Don't be a "Trick" or "Treat" This Halloween

My beloved friends at SPARK have teamed up with HollabackPhilly and Beauty Redefined to sponsor a "Taking Back Halloween" contest for teenage girls. I wish they'd extend it down to 5-year-olds, whose costumes are getting sexier all the time, but hey, it's a start.  Here's what the site says:

Submit your spookiest, creepiest, punniest, funniest, most creative and brilliant costumes to our Costume Contest for the chance to win amazing prizes (including an iPod!). But we don’t want just any store-bought costume–like SPARKteam member Melissa says below, this contest is about creativity.

Over to you, Melissa:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hqs-TFQFaBA&feature=player_embedded

 

SPARK has created a fabulous space where girls can talk back to the media that tries to define and narrow them. It's also a great resource for us adults looking for "what we can do." Take a look at their SPARKit! Action ideas.

There. Now I feel a little teeny bit better about October.

One from the OMG Files--and One from the TG (Thank God) Files, Too

Okay, yeah, just when I think Toddlers & Tiaras can't sink any lower, it does. And though I think the whole T&T business detracts from the real and (God, I hope) more subtle forms of sexualization most girls face every day it also desensitizes us and, as I have said (and said and said) can let viewers off the hook with its extremity, making us think, even unconsciously, "well, nothing I do with my daughter is THAT bad." Still, posting this video of a 4-year-old with FAKE BOOBS YES I SAID FAKE BOOBS is irresistible. They got me. I can't help it.

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But to do penance for posting that--and because it's FAR more important and worthy and necessary and totally mandatory viewing, here is a clip of my aforementioned Shero, La Rachel Simmons on the same show talking about the updated version of her classic, required-reading bible on girls' social dynamics, Odd Girl Out. Watch the vid. Buy the book, unlike the T&T stuff, you won't be sorry afterwards.

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Just as an aside, I wonder why the ad before this video is for men's shaving gel. Whatever.

 

My Shero--La Rachel Simmons

I love Rachel Simmons. Even though she called me the grandmother of the girls' movement when I was YOUNGER THAN SHE IS NOW (ahem!). Yes she did. And yet, we have grown to be dear friends. I'm forgiving that way.  

Anyway, in addition to her writing, speaking, coaching and work with Simone Marean and Ronald at the marvelous Girls Leadership Institute she has just released  a revised and updated edition of her germinal (not seminal, get it?) book, "Odd Girl Out." As she writes in the new introduction, 'I wrote [this] as an observer, but I have revised it as a practitioner.

 

According to Slate XX , Rachel returns to the material "with more perspective":

Simmons’s transition has changed her book fundamentally, and for the better. In its original form, Odd Girl Out brought a largely unexamined social problem into the public eye with sensitivity and insight, but offered little by way of solutions or advice. Now it is both a sociological text and a how-to. Simmons has added three new chapters focused on the roles of parents and teachers, which detail the tricks and tips she’s picked up over the years. She gets incredibly specific, down to which sentences do and don’t work with teens, and how best to approach another parent or teacher about bullying.

The new Odd Girl Out also addresses the changes brought about by technology. Facebook and sexting didn’t exist in 2002, but now they dominate the way girls conceptualize and conduct their friendships. Simmons tackles social media’s effect on teen girls in two new chapters that cover cyberbullying, privacy, and what parents can do to help their daughters negotiate the slippery world of online interaction. What she describes is frankly horrifying, an inescapable maelstrom of hormones, insecurity, and cruelty enabled by the Internet’s tendency to erase inhibitions and accountability. Refreshingly, though, Simmons refuses to see girls as victims of new technology. “Social media may magnify emotions and facilitate cruelty, but it does not ‘make’ girls act a particular way,” she writes. The solution, she suggests, isn’t to log off but to develop strategies for communicating healthily, just like in real-time interactions.

Simmons has made plenty of tweaks and improvements to her original work, but here’s what remains unchanged: Odd Girl Out is gripping because it’s relatable, even to those of us who are mercifully removed from the social politics of middle and high school. By documenting girls’ social lives with depth and nuance (no girl is just a bully or just a victim, Simmons reminds us) the book encourages us to consider what transpired at our own lunch tables, and how that shaped the kind of women we became. Everyone knows what it feels like to be the odd girl out, and Simmons has turned her book into a meeting place for all experiences: Girls find a voice and an ally, parents and teachers gain perspective and tools to help the girls in their lives, and the rest of us observe from the sidelines, feeling wiser and a bit better understood.

Also, catch this interview with La Rachel herself on NPR. She is so smart, so relatable and so wise about the world--hey, kind of like my grandma!

 

Rachel Simmons: Shayne Punim!

Forget Harry Potter--The New Miyazaki Looks Like Magic!

Oh my goodness! More good news! The next Studio Ghibli movie, Arietty, will open in the U.S. in February. Ghibli the Japanese company founded by the visionary auteur Hiyao Miyazaki is responsible for the fight-fun-with-fun screen gems My Neighbor Totoro,

Kiki's Delivery Service,

Spirited Away,

Ponyo,

Castle in the Sky,

Nausicaa,

Princess Mononoke (not for little ones),

all of which feature spectacular, wonderful, natural female protagonists. I could not have gotten through my daughter's childhood without him. Plus, Miyazaki totally blows out of the water the old chestnut that female protagonists can't be universal or hold boys' attention. His  creativity puts Pixar to shame. In fact, John Lassiter idolizes Miyazaki.

According to an article in the UK Guardian:

Ghibli is often lazily dubbed Japan's answer to Disney, but the comparison only holds true in terms of box-office sales (Spirited Away is still Japan's all-time top-grossing film – three other Ghibli films are in the top 10) and sales of cuddly toys. In terms of content, Studio Ghibli is a world apart. Since 1984, under the auspices of its founder and chief auteur, Hayao Miyazaki, the studio has rolled out a succession of dense, ambitious fantasy adventures, almost all of them led by strong, intelligent, independent-minded girls. Miyazaki's movies are exciting and fantastical, often involving flying machines, ecological disasters, clashing civilisations and precarious spiritual values – all rendered in clean, colourful, hand-drawn animation. His heroines also tend towards a certain type. They are adventurous and active, but also compassionate, communicative, pacifist and virtuous. Their "female" qualities and childish innocence are often what resolve the crisis at hand and bridge conflicting worlds. Miyazaki does princesses, too, but the first time we see his eponymous Princess Mononoke, she's sucking the gunshot wound of a giant wolf and spitting blood into a river.

As Miyazaki once explained: "If it's a story like, 'Everything will be fine once we defeat him,' it's better to have a male as a lead. But, if we try to make an adventure story with a male lead, we have no choice other than doing Indiana Jones. With a Nazi, or someone else who is a villain in anyone's eyes."

"He thought heroism was much more complicated than that black hat/white hat stuff," explains Helen McCarthy, a British author who has written extensively on Miyazaki and Japanese animation. "By making the hero a girl, he took all that macho stuff out of the equation and that gave him the freedom to examine heroism. His career has been a very beautiful building of an idea that the feminine doesn't preclude the heroic."

The new film has all the earmarks of a Ghibli classic:

Arrietty fits right into this mould. It was adapted by Miyazaki from Mary Norton's Borrowers stories and directed by his protege, Hiromasa Yonebayashi. Arrietty herself is a miniature 14-year‑old girl, who lives with her parents in secrecy under the floorboards of a rural Japanese home, "borrowing" their possessions – a pin becomes her sword, for example. Like any little girl growing up, she's independent-minded and eager to explore the outside world. Just as Spirited Away's heroine bridged the world between the spirits and the living, so Arrietty bridges that between her little people and the full-sized humans, but she is also driven by her curiosity about boys.

Yeah, the boys thing, I don't know. But in Miyazaki's hands I imagine we'll see something beautiful...and real. Here's the trailer (somewhat lame, but the animation and story look great).

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jeoKCQUDE-k

And--GIRL CRUSH ALERT--it stars Amy Poehler!!!

 

Forget Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (well, okay, don't FORGET it, but....). I'll be first in line for this one.

 

 

Being Part of the Solution for Girls AND Boys

Let's take a break from chronicling the problems today and--hey. in honor of women's soccer (woot!)--be a little solution-oriented. I just spoke with the magnificent Diane Levin and she mentioned an organization she's founded: TRUCE, which stands for Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children's Entertainment.

Our mission is to raise public awareness about the harmful influence of unhealthy children's entertainment and to provide information about toys and activities that promote healthy play. We are working to eliminate marketing aimed at exploiting children and to reduce the sale of toys and entertainment that promotes violence.

This is not specifically about girls--it's about the unhealthy messages beamed at both sexes. On their web site they have a fabulous set of action guides teachers and parents can download on play, toys and media for infants, toddlers and young children. They're totally grass roots, so if you do it and like it PASS THE INFORMATION ALONG!

I'll put this on my resources list, too!

Happy Friday!

 

 

Born This Way?

I know. Your daughter was just born loving pink. Your son made "vrooming" noises as he exited the womb. In CAMD I have a chapter on nature versus nurture, but I also highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend these three books. They are essential for anyone who has essentialist (i.e., everything is down to gender, boys will be boys, girls will be girls) tendencies. All three are super-readable and scrupulously researched and disentangle nature (which is real) from nurture (which is huge) revealing how our assumptions about kids and gender may be undermining our sons' and daughters' potential. Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences Grow Into Troublesome Gaps and What We Can Do About It by Lise Eliot

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine

 

The Truth About Girls And Boys:Challenging Toxic Stereotypes About Our Children by Caryl Rivers and Rosalind Barnett

This one isn't out yet, but I just read the galley and was impressed. I love Rosalind Barnett's and Caryl Rivers' work.

Gotta Love those Swedes

My friend Anne-Marie just told me about this Swedish kids' clothing line, POP that has recently come stateside. I love it--especially the sales. And I love their manifesto on why, in addition to boys and girls, they provide a unisex line. "Our unisex collection (UNI) consists of clothing that is based on situation and function rather than on gender. As a clothing manufacturer, we want to make it our responsibility to offer an alternative to clothing that is based on gender. There is really no reason to design different models and fits for small boys and girls since there is no great difference in the way their bodies are shaped. We have taken an overall approach to unisex clothing, and consider not only color but also pattern and fit. We primarily want to offer children and parents freedom of choice. Each collection is first planned based on the UNI concept, after which we develop clothes that are more gender oriented."

POP. I'd call it WOW.

They've got newborn, infant, kids 6-11.....Here's their Girls 2-6 line. I'm digging the patterns and colors and especially that lime green. And the unisex 2-6.