Thursday, December 13, 2007

HGHW to WalMart - Can You Stoop Any Lower?

We found this on You can find it at your neighborhood Wal-Mart.

Sold in junior sizes at your local Wal-Mart - makes us wonder if Wal-Mart can stoop any lower or be more perverse?

Send a letter to:
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Attn: Customer Service
702 S.W. 8th Street
Bentonville, AR 72716

Or call:

Pink Weightloss Patch - Keep Your Girlish Figure

Get Skinny.

"You should NOT spend your girlish days worrying about your weight. But you want to be skinny and wear all those cute little dresses - so we have come up with a simple solution for you."

"Use the Pink Patch daily for 24/7 weight loss and appetite control so you can look fabulous while you have fun. No more worries about the freshman 15 or sitting at your new desk job snacking all day long. You have enough to focus on besides your weight. Look in the mirror and smile — without giving up your busy social life! The Pink Patch will help you get skinny: we guarantee it."

This is one of the most obvious marketing ploys targeting girls' anxieties around weight. I found this product advertisement on MySpace, where loads of teenage girls spend their free time. When I clicked the link I was appalled that this company was so blatantly marketing to girls.

Their tagline is: "Be young & have fun with the body you always dreamed of." Just the fact that it's a PINK patch reminds me of the Victoria's Secret Pink Campaign - where they lure girls into the lingerie stores full of padded bras and thongs and give them a pink teddy bear if they make a purchase.

Pegged as "FAST, FRESH, and FREE-SPIRITED", this marketing scheme reinforces Packaging Girlhood authors Brown and Lamb's claim that marketers are co-opting girl power and words like freedom and independence to mean the power to shop and the freedom to look great.

If you're as angry as we are - send a letter to the company:
USA Herbals
500 Bic Drive
Bldg #4 Ground Floor
Milford, CT 06461

Or call:
Monday - Friday
8 AM - 6 PM EST

Friday, November 30, 2007

Beauty Comes in all Shapes and Sizes

Yesterday I read an article that struck a personal chord. It is called Learning self-limiting attitudes about achievement ( The part of the article that really hit home discussed the influence that parents and adults have in teaching their daughters appropriate gender performance (as if there is such a thing) and self-esteem.

This past thanksgiving I took a long-awaited trip to New York City to visit my family and enjoy the holiday. I have two younger sisters- Mia who is 8 years old and India who is 5. After a 7 hour drive I arrive at my mom’s house. As soon as my mama opens the door, I step inside and her tea cup Chihuahua begins yelping and jumping excitedly. Then I hear a small tired voice by the stairs to the second floor say “hi catherine.” I look over to see this beautiful round girl half my size with long twists in her hair. “MIA!!!” I scream. She ran over to me and wrapped her arms around my body squeezing so tight that I was actually surprised by her strength. Next, India comes running down the stairs, “Catherine’s home!” A petite little body with a round head and big wondrous eyes came and grabbed onto the other side of me, holding tight. It was one of those special moments that you never forget. When I saw Mia I remember thinking, wow, she has gotten thicker. As the weekend progressed my mama told me about the family and how everyone was doing. She told me that Mia had been saying, “I hate my body, I’m too fat.” She actually went as far as to say, “Mommy, I’m hideous.” My mom asked me to talk to her and try to make her feel better about herself. I instantly thought of Hardy Girls and our workshops about media. I thought, “I will do some media literacy… starting with the Disney princesses,” which are readily available pictures in my sister’s Ikea designed kiddy bedroom.

I told Mia that we were going to have special sister time since she was such a big girl now. I told her that I used to hate my body and then I learned where it was coming from. I learned that all these images of unattainable beauty are strategically placed around us to sell us products- makeup, lotions, shoes, clothes, bags, hair products, you name it. The images that accompany the ads sell 2 things- a mainstream popular idea of beauty and the product itself. She caught on right away, saying “Yeah, and Beyonce always wears a lot of makeup.” I then asked her about the Disney princesses, what did she see and how did the images make her feel. She said that they were white and skinny with long hair and dresses. She said, “Some people are ugly and some are pretty. The pretty ones look like that (the Disney princesses) and the ugly ones look like me (referring to her race and her weight). My heart hurt so badly for her. I said “Mia, Are these real women?” She paused for a minute looking off, then she said “NO”. I pined in, “These are drawings aren’t they? Someone created these images!” She started to join in, “Yeah, they aren’t real” all the while getting somewhat angry at the fact that she had been conned into hating herself based on a drawing. We went further and further into the conversation about different kinds of beauty, about magazines, the kids that tease her in school and about loving herself. I told that loving yourself is a choice you make everyday. Your idea of your own beauty should not be based on a magazine picture because they aren’t real images. They are retouched, bodies are redrawn, and makeup is repainted. Every ad is selling something and in order to make you buy a particular product they have to make you feel bad about yourself… like somehow you are not whole without this thing. Sadly though, the products themselves and the image of beauty are becoming one. It used to be that they used so called beautiful people to sell the ads; now, the beautiful people have become the ads. The product became Botox, breast augmentation, tummy tucks, and so on. Now the product is your own body and the media wants to sell you a new one. This conversation gets very sticky for me though because our mother has had plastic surgery. She is trying to stay “beautiful” (if that is something that can ever be lost) by looking young.

At the end of the talk, Mia and I made a poster that attaches to the family mirror. It says, “I am beautiful.” I told her when she forgets what beauty is, or begins to feel bad about herself… look in the mirror and read the sign to remind her. The media limits the definition of beauty with their images and so our own real images, our real reflections need to be our new personal media expanding the definition of beauty. Just as we are smiling, making the posters and feeling good about our bodies… my mother comes downstairs to model her outfit as she was getting ready to go out with a friend. She stands in the doorway… squeezes 2cm of the skin on her waist and says “Do I look fat in this?” I was so upset. Mia hadn’t really noticed (at least not consciously) and I signal to mom with my chopping hand shaped like a knife on my neck, and speak through quiet gritted teeth “Mom, that is part of the problem.”

We take for granted how many young girls mimic our actions and statements. Sometimes I fear what my sisters learned from me when they were younger before I left for college. In what ways did I teach them to hate themselves simply by stating that I hated myself? Now, after college and a ton of growth, I live 7 hours away from my sisters and I have learned to love myself, to embrace life, and to not let someone else’s definition of beauty define me. I am no longer there on a regular basis to be that influence, and so it is my challenge to live it; to be the living example of empowerment and strength for any girl that I may meet. This is my charge to you… LOVE YOURSELF for all that you are so that younger girls will grow up KNOWING that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dangerous Books for Girls

Excerpted from Lyn Mikel Brown's article on Dangerous Books for Girls. The full article can be found to the right. Please share your comments!

Feminist psychologists have amassed ample evidence that conventional femininity is bad for girls--all girls. Using their Feminine Ideology Scale, for example, Deborah Tolman and her colleagues find that internalizing conventional femininity ideologies of the very passive and disembodied "nature" that the Matthews teachers., with all good intentions, desire and instruct is associated with poor mental health for early adolescent girls. Girls who uncritically internalize these messages are more likely to be depressed and to have lower self-esteem.

Enter two popular books, Wendy Shalit's Girls Gone Mild and Louann Brizendine's The Female Brain, to tell us just what proper means and why we should accept, even celebrate it. Shalit champions a purported new girl movement away from sexy and toward "traditional family values", while Brizendine tries to establish a causal link between brain and gender differences. While they appear to have little in common, these books share a similar set of assumptions about the intrinsic worth and the salvation of conventional femininity.

Read the full article

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Super Girl Dilemma

Excerpted from Lyn Mikel Brown's article on the SuperGirl Dilemma. The full article can be found to the right. Please share your comments!

In the early 90’s, when Carol Gilligan and I wrote about the tyranny of nice and kind and the pressure girls felt to be perfect, we were illuminating the ways conventional femininity worked to shape girls’ desires and relationships. Listening to educationally privileged girls, mostly white and middle class, we found that all too often the girls who excelled in school, who looked put-together, who sang in school choirs, volunteered in their communities, and smiled a lot were in various kinds of psychological trouble. A few stalwart resisters—some white and middle class, but mostly working class girls and girls of color--suggested this did not have to be the developmental trajectory, but for the girls who bought the ideal, it didn’t feel like a choice.

Read the full article

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween from Hardy Girls

Halloween used to be about wearing the scariest outfit, but these days, at least for girls, it's about wearing the sexiest outfit. Parents should be concerned about the lack of options out there for girls. That's why Packaging Girlhood authors Lyn Mikel Brown and Sharon Lamb have put these 12 tips together:

"Halloween is all about being what you aren't ... help her stretch her imagination ... Then introduce her to female police officers and firefighters in your community. Halloween is a day of imagination -- a perfect opportunity to show her that she can be anyone, any profession, any role."

1. On a day when she can be anyone or anything, princesses and Divas should not be her only Halloween choices! It's not that pink and pretty is bad, but it squeezes out other possibilities. Girls love it, yes, but they also love double fudge-frosted brownies, and you wouldn.t want them eating a steady diet of that stuff.

2. Be creative with your daughter's costumes. Imagination can help girls break out of gender stereotypes and fantasy is a great practice for reality.

3. Encourage your daughter to be anyone or anything. If they are encouraged to look around them, they will see women doing wild, brave and phenomenal things. (Astronaut is NOT a boy costume!) This will give them permission to be wild, brave and phenomenal too!

4. Don't assume that you know what your daughter likes. She is bombarded with pink princesses, sexy divas and pop stars, but she may surprise you! Talk about possibilities. If she chooses pink and glittery, encourage her to add her own twist to her costume. If she wants to be a queen, let her carry a sheath and sword in case she needs to fight for her crown!

5. Spend time with her and listen to what she likes and why. Sitting down and talking about Halloween costumes is a great learning and bonding experience. Help her to recall the best costumes she saw last year. Remember when those three girls who were best friends dressed as the Three Musketeers? And it's also a great opportunity to open the door to new possibilities.

6. Sit down with a paper and pencil and let your daughter create her own character and story. She can raid the family closets or dress up box to become the wildest character she can think of!

Picking a Costume...A Chance to Be Anything and Everything!

7. If your daughter is set on pink and glittery, let her pink and glitter DO something. Help her imagine a feisty fairy who can take on the magical realm's evil dragon or let her be a butterfly that saves the insect world or even a princess who can use a map to find her own way to the ball! She can be a pink superhero who saves the universe or a sparkly firefighter or even a
sparkly skeleton!

8. If your daughter loves scary stories and the history of Halloween let her go traditional and be a witch, a monster, or ghost. If she.s a witch, avoid all those sexy diva witch costumes in the catalogs; instead, encourage her to look as scary, ugly, and awful as she can.

9. Does your daughter have a favorite book? A favorite character? Reread the book with her and think about what she.ll need to get into character. She can be Madeline, Anne of Green Gables, Dorothy of OZ or Hermione Granger. She can even be the scarecrow or the Wicked Witch of the West, or even the wizard Dumbledore. Tell her she doesn't need to limit herself to the girl leads in each of these!

10. There is no reason she can't be a character usually reserved for boys! Halloween is all about being what you aren't let her stretch her imagination to become a vampire, ghoul, or cowpoke. Teach her that just because the police officer and firefighter costumes are labeled for boys does not mean they are off limits to her. There are plenty of female police officers and fire fighters in real life!

11. Is your daughter an athlete? This is her chance to become her idol off the court, field or racetrack. She can be Mia Hamm, Danica Patrick or Sheryl Swoopes.

12. If your daughter has just learned about Amelia Earhart or Joan of Arc at school, Halloween is a great opportunity to make learning fun. Sit down with her and talk about real women pirates, explorers and spies. Visit the library and check out books on Jane Goodall (a costume could be completed with a stuffed chimpanzee) or Sally Ride! But don't stop there. Why can.t she be Van Gogh with a palette, paintbrushes and a bandage on her ear? Why can't she be Mozart with a ruffled shirt, a powdered wig, a feather pen and composition pad? It's great to learn about women in history who have made their mark, but this is a day of imagination so she can be anyone, any profession, any role.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Update on Walmart T-shirts

Since the letter was sent, we've heard unofficially that the stalking shirts have been removed from the shelves but Walmart still has given no official position on the subject. Many thanks and much love to the North Carolina Coalition against Domestic Violence, who jump started this fight. We will keep you all posted on the subject and in the meantime feel free to write a letter against Walmart's t-shirt normalizing domestic violence.

Walmart, We Challenge You to Rise

October 5, 2007

Lee Scott, CEO
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611

Dear Mr. Scott,

As the director of an organization that provides programming and resources to girls and women in Maine, I have seen the effects that domestic violence and stalking can have on our youth. The “Some call it stalking, I call it love” shirt that you’re currently selling in Wal-Mart stores makes light of a very serious situation of which many Americans are victims, and most often those victims are women and girls.

Hardy Girls Healthy Women of Waterville, Maine strongly urges Wal-Mart to immediately stop selling the abovementioned shirt and to take immediate action to remove these shirts from all Wal-Mart stores in the country and elsewhere. In addition, we recommend that Wal-Mart take swift action to ensure shirts like these never end up on Wal-Mart’s shelves again by making changes to the way that product purchasing occurs and by requiring all Wal-Mart stores to partner with their local domestic violence prevention programs to ensure that all Wal-Mart employees understand the very real effects of domestic violence and stalking on our daughters, sisters, mothers and partners.

This is an opportunity for Wal-Mart to take a public stand against domestic violence – to educate its corporate team, employees, and shoppers about the need to take domestic violence and stalking seriously.

I’m sure you’ll agree that domestic violence and its effects on 1 in 3 women in our country and around the world are no laughing matter. As such, t-shirts like the one you currently sell should never make it to the shelves.

I look forward to the removal of these shirts and to hearing of Wal-Mart’s commitment to the eradication of violence in America’s homes.


Megan Williams
Executive Director
Hardy Girls Healthy Women, Inc.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Preteen Modeling or Child Pornography?

Any person with internet access can innocently Google the words -preteen model. It may be a parent seeking information on modeling –however misguided- for their little tutu wearing ballerina princess or possibly a social action group interested in educating young girls on the “beauty” industry. For whatever reason, the words seem basic and somewhat harmless. You might picture a headshot of a little girl with freckles and a huge smile playing in the grass. Or you could picture a little girl in a beauty pageant wearing a sparkly dress, tiara, and way too much makeup for her age. I admit whole-heartedly that the whole beauty pageant image is incredibly disturbing, but still it is nothing compared to the images that appear under the title – preteen model. Go ahead and try it…

Instantly you are bombarded with images of highly- sexualized, underdressed “preteen models” touching themselves, laying in raunchy positions and exposing their young underdeveloped bodies. Freckles are now accompanied by Victoria Secret lingerie and the headshot is now a butt shot that reveals most of the 7 years old’s thong. The girls are being marketed as sex objects. What’s worse is that they are being taught at a young age that their bodies are objects for male delight and consumption. They are growing up with the belief that admiration equals objectification.

But the images do not stop with lacy thongs. The second site that came up in my Google search contained images of grown men touching and in some cases even having sex with these “smiling” 6-8 year old girls (who are obviously too young to give consent). This is psychotic. What has become of our society? Grown women are infantilized in mainstream media and everyone in America is aware of this equation… youth=beauty. Well, now the youth is even younger. These images are scary because they normalize perverse behavior… and the desire to de-virginize an 8 year old girl is perverse. Period. A man that actually acted on this fantasy would be shunned as a sex offender yet it is still okay to provide this fantasy. We shun psychopathic behavior but by having such easy access to these images we train men to act like psychopaths. The idea that a man could even achieve sexual arousal by looking at a girl so young is to say the least, disgusting.

At any mention of male-child pornography there is protest and court hearings –and rightfully so- but there is no fight against this horrific epidemic of girl-child pornography that is being masqueraded as “preteen modeling” on the internet. What can we do about it? I have been asking myself that all day? I guess that the first act is to unveil this whole exploitation of female youth, focusing especially on how common and easy it is to access. If female child porno is this accessible, I wonder how many people are actually sponsoring it. What scares me more than its existence is its audience. Let’s expose the truth… Modeling, I think not… It’s PORNO.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Blogs We Love

Well, we'd just like to share with you, our friends, a fabulous blog that has been brought to our attention! It's the Parenting for Peace blog, and it's definitely worth taking a good look. Fantastic information and resources, and interesting reading!

Also, we highly recommend the Packaging Girlhood blog, too. Both blogs are great reading for adults who care about and work with you.

Check back soon for more on our own cultural commentary, too.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Girls Gone Milder? Here we go again...

Please take a moment to consider the influx of messages girls and women receive about how they should look, talk, act, what they can be, do and say.

Its exhausting for me, at 24 years old, to move through all that mess and just be myself, so I can’t even imagine how frustrating it must be for adolescent and teen girls to see past all those ridiculous social expectations.

Imagine the wheels turning in my head, then, when I discovered an article in Newsweek last Thursday titled Girls Gone Milder. What exactly could that mean? Sounds fishy to me, especially after working at Hardy Girls Healthy Women for almost a year now.

(you can read the article here.)

The article, written by Jennie Yabroff for Newsweek, examines a new movement towards a more demure existence for teen girls, as outlined by the woman who wrote the book (literally!) on modesty. Yabroff cites several new websites for clothing and socializing with a modest spin and speaks to Wendy Shalit of

In Shalit’s new book, Girls Gone Milder, she claims girls are sick and tired of having overt sexuality pushed on them. “She blames the usual suspects: media, misguided feminist professors, overly permissive parents... They’ve lost the sense of encouraging their daughters to be ladylike.”

So who are these teen girls tired of the sex-saturated state of the nation, rejecting “the bad girl archetype for a more demure existence?” And please remind me again, what is "ladylike" and why is it so important? She says that these girls "cover up... insist on curfews on college campuses ...bring their moms on dates...”

Yabroff then cites our good friends in girl empowerment The Girls As Grantmakers program, claiming (without actually naming the organization) that this new movement of girls also spreads the word about modesty. (Based in Pennsylvania, this group is best known for girlcotting Abercrombie & Fitch last year for their obnoxious attitude tee shirts with phrases like “Who Needs Brains When You Have These?”)

Let me just tell you what I think is going on here. I was surprised by work like this- an article printed in Newsweek with absolutely NO cultural analysis, no discussion with the pros, and furthermore an obvious conservative (modest) spin.

Should we let her know that next time it will be better to contact Lyn Mikel Brown for an opinion before asserting a new movement among girls? I think so.

We do a lot of work (and Lyn especially) considering the ways that mass media misuses the concept of girl power for money-driven schemes- another way to create anxiety so girls will spend- and now it seems that Shalit uses the concept in the opposite light, taking power from girls so that they remain modest, demure. Proper.

While the meaning and use of Girl Power seems to change so frequently and conveniently for whosoever chooses to use the term, does the term really mean anything anymore? Originally that concept was used for that happy state in between overt sexuality and social rules of modesty-- oh right I believe that's the place where you can find REAL girls. Wasn't it once about celebrating the unique and dynamic nature of every girl?

The only evidence of a new modesty movement among the female youth of this country is that Wendy Shalit says there is. Is this article supposed to make us feel culturally better?

Whew- what a relief- those girls are going back to longer skirts and chaperones- now I think we are safe.

Now, don't get me wrong, we don't like the sexualization of girls one bit. But we also don't want girls having to consider what is "proper" and "improper," we want girls to live in a culture where they can BE THEMSELVES and those ridiculous definitions don't exist.

Is a movement towards modesty going to save us from a sexual revolution that's gone "too far"? Isn't there much more to consider in this case? This article annoys me --- well, my HGHW comrades and I --- because once again pressure is present for girls to fit themselves into simplistic and limiting labels- that classic dichotomy of the good girl (modest) or bad (immodest).

How exhausting.

Even more specifically, this writing makes me angry because without cultural analysis/evidence to work with, Yabroff uses an example of a super social action (a girlcott) against a major corporation

(something we are totally proud of and did ourselves earlier this year with a bad tee shirt and Kmart- see past blogs below...)

completely out of context. Had she properly named the organization, and I will do it again for them - The Girls as Grantmakers Program- then a modesty movement would matter very little in the face of the dynamic and empowered girls that brought about that fabulous change.

Company execs of Abercrombie not only met with those girls, they removed the most offensive shirts from all their shelves and made apologies.

Wish we could say as much for the elusive CEO of Kmart, but still girls are doing great things to defend their right to be girls all over the place.

In fact, the reference would make little sense if readers were aware that much like us (Hardy Girls Healthy Women), the organization allows girls space to empower themselves through social action while also celebrating the unique and dynamic nature of every girl.

Meaning: girls are much, much more that these ridiculous and lazy labels - they are smart, strong, bold, loud, creative, complex and dynamic. And much, much more..

This article is frustrating because we work to create a more equitable culture for girls and women, so that they may thrive and be all those wonderful things listed above (and much much more.) This hypothetical "modesty movement” only creates more unecessary pressure for girls, another hoop to jump through on the way to finding comfort in one's own skin.

Please check out the AWESOME LIST on the Hardy Girls Healthy Women website -a comprehensive listing of pro-girl organizations and sites- to counteract the pro- "modesty" sites listed in Yabroff’s article.

As always, if you have any questions or would like more information about Hardy Girls Healthy Women, please send an email to

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What makes it easy to hit women?

What makes it easy to hit women? Their objectification. Make them objects and it's not like you're hurting anyone. Why would someone want to hit a woman in the first place? She's stepping out of line, threatening to take up the space she deserves is one reason. It's pretty easy to think that's okay with the institutionalized sexism and racism that plagues this country. Kim Gandy does a good job (below) of explaining how that works and why we are going to be in this for a long haul. It's up to the many good men (like Cesar Alvarado of Men's Nonviolence Project who posted this on a list serve) who are out there to join with women to start speaking up about attacks on us, not just the physical ones but the 10,000 little cuts that are being inflicted at the emotional level each and every day to women in every corner of this land.

Racism and Sexism Run Deep
Below the Belt: A Biweekly Column
Published on April 17, 2007 by the National Organization for Women President Kim Gandy

Let's start with a simple fact: Most U.S. media outlets - television and radio stations, newspapers and magazines, movie studios, music companies and book publishers - are owned by a shockingly small number of giant corporations. These conglomerates generally are run by white men focused on profits and stock options. This reality lurked behind much of last week's Don Imus storm.

That's not to say that some fine behavior wasn't on display. In fact, the outcome was a victory for all women, and particularly for women of color. After Imus called the Rutgers University women's basketball team "nappy-headed hos" (and his producer Bernard McGuirk called them "hard-core hos"-he can't be let off the hook), organizations like the National Association of Black Journalists, Media Matters for America and, of course, NOW swung into action, alerting the public and demanding accountability.

NOW supporters sent over 30,000 messages in support of the campaign. Women and men across the country responded in force, saying enough is enough. Employees of CBS and NBC let their bosses know that a line had been crossed and the networks' reputations were at stake. Advertisers started dropping like flies.

One week after the offensive comments were made, MSNBC discontinued its simulcast of Imus in the Morning. The next day, CBS Radio canceled the show. The week ended with an inspiring press conference organized by the National Congress of Black Women and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, at which a long list of leaders, including civil rights legend Dr. Dorothy Height, addressed the larger challenge of creating diverse and responsible media while ridding our culture of misogyny and racism.

So, kudos all around to everyone who did the right thing.

Unfortunately, the media's handling of this news story demonstrates a problem beyond Imus' crude sense of so-called humor. My staff and I watched hours of media coverage on this issue, and I appeared on a number of TV and radio shows. The other guests invited to comment were almost invariably men. True, we saw and heard from more people of color than ever before. It's just too bad that almost none of them were women of color. I was on two segments of an hour-long morning cable show devoted to the issue and, despite a large number of guests, I was the only woman - in other words, there wasn't a single African American woman on the show. And with so few women in the discussion, the issue of sexism has not been given the attention it deserved.

Despite the advances that women and people of color have made as working members of the media, their presence in top management and as owners is still minuscule. The news can't help but reflect the lack of diversity and inherent privilege of its ownership, and the power imbalance that persists in our society. Take the April 13 front page story in the Wall Street Journal as an illuminating example. The article was littered with the names of high-profile decision-makers and communicators. A total of 35 people were named in the text and photo caption - ranging from talk radio hosts to media executives, politicians to journalists, civil rights leaders to business chiefs.

Just two of them were women - a lousy six percent in a story partly about sexism! The writers and editors didn't even bother to call Rutgers coach C. Vivian Stringer by name; otherwise the tally might have jumped to a surplus of three women.

When I took part in meetings with NBC and CBS executives last Thursday, who did the television media report was there? Only Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson. Now, I don't begrudge these two civil rights leaders the ink and airtime they received - they were saying what needed to be said and, without their outrage, the story might never have received the level of attention it did. But it sure would have been nice for women across the country to know that women leaders were present at those meetings, speaking up on their behalf.

Women, and men, need to hear the message from feminist groups that what Imus did was not just a shock jock repeating naughty words he heard in rap songs (yeah, like Imus listens to rap). No, what Imus did was utilize an ugly, age-old tactic. When confronted with a group of successful women who dared to tread into a historically male arena, he tried to diminish them the best way he knew how-by reminding everyone of their sex and their race, and by judging them on their appearance. Not only that, he employed the term "ho" (short for whore), which often is reserved for women who step beyond male-patrolled sexual boundaries. What did these young women do to rate such a harsh assessment? - Oh, that's right, they were playing sports.

Imus and the crew on his show had a long record of making racist and sexist comments. In 1993 he said of journalist Gwen Ifill, who was then working for the New York Times: "Isn't the Times wonderful? It lets the cleaning lady cover the White House." Still, he attracted a steady stream of well-respected presidential candidates, legislators, news anchors and editors as guests. It's the top-shelf company he kept that helped sink Imus - making it almost impossible for him to defend his show as merely a comedy.

While other big mouths like Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Tom Leykis, Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh (whom NOW targeted with a multi-year campaign) spew hate across the airwaves, none of them have the status that comes with interviewing Tom Brokaw, Maureen Dowd, John McCain and John Kerry on a regular basis.

And, despite what some may say, this is not a free speech issue. Don Imus can walk down the street shouting "nappy-headed hos" all he wants, or even get a demonstration permit, make signs to that effect, and march around with them. But nothing in the First Amendment entitles him to a $10 million a year job or a television showcase for his hate speech.

Even those inside the media agree. On the Today show, radio host Tavis Smiley said: "I think while Imus had a First Amendment right to free speech, he doesn't have a First Amendment right to a talk show."

We can't heap all the blame on the media's shoulders, though. Why was there an audience willing to snicker along as Imus insulted women, blacks, Jews and other oppressed groups? Why did Tim Russert of Meet the Press and Tom Oliphant of the Boston Globe agree to go on his show? Why did so many people consider his words no big deal, or felt that his good deeds should compensate for his bigoted speech? Perhaps it's because we've encountered this attitude so many times, for so long, in a society where racism and sexism continue to fester, that we've all become far too desensitized.

Neither Imus nor the media industry created the system of denigration, intimidation and discrimination that functions to keep women in line. But they do benefit from it.

Let's face it, we're all going to have to be vigilant if we want to change something as elemental in our society as sexism and racism. We must call out hate speech whenever we hear it, even from our friends and family. We must teach our kids that boys and girls are equal, and equally deserving of respect - that women are not the mere decorations or sex objects that they seem to be in most music videos (that's all genres of music, by the way, not just hip hop).

And we must support legislation that protects women and girls as they make their way in a hostile world. At the same time the Imus flap was dominating the news, Senators Ted Kennedy and Gordon Smith introduced the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a law that will penalize and help prevent hate-based violent crimes. The most comprehensive hate crimes legislation ever introduced in Congress, this law will finally classify as hate crimes certain violent, criminal acts that are motivated by the victim's gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

When I first heard of Monday's horrific mass murder in the engineering building at Virginia Tech, I immediately thought of another mass murder at another engineering building - the one at the University of Montreal where, in 1989, engineering student Marc Lepine murdered 14 women and injured 14 other students, mostly women. That reminded me of last year's Amish school shooting where girls were singled out for elimination. We don't yet know whether the Virginia Tech shootings were hate crimes, but there have been enough hate crimes - more than enough - to make it clear that more expansive laws are essential. And they remind us of how deep the river of sexism runs.

We have our work cut out for us. The radio dial is chock full of raving bigots, but we're ready. Watch out, and listen up!

The National Organization for Women, NOW, is the largest organization of Feminist Activists in the United States. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

To comment please join the Men's Nonviolence Project listserve by sending an e-mail to, personally sending an e-mail to C├ęsar J. Alvarado at, or calling 1-800-525-1978 x3194.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Mr. Tarantino we have something to say to you

Quentin Tarantino- WAKE UP!
We are appalled to report to you that Quentin Tarantino is now advertising for a plastic action figure (directly marketed to kids) from the film Planet Terror (a tribute to the B-movie Grindhouse genre). This action figure's name is "Rapist number one" and Quentin happens to be the actor in the film. While he didn't necessarily direct this portion of the film, we know he is a direct proponent.


"Planet Terror" is essentially an homage to the B-movies of the seventies- where women are sexed up and then most likely sliced up in one way or another. The women in Tarantino's take on the genre go on their own killing rampage, however. That is, after being brutally gang raped repeatedly.

Its very interesting what comes up when you do an Internet search on Tarantino and feminism, too. While he loves those B movies, he's revered in some feminist and film theory circles for two powerful female characters: Pam Grier in Jackie Brown and The Bride in the Kill Bill films. These women certainly DO act on their own behalf, but only after their (stereotypical) constant and degrading victimization. Thus, the only way that they act on their own is violently. The denouement in these films is nothing new--- violence violence violence. C'mon Tarantino- we know you're creative. Surprise us already.

While the use of women in your films is, at best, Quentin, a bit different than most violent movies -- we believe you are a much, much smarter man than you are showing us at present time. Claiming a "feminist sensibility" (read the short interview at might sound nice, but actually creating dynamic female characters with substance and intelligence (not merely violent capabilities/tendencies full of revenge) would be reeeeeal nice Quentin. Reeeal nice.

Okay, I didn't come here to bash your films though. Well not necessarily. But seriously, what are you THINKING trying to market a RAPIST doll to children?

- I would also like to add here that Toys-R-Us issued a statement that they would NOT be selling this ridiculous toy. We give them thumbs up all around- Way to go Toys-R-Us, you are setting a MUCH better example than our friends at KMart.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

This article is excerpted from "Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters" by Courtney E. Martin. Copyright 2007 by Courtney E. Martin. Reprinted by permission of Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, Inc.

-excerpts of article are available here (, but we have pasted our favorite paragpraphs below! Enjoy!

There is a girl, right now, staring in a mirror in Des Moines, scrutinizing her widening hips. There is a girl, right now, spinning like a hamster on speed in a gym on the fifth floor of a building in Boston, promising herself dinner if she goes two more miles. There is a girl, right now, trying to wedge herself into a dress two sizes too small in a Savannah shopping mall, chastising herself for being so lazy and fat. There is a girl, right now, in a London bathroom, trying not to get any vomit on her aunt's toilet seat. There is a girl, right now, in Berlin, cutting a cube of cheese and an apple into barely visible pieces to eat for her dinner.

Our bodies are places where our drive for perfection gets played out. Food is all around us, as are meals and the pressure that goes with them. Well-intentioned after-school specials teach us, from a very young age, how to purge our snacks. We are inundated with information about "good" and "bad" foods, the most effective workout regiments, the latest technological advancements in plastic surgery. We demand flawlessness in our appearance -- the outer manifestation of our inner dictators.

To some degree, this makes sense. People in general like to look at a pretty face -- which means they also like to be friends with a pretty face, do business with a pretty face, and marry a pretty face. Attractive people are desired and coddled in our society; they have an easier time getting jobs, finding boyfriends and girlfriends, getting parts in music videos, simply getting the average waiter's attention.

The cruel irony is that although we become totally obsessed with the daily measures of how "good" or "bad" we are (refused dessert = good; didn't have time to go to the gym = bad), there is no finish line. This weight preoccupation will never lead us anywhere. It is a maniacal maze that always spits you out at the same point it sucked you up: wanting. We keep chasing after perfection as if it is an achievable goal, when really it is the most grand and painful of all mirages.

Beauty is the first impression of total success. Social psychologists call this the halo effect: We see one aspect of a person -- such as her nice hair -- and assume a host of other things about her -- that she is wealthy, effective and powerful. Looking good indicates control, dedication, grace. If you are beautiful, we learn, you are probably rich, lucky, and loved. You are probably sought after, seen, envied. You probably have ample opportunities for dates and promotions. Our generation does not generally equate beauty with stupidity the way our parents or grandparents sometimes did. Beautiful, to us, has come in savvy packages -- Tyra Banks creating her own empire, Candace Bushnell writing her way into found-hundred-dollar Manolo Blahniks.

From a very young age, we see weight as something in our control. If we account for every calorie that we consume, if we plan our fitness schedule carefully and follow through, if we are exacting about our beauty regimen -- designer makeup, trendy clothes -- then, we conclude, we will be happy. And we can be beautiful if we are just committed enough -- no matter our genetics, our bank account, or our personality -- as we have learned from advertising and the American Dream ethos. This logic leads us to believe that, if we are unhappy, it is because of our weight and, in turn, our lack of willpower. We are our own roadblocks on this road to 21st century female perfection and happiness.

Colorado Springs, Colo., was suburbia to the nth degree, home of strip mass, chain restaurant heaven, and Focus on the Family. Normal doesn't begin to describe how homogenous my hometown was.

Perfect girls

But as in any American town with picket fences this white, something dark lurked underneath. Like American Beauty's psychopathic real estate agent, the mothers I knew were often grinding their teeth and trying to outdo one another in landscaping and SUVs. The fathers -- mostly doctors and lawyers -- were socially accepted workaholics who attended big games and graduations still in their suits. The sons were out on the field 24/7, dreaming of Big Ten schools. And the girls ... were perfect.

Yet these perfect girls still feel we could always lose five more pounds. We get into good colleges but are angry if we don't get into every college we applied to. We are the captains of the basketball teams, the soccer stars, the swimming state champs with boxes full of blue ribbons. We win scholarships galore, science fairs and knowledge bowls, spelling bees and mock trial debates. We are the girls with anxiety disorders, filled appointment books, five-year plans.

We take ourselves very, very seriously. We are the peacemakers, the do-gooders, the givers, the savers. We are on time, overly prepared, well read and witty, intellectually curious, always moving.

We are living contradictions. We are socially conscious, multiculti, and anticorporate, but we still shop at Gap and Banana Republic. We listen to hip-hop, indie rock, and country on our iPods. We are the girls in hooker boots, wife beaters, and big earrings. We make documentary films, knit sweaters, and DJ. We are "social smokers," secretly happy that the cigarettes might speed up our metabolisms, hoping they won't kill us in the process.

We are relentless, judgmental with ourselves, and forgiving to others. We never want to be as passive-aggressive as our mothers, never want to marry men as uninspired as our fathers. We carry the world of guilt -- center of families, keeper of relationships, caretaker of friends -- with a new world of control/ambition -- rich, independent, powerful. We are the daughters of feminists who said, "You can be anything" and we heard "You have to be everything."

This quintessentially female brand of perfectionism goes on all over America, not just in suburban enclaves but in big cities, mountain towns, trailer parks. And perfect girls abound in Vancouver, Rio, Tokyo and Sydney. Their compulsion to achieve constantly, to perform endlessly, to demand absolute perfection in every aspect of life is part of a larger, undeniable trend in the women of my generation all over the world.

I satisfied my hunch that this was the case by consulting more than 25 experts in the fields of food, fitness, and psychology, interviewing twice as many girls and young women about their personal experiences (sometimes multiple times), and conducting focus groups with girls on the topic across the country. When I sent out an informal survey e-mail to all the women I knew and asked them to forward it to all the women they knew, I got more than 100 echoing responses in my in-box. Here are just a few:

I am DEFINITELY a perfectionist. To the extreme. Everything I do has to be perfect -- whether it be school, gymnastics, working out, etc. I do not allow myself to be the slightest bit lazy. I think if I heard someone call me lazy, I would cry! -- Kristine, Tucson, Ariz., 22

Perfectionists were rampant at my all-women's high school, as were eating disorders. I think I can remember two women in my class who really didn't have body issues, and I always admired them. I never had an eating disorder, but I definitely didn't get away without disordered ideas about food. -- Tara, Beirut, Lebanon, 27

I have always been and always will be a perfectionist in almost everything I do. It creates a struggle within me to truly define or determine when I will be good enough. -- Melissa, McKinney, Texas, 21

I do not consider myself a perfectionist, but others describe me that way. There is always room for self-improvement with my body, no matter how thin I am. -- Kelly, Denver, Colo., 28

People who know me call me an overachiever. I am hard on myself. My body fits into this mentality because I'm tall, long, lean, but that is the result of strict diet and lots of exercise. -- Kathleen, Jersey City, N.J., 28

I am quite a perfectionist. If I put on weight, I would be very upset. I would see it as a sign of failure on my part to control myself. -- Michelle, Dublin, Ireland, 24

Our bodies, our needs, our cravings, our sadness, our weakness, our stillness inevitably become our own worst enemies. It is the starving daughter within who must be shut down, muted, ignored ... eventually killed off.


Please let us know what you think about this article!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Have we gotten under Kmart's skin?

Well, last I posted, we were still waiting for an answer from Kmart about their willingness to help prevent domestic violence. Apparently it's something that's taking them quite a bit of time to think over. We did receive a call last week from Kim Feeley -- the one who initially informed us, in essence, that our request might offend some of the shoppers they were trying to appeal to. I guess the batterers’ demographic is the one they are hoping to attract. In her phone call she asked that we remove the petition to Alwyn Lewis the CEO of their parent company, Sears Holdings. We know that they've gotten at least 350 petition signatures faxed to them and I guess it's irritating to be getting them when they claim they've removed the t-shirts from the shelves. We could declare victory but we're in this for a bigger reward -- one that could make a difference for the one in four people in this country who are victims of domestic violence. We assured Ms. Feeley that we would take the petitions down when we received some confirmation in writing that they had in fact removed the shirt. Not that we don't want to believe what they say but we would like an answer to our initial letter and our follow-up letter and we really like the certainty of words on a page as opposed to those over the phone.

We did receive an emailed response -- actually a pitiful response, but one nonetheless that they said they sent to store managers. So, true to our word, we've removed the petition...but we've replaced it with another that asks for a response to our request that they take a leadership role as a corporation and partner with local dv and sexual assault programs in the towns in which they have stores. We've faxed them a letter with a request for their response and we've called and left a message for Mr. Lewis.

In the meantime, victims are living in fear and suffering needlessly. We can change the cultural acceptance of violence against women and children but it will take each of us doing our part. Feel free to download the petition and fax it to Mr. Lewis yourselves. We know it worked on getting them to pull the shirts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Hardy Girls to Kmart...we're still waiting

While we've been getting lots of response to our petition to Alwyn Lewis, CEO of Sears Holdings to pull the Problem Solved t-shirts from Kmart shelves and become a leader in violence prevention, we still haven't heard from Mr. Lewis himself. In addition to programs and inviduals around the country, we've gotten a call from Senator Olympia Snowe's office asking how the office might be helpful in our endeavor. So, before we announced a protest similar to the fabulous one held in Toledo,

Demonstrators protest 'Problem Solved' t-shirts
Protesters want t-shirts pulled from Kmart shelves
Mother of murder victim outraged by t-shirt she says promotes violence

we decided we would give Mr. Lewis a reminder that we were looking for some answers from him. We faxed the letter below and will keep you posted on whether he responds. In the meantime, feel free to visit the Hardy Girls' site to download your own petition for 10 people to sign and send. Together we can make a difference in creating a safer world for women and children.

January 23, 2007

Aylwin Lewis, CEO and President
Sears Holdings Corporation
3333 Beverly Road
Hoffman Estates, IL 60179

Dear Mr. Lewis:

On December 20, 2006 we faxed and mailed a letter to your office regarding the Route 66 Problem Solved “Attitude” t-shirts that Kmart is selling in stores throughout the country.

Since our letter was sent to your office, we have heard from our friends throughout the country – in states such as Minnesota, Ohio, and Massachusetts that Kmart has chosen to continue to sell the shirts despite letters, protests, and emails asking Kmart to take a stance against violence. We haven’t however, heard from Kmart or Sears Holdings as to whether Kmart is planning to act on these requests from their consumers.

Specifically, we have asked Kmart and Sears Holdings to recall the shirts from its stores permanently, take a public stand against violence, and partner with local sexual assault and domestic violence prevention projects in towns where stores are located in order to provide all staff with violence prevention and intervention trainings. In addition, we would like to see Kmart take a proactive approach to changing design and purchasing decisions to ones that reflect the values of your consumers and of your mission and values statement. Interestingly, the Meijer chain when confronted with the issue immediately understood the importance to their customers and is now looking deeper into their purchasing policies in order to avoid mistakes such as this in the future.

The Family Violence Prevention Fund, Dads and Daughters and the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood are national organizations urging their supporters to download our petition to you from our website. This issue is generating interest across the country on blogs and list-servs. We have heard from supporters in different areas that the t-shirts have been pulled from their local stores. We’ve also heard from Senator Snowe’s office inquiring as to your response to our request. Since, however, we have not heard from you or any other representative of Kmart or Sears Holdings, we will continue to generate media attention, mobilize supporters, and plan our own protest here in Maine. Violence prevention is a major concern of Hardy Girls Healthy Women and of the majority of your consumers and employees.

We sincerely encourage Kmart not only to pull the remaining shirts from all Kmart shelves, but also to take a proactive stance against violence. We look forward to hearing from you.


Megan Williams, Executive Director
Hardy Girls Healthy Women

Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Good News....and the Horrible

Just when I think things are looking up I pick up the paper and anger and depression resurface all too quickly. I just finished reading an email with two pieces of good news -- from Rebecca Malotke-Meslin, member of NOW's Young Feminist Task Force

1) Meijer's (retail supercenter) corporate headquarters is issuing a NATIONAL RECALL of the offending Problem Solved t-shirts. They are pulling the remaining shirts. They could not have been more apologetic. When informed that it's probably a good thing because local women were organizing a demonstration against sellers of the shirts, the Meijer corporate spokesperson replied, "Oh, no, we don't need that." (However, the change has not yet affected their website and the shirt is still being advertised, and we're keeping an eye on this as we certainly hope they don't plan to leave it up until the next ad comes out.)

2)People Called Women Bookstore is organizing a Kmart Protest in Toledo, Ohio
Date: Sunday, January 21, 2007
Time: 1:00pm
Place: Outside KMart at Alexis and Jackman
What: Protest of sexist and violence-promoting t-shirts being marketed to young boys (and men at other locations)
Who: Parents of slain women, survivors of violence, concerned citizens, kids against violence
Details: The morning of the event, formal letters of complaint and pending girlcott will be hand-delivered to all local area stores known to stock this shirt. Signatures for the letter are being collected by women planning to attend as well as at People Called Women (3153 W. Central). Tshirts from the Clothesline Project will be on display, and Silent Witnesses will be in attendance. KMart was chosen as the first stop on the girlcott tour as 1) they were the first to market it, 2) they chose to market it to children and 3) corporate has already publicly responded they will NOT pull the shirts; however, depending upon the response from other stores which stock it, more pickets may follow.

In case you've forgotten the introductory sentence before the two pieces of good news, there's horrible news. For the second time in less than a month, the front page of my local paper has the story of a domestic murder. Last month it was of 13 year old Anthony Tucker trying to get his sister and mother out of the house when he was shot and killed by his mother's partner. Yesterday Rhonda Reynolds was shot in front of her small children by her husband Richard Reynolds from whom she had a protection order.

What part of violence against women and children does Kmart still find "lighthearted" enough to market to children? You cannot divorce the insidious messages this culture gives to young boys that violence is an okay way to show you are a man. That message isn't going to change until the 95% of men who don't abuse women and children step up their action and raise their voices to make it known that real men don't slap, kick, punch and kill those who are less powerful then they are.

From: "Jess Morgan"
Reply-To: NOW Young Feminist Task Force
To: "NOW Young Feminist Task Force"
Subject: [NOW YFTF] Just wondering...
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2007 11:05:23 -0500

Hello young feminists! My organization is trying to get Kmart to pull a t-shirt for children that promotes domestic violence, and is stereotypical for girls and boys. If you'd like to see this ridiculous t-shirt, the url is
I'd like to know what you all think, you know, if its convenient. Thanks, and g'day!
Jess Morgan
ps- More info about what we are doing is at

Your Hotmail address already works to sign into Windows Live Messenger! Get it now.


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Thursday, January 4, 2007

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa and he gets it.

I found this while reading a list serve on violence prevention It's good to know that while Kmart's parent corporation doesn't get it, at least some of their employees do.

"On Christmas Eve I was finishing up my Christmas stocking shopping. In years past done at K-Mart. After several hours and far more $ then usual I got through most of my Chirstmas list. Unfortunartly K-Mart was the only store in town where I could get the last 3 items. I went to the manager of the store explaned about the T-Shirt and showed him how little I had spent in his store this year compared to years past. I ask if he would please forward the info onto the corporate headquarters. He shared my disgust of T-Shirts that show our children that violence is an answer to problem solving and he said he would get an email out right away.

On my way out of the store one of the employees asked if I could show them where the shirt was. The manager of the store followed us and upon seeing the shirt pulled it from the shelve. He said it didn't matter to him if corporate office said it was staying. "I don't care" was his reply.

Don't give up on getting it off the shelves. If enough of the individual stores will stand up to corporate there may be hope yet.
Robin Clover
SAFV Task Force"

In case you missed it, here's the Kmart Corporation's web comment page.