Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A T-Shirt With A Different Kind Of Message

This article has been cross-posted from’s blog.

This weekend, girls ages 14-22 will talk sexualization versus healthy sexuality — including Aleah Starr, an eating disorder survivor whose Projection project pushes back messages projected on girls' (and guys') bodies. Here, some arresting images from past efforts.

Take part in the SPARK Summit or to offer your original words to the Projection project.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Spirit Day and Other Strides Forward

In honor of the LGBT youth we've lost to suicide, GLAAD is orchestrating a "Spirit Day" scheduled for tomorrow (October 20th, 2010). Like many social media campaigns, you can participate in a number of ways:

1. Wear purple tomorrow, signifying your support
2. Post a status update via Twitter or Facebook
3. Turn your profile picture purple
4. Share these numbers with any LGBT youth in need of immediate help: The Trevor Project's 24/7 Lifeline at 866-U-TREVOR or the National Suicide Prevent Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
5. Check out our community action kit and documentary titled Ugly Ducklings, which speaks directly to the harassment and bullying experienced every day by gay, lesbian, and transgender teens.

Finally, watch Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her address to the LGBT community on October 19th, 2010 (below). In this video, Clinton calls Americans to question their own bigotries and prejudices. She even credits the growth of this country to our increasing acceptance of marginalized groups. Such wise words from a national leader!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

And the Winner is...

Rachel Raasch from Appleton, Wisconsin for her hilarious, clever, and creative costume, "Eminem the M&M." Congratulations, Rachel! To honor her winning submission, we'll be flying Rachel out to New York City for the SPARK Summit on October 22nd. She'll be joining the likes of Geena Davis, Shelby Knox, Amber Madison, and many other special guest speakers.

Rachel writes, "I am so excited to go to the SPARK Summit in New York City! As a feminist advocate, I'm very passionate about the cause that SPARK is supporting. Thank you to Shelby Knox, through whom I heard about this contest. What a great way to show support for the movement to resist the sexualization of women! Thank you also to SPARK for holding this contest. Now, to start planning this year's Halloween costume..."

Rachel wasn't the only one with a brilliant costume idea. We received a ton of entries for the first ever Intervene on Halloween Costume Contest (by the way, you can check them out here), and although we wish we could send every single contestant out to NYC, each picture submitted will be included in a slideshow during the summit.

Did you miss out on this contest but want to learn more about it? Here's a little rundown!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Anti-Sex Versus Anti-Sexualization

As the SPARK Summit draws near, it is important for us to address a question that many HGHW supporters are asking: is our organization anti-sex? Given the fact that SPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge, it is no surprise that such a query has been raised. After all, our blog posts often point to the cultural landscape that encourages, if not glorifies, evocative portrayals of girls and women. Does this mean that our mission is intrinsically against sex?

So, what makes anti-sexualization different than anti-sex? The former is defined as a movement against the prominent messages sent to the female populous, ones that impose very specific, very radical notions of sexuality. Unfortunately, girls are exposed to these expectations at a young age, thus prompting a premature entrance into sexual behavior, or at the very least, pressure to emulate their older "role models."

If this isn't enough of a reason to counteract early sexualization, we need only reference the countless studies that draw a clear correlation between media objectification and an array of issues unique to adolescent girls: low self-esteem, body dysmorphic disorder, and excessive dieting, to name a few. Rather than use this research to improve representations of women, media industries continue to exploit, objectify, and prioritize their cash-flow over the well-being of girls. The cultural landscape in which we live, regardless of gender, is one of harmful images and damaging messages. Since female objectification is prevalent on TV, in movies, and all around us, so too is a hyper-sexualized version of femininity.

Sex, on the other hand, can be a positive element of a person's life, one that should be celebrated and honored. To that end, Hardy Girls Healthy Women strongly supports the inclusion and acceptance of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals in society. We even sell a documentary and community action kit called Ugly Ducklings, which focuses on the unique challenges affecting LGBT youth. Recent statistics tell us that nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT teens experience bullying . Harassment and suicide are continually linked, as in the case of Tyler Clementi, whose private activities were broadcast online. We are sex positive insofar as we condemn the shaming, bullying, and blatant disregard for privacy as a result of sexual orientation. We promote the theory that sex can (and should) be a healthy dimension of life.

Whether straight, queer, or questioning, our Lending Library offers many resources that educate about sex and sexuality. Books like The Secret Lives of Girls and Fast Girls: Teenage Tribes and the Myth of the Slut expose the double-standard girls are subjected to, while Body Language teaches female autonomy in a teen-friendly manner. Kofi Annan said that "Information is liberating," and we wholeheartedly agree. Rather than demonize sex, we encourage girls to learn about their bodies, health, and safety.

Sex is an expansive subject and a different experience for each individual. The media, however, broadcasts a very narrow interpretation. When girls are pressured to assume this pre-packaged version of themselves, we must protest. We must resist. We must act. This is why we hold an annual Freaky 5K Fun Run & Walk and how the concept of SPARK Summit came to fruition.

We invite you to join the SPARK movement!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Stop Selling Halloween Costumes That Sexualize Girls!

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By SPARK (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge)

Join the movement at

Halloween used to be about neighborhood trick or treating in creative and scary costumes.  But recently the holiday has become about a different type of consumption than eating candy, as girls are peddled costumes that are more and more sexualized.

That Halloween has gone from scary to sexy in recent years is a reflection of a profound and problematic societal issue: the sexualization of girls. Portrayals of young girls as sexy are so familiar to us and to girls themselves that it almost seems normal, harmless, and simply the way that girls are nowadays.

So why should we be concerned?  A 2007 American Psychological Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls found compelling evidence that when girls and young women are sexualized - and worse, when they learn to sexualize themselves -they experience lower self-esteem, higher levels of depressed mood, and discomfort with their own bodies, thus undermining their ability to participate as full citizens.

Liberty Media Corporation subsidiary BuySeasons, Inc. proudly claims to be "the largest online retailer and supplier of costumes, accessories, seasonal d├ęcor, and party supplies in the world!" Its flagship brand "[is] the leading costume and party retailer on the web." sells girl costumes in adult packaging (Naughty and Nice toddler costume, Miss Wonderland child costume in mini skirt, and corset bodice, Little Bo Peep ‘tween costume in corset bodice and black fishnets) and sexualized versions of popular children's characters for adult women (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Cookie Monster, and SpongeBob).

Tell Liberty Media Corporation to stop pushing the envelope when it comes to creating costumes for little girls and to stop sexualizing beloved childhood characters with their adult costumes!

Sign the petition today! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


“I am a CANVAS. Every day society projects certain standards, messages, and images UPON ME. Society tells me how I should look, act, and feel. So when you ask me who I am, I don’t always know what to tell you. But I am learning to step away from these projections, and use them to make a statement of MY OWN.”

Developed by Colby College student Aleah Starr, Projection invites us to speak up, to say what we feel and think, and to have our words projected onto others, who then stand with us and for us.

PBG (that’s Powered By Girl) and Projection offers girls and their allies a way to talk back to sexism, stereotypes, and sexualization in our media.

So if you could talk back to this media, what would you say?

If you’re between the ages of 14-22 and you’ve got something to say to the media, here’s your chance! 
Step 1: “Like” our PBG Facebook page
Step 2: On our wall, write “Projection” and post your 6-10 words (has to fit on a t-shirt!) rants, statements, poetry, music lyrics, or illustrations.  Say what you like, don’t like, want, feel, think
Step 3: Invite your friends to join the movement!
Your voice will travel to NYC, where it will be projected onto girl “canvasses” by Aleah herself at the SPARK Summit on Oct. 22nd
SPARK: Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge
If you’re a teen girl between the ages of 14-22, we want you to attend the SPARK Summit too. While you’re there, drop by the Projection Action Station and become a living canvass for someone else’s story!

FYI:  All submissions to PBG/Projection are anonymous.  We will not use your name unless you ask us to, and then it’s first names and cities only. If you use a quote, poem or lyric, please submit the full name of the author.
Be sure to check PBG and SPARK after October 22nd to catch our photo album
and find out who stood up to be photographed with your story!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall...

Do you ever walk into a dressing room, try on a piece of clothing, and feel a rush of dissatisfaction? Is this emotion directed at the outfit you picked out or the body underneath?

The likelihood is, at one time or another, a girl looks into a mirror and hates the image reflected back at her. Maybe she notices that the pants fit smugly around her hips and thus, she inwardly criticizes herself. Maybe a bully at school insulted the figure she was born with and the comment left a lasting mark of her self-worth. In a culture that worships stick-thin models and flawless actresses, a shopping trip like this can easily turn into a comparison war, in which the teenage girl will always lose.

Until now.

In small but deliberate ways, we can change the way girls view themselves. Inspired by About Face's Covert Dressing Room Action, teens from the Girls Advisory Board (GAB) pasted removable stickers on JCPenney mirrors with encouraging messages, praise for inner beautiful, and compliments. Check out the action in the video below!

If you'd like to join the fun and boost the self-esteem of girls and women, grab these stickers from About Face and bring them to your nearest dressing room! Isn't it wonderful that such a small act can change a girl's day and perhaps even improve the relationship she has with her body?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"I like it hanging neatly on its designated hook in my foyer. I support breast cancer awareness, not sketchiness."

Or in other words, how can we spread awareness about a disease without turning it into a sexualized campaign that mystifies, even tantalizes, but never actually educates? Surely, as bright young women (or middle-aged women or older women or men, even!) we have what it takes to successfully campaign for a cause without the use of sexual innuendos.

By scanning online forums and blogs, it is easy to see how upsetting this type of "activism" can be to others. As one woman writes on Jezebel: 

Seeing Facebook stunts doesn't make me feel supported, it makes me think that the people who post them are immature and shallow. Breast cancer has the odd predicament of being a terrible disease that strikes a "sexy" body part. Well, my diseased breasts are gone, replaced with implants and the latissimus dorsi muscles from my back. I'll be aware of breast cancer every day for the rest of my life. Someone using it as a reason to act flirtatious under the banner of awareness just makes me resentful. 

Others have called attention to the fact that while Breast Cancer Awareness spans October, other months dedicated to serious diseases lack a comparable fanfare. For example, prostate cancer (September) receives less media attention and less research money than breast cancer even though it is statistically more prevalent and more deadly. As Arun Gavali of the New Agenda explains:
Prostate cancer is more serious than Breast Cancer because, although the death rates are both about 2.8%, the chance of a man getting prostate cancer is over 30% greater than the chance of a woman getting breast cancer.  That means that even though the life-time percentage chance of dying from either cancer is the same, the percent chance that a man will have to fight prostate cancer is greater and there are more cases of prostate cancer for the “sick care” system to have to deal with.

The need for stronger awareness efforts on the prostate cancer front does not, of course, negate the importance of October and the many ways in which we can honor survivors and victims of breast cancer. Typing out a suggestive Facebook update does not, however, accomplish this task. Perhaps knowing where you "like it" will eventually lead someone to research and extrapolate the correlation between sexed up statuses and breast cancer, the thought process will probably end there. Putting aside the issue of using one's (female) body and teasing references to garner interest in a tragic disease, let's consider the proactive and direct avenues by which knowledge can be spread. You might, for example, follow one blog commenter by writing:

Today, let's all donate to breast cancer causes like or & do self exams instead of updating our status.

Whichever way you decide to raise awareness, do it with dignity. Share facts, provide hospital locations where mammograms are free or discounted, give to a charity, volunteer. Honor your own body by talking to your doctor about reducing your risk of cancer in general. Because after all, "I like it" when women are informed about their health.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Will sex sell this Halloween?

We sure hope not! Halloween, for girls and women, is an endless parade of sexualized outfits. Even creative costumes, ones that we might otherwise deem age-appropriate, are reduced to raunchy, skin-exposed replications. Nothing could be more representative than this Spongebob Squarepants mini-skirt and tiny top marketed to teenage girls:

Ready to stop this non-sense? Come on over to our SPARKwatch Facebook Event page and post any and all costumes that you think should be taken off the shelves. We'll send a message to the store, along with a photo of the costume, asking for it's prompt removal.

Brought to you by SPARK Summit (Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge).

Friday, October 1, 2010

SPARK’s Very First Annual Intervene On Halloween Costume Contest & SPARKwatch!

One of the best moments in the movie Mean Girls has to be when high schooler Cady enters her friend’s Halloween Party dressed as a vampire bride, complete with gory make-up, ghastly wig, and a mouth full of broken teeth. As she looks around at the array of strip club dancers, Playboy Bunnies, sexy mice, sexy cats, and sexy witches, her girl friend, horrified, corners her: “Why are you dressed so scary?” “In the regular world” Cady comes to see, “Halloween is when children dress up in costumes and beg for candy. In Girl World, Halloween is the one night a year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girls can say anything about it.”

Not even close. Girl World and regular world collided years ago, and in a perverse co-optation of Girl Power, mini versions of sexy women will be winding their way through the streets of America this Halloween. They’ll have bought their French maid outfits, pink pussycat fishnets, Catholic school girl peek-a-boo skirts, and midriff baring Bad Girl University cheering sweaters at a mainstream box store near you.

This Halloween we’re supporting all those little rebel Cady’s of the world by bringing scary back – along with creative, funny, clever—even sarcastic. Join us by entering the First Ever Intervene On Halloween Costume Contest! Share your outrageous, frightening, brilliant, gorgeous costumes and have the chance to WIN and really get noticed!

Here's the deal: you can submit pictures, past and present, of your scariest and most unique Halloween costumes as a comment here, on the SPARK Facebook page, on the Hardy Girls Healthy Women Facebook page, or on the Intervene On Halloween Facebook Event. Two great categories, two fab prizes: We’ll send the winners (must be over 18) on an all-expense paid trip to NYC to attend the SPARK (That’s Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge) Summit on Oct. 22nd

But even if you don’t win, we’ll include your costume in a slide show to be shown on the Summit day and on the SPARK website!

Don't have a photo of yourself decked out in Halloween terror? Have no fear (well, you can have a little - its Halloween after all!). Take part in Halloween SPARK
watch: What’s the most ridiculously sexist, sexy or sexualized costume you’ve seen? Sexy 'Finding Nemo?' Post a picture on our SPARKwatch Facebook Event and tell us where you found it! We’ll send each and every photo back to the costumer's manufacturer, with a SPARKwatch “Stop making Halloween an excuse to objectify and sexualize girls” message!