Thursday, September 30, 2010

With LGBT Suicides on Rise, Resource Delivers Support

86.2% of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed, 44.1% reported being physically harassed and 22.1% reported being physically assaulted at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.

The month of September was a tragic one not exclusively for the LGBT community but for the country at large. On the 22nd, an 18-year-old New Jersey college student named Tyler Clementi committed suicide. In the weeks prior, three other youth took their lives: 13-year-old Seth Walsh (California), 13-year-old Asher Brown, (Texas) and 15-year-old Billy Lucas (Indiana). The headlines all point to similar motives: Tyler, Seth, Asher and Billy were all gay, and for that reason, they were brutally harassed and publicly shamed.

73.6% heard derogatory remarks such as "faggot" or "dyke" frequently or often at school.

Eventually, the media will move on to another story, leaving these tragedies behind a trail of fresher gossip and erasing the collective conscience of America. Reality, however, isn’t swayed by news trends. Teens who identify as LGBT are faced each and every day with risk. Their safety and dignity - basic human rights we all deserve - are regularly stripped due to their sexual orientation. Whether subjected to degrading comments or tortured with violence, LGBT youth carry a monstrous burden. At the dinner table, during soccer practice, while serving in the military; gays and lesbians encounter prejudice in a myriad situations.

More than half (60.8%) of students reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and more than a third (38.4%) felt unsafe because of their gender expression

For Tyler Clementi, loss of privacy and extreme cyber-bullying occurred in his dorm room at Rutgers University. An intimate moment in his life was broadcast on the internet with neither his knowledge nor his consent. This public humiliation happened only days before Tyler jumped off the George Washington Bridge. And unfortunately, Tyler’s story is not an outlier. It is a trend.

31.7% of LGBT students missed a class and 32.7% missed a day of school in the past month because of feeling unsafe, compared to only 5.5% and 4.5%, respectively, of a national sample of secondary school students.

The statistics are staggering but they highlight the need for all of us to continue to fight for environments where all youth can thrive: in families, schools, and communities free of bias-based harassment and violence. I strongly urge you to watch and more importantly share the short video below, which addresses homophobia and intolerance of LGBT teens.

"The closet is kind of a death-in-life experience, a form of suicide... Thank you all for this project." -Anonymous

The Ugly Ducklings National Campaign to Reduce Bullying and Harassment of LGBTQ Youth teaches us that the importance of safe, supportive communities for all youth cannot be understated. It also sends a clear call to action. While we cannot undo the horrific mistreatment of Tyler Clementi and many others, it is within our capacity to spread awareness and to cultivate strong support systems for teens currently facing discrimination. We hope you will take a moment to pass this video along to your family, friends, and colleagues.

For questions regarding the video, campaign, or to purchase of an Ugly Ducklings documentary, please contact Hardy Girls Healthy Women or visit the Ugly Ducklings website. You may also call the office at (207) 233-3427 or send email inquiries to

All statistics were graciously borrowed from the 2007 GLSEN National School Climate Survey.

Monday, September 27, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Jamia Wilson

I am an activist, organizer, expat-brat, networker, cartwheeler, truthseeker, and storyteller. I am Vice President of Programs at Women’s Media Center, after serving in several roles related to yo.uth leadership development, grassroots organizing, and communications. After working with coalition partners and campus organizations to help bring thousands of students to the historic March for Women’s Lives in 2004, I was honored as one of the “Real Hot 100″ by the Younger Women’s Taskforce. I recently received my M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought at NYU, where I focused on research and writing inspired by critical race theory and gender studies.

I’m inspired by women’s wisdom -- Words from my mother, my grandmother, my aunts, bellhooks, Audre Lorde, Gloria Steinem and Michelle Obama strengthen me every day. I am also inspired by beauty and its presence in all things, people, and ideas. I love nature, yoga, Kara Walker’s art, Ntozake Shange, Cleopatra Jones, French New Wave, Jean Seberg, French graffiti genius Fafi, Wangechi Mutu, Nina Simone, Billie Holliday, and critical race theory.

I am excited to serve as a catalyst for change and SPARK a movement against the sexualization of girls because we need to revolutionize our minds, own our voices, and conquer fear that keeps us from realizing our power and authenticity. We must accept ourselves and remain committed to our core values in order to engender change. It is imperative that we admit that oppression and marginalization exists with(in) and with(out) of the feminist community. Power and privilege that goes unchecked harms our movement, and alienates those we aim to uplift. We must become a much more “functional” family before equality can ever exist beyond our cadre of activists. We will never prevail unless we actively trust young women (without paying lip service or placing blame) and empower each other to create the kind of justice we purport to believe in. For this reason and many more, I am so excited that SPARK creates a space for girls and young women to actively push back and raise their unique and important voices. I am hopeful that we will share a brighter future as each of our sparks ignite a larger flame.

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Friday, September 24, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Susan McGee Bailey

"As director of the Wellesley Centers for Women I have spent decades studying the status of girls and women. I’m adding my voice to SPARK because I’m deeply discouraged by the way gender issues are framed in the media. “Girls are doing fine; boys need help academically," is one common construction. The reality is far more complex. The objectification of girls, their sexualization at younger and younger ages, creates a world in which girls are viewed, and learn to view themselves, through a lens that excludes the majority of who they are and can be. This narrow view of girls is just another way to limit their freedom and "keep them in their place." It hurts girls and boys both academically and psychologically, and damages our entire society. We must recognize the need for healthy sexuality as a central ingredient in healthy personhood, and as key to achieving genuine gender equality."

Dr. Bailey is the Executive Director of Wellesley Centers for Women, and a professor of Women's & Gender Studies and Education at Wellesley College.

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back Monday for our next ally!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs

"I'm a queer black trouble maker and a writer and educator. I'm a founding co-conspirator of the Quirky Black Girls movement and the instigator of the Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind Educational Series. I'm also between stops on the road trip of a life time....the MobileHomeComing Project...where my partner and I travel in an RV around the US interviewing black queer women and gender non-conforming folks and trans-men about all the brilliant things they've done to be themselves and create community! Hooray! I'm excited about all of the ways that girls can use do-it-yourself media to express themselves. I've been an activist since the age of 14 and I'm allying with SPARK because I want to support all girls and especially girls of color in expressing their radical, world-changing, trouble-making genius!"

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Rochelle Schieck

Rochelle Schieck loves to move - in her body and around the world. She started dancing as a young girl growing up in Minnesota until she was summoned by the call of adventure. Her love of movement and the desire to explore life’s meaning compelled her to spend the last 10+ years traveling around the world as a student and teacher to places throughout North and South America, Europe, Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Rochelle began instructing various yoga styles for all ages and abilities, several dance modalities and NIA. She has lead over 4,000 movement classes and facilitated hundreds of private sessions. On a strong hit of intuition, she decided to move to New York City to further her studies of the divine feminine, sensuality, and other womanly arts. Her movement background and women’s empowerment work coupled with her experience as a personal trainer, certified massage therapist, shamanic energy healer and her degree in Interdisciplinary Fine Arts have all influenced her creation of the movement system, Qoya.

Qoya evolves the way we have been taught to move our bodies as women. Drawn from the wisdom of yoga, creative expression in dance, and the pleasure found in sensual movement, Qoya helps women enjoy and revel in their feminine bodies.

Rochelle is devoted to a life that serves the evolution of women’s consciousness through movement. She encourages all women to claim their right to more than self-love, but reveling. More than hope- the confidence and courage to show up fully present in one’s life. More than happiness- a deep sense of gratitude and fulfillment. She believes these ambitious goals are best achieved through the physical feelings of power, purpose, and pleasure that she offers with Qoya. Rochelle teaches that through movement, we remember. We remember, as women, that we are wise, wild, and free.

Rochelle explains: "I am proud to help SPARK ignite their movement because I believe that the time for women to emerge as powerful leaders is now. There is no longer time to hold back our beauty, radiance and light because of insecurities that are culturally paralyzing women from the full and authentic expression of who they really are. I believe that through movement, we remember. We remember, as women, that we are wise, wild and free. We feel it in our bodies as an embodied truth and then we are able to source from that deeper wisdom to be courageous ambassadors of change, bringing balance back to our lives, relationships, communities and the world."

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Riki Wilchins

Riki Wilchins has written several books and many chapters and articles about gender stereotypes and their impact on girls (and boys!). As Director of Research for TrueChild she’s currently looking for projects that will help show that when you teach girls to think critically about all the sexualized media messages they’re inundated with day after day, you get better programmatic outcomes in areas like reproductive health, healthy eating and body image than if you don’t. TrueChild even created the first report card on gender stereotypes in children’s television for pre-school and school-age programs. You can check it all out here

She’s also led TrueChild in creating a special online clearinghouse of all the research on what media stereotypes do to girls, including those who are of color and/or LGBT. You can read the simple, plain English summaries here

In her own words: “The SPARK Summit is the realization of work we’ve been wanting to see happen ever since the APA issued its report on media sexualization of girls. We knew this was a major problem, but for the first time there was a big national organization ringing in on the issue and saying, ‘yes, this really is a problem, and it hurts lots of girls.” SPARK is going to help ignite a lot of energy and mobilization to help girls push-back on this issue and I’m really looking forward to being a part of it!”

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Monday, September 20, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Valerie Francisco

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the sociology program at the City University of New York, The Graduate Center where I'm working on research with Filipino migrant women working as domestic workers in New York City and their families in the Philippines. In the Filipino community in New York, I organize with Filipino American youth and women to raise consciousness about the need for girl and women's voice and representation, especially in popular culture and media. Our community work puts girls and women's presence first in producing new types of visual art, theater and music like hip-hop. We want to reshape the images and roles of girls of color and women of color's roles in hip hop to follow and build from positive women already in hip hop. I want to ally with the SPARK movement to build a better representation of girls and women in hip hop.

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Friday, September 17, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Dr. Robyn Silverman

"I’m a Child/Teen Development Specialist, Body Image Expert, Success Coach and Author of Good Girls Don’t Get Fat. It’s an honor to be adding my spark to this movement because the sexualization of girls distracts our young people from embracing and sharing the unique and nuanced qualities, strengths, and gifts that they can offer the world. Girls are powerful in mind, body, and voice, yet this power is obscured when media strips them down to mere sexual parts. By standing tall and loudly beside them while encouraging them to speak up and demand the right to embrace their girlhood without sexualized pressures, we are sculpting a generation of assertive, multi-faceted, passionate girls…and boys who respect them for it."

Check out Dr. Robyn Silverman on her website, twitter, facebook, or to order her book click here!

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back Monday for our next ally!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Sage Salzer

Sage Salzer is a top plus-size model who has appeared in top-tier publications including The O Magazine, Real Simple, Good Housekeeping, Glamour, People, and in advertisements for Eddie Bauer, JCPenney, Land's End, Lane Bryant, Macy's, Nordstrom's and Tommy Hilfiger. A native of Ventura, CA, Sage started modeling at the age of 15 around the world. While in college at Sarah Lawrence, Sage found it challenging to keep her weight low enough to continue straight-size modeling and subsequently shifted her goal to advocating for healthy lifestyle choices for women and decided to pursue a career in plus-size modeling. Because of her dedication to this healthier approach to living, Sage has become one of the most successful plus-size models in the country. Sage's website is Read her insight into the issues that SPARK will be tackling at the Oct 22nd summit:

"One of the most serious issues challenging the healthy development of American girls these days is the over-sexualization of our youth. It's so prevalent in our culture that I think most people and parents are desensitized to it.

One of the best books about this which I highly recommend is: 'So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect their Kids.'"

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

SPARK Ally of the Day: Shelby Knox

I’m just coming to terms with the fact I’m not a “girl activist” anymore, although the documentary that told my story of fighting to get better sex education into my Texas high school, The Education of Shelby Knox, captured me forever as a bubbly fifteen year-old with questionable fashion sense. Since the film came out, I’ve become an itinerant feminist organizer, traveling across the country organizing campaigns for gender justice and speaking about the next wave of feminism. (It’s probably for this work, not the aforementioned fashion fails, that Marie Claire just named me “The Next Gloria Steinem.” Ummm, pressure much???) My favorite projects turn girls into girl activists; I’ve done this work with the Girls Leadership Institute, the Sadie Nash Leadership Project and The Girl Scouts, among others. 

I want to add my SPARK to this movement for the girl I used to be. I hated my body for being too big, my hair for being too curly, and my own supposedly unnatural aversion to the tight, skimpy clothes that were my only hope for a boyfriend. I didn’t know that the media wanted me to hate my thighs so I would buy weight loss products and expensive jeans, my hair so I would buy flat irons and creams galore. I didn’t realize there were forces out there that want young women to think their worth lies in their sexuality and being able to attract a mate rather than their innate ability to take over the world. When I figured out how to decode these messages I got angry, I started the journey to loving myself, and I found my power in activism and plotting to – you better believe it – take over the world. I want young women to embrace their big hips, their big mouths, their big dreams and become the leaders of the next generation of the revolution!

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally! 

Monday, September 13, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Deborah Tolman

I am a developmental psychologist, researcher, mother (of two teenage boys), professor, activist, daughter. I grew up before Title IX and did not know that I could be as strong with my body as I was with my mind. As an adult, I stumbled into body competence by accident and have been pursuing it, along with my emotional and intellectual growth, ever since. I can press 540 lbs on the leg press; I have the biceps of a weight lifter. I discovered the delicious experience of doing Pilates--of being really bad at it, working and working and working and becoming really good at it, which makes me feel fantastic and makes me more effective and anchored in my life. I love feeling as strong in my body as I do in my mind.

I am someone who wants girls to know that 1) their bodies are first and foremost, THEIRS, no matter what media or other people tell them; 2) they are ENTITLED to their own thoughts, feelings, desires, emotions, no matter what media or other people tell them; 3) they are FABULOUS, no matter what media or other people tell them. I support SPARK because we are going to do what it takes to make it more and more possible for girls to connect their bodies with their minds and garner the strength that comes from this connection.

I am inspired by the work of HGHW and PBG, Lyn Mikel Brown and Megan Williams and all of the amazing girls who are making SPARK. I know that the Summit is going to be the first day of the next important social movement for diverse girls and women in this country! I know that making the world a better place for girls and women will also mean that our male allies will have to join us--and in so doing, make it a better place for themselves as well.

Find out more about Deb

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Jess Weiner

Considered this generation’s “Go to Girl” for self-esteem, Jess Weiner inspires audiences worldwide with her authentic take on living a confident life. She is a best selling author and the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Talk to Jess, LLC and the Actionist® Network, a global online community that recognizes and connects individuals and organizations who are making a difference in the lives of others. As a leader within the confidence community for over 16 years, Jess is best known for bringing public attention to the negative effects media images have on the self-esteem of women and girls. Currently serving as the Global Ambassador for the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, Jess wants to add her SPARK to this movement because she believes in a world where girls are encouraged to be the next CEO or space engineer, not just the next reality TV star.

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Friday, September 10, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Shari Miles-Cohen

"I am the senior director of the American Psychological Association Women’s Programs Office (WPO). The WPO works to improve the status, health, and well-being of women psychologists and women in the general public. I am adding my spark to this movement because the APA’s Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls found that the proliferation of sexualized images of girls in the media is causing harm to girls’ self-image and healthy development, including eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression. I am also the mother of a four-year old boy and the aunt of teenaged nieces and nephews. I want my son, and all other boys and girls, to get messages that will lead to their healthy psychological and social development."

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Julia Barry

Julia Barry is the creator of In Her Image: Producing Womanhood in America, a multi-media program addressing the effects of contemporary American images. Julia is a also a successful singer/musician, and wrote a number of original pieces specifically for the project, In Her Image. Talk about a modern-day Renaissance woman!

In her own words, Julia explains why she is contributing to the SPARK summit:
"I want to fight sexualization of girls in the media to create a fairer, more aware society where tolerance, healthy relationships, and authenticity are valued. I want to raise public self-worth and eradicate gender roles oppressive to all genders. This all may sound lofty and theoretical, but I'm taking action on these issues because they affect real, individual people's lives in so many consequences from violence to to disease to poverty. If we can treat each other respectfully as humans (rather than as sexy entertainment objects), we will be much better able to come together to work on all other progressive change."

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: L. Monique Ward

I'm a psychology professor at the University of Michigan and have been doing research for the past 17 years both on teens' sexual development and on media influences on teens' lives. I was also a member of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls. I have conducted many research studies analyzing the narrow sexual messages in the media and their impact on girls' and boys' body image, self-esteem, and beliefs about sex, dating, and relationships. As I become increasingly aware of how media exposure limits how girls view themselves and women, more generally, I am enthusiastic to help SPARK a change in a different direction.

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Peggy Moss

Peggy Moss is the author of award-winning books for children: One of Us, Our Friendship Rules and Say Something. She is a former hate violence lawyer who writes and talks about bullying, teasing and relationships.

Peggy also writes "It's time to rescue the media from these pathetic patterns of sexualization that limit girls and cater to a demeaning idea of what men and boys want to see in the world. Honestly, we can do better, and we have to. let's SPARK a revolution that allows girls to see themselves as the complicated, outrageous, fabulous and whole people they are!"

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Friday, September 3, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Nancy Gruver

Because of my experience at New Moon Girls I'm passionate about girls' self-expression and the need for girls to be respected. When girls are sexualized in the media, it hurts them and boys in many ways that carry into adult life. SPARK gives girls a way to speak up for themselves and speak out against the disprespect of sexualization. It's a critical piece in ensuring that girls take their place as leaders in our world.

Nancy Gruver is the Founder of New Moon Girl Media as well as the author of How To Say It To Girls

You learn even more about Nancy's great work on these sites and networks:
facebook: New Moon page
twittering: nancy_newmoon
blogging: Nancy's Blog

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back on Monday for our next ally!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Dr. Carla Stokes

I am a health educator, life coach, speaker, and founder of Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS) ®, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health and lives of young women and girls in underserved communities through health education, leadership development, and media education. I am also developing books, products, and curricula inspired by my work with youth and research on the impact of sexualized media on young women and girls coming of age in the hip hop and digital generations. I am adding my spark to this exciting movement because it is my personal mission to inspire young women and girls to embrace their true worth and overcome societal pressures that hold them back from achieving their greatest potential.

Learn more about Dr. Carla Stokes:

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Jean Kilbourne

I've been studying the image of women in the media for over 40 years and made my first film, Killing Us Softly, way back in 1979. I've long been dreaming of a movement that would challenge the objectification and sexualizaion of girls. I'm delighted to help ignite the wonderful PBG campaign!

Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!