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.