after, start their own families.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It’s Time to Change Sex Education



Do you remember sex education at school? My chief memories of my sex education lesson in primary school are of watching some slightly cheesy videos that made us all squirm with embarrassment, and the sting of injustice felt when the boys were allowed out for a longer lunch break while we learnt about the mysteries of menstruation. By that I mean one of our teachers put a tampon in a glass of water and we watched in horror as it expanded to almost fill the glass.

Later, as a teen, we were again shown cheesy videos and then much hilarity was had by all as we were shown how to put a condom on a plastic phallus. It was funny, but maybe not that instructive in the end.

All in all though, I don't think my sex education was that bad. Yet many girls at my school got pregnant at what I would consider to be an early age–late teens and early twenties. Was it down to poor sex education? Or simply personal choice? It's probably impossible to ever know, but there's no doubt in my mind that while not dreadful, how I was taught sex education could have been vastly improved.

Which is why I support Yas Necati's petition on Change.org asking for UK Prime Minister David Cameron to convene a working group of young people, professionals, teachers and online experts to re-write guidance on sex education in schools.

I left secondary school in the late 1990s. Back then, the Internet meant dial-up and AOL or MSN Messenger. We had never heard of social media. A decade later and Facebook, Twitter and other social networking sites have totally changed the way young people communicate.

It seems like every few months we hear distressing stories about teenagers who are bullied online to such a degree that they take their own lives. We hear stories of young children learning about sex from watching porn online. A Telegraph/NSPCC poll has found that almost a third of young people believe that porn dictates how to behave in a relationship.

The British are known for being prudish about sex, but something has to be done. Current guidelines used by teachers to plan sex education lessons were last updated in 2000–so much has changed since then. 
If we want today's–and future–generations of young people to make safe and informed choices about sex, they must be equipped with the proper knowledge. At the moment, there is no structured approach to teach children about sex in the online world–be it pornography or simply in the networks that young people communicate with. Something needs to change–and quickly.

You can sign Yas' petition here.

-Sarah Jackson
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Memories of Girlhood: Growing Giant Pumpkins


Hillary and her brother, with some not-so-giant pumpkins grown in their garden.
Photo courtesy of author.

One of my favorite things about summer vacation was always gardening. Sometime in May each year we would start sprouting pumpkins seeds in the house, and I knew that it was almost time for school to end. When the weather here in Michigan warmed up enough, we made small hills of dirt in our garden to plant the seeds in. Then, for the rest of the summer we waited, watched, weeded, and watered.

We always grew other things besides pumpkins. It was great having fresh green beans to snack on and yummy squash that my mom would cook for dinner. But the pumpkins were what we patiently waited for. Even as little kids, my brother and I would drag the hose all the way to the back of the yard to water the pumpkins. I learned a lot as a little girl in the pumpkin patch. We would check the flowers for cucumber beetles, which we knew were bad for the pumpkins. I learned that lightening storms were good for the plants because it provides nitrogen. I learned to pick off some of the smaller pumpkins so that all of the plant's energy would go to the bigger ones, resulting in giant pumpkins.

Suddenly, summer would come to an end and I would head back to school. But the pumpkins were not done growing. Later in September, it would start to get cold again and then it was time to harvest. We would bring our saws to the garden to cut through the thick vines. My little brother and I would work together to heave the big pumpkins onto the trailer. Our dad would have to help with the really big ones. Sometimes, we would have competitions against my cousins, who also grew pumpkins, to see who could grow the heaviest one. One year I was sneaky and hollowed one out to fill it with sand so that it would be surprisingly heavy. Following the pumpkin weigh-in came the best part: carving Jack-o-Lanterns! When you have a giant pumpkin, there is a lot of room to get creative. Sometimes we had pumpkins so big I could fit inside it. We would work hard scooping out all of the seeds and goo from inside, then get to work designing a masterpiece. Then the pumpkins would be displayed on the front porch as we counted down to Halloween. Almost every night during the fall, my mom would read Jeb Scarecrow's Pumpkin Patch to us before bed. I always liked little Jeb Scarecrow because he took such good care of his pumpkins just like I did. I hope to someday grow giant pumpkins again with my own children, as it is such a great learning experience.

-Hillary Hanel
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Should Martial Arts Training be Mandatory for Girls?


Neetu Chandra, an Indian actress and model, is also a highly trained martial artist!

Rape is everywhere. Most girls (and boys) will have to face rape during their lifetimes. But what should we do about it? While changing our attitudes towards rape and rape victims is key to helping decrease sexual violence, we also have to change how we prepare children for such events. 

Neetu Chandra–an Indian film actress, model, and martial artist–is one of the advocates for not only changing our attitudes, but changing how we prepare young girls for a world that can become heartbreakingly violent. This week, responding to the many news stories about rapes in India, Chandra started a petition on Change.org to the Prime Minister of India.  This petition specifically requests that martial arts training be made a mandatory part of school for girls in grades 4 through 12.

As a woman who has faced rape and the horrors it can inflict on not only the victim but on her friends and family, I fully support this petition. While I have never taken martial arts courses, my sister did–and it made her a confident, secure person who knows that whether she's walking home from class late at night or browsing through shops at the mall, she can and will defend herself against any kind of attack. As Chandra states:
I am quite aware that it might not give them massy muscles and steel bone like men but what it will give to our girls is self-confidence, sense of security and willpower to fight back instead of surrendering meekly when shown a knife or a gun. It might also not give them training to use a gun or carry a knife but it will certainly give them voice to scream, teeth to bite and limbs to pack a punch on the face of her tormentor and bounce back when he is trying to force himself on her soft body.
Rape culture is everyone's business–whether it's in India, the U.K., the U.S., or even Antarctica. The important part for us is to not only advocate for a change in attitudes, but to also support changes that will better prepare girls to face violent situations and defend themselves. Only by supporting and advocating for a change in how we prepare girls for the world–for changes that will make girls healthier, stronger, smarter, and more self-confident–will we be able to change the culture of violence and gender bias that allows rape to be so prevalent.

-Tiffany Piotti
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.