Category Archives: Role models

PinkStinks – the campaign for real role models – challenges the culture of pink which invades every area of girls’ lives and focuses on real role models which will inspire girls to succeed on their own merit

Off-side rule for girls…

Kim Little is top goal scorer of the year

Hooray, England are out of the world cup. Well, not really hooray, as I love a bit of football, love supporting England and was really looking forward to it, like many of us. But now we’re out, and in such spectacularly disappointing style, the press are full swing into the autopsy and it’s been interesting to compare and contrast the achievements of our men to that of our women’s team.

Yesterday those achievements were celebrated at the 12th FA Women’s Football Awards. Kim Little received most honours for being top goal scorer as well as many others including Natasha Dowie, Katie Chapman and Jordan Nobbs (seen below) who was young player of the year.

We’d like to add our congratulations to these women and to shout from the roof-tops about their successes as well as to the inspirational Hope Powell, Lewisham born,  for receiving her CBE in this years Queen’s honours list. So great to have so many role models for our girls to aspire to be… a bit more of this and a little less of the ‘Future WAG’ or ‘WAG in training’ t.shirts wouldn’t go amiss, how about Future Football Manager, or Future Young player of the year instead?

Hilarious.... isn't it?

Ironic, or just plain sad really, that our highstreets are plastered in the *hilarious WKD ads. (Dare I mention them in case I get the usual onslaught  accusing me of not having a sense of humour…yawn yawn (see Guardian piece today, including string of vitriol below),

Well, I do dare, because the plain fact of the matter is, is that whilst we’re busily being told how stupid we all are in the ads… Sport England’s Active People survey in 2008 tells us that 260,000 women and 1.1 million girls play some form of football in England and that there are 26 million females playing across the world, of which 4.1 million are playing affiliated football – this is a 54% growth since the year 2000 (FIFA Big Count 2006) and I’d wager that those numbers have risen since then too.

Young Player of the Year - Jordan Nobbs

So, whilst you ‘ad lads’ are all having a laugh at the expense of the girls (offside rule blue ad) and even the WAGS (the orange ad) whilst supping your neon alcopops… there are loads of us ‘girls’ who know exactly what off-side is thanks…. and it’s our job to remind you that we exist. So before you have a go at me for daring to speak up about how pathetic, the ads are…

I’d focus on reminding our ‘lads’ where the back of the net was first…. no?

OUTRAGED? I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO WASN’T. By Lucy Lawrence

I was not outraged by the audacity of the clothing chain Primark in selling padded bikini tops to girls aged seven this week. Frankly I was not even mildly surprised. Let’s face it, these pink and sparkly fake breasts were quite mild compared to some of the other vile tat that’s been sold to children as good, harmless fun. Pole dancing kits spring to mind.

Anyway, there was enough outrage coming from all sides to render any I might have drummed up, redundant.

Firstly, I want to stress that I did not, under any circumstances, consider it to be a ‘good thing’ for this product to be in shops. I am glad they have gone. It is a good move for Primark and it is a good move for parents who already have a hard enough job keeping daughters dressed appropriately for their age rather than their preferred future career.

It is not, however, a victory for The Sun newspaper which reported its own ‘outrage’ on Wednesday that these ‘paedo bikinis’ were on sale, encouraging paedophiles everywhere (to do what?). Hours later when, after caving in to all the negative publicity Primark pulled the offending items off its shelves and offered to donate any profits from their sales to charity, this was hailed by the newspaper as ‘The Sun wot won it’ or some other ‘amusing’ headline.

The rank hypocrisy of this tabloid beggars belief. Condemning ‘sexy’ products for the under-10s on one page, while encouraging teenage girls, not even a decade older, to ‘get them out for the lads’ on Page 3. This is a national newspaper that makes its money out of objectifying young women and turning them into sex objects. And yet it never questions that this ‘in yer face’, and on the breakfast table, socially acceptable sexuality might arouse the curiosity of, and a desire to emulate, in pre-pubescent girls.

The Sun makes money by pedalling soft porn and fantasy femininity and then attempts to take the moral high ground against another, equally cynical, business venture which is trying to hook these girls in younger and younger. Who gave The Sun’s editor the moral compass?

I reserve scorn too for the politicians – all of them. As expected, all three major political parties claimed to be outraged by these bikinis. But still, even in the 21st century, all of these politicians are so busy trying to be popular with Britain’s biggest selling tabloid, that they would never dare risk its wrath by condemning Page 3. None are willing to take a stand and demand soft porn mags like Nuts and Zoo be placed on the top shelf, nor are any prepared to admit that there just might be a connection between the images girls and women are exposed to in the media and the ever increasing numbers of breast augmentations et al. being carried out year on year in the UK. It used to be an insult to call somebody plastic. Now our girls aspire to it.

And finally there is the outrage coming from the Left. There seemed to be a backlash against parents for objecting to the sexualisation of children.

One blogger wrote: “The pubescent padded bra has been hijacked by the faux-feminist family values brigade as a symbol of moral decline. There is a distinct class element to this puritan agenda.” She continues by arguing that middle-class mums are ganging-up on Primark because working class mums shop there? Really? Wouldn’t middle class mums gang-up on Sainsbury’s if it were selling sexist clothes for children?  Oh, I did.

So, in a world where, judging by Channel 4 news’s vox pop on this issue, we are becoming immune to these things – most Primark shoppers hadn’t even registered this garment was on sale, let alone judged it inappropriate – in a world where nearly 9,000 British women a year have breast augmentation, in a world where children have internet access to porn before they’ve even reached puberty, in a world where 46% of girls aged 11 to 16 would consider cosmetic surgery and that girls start finding fault with their appearance as early as 10 or 11* and in a world where girls are not encouraged to play dressing-up like their mums but encouraged to play dressing up like highly-sexed pop stars, it’s my argument that we should stand back and take a look at where things are going and then imagine where we want them to be.

Girls don’t want padded bikinis so they’re not teased by the boys at school – for heaven’s sake, they’re hardly going to be wearing them under their polo shirts. They want these bikinis so they look like Hannah Montana, Cheryl Cole and Jordan. Three decent role models? I leave that up to you.

But when I go on holiday with my four-year-old son this summer, the last thing I want is for him to experience a beach  awash with seven-year-old girls playing at being teenagers in push-up bikinis. Girls will always be girls – but they don’t always have to be sex objects.

* A study by the Girl Guides

Transformers: Sexism, in disguise by Georgi Banks-Davies

I went to see the epic summer blockbuster Transformers 2, in the epic Imax this week. To put what I am about to say in context this was a big deal for me. I love this stuff: robots, action, love, goodies, baddies, and well unexpectedly lots of doe-eyed ridiculously attractive mouth-slightly-ajar 18 year old girls. And it was here that I actually started to feel slightly uncomfortable.

For those of you who have not seen the film, let me briefly paint the picture. The cast mainly consists of some robots (all lead ones male); a lead teenage boy; two parents; lots of ‘average’ college boys; and, the aforementioned teenage girls. Our lead male goes to college, where, it appears that to gain entrance as a women you need to have taken a very different kind of exam. One akin to working at Abercrombie and Fitch. Literally nearly every woman said nothing, but looked exactly like she had stepped out of the 2007 FHM calendar.

The most perfect scene to highlight my point is a college lecture. A geeky, cocky lecturer type (played by an ‘average’ looking US comic, who I vaguely recognised), talks to a room full of geeky boys, and the spawn of Cindy Crawford, Giselle and Kate Moss, all sitting, gorgeously, doe-y eyed, mouth slightly open (you get the picture). The lecturer takes a bite of his apple, then drops it suggestively to the floor, at which point we cut to the class full of young women as they pant and gasp as if Brad Pitt is doing unmentionables to them under the desk, to which he responds  “you can eat that later”. WTF!?

“Hold on”, I hear you cry. What about the second lead in the movie, the side-kick, power woman that is Megan Fox. Now, for those of you who saw the first movie, she was a tough, fighting, side-kick cookie. Well it seems as she was deemed so ‘successful’ to the audience in that movie, that they now perfected her into the perfect character … a blow up doll, but one that miraculously runs in her heels while a 100 ton robot chases her. (And keeps her lipstick on her perfectly always puckered lips even whilst having running 15 miles through the desert.) She is so gratuitously shot by the filmmaker that in her opening scene, as she leans over a motorcycle, whilst the camera travels up her leg to her short skirt, that at least 80 per cent of the cinema audience crossed their legs.

Now admittedly as a 30 year old women I am not in the 13-23 yr old young male demographic that Dreamworks and Paramount are aiming at. And don’t get me wrong I loved the movie. But come on guys (and it sadly was guys who would have made every part of it … but that’s another blog)! I know 16 year old boys are gonna literally wet themselves over this, and you’ll make tons of Disney dollars, but surely there has to be a line. Even if young women are not the intended audience what is this saying to young men? It’s sex on a stick, it’s verging – at points – on pornographic. The sadder point is that if Hollywood has chosen to put ‘normal’ girls in the college scenes, they would probably wear glasses and fall over in the corridor holding a pile of big books.

It takes simple measures: lose the lecturer scene, please. Don’t so blatantly objectify one of Hollywood’s most rising young stars (it’s sad that Megan Fox is basically manipulated to become the porn pinup for the wii generation.)

If we don’t draw a line on the representation of women in these movies somewhere, the big issue is how far will it go until it stops?

Transformers I love you dearly, but please realise the power you have to talk to a mass audience and give young women some dignity and respect, because at the end of the day that’s what this film has a huge lack of.

Disney Moppets, Dead Mothers, Post-Modern Consumer Hell and Me – A Review of Hannah Montana: The Movie

By May Carolan

It’s been confirmed, officially: when it comes to our brains, we women are doing a whole lot better than our male counterparts. This month the Higher Education Policy Institute published its findings on women in higher education and we have reason to celebrate, because it is very good news all round.

Within Britain’s university system, women now outnumber and importantly outrank and outperform men at every stage.  Female students are surpassing their male associates in terms of attendance numbers and academic achievements and now it’s not just at the low status universities either, where women have traditionally faired well (though let’s not sell ourselves short, the stats show we’re superior in those too).  Importantly though, at virtually every one of Britain’s highest ranked universities, including almost all members of the elite ‘Russell Group’ the assemblage that represents the top research institutions in the UK, women are doing better than men.

Significantly, it’s not only middle class white women either.  Of those children who were entitled to free meals at school, it’s the girls who are going on to higher education in the greatest numbers.  In just about every ethnic group, including Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities, more girls than boys are heading to university after leaving school.

It seems logical then that enriching the minds of our girls, those daughters who will go on to make up our next generation of women, is highly important and filled with timely significance. However, if Hannah Montana: The Movie were anything to go by, you wouldn’t think girls actually needed to use their brains at all.

Linking the gender composition of educational establishments in the UK with a shrewdly created all-American, Disney ‘pop princess’ may seem somewhat tenuous, but hang in there, the connection is more potent and imperative than you may think.

The young women who are taking their exams this month will do better than their fellow male students.  In September they will head off to more prestigious universities and they will outnumber men on courses like Law and Medicine.  In a few years time they will enter our hospitals and law courts armed with degrees of a higher grade than their male colleagues.  Why then, when this fantastic intellectual achievement by women is taking place all over the country, does the media continue to unreservedly and unequivocally tell our girls that the important things in life are shoes, make-up, boys and becoming a pop star?

Women are on the cusp of taking a monumental step forward and yet it is evident that television companies and film studios are utterly intent on driving the youngest members of our gender backwards into a vapid world of material excess and an empty obsession with ‘celebrity’.

So how does Hannah Montana fit in to all this and just who is she?  Anyone without a daughter under the age of 14 may be somewhat unfamiliar with the mega money making media empire that is Hannah Montana, alas experience tells me that not many people have been able to escape without some kind of cursory experience of her.

The premise of Hannah Montana is that ‘normal’ schoolgirl Miley Stewart (played by real life teenager Miley Cyrus) has a secret pop star alter ego, ‘Hannah Montana’.  By assuming her covert ‘Hannah’ identity (which consists of a blonde wig, high heels and a short skirt) clumsy, unassuming Miley Stewart is able to ‘live the dream’ as a glamorous pop star, without losing her ‘normal life’ as an ordinary girl who lives with her older brother and widowed father.

To say that Miley Cyrus’ various Hannah Montana outputs are popular is an immense understatement with potentially critical consequences.  The film version of the hit TV show was the biggest Easter Weekend opener ever in the US, her 3D ‘Best of Both Worlds Tour” has broken box office records and now she’s over here…

UK merchandise sales of ‘Hannah Montana’ toys, t-shirts, shoes, underwear, hair accessories, computer games, board games, DVDs, books, CDs, furniture, duvet covers, party plates, sweets, cakes, make-up, mobile phone cases, roller skates and stationary to name but a few, is huge and as the rapidly increasing Hannah Montana section of the Argos catalogue proves, her ever escalating pervasiveness is beginning to feel damn near omnipresent!

What’s most disturbing about the film of Hannah Montana is that it is decidedly watchable.  The ostensibly wholesome façade exudes what feels like brilliant and positive life-lessons to the tween girl, even I was momentarily caught up in the colourful charade.  However, seeing a tiny girl of about 4 years old, perched on a booster seat across the aisle from me, cleared the sequin-induced haze that had momentarily blind sighted me.  This little girl was dressed from pink Stetson to flashing LCD shoes, in Hannah Montana gear.  She wriggled and gyrated in her seat and sang along to song and dance sequences, she squealed in wondrous short-attention-spanned glee.  But rather than being happy for her, I wanted more for her and so I watched with a far more reasoned eye.

When her increasingly brattish ‘Hannah’ persona begins to take over, Miley’s father (who in a confusing post-modern nightmare is played by Cyrus’ real-life country singer father, Billy Ray Cyrus) takes matters into his own hands and sends his wayward daughter back to their small home town of Crowley, Tennessee to learn the true value of family and friendship.

You see, that sounds Ok doesn’t it? And seeing as the build up to this banishment was Miley forgetting her best friend’s birthday, skipping her brother’s send-off to university in order to go shopping and a cringe-worthy catfight with America’s next Top Model Tyra Banks, over some shoes that look like they belong on a hooker, so far so good.  But again, once you stop staring aghast at the razzmatazz of it all, the hideous ‘moral backbone’ becomes all too clear.
The problem is that Miley never makes any decisions of her own.  From being tricked into going ‘home’ (which to all intents and purposes was a kidnapping, albeit it on a private jet) or deciding to ‘voluntarily’ give-up her Hannah façade (which had more to do with exhaustion and trying to get a boyfriend than anything else) Miley doesn’t have to think for one minute.

All Miley’s moral quandaries and personal dilemmas are induced, shaped and resolved in relation to a male role model.  Even her poor dead mother (of course she’s dead! They’re always dead!) doesn’t get a look in.  When Miley’s new home-town cowboy boyfriend tells her that her songs are rubbish and don’t truly come from her heart (how rude, what does he know!?) she writes a song about what a great Dad she has and how he taught her that she could live her dreams if she only tried hard enough.

And that is what is at the crux of Hannah Montana: The Movie and what makes it so perilous: it instructs children to spend most of their time dreaming and then it constructs what those dreams should be in order to squeeze more money out of their unwitting parents.  The dreams are wrapped up in a pretty neo-conservative casing that gives the impression of advocating individuality and feistiness, but which actually does the opposite.  The dream it endorses is one which seeks to create a merchandise demanding, money eating pre-teen automaton with unrealistic expectations for a life very few people will ever get (or should want) to lead, inducing dissatisfaction and frustration, which we are told can be appeased by better purchasing power.

This doesn’t even begin to mention the giant guilt complex most girls will acquire if (nay, when) they can’t live up to the hideous ‘wholesome’ image Disney has assembled for poor young Miley Cyrus.  She’s like a car crash waiting to happen.  Despite it all, Cyrus is a talented actress with excellent comic timing and a refreshingly un-perfect face. I wish her the best of luck and godspeed into non-raunchy adult roles away from the heavy corporate paw of the Disney dynasty.

You may think well, if girls are thriving academically then what does it matter if they watch Hannah Montana?  This is where the danger lies; the women who are currently entering into and graduating from our universities didn’t have the Disney puppet Miley Cyrus and her Hannah Montana Jekyll and Hyde personas preaching to them. I’m not wholly convinced they had anything you could point your finger at and categorically say “well this was better”, but they certainly didn’t have something so scheming, calculated or obviously commodity based thrust upon them from every avenue.

It’s worth noting here that Hannah Montana was produced by Al Gough and Miles Millar, two television executives who gave the world Smallville.  A contemporary prequel to the Superman story, Smallville features a young Clark Kent growing up in his mid-west hometown, before his superhero adulthood.  It’s interesting that Hannah Montana has a remarkably similar premise to Superman, mostly the shared secret identities which are apparently go unnoticed due to unfeasibly convincing disguises of different hair-dos.  It’s true that both of these shows are silly and unrealistic, but it’s such a shame that when a boy has a clandestine identity, he gets to have super human powers and save the world.  When a girl has one, she becomes pop star with nothing much but an awesome shoe collection to show for it.

Now I’m not suggesting that our daughters should only be allowed to watch junior versions of programming for the Open University, but does what’s on offer have to be so vacantly manipulative, consumer obsessed and filled with intentionally unrealistic expectations? Because judging by their current achievements within the university system, girls are capable of so much more and this can and should be reflected and celebrated on our television and cinema screens.

Girls get their kicks by Helen Donohoe

My niece is doing amazing things. At the vulnerable age of seven she is making her very own stand against the pinked up tyranny that surrounds her.  She doesn’t like pink anymore. Hallelujah I cry. Not only that but she would like to wear shorts rather than that school dress please. Good choice! Much better for climbing. She’s also taken the brave decision to wear her football kit of choice as she proudly takes part in the inevitably boy-dominated football sessions after school. All the braver because her football kit of choice is Tottenham Hotspur’s.   The boys in their mass marketed Chelsea and Man Utd uniforms think this is funny – but she can handle that.  What she finds much harder to cope with is the horrible stick she gets from the girls; ‘you look like a boy’, ‘that’s what boys’ wear’ ‘do you want to be a boy?’.

It’s so familiar to me. It’s as if 30 years of my life never happened. In 1979 I was in exactly the same place.  The kit was red with white sleeves but the bullying was just the same.

On the face of it that is quite depressing. However if you look closer there is room for a smile. There will always be spirits that can not be fenced in. No force in the world would ever stop me playing football (and many have tried).  But women and girls all over the world play football in far tougher circumstances than I or my niece have ever faced. I sent this article to her as a reminder of that.

And here’s another great piece of film.

However, we need a prevailing culture that means you don’t have to be brave or tough to have the same choices as boys.  Naturally cultural change is complex and multi-faceted but role models are essential.  That is why it is absolutely critical that the Football Association get women’s football right. They govern the game in England, where the game was invented.  They have responsibility for the development of the game at all levels and ultimately they have the ability to allow women and girls’ football to thrive – or in the current climate at least survive.  Arsenal Football Club have for over ten years set the inspirational standard of what women and girls’ football could look like.  The players are heroes. My two year old girl can shout their names and if I ever need reminding of how far we have come, I just take my daughters and their friends to join the crowd that every Sunday watch Arsenal women play.  This year they won the FA Cup and League again.

However, they really are the exception that proves what the norm could be.

Thirty years on from my experience as a girl daring to be different the links are still missing.  When girls on the one hand can dream of growing up to be Rachel Yankey, but still face bullying for just wanting to join in with the boys (or hopefully other girls playing football) we still have a long way to go. If you’re a football fan ask your club what they are doing for women and girls’ football (pink scarves in the club shop is not the right answer!) or remind the FA how critical it is for them to invest in the women’s game.

Not every girl or indeed boy will get their kicks from chasing a football around a park.  However, that should be their choice and no one else’s.

Orla - supporting Arsenal Ladies

Orla - supporting Arsenal Ladies

GIRLATION – YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! By Lucy Lawrence

What is wrong with this picture? A young girl (age indeterminable – but under 18) steps out on to the red carpet. As the flashbulbs of the waiting paparazzi fire up into a strobe-like frenzy, this little girl, short-skirted, glittering and fully made-up, totters up the steps to the event entrance in the ill-fitting skyscraper heels bought especially for this moment. She smiles coyly and waves at the photographers before disappearing inside. “So this is what it’s like to be famous,” she thinks.

So is there anything wrong with this picture? I think so. Because this girl is not famous. She is not Miley Cyrus or Rihanna at an award ceremony or charity gala. She is not an actress or musician or writer or scientist or sportswoman. She is just a girl who thinks it would be cool to be famous. A girl who knows nothing of the reality of becoming famous, of the work it takes to get there and the talent that is (or certainly used to be) required.

This little girl could be, for example, a visitor to an event being run by a set-up called U4U (www.u4uk.co.uk) at London’s NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, appropriately and ridiculously called GIRLATION. The good people at U4U say this seemingly pointless and shallow event is a ‘funky, fun & interactive conference for young ladies’. Girlation will ‘educate, inform and inspire’ and here’s how…

STAR TREATMENT – Your 11-18 year olds will be EDUCATED in the mysterious ways of the red carpet. Er, they will be faced with imitation paparazzi and a hot pink (natch) carpet at the entrance

FREE PAMPERING – The girls will INFORMED about the necessity to look good at all times by being able to experience massages, manicures and, of course, the ubiquitous makeovers

TEMPTING INDULGENCES – Your daughters can then be INSPIRED to spend their money in booths stuffed full of cupcakes and chocolates. Those watching their figures can splash the cash at the branded fashion concessions.

And we are promised EDUCATIONAL EXPERIENCES. What might these be? Er, a high heel boot camp? Apparently it explores positive development. Come again? Is aspiring to be able to walk in high heels a positive thing? Should it even be an aspiration at all? WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE AND ARE THEY MAD?!

Well according to the website, which it has to be said is very light on detail, U4U ‘supports young ladies in becoming good citizens today and positive leaders tomorrow through weekly meetings, activities, mentoring, professional coaching & small business projects’.

Sadly there is no more information on who these people are, where these meetings are held and/or what qualifications they have to be running youth groups – if indeed they are.

Suspicious? Yes, a tad. Especially as their unvalidated and outrageous claims continue:

* society values the attributes of U4U members

* university admissions will recognise them as assets to their programs

* employers will have confidence in their leadership, resourcefulness & professional skills

* government organisations will recognise & reward U4U members as positive contributors

* parents discover a solution that meets their daughters [sic] needs: offering support they might not be able to give; helping their daughters navigate through the difficult teenage years; connecting their daughter with good friends & facilitating good choices

Er, never heard of them. Sorry. No words in English are more brilliantly self-explanatory than synonyms for lack of meaning and substance. When I visit the U4U website and read about all the ‘wonderfulness’ that GIRLATION will offer, these are the words which run through my mind. I find myself thinking of gems such as absurdity; inanity and gibberish. Balderdash; tommyrot and drivel. What about blether; blather and blah-blah, not forgetting flapdoodle; flimflam and poppycock. But the claims being made about this event are far more than simple twaddle. It is insidious and cynical; exploitative and dishonest. Shame on the Natural History Museum. Shame on U4U.

Lucy Lawrence

Campaign trail

We were lucky enough to attend the STEM ambassadors event yesterday in the House of Lords. An amazing organisation which sees brilliant people working in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths volunteering their time to work with schools to teach kids about the amazing career opportunities that are out there. The event also launched a fantastic new photography exhibition called Leading Lights. The pictures aim to show scientists in a new light – no lab coats and test tubes allowed. It’s really worth a look and we will be featuring some of the ambassadors on our website as they are truly great role-models.

Speaking of which. The PR agency who were working with STEM Net, were really pleased to get a double page spread in the Times Magazine a few weeks ago, featuring some of these amazing people. Unfortunately, there was someone far more ‘interesting’ to go on the cover than one of these brilliant ambassadors.  And guess who this amazing cover shot was?

Here’s a clue: the sub head was: “A feminsit icon of our time?”

Have at think.

YES! Katie Price aka JORDAN! EH? You know. Jordan – the ex page three model. That amazing ‘feminist icon’.

I’m not going to get into a Katie Price bashing session. She has undoubtedly done some good things in her time. She’s clearly an astute business woman. She has dealt with her son’s disability in an admiral way and is clearly of some support to parents who have similar issues to contend with. But, there’s no getting away from the fact that her fame and fortune is inextricably linked to her status as a glamour model – surgically enhanced and selling her body to the paying public.

She was on the cover of the magazine because her face and her boobs sell papers. Full stop. The real feminist icons. The ones who are changing the world and curing disease and solving problems and saving lives are not cover material. And our argument is, is that they should be. When being smart is being cool (to pinch Michelle Obama’s phrase) that is the day when Katie Price is off the cover and Jo Carris, Laurie Winkless, Liza brooks, Clare Woods … are on it.

One of the women featured in that article has written a short and sweet response to the Editor’s decision. I wonder whether the editor will have the guts to print it. I sincerely hope so.

I’ll ‘print’ it here. Just in case you don’t get to see it.

Dear Sir/Madam,

The Magazine supplement to today’s Times (Saturday 18th April) featured Katie Price (a.k.a. Jordan, former glamour model), Jo Carris (environmental sustainability consultant), Laurie Winkless (nanomaterials research scientist), Liza Brooks (mechanical engineer and
founder of a snowboard company), and Clare Wood (computational engineering research officer).

No prizes for guessing which one had her picture on the front cover, with the tag-line “A feminist icon for our times?”

I’m saddened that the Times chose to reinforce the view held by so many young people in Britain today, that attaining celebrity status is more important than pursuing an intellectually-challenging career.

Yours sincerely,

Dr Heather Williams, Physicist and STEM Ambassador

Heather – we thank you.

I was also lucky enough to go to the launch of a new website yesterday too, at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation. www.campaigncentral.org.uk is a new site which links campaigners together and gives advice to those wishing to make change.

It was a real pleasure to meet, and then hear speak, Jackie Schneider of the Merton Parents school dinners campaign. She’s an inspiration. She called herself a right pain! But I guess that’s what being a great campaigner is all about.

I also met Dinah Cox of the Rosa fund. She spoke too about the incredible strength of campaigners in the women’s field and it was hugely complimentary to see her handwritten list of ‘campaigns of note’ included PinkStinks.

Finally, today I received the latest copy of KnockBack – a fantastically funny and brilliant magazine for women – billed as a ‘Magazine we made because we don’t like the magazines they made for us’. I urge you to send a donation and get a copy. I laugh through the entire thing. I wish the editors of the Times were as brave and as brilliant as the creators of this.

I dreamed a dream?

It’s an exciting day for us tomorrow, as we’re going to be meeting with other winners of Unltd awards for social entrepreneurs. We’ll be networking and attending workshops, and also I think be feeling very proud of our achievements.

PinkStinks was conceived almost a year ago, and in that year we’ve probably learnt more than we expected, met and spoken with many, many more people than we expected and maybe enjoyed ourselves in the meantime a bit more than we expected too.

Someone we’re definitely looking forward to meeting is Ruth Rogers from Body Gossip, a former winner of the award, and a project that is going from strength to strength. It just goes to show how there really is a movement at the moment of people that really have had enough of the marketing, image obsessed, celebrity culture that we are all immersed in, and we hope that together, all the different projects out there, and journalists and writers who are challenging it, well … maybe we can start to make a difference.

It’s fitting really, on the week that Susan Boyle shot to fame on ‘Britain’s Got Talent‘, where the three judges sneered down their noses in derision at her, as if she’d crawled from under some slimy rock. Where we were treated to shots of the audience rolling their eyes  and laughing with distaste. Where one judge said ‘everyone was laughing at you’ (that was Piers); and another said ‘everyone was against you … but now they’re not’ (that was Amanda) after she’d sung her amazing rendition of I Dreamed a Dream from Les Miserable .

HOLD ON A BLOODY MINUTE!

‘Everyone’?  I think not Piers and Amanda!  I wasn’t laughing at her. I wasn’t against her! Why were we against her again?  Was it because she was too old, or too fat? Or not preened and manufactured and slutty and plastic enough to have talent!?  Good God, what an insult. An insult to her, an insult to us … it was vile to watch. I’m not for a minute saying that seeing Susan didn’t challenge any of us, ourselves included. To see a woman look the way she does on national prime time TV … but it’s because all we do see, particularly when it comes to entertainment, is the preened, plastic, slutty variety. No wonder even the most open minded amongst us is still in mild shock. But doesn’t it show how far we have to go, to break these dangerous stereotypes, to really judge people, women in particular, on talents not tits.

There are some female bands and singers out there  attempting to do just that. So let’s encourage them, blog about them, buy them, tell our daughters about them. Let’s get the girls guitars and drums. Let’s get the girls making the music, not just gyrating to it with next to nothing on.

We really hope that we can start to showcase some great women entertainers and musicians for girls with our new project cooltobe.me, in fact we know we can. So, thank you for the support in the last year, stay tuned and we’ll let you know how we get on tomorrow.

Dora – loses her way

A sillouhette of the new Dora

A sillouhette of the new Dora

So, the thing that is bugging me most, and thanks to shaping-youth for blogging about this too, and getting PinkStinks all cross.

Let’s imagine our lives. Let’s remember when we were young. I do, I wanted to be a vet. Lots of kids do … lots of girls do I think. Then I kind of got put off, because I realised you needed to be good at sciences, and things like that, oh, and 7 years at university … well … then I decided that as I was good at drawing, I’d do graphics … so I did, then … well. Whatever, it doesn’t matter. But something that absolutely DID not happen to me, on my journey, was that I was NEVER ever, a tween.
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If I was a kid now though … there’d be no escaping it.
I think it’s meant to be between the ages of 8, to about 12 … those ruthless marketeers would know the precise age range, and it’s here that our girls truly start to be bombarded with messages, about what it is to be a girl, what they need to look like, own, which kind of girl they’ll be, all cleverly disguised as ‘choice’ but really, a whole heap of marketing opportunities  and top wedge to be made.
Here’s the Wiki – on ‘Tween’
Tween is an American neologism and marketing term[6] for preteen. A blend of between and teen,[4][5] “tween” in this context is generally considered to cover the age range from eight to twelve years.[5]
Tween seems sometimes to be used in such a way as to suggest it’s some sort of scientific theory (or fact) … but I think it came from the same science as pentapeptides, and lipopeptides and all those other mysterious peptide cousins
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There’s tons of great stuff about ‘tweens’ in the book Consumer Kids: How big business is grooming our children for profit. By Ed Mayo and Agnes Nairn.  
So, what’s Dora got to do with this? Well, Dora is going tween, later this year. And you have to ask yourself: “my God, WHY?”  She’s by no means perfect, she’s had some princess moments, her merchandising often betrays who she really is. However, most of the time, she’s climbing mountains, reading maps, navigating rivers, teaching us spanish and just plain old exploring. But her journey has been sabotaged, by the evil marketeers, who want to take away the dreams of girls, and turn them into nightmares. Dora, allegedly might still be solving a few mysteries, but only on her way to the mall. She’s gone and grown-up hasn’t she … and guess what, when girls grow up, they don’t want to explore and discover anymore, unless it’s new nail polish, or some great accessories or, or, well: go take a look on your highstreet. There’s plenty of ‘choice’.
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I bet you, yes I do, that once she’s ‘tweened’, we’ll be informed promptly of the educational learning value of the the new Dora, of how she is encouraging creativity in girls, and helping them ‘belong’. This is a common tactic used by websites. ‘Parents, fear not, it’s in the interests of our girls, that Dora becomes fashionista. Honest.’ Good grief. Give us a break would you. We just don’t buy it. (Forgive the pun.)
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David Attenborough has been making fantastic new programmes, about amazing events in nature airing on the BBC at the moment. My son (aged 6) LOVES them. Tonight, as usual, all amazing, moving stuff. It struck me … Dora would have loved it. Well, until she got tweened that is. Now she’d be more interested in which cropped top goes with which denim skirt. Not what she’ll need in her backpack, and where has that pesky map gone to?
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We await her arrival with baited breathe, but let’s just say, tweening ain’t our backpack.
Hardy Girls Healthy Women in the States are starting a campaign to ‘Save Dora’ – The  Let’s Go: No Makeover campaign, 
You can sign their petition HERE
Here’s a short excerpt from the petition outline page:
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That’s why we’re sending this letter to Mattel and Nickelodeon! Join us for Let’s Go: No Makeover for Dora. Help us tell the execs at Mattel and Nickelodeon to “Let GO” of Dora. Either let her live on as her wonderful self, or create a pre-teen doll that is true to who she was as a child!

Sign onto the letter below and we’ll add your name to the list of concerned parents, activists, educators, and girls who refuse to stand aside while yet another girlhood icon becomes the victim of marketers’ schemes: 
We support the campaign whole-heartedly. 

 

This is apparently the Dora behind the sillouhette

This is apparently the Dora behind the sillouhette

International Women’s Day and courage

It’s International Women’s Day tomorrow. Ironic therefore that it was today when I was confronted – in the flesh (pun intended) – by those vile snowboards emblazened with naked women while out shopping with my two young daughters. Perhaps it was the fact that it is International Women’s day tomorrow that I mustered up the courage to confront the shop’s staff about why they thought it was acceptable and appropriate to have this soft porn in prime position in their shop … and in fact right opposite the children’s section. I was met with an interesting response. The two women I spoke to clearly understood where I was coming from. Even agreed with me to a large extent. I won’t repeat all the arguments used in our previous blog but it was all the more pertinent while my two daughters innocently played in the shadow of these monstrosities. One of the women offered to have them ‘turned around’ while we were in the shop. I said that that wasn’t good enough and that they should really reconsider stocking them at all. She then told me about how her own daughter – aged 15 – thought that the women on them were ‘just cartoons’ so it was all harmless, and in the next breath went on to say how unhappy her daughter was with her own body and how she suffered from self-esteem issues! 

 

Here they are. Right opposite the kids' section of the shop.

Here they are. Right opposite the kids' section of the shop.

 

 

I can only say, that we all need to have courage to challenge these things whenever we see them. It’s so deeply ingrained in our culture and so normalised that many women can’t see what is staring them in the face or have become so used to seeing that our reaction is dumbed down or completely knocked out of us. I left the shop reminding them that Playboy is porn – that’s how simple this argument is. It’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. And that women snowboarders (and skiers … and men for that matter(!)) should be fighting against this invasion on the sport which we (and our young families) love. Be ashamed Burton. Be ashamed.

Rant over.

 

 

Now, moving swiftly on. It’s International Women’s Day in the morning and we thought, time to reflect on all the great and wonderful women who we have come into contact with over the last nine months. Our PinkStinks journey is only just beginning – we are nearly a year old – but we have been amazed by the incredible network which we have become a part of and the support, encouragement and strength that we find there.

We totally love The Illusionists – brilliant blog and project creating a film about beauty myths

Girls Inc – brilliant organisation and website for girls – based in the US with some amazing films

Women’s Resource Centre – innovative and brilliant UK-based organisation run by great women

Women in Science and Engineering – tackling girls’ lack of interest in science with some great new ideas and approaches

GirlGuidingUK – reinventing themselves and focusing on girls’ self esteem and achievement

Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation – finding ways of making active attractive! (Love their slogan)

Polly Toynbee – whose article on ‘girlification’ almost a year ago inspired Abi and I and her resounding support spurred us on

Barbara Follett – whose remarks about girls’ poverty of ambition caused a stir and ignited the debate

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty – which has funded some amazing films most notably Onslaught – which we think is amazing and incredibly powerful

And that’s just off the top of my head. It’s through taking the time to celebrate an event such as International Women’s Day, that women all over the World gain courage to challenge, to oppose and to win their rights. There’s strength in numbers. And there’s also the need to recognise that small and seemingly insignificant actions add up. And mean something.

Finally, we’ve been compiling our list of real role models over the last few weeks and Miriam Makeba was one of the first whom we ‘wrote up’ ready for our website – huge thanks to Lucy Lawrence for this one. We aim to present our real role models to girls. But while putting this together I found that I was deeply touched by her story and indeed her journey – must have been as I downloaded a load of her amazing music straight after reading it! At the age of seven she was part of her church choir, and had practiced for weeks in preparation for a visit from King George VI. When he finally arrived the Royal’s car just sped past. Leaving the children standing there. Unheard. From this devastating incident she started questioning what was going on around her and found her passion, strength and her belief. It’s these smaller but powerful details of women’s stories which we think will ignite something within girls to inspire them to follow their instincts, be ambitious, be brave, and above all, to be courageous.