The purpose of our blog is to discuss topical issues, stories, and situations, as well as to share what we are up to and new ways for you to get involved. We are always searching for possible answers to the question: Why is a girl's worth culturally and historically relative?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

GlobalGirl Media – A New Style of Reporting

A Global Girl reporter believes in the power of her voice to change the world!

Appalled by the lack of dialogue, critical awareness or accurate representation of women and girls in new media, a group of female filmmakers, broadcasters and journalists collaborated to form GlobalGirl Media (GGM). The organisation aims to empower high-school aged girls from disadvantaged backgrounds by giving them a voice in the global media universe and their own futures as citizen journalists.

The circumstances that inspired the founders of GGM to initiate the programme were double-pronged. The first was that they recognized that the vast majority of mainstream news reporting focuses on violence, celebrities, or disaster, while the everyday experiences and points of view of the general public (and girls in particular) goes unheard.

The second reason was that it became obvious that although teenage girls are prolific users of the internet, social networking (particularly Facebook), and phone texting, in web editorial, gaming and social media development around the world fewer than 5% of the people in influential positions are women.

To attempt the change these trends the programme encourages girls to speak out about the issues that affect them and their communities through new media. But there is the added problem that girls from impoverished areas are often unable to access such technologies and so are being left behind in this digital age. GGM solves this issue by providing the girls with the necessary tools for them to become blogging journalists in the form of equipment, education and support.

As they say on their website, GlobalGirl Media invests in girls to become their own agents of change in bridging the gender digital divide, providing concrete skills with which to improve their personal situations. We firmly believe that working with young women around the world to find and share their authentic voice is an investment in our global future.  

GGM works by pairing US communities with international cities, creating a peer-to-peer international network of girls. The girls are trained to work with small-format video (camcorders or cellphones). They also have Academies operating in various parts of the world and pair with NGOs on projects and in order to select deserving girls for the programme.

If you are interested in learning more about GlobalGirl Media, donating to their cause or becoming involved yourself visit their website.

-Briar Barry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sanitary Pads change Somali Girls' Lives

Fartun Abdi Hashi at work. Photograph: Abdi Hassan/IRIN

In Somalia, when a girl gets her period, she will often need to miss school or work because of a lack of sanitary supplies.  Out of embarrassment and shame, girls miss out on education, sometimes dropping out altogether, because makeshift pads of paper and leaves are ineffective.

The Galkayo Education Centre for Peace and Development (GECPD) is changing that.  With support from a variety of agencies, including Unicef and UNHCR, GECPD has been able to employ young women to made sanitary pads.  The GECPD educates at least 800 girls, and at any point 7-8% of the girls have their period.  With so many girls missing classes or feeling they needed to drop out, in 2009 GECPD decided to take matters into their own hands and keep the girls in school.

Besides ensuring girls receive an uninterrupted education, the project also provides much needed jobs for 60 girls and young women, who are able to make on average 20 to 30 pads each day.  These much needed jobs mean the girls can help provide for their families, as they make about $150 a month.  Plus, the majority of the material for the pads is locally sourced, and they are reusable.  They are also cheaper than imported pads, selling for half the price.  The packages GECPD make come with 6 sanitary pads and two pairs of underwear.

The packages have changed many girls lives for the better: as 17 year old Bureqo Ali, one of the girls employed by the project says, “We are wearing them and making a living out of it.  It is a wonderful feeling.”

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Too Young to Model

People Magazine, 25 August 2003.
Photographer: Dana Tynan
How young is too young to model? It seems that designers, magazine editors, and advertisers everywhere are of the opinion that the fewer years a model has under her belt, the more likely it is that she will get to wear theirs. Debate around this issue has been gaining momentum this year, with concerns finally resulting in a pledge by modelling agencies to ensure that girls under the age of 16 would be ineligible for runway work at New York Fashion Week. 

One casting agent has sparked heated debate by stating that aspiring models are too old to work at 16. Naomi Fitzgerald de Grave, head booker at Sydney-based GEAR Model Management believes that international brands are only interested in 13 or 14 year old faces. She has a point. Many of the models who are now household names had great success from a very early age: Kate Moss, Brooke Shields, Kimora Lee Simmons, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Gisele B├╝ndchen, and Karolina Kurkova were all between the ages of 13 and 15 when they started working. 

Even film stars are picked out by designers to be the face of their brand from ridiculously young ages. Just look at Dakota Fanning. The young star recently admitted that in 2007 at age 12 she "really wasn’t old enough" for the clothes she wore while modelling for Marc Jacobs. This revelation comes just days after Fanning's most recent Marc Jacobs perfume campaign was banned in the UK. In it Fanning sits demurely, looking even younger than her 17 years, while the flower shaped bottle is lodged between her legs–a pose which censors deemed too sexually suggestive, particularly in light of the model's young age. 

Rival modelling agencies are jumping into the fray and strongly disagreeing with Fitzgerald de Grave's claims by saying that models are unlikely to be taken on by European agencies until they are at least 16 or 17. And yet, a whole new generation of doe-eyed beauties are now coming through the ranks at even more alarming ages. Just look at Thylane Loubry Blondeau. The French 10 year-old who has been working since she was 4 has already starred in various campaigns for major children's brands, graced the cover of Vogue Enfants, walked in a Jean-Paul Gaultier show, and featured in a Vogue editorial which explored the exploitative side of fashion's relationship with extreme youth.

But that's exactly it, isn't it? By employing such young girls, the fashion industry is not only cashing in on the insecurities of aging women determined to hold on to their youth, they are also exploiting the naivety that is inherent in anyone that has not yet made it to adulthood. Fitzgerald de Grave might not be wrong about European agencies' proclivity for hiring young girls, but should she be encouraging it? I think not. 
-Briar A. Barry
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A Girl is an Emotional Creature

Eve Ensler, CNN-IBN.
Exciting news from the world of West Coast theatre! Eve Ensler’s new play 'Emotional Creature' will open at Berkeley Rep on June 15 and run for a month. The script, monologues and songs for and about girls, is based on her very cool book, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World. To read more a find out how to get tickets, check out this article in Playbill. 

While the Playbill article claims it will be a world premiere, an earlier version with the fuller title 'I Am an Emotional Creature' opened in Mumbai in November 2009 with an all Indian cast and directors. Here she is being interviewed on CNN-IBN.

If you have a spare 20 minutes or so, check out Ensler’s moving TED talk also given in India about her work, travelling and talking to girls, and ‘embracing your inner girl’. 

Girl Museum is looking forward to this play, which is sure to be creative and provocative. If you live in the SF/Berkeley area and would like to review this play for us- please drop me a line.

Check out Global Girl Media's interview with Ensler rehearsing her play in Johannesburg and the V-Girls inspired by the book.
-Ashley E Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

HEY FAT GIRL...HEY UGLY...YOU LOOK LIKE A BOY!

Mourners release balloons in memory of Ashlynn Conner, 10, at Crown Hill Cemetery in Ridge Farm near Champaign today.
Keri Wiginton/Chicago Tribune
What ever happened to sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me?

A 10-year-old girl so desperate to escape the taunts of schoolmates commits suicide. It is beyond sad. And it is a delusional and self-righteous society that accepts it and doesn't get outraged by such a thing. 

Talk to your children about bullying. Think about what you say in front of them. Watch what they are watching on television.

Mean girls aren't cool. And there is an organization that aims to combat girl bullying called just that. Equally there is a US government initiative called Stop Bullying as well. Let's get informed and start asking questions.

Many condolences to Ashlynn's family.
We should never have to read another story like this again. 

-Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum  Inc.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

"Personhood" amendment threatens birth control options


This past Tuesday, which was Election Day in the United States, a “personhood” amendment to Mississippi’s state constitution was put to the vote.  This amendment, had it passed, would have not only outlawed abortion but also made many forms of birth control and reproductive assistance illegal.

The concept behind this amendment was that life begins at the moment a sperm cell embeds in an egg – and so this law would have banned any birth control method that can possibly inhibit a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus and continuing to develop.  This would have made the morning-after pill, hormonal birth control pills, and intrauterine devices illegal, because all of these birth control methods rely in part on preventing zygotes from remaining in the uterus.  This law also had the potential to prohibit in-vitro fertilization, since extra fertilized eggs produced in this process are sometimes discarded.

Thankfully, Mississippi voters rejected this amendment, but the fact that it was even submitted as legislation is disturbing.  This law was medically unsound because a woman is not considered pregnant until a zygote implants on the uterine wall – in fact, home pregnancy tests won’t register as positive until this happens.  But beyond defying science, this law would also have put a huge dent in the separation of church and state that is enshrined in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.  The personhood amendment was sponsored by Personhood USA, an advocacy group that aims to “serve Jesus” by pushing legislation that defines life as beginning at fertilization.  This organization is trying to push its religious doctrine into United States law, which is a clear violation of our national Constitution.

What makes this law even more ironic is that birth control is one of the best solutions for reducing the abortion rate.  Preventing conception from taking place at all leads to less unwanted pregnancies, which in turn means that fewer women will seek abortions.  Also, as I’ve previously written here, Mississippi spends an extraordinary amount of money each year to deal with the consequences of unplanned teenage pregnancies.  Birth control is the logical choice to prevent unwanted pregnancies, and Mississippians weren’t fooled by Personhood USA’s campaign.  If one of the most conservative states can reject laws like this, maybe there’s hope for the future of reproductive freedom.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dutch Girls: Top models of the Golden Age

Portrait of Maria van Oosterwijck, Wallerant Vaillant, 1671, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam.
At Girl Museum, we are usually happy to see other institutions produce exhibitions about women, but at the same time we have to be cautious about the interpretation. Dutch Girls: Top Models of the Golden Age is a new exhibition on until December 12 at the Schiphol Airport annex of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.

It is a small collection of 17th century portraits of well-to-do women. ‘Top models’ is a bit clich├ę, surely connoting a value system that would be heretical at the time these works were painted. These were important women, not models, because then models were not important women and the suggestion would have been equally heretical. Although vanity images do continue to be popular today, they are now typically in the form of sex tapes, nip slips and fake wedding portraits. 

The promotional video clip is a bit naff too. Clearly the guys have been asked to stereotype contemporary Dutch girls rather than about the art. 

If you see this exhibition, please let us know what it is like and what you think about it.  Too bad it is just at the airport gallery.

-Ashley E. Remer
Head Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Girl Scouts accept transgender girls

 Bobby Montoya

Since the 1990s, Girl Scouts of the United States of America has accepted gays, but had not taken a clear stance on transgendered girls.  But after Bobby Montoya was told that she could not join a troop because she had “boy parts,” her mother spoke to the media, and the Girl Scouts of Colorado immediately released a statement clarifying their stance.

Bobby has identified as female since the age of two, and even asked his parents why he wasn't a girl.  Bobby dresses in more traditionally female clothes, and enjoys playing with dolls and My Little Ponies.  It was his wish to join his sister in Girl Scouts as well.  After this incident, however, Bobby has made even more of an effort to outwardly act as a girl in all aspects of his life.

This is a step in the right direction by an organization that does much for girls in the US and around the world, but can be a bit slow in accepting others—not only were gays not welcomed prior to the 1990s, atheists were also unwelcome.  Hopefully this will encourage other Girl Scout councils to take a close look at their policies and ensure a welcoming community for all.

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Judge beats daughter, sees it as no big deal


For years, one of the many points of contention in debates across the United States has been whether hitting a child is ever justified.  Some believe that any type of physical punishment is wrong, while others think that a mild spanking can be a form of correction – while some parents feel that it is their right and their duty to whip their children for misbehaving.  Falling into this latter camp is William Adams, a Texas judge who was caught on film beating his daughter with a belt.

Judge Adams' daughter Hillary put a video clip on YouTube this week that shows her father abusing her while her mother looks on.  Hillary, who has cerebral palsy, set up a hidden camera to capture this footage, which suggests that these beatings were a regular occurrence.  The judge's reasoning for harming his daughter was that she needed to be punished for illegally downloading music.  A statement released by Judge Adams' lawyer can be found here, released a few days after he was quoted as saying "It happened years ago.. I apologized. It’s not as bad as it looks on tape."

As blogger Amanda Marcotte has pointed out, this kind of corporal punishment seems to line up with the kind of child-rearing practices promoted by fundamentalist Christians.  The judge hasn't identified himself as a Christian (fundamentalist or otherwise), but he has run for election on a Republican platform, which on the more conservative end has a great deal of overlap with evangelical Christianity.  Books by prominent evangelicals like James Dobson encourage parents to hit their children, sometimes with objects, to "correct" their behavior.  Conservative Christianity also likes to remind wives and children that it is their duty to "submit" to the man in a household.  This submissiveness all too often leads to unchecked patriarchal power and creates situations where a father feels well within his rights to beat his children.  Hillary Adams, being both young and female, was doubly victimized by these beliefs.

Though there are many rational arguments over whether children should be spanked or not, any decent human being can agree that beating and whipping a girl is child abuse, especially if that girl is disabled.  It's sad that a culture exists where this type of parenting is tolerated and even celebrated and encouraged, but this is the natural result of an extreme patriarchy.  By bringing this viciousness to light, I hope that Hillary Adams and other victims like her can show just how dangerous corporal punishment can be for children. 

The video that Hillary Adams uploaded can be seen here, but be warned that it is incredibly violent and highly disturbing.

-Miriam Musco
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Black Girls Rock!


Beverly Bond founded Black Girls Rock! In 2006 in order to provide positive role models for young girls of color and a sense of empowerment.  This year's Black Girls Rock! Awards show will celebrate actresses and singers, as well as sports figures, political activists, and human rights activists.

Black Girls Rock! strives to “promote positive images of women in media,” but the largest missions by far are the arts and mentoring programs for teens and girls of color.  The programs are diverse, and include such activities as poetry workshops, a DJ academy program, the “Taste the World” program (exposing other cultures through food), college campus tours, and the Queens' Camp for Leadership and Excellence.

For more information on Black Girls Rock! or ways to get involved, visit their website.  The 6th annual Black Girls Rock! Awards show will air in the US on Sunday November 6th on BET Network.  

-Katie Weidmann
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.