Tuesday, August 31, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Vinitha Nair

I’m the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Platform Shoes Forum. I co-created Zoey's Room to encourage and retain girls into science, technology, engineering, and math career pathways. The ZR platform aims to provide an alternate focus for girls that is positive, collaborative, and supportive of each other. In the media, no other sub-sector seems to be as over-analyzed and scrutinized as teen girls. To attract this increasingly influential group, marketers lean towards a generalized perception of what is appealing to this age. I'm excited to help ignite this spark in emphasizing a more realistic, if not global, image of girls today!

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Jennifer Finney Boylan

I'm a writer and a teacher, best known, maybe, for my memoir, She's Not There, the first bestselling book by a transgender American. I have tried to shine a light on gender issues in the media, from the New York Times op/ed page to the Oprah Winfrey Show. Freeing girls from the shackles of media sexualization is not just a good idea, it's a moral imperative. Sex should set us free, not keep us in chains. SPARK will help.

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

This is what a young feminist looks like

We are absolutely thrilled to be a part of today's ever-expanding blog carnival over at Fair and Feminist showcasing young feminist bloggers . Like many other digital activisms, this event was born out of frustration. As Shelby Knox explains in her entry, Unicorns and Young Feminism, the 20-something generation is cursed with a stereotype of apathy and inaction. Rather than solidarity, young feminists are often met with apprehension from our fore-mothers and routinely made invisible by blanketing statements like "young feminists don't exist."

By perusing the aforementioned blog carnival, it is clear, that our youthful spirit is less than minuscule. We are in Canada, we are part of large national organizations, and we share our musings in personal blogs. This blog carnival illustrates just how limitless we are as a young feminist community.

As we gear up for a movement called SPARK (to eliminate the sexualization of girls) alongside Women's Media Center, Ms. Foundation, and many others, Hardy Girls is inspired by the sisterhood we are seeing today. This kind of passion and exuberance is exactly what drives and empowers future generations. Thanks to Fair and Feminist for pulling this blog carnival together and for reasserting that young feminists do, in fact, exist.

SPARK Ally of the day: Rachell Arteaga

I am a master’s student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education where I’m learning about different types of research that I will use to shift the current kids’ media environment to be a more nurturing, inclusive community for girls and children of color. I want to help spark this movement because the sexualization of girls and women robs us of the right to be treated as equals.

Rachell is also the author of our recent blog post My Trip to the "Capital of Beautiful Women."

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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Trip to the “Capital of Beautiful Women”

By Rachell Arteaga

This summer I traveled to Colombia and stayed in Cali, a city known for being the country’s “capital of beautiful women.” Knowing this I was even more intrigued to see how gender roles and representation play themselves out.

I saw some crazy things:

Reads "Anorexia Style Shop"

Yep, a store named after the devastating eating disorder, complete with tiny bare belly advertising jeans in the window. I was walking around with a Colombian friend who is a bulimia survivor herself and was OUTRAGED. As a mother, she works every day to ensure that her 7-year-old daughter grows up with a healthy body image despite unrealistic beauty standards – and crazy stores like these.

There were A TON of these around -- mannequins with GINORMOUS boobs! Cali is the international Mecca for plastic surgery. Not so surprising with such enormous plastic chests modeling clothes everywhere. Ironically, aforementioned mom even had a nose job and said that plastic surgery is quite common (boo!).

One of the most disturbing things I saw, though, was a beauty pageant for little girls. These children were sashaying around a stage amidst cheering crowds, caked in makeup, wearing bikinis and heels:

But it wasn’t, by far, all doom and gloom. There were some amazingly refreshing things, too. The event that stood out the most was an informative sex ed workshop for teens given by the Christian organization I volunteered with. It was a frank conversation, filled with valuable advice. Teens spoke honestly about their experiences, were told about all options available to them, and there was plenty of emphasis on empowering girls to hold their own and make critical decisions. My favorite part – when the boys were asked about hypothetical situations were girls were pressured into having sex, the boys always said that the girl had the right to say no and shouldn’t be involved with anyone who thinks differently. Woot! Other great efforts include local organizations like Colectivo MEJODA (site in Spanish) who are giving youth the power to take media into their own hands by providing camera training.

Even though it’s clear that the sexualization of girls and women is a global issue, it’s good to know that there is push back worldwide to create an environment where equality is not the exception but the NORM. I look forward to going back and seeing more innovative strategies Colombian girls, youth and their allies create.

SPARK Ally of the day: Amy Jussel

I’m founder of Shaping Youth, a nonprofit consortium dealing with media and marketing's impact on kids. We’re using tactics of industry insiders to fight fire with fire and excited to help light the fuse to spark the power of media for positive change. I’m a writer/producer by trade and have seen industry devolve into appearance-based cues for both genders, with vapid values that narrowcast and pigeon-hole youth into objectified commodities over healthy, whole human beings. Time to ignite a massive mindshift…let’s spark it!

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Jaclyn Friedman

I’m the executive director of Women, Action & the Media, writer, performer, speaker and activist. I'm also the editor of Yes Means Yes: Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape, a book dedicated to creating a safer, healthier world in which everyone can experience their sexuality on their own terms. I’m adding my spark to this movement because the media's ridiculously narrow view of female sexuality limits girls' and women's ability to imagine satisfying sexual possibilities for ourselves. It's time to free the media, our minds, and our bodies.

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Melissa Wardy

I am the creator of Pigtail Pals, a company that offers the empowering message to girls to Redefine Girly. I run Pigtail Pals online store, write our blog, design our products, and talk to parents and girls about media literacy and the sexualization of girls. I am adding the Redefine Girly spark to this movement because I am a mom who wants better messages for my little girl, for everyone's little girls. Our girls deserve so much better!

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

Monday, August 23, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Sharon Lamb

I’m a professor, author, researcher, and media critic who co-authored Packaging Girlhood and the APA Task Force Report on the Sexualization of Girls and is currently co-authoring a sexual ethics curriculum.  Girls deserve a sex education that’s real and relevant and critical of sexualizing images so that they can both explore and be safe, get love and be loved, and feel comfortable in their own skin! 

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

Friday, August 20, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Gail Dines

I am a professor and activist who co-founded Stop Porn Culture. Our goal is to raise public consciousness about the harms of pornography. I'm adding my spark to this movement because I believe that girls are being assaulted with images that are sexist, reductive and dehumanizing. We have to do battle with the pornographers because it is time to take back our culture.
Part of "30 Allies in 30 Days" Learn more about the SPARK Summit and check back tomorrow for our next ally!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

SPARK Ally of the day: Rachel Simmons

I'm co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, an educator and the author of two bestselling books about girls. I want to help girls respond to the commodification of their sexuality and redefine sexy. I'm tired of seeing sex be packaged as an avenue to power and confidence for girls and women.

Check out Rachel Simmons on Twitter and Facebook!

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

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Frances Perkins Center Open Door Award

Megan Williams is the executive director of Hardy Girls Healthy Women. Named one of the ten people shaping the future of Maine's economy by MaineBiz last year, Megan was hired to lead Hardy Girls in 2005, a year after her graduation from Colby College in Waterville, Maine. She has nurtured the ten-year-old nonprofit from its local roots into a flourishing organization with programs featuring mentoring, an emphasis on strength and activism, and national workshops and curricula.

SPARK Ally of the day: Angela Jones

I am the co-creator of the blog Plus-Size Models Unite, a wife, mother of two children, friend, activist, eating disorder survivor, and a model.  I want to add my spark to this movement because I want to see diversity of every shape, size, and age represented in the media.  I want to encourage girls and women to be confident in their individual self, to live a balanced and healthy lifestyle, and to ask themselves this simple question daily, "What is one thing I love about myself today?" 

Part of the "30 Allies in 30 Days." Learn more about SPARK summit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Once Upon a Time: Ready to Serve

It still feels like summer out there, and you better believe that we’ll soak up these warm days for as long as we can, but we’re also thinking ahead to the year before us.  It’s almost September, a month that will bring new journeys for students, folks beginning new jobs, and others making exciting transitions.  We’re thrilled to be welcoming five fabulous women to our board of directors — Lindy Graham, Stefanie Solar, Mary Madden, Trish Hansen, and Kristin Aiello.  The board of directors isn’t the only governing body of Hardy Girls welcoming new faces — below you’ll find the application submitted by 17-year-old Adriana to join our Girls Advisory Board (pictured below), who participate in leadership development, complete social action projects, and generally keep us current on what’s important in the lives of girls.  It was just too good to keep to ourselves!  (And yes, she’s been accepted.)

I believe that women and girls of all ages should be completely comfortable with who they really want to be, rather than being swayed by gendered social expectations to do anything or be anyone they don’t want to do or be.  As a rising senior at Winslow High School, I all-too-often witness young women in my school and group of friends being pressured into fitting some kind of gender stereotype.  I’ll hear guys (even girls’ boyfriends) joke around, saying thinks like, “Why don’t you just go make me a sandwich?” or calling girls derogatory names.  Many girls even seem to embrace these names for themselves and begin jokingly calling each other (and themselves) profane, misogynistic nicknames.

I have begun to understand that these gender-related stereotypes, behaviors, and mindsets are not always obvious.  In most cases, the promotion of gendered social expectations or norms is extremely subtle, which makes the situation even more dangerous.  If girls think it’s funny to or cute to call themselves derogatory names, because they think, “oh, it’s just a joke,” it only trivializes the issue.  I believe that it is essential to view these issues as real problems that actually exist, rather than simply laughing them off or considering them taboo.

I’ve noticed that, often times, people who question these gender norms are considered “crazy feminists”, or labeled dismissively as gay or lesbian.  I want to change this fact.  I want to work to make it mainstream – even cool – to question traditional gender roles.  It’s hard enough for girls to stand up for themselves in situations, such as relationship dynamics.  But I truly believe that every girl can (and should) work to de-normalize these gendered expectations and make the people in her life and community more aware of these subtleties. 

I would like to do anything I can to make these issues important to people – both male and female – and to discuss with people not only the most obvious gendered social problems, but the more subtle ones, as well.  After all, those are often the most difficult to acknowledge and we often brush them aside as minor details.  Especially in high school, the environment is often very unsupportive of these kinds of subtleties and issues.  I believe that a young woman should have a safe and supportive place to discuss anything – even the most seemingly minor thing – that makes her uncomfortable or upset.  I’m confident that by volunteering with Hardy Girls, I would find a great opportunity to pursue this issue about which I am so enthusiastic and passionate while reaching out to others at the same time.

SPARK Ally of the day: Lyn Mikel Brown

We're ramping up energy in support of SPARK: Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge, a growing movement to push back on the sexualization of girls and push forward girls’ right to an embodied, healthy sexuality.

The October 22nd SPARK Summit will launch an intergenerational movement to support and stand with girls. In response to the American Psychological Association’s Task Force Report on Sexualization of Girls, the most downloaded documented in the history of APA’s website, the SPARK Summit will engage teen girls to be part of the solution rather than to protect them from the problem, giving them the tools they need to become activists, organizers, researchers, policy influencers, and media makers.

Activists and organizers around the country are contributing to SPARK already by drawing attention to the issue of early sexualization.  In our series called  "30 Allies in 30 Days," Hardy Girls Healthy Women is highlighting thirty fabulous individuals who are actively doing their part to ignite SPARK. Our first ally is Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown:

I'm co-founder of  Hardy Girls Healthy Women, professor of Education at Colby College, author, and activist. I'm also the Powered By Girl (PBG) campaign organizer, which means I work with amazingly creative and smart teen girls who are contributing their voices and activism to SPARK.  I'm adding my spark to this movement because I'm tired of the pornifed images that pass as female sexuality in media and I want to do what I can to make room for girls to say who they are and what they want.

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