Rape Alert Nail Polish and Stopping Rape

Yesterday I posted a link about nail polish that alerts the wearer to the presence of date rape drugs in beverages. The article was titled “I Shouldn’t Have to Dip My Nails In a Drink to Reduce My Risk of Rape“. Comments heated up quickly, so I want to readdress this. On the surface, the nail polish sounds like a great idea and a way to keep women safe. Perhaps in a very few cases, it will. Those women matter. I think it is okay to say this is a clever idea and kudos to the men who developed it.

I was drugged and raped in college, during that “red zone” for freshman women. Could that have been prevented by me wearing the right nail polish? Who knows.

Could my rape have been prevented by my rapist being taught to not rape? Yes. Absolutely. Unequivocally.

You know, when I think back to that night I don’t think “I really wish I had been wearing rape alert nail polish.”

I think, “I really wish the boy who raped me and the boy who drugged my drink had been raised with the understanding that men should never rape. Rape is never okay and never excusable.”

Many years later I the mother to a son. He will be raised to not rape.

This issue isn’t about me, it is about THOUSANDS of women who will experience rape this year. Girls, boys, and other men will all suffer the experience of being raped at the hands of men. I share my story only because I want you to reach a level of better understanding. I could be any thousands of other women out there. I am not unique in my experience.

Consider this nail polish the front door mat on the porch. What I’m asking you to do is to have the courage to open the door and walk through, we have A LOT of work to do.

“However well-intentioned, there seems to be an awful lot of resources, time and energy dedicated to telling women how not to get raped, and comparatively little going to preventing men from raping in the first place. This provides women with a false sense of comfort and the illusion that a product or a precaution can actually solve the problem of rape, which it won’t.

Moreover, the more we depend on women to prevent rape, the easier it is to blame them when it happens to them. Here’s a look at the well-documented ways we can actually stop rape. Maybe it’s time we invest a little more time and resources into implementing them before we send gallons of nail polish to colleges across the country.” -Elizabeth Plank

Please finish reading Plank’s article “11 Ways to Solve Rape Better Than Nail Polish“. It is excellent. And it is everything we should be talking about when we talk about ending rape. 

Image from Elizabeth Plank's piece for Mic.

Image from Elizabeth Plank’s piece for Mic.

 

Thank you in advance for being respectful with your comments.

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

The Barbie Project: Accessories Are a Girl’s Best Friend

We are in our final five days of summer, just a few sweet hours remain before the kids return to school. The memories have been made, trips taken, ballgames won, fireflies caught and released, trails hiked and lakes jumped into, bonfires burned, lemonade stands held, adventures with cousins had and more dinners allotted to the local ice cream joint than should be appropriate. Our summer bucket list is nearly complete and as we look down the home stretch to three glorious months…..

We can’t stand the sight of each other.

There has been a lot of “togetherness” this summer for the children and I, which is wonderful. And not, because I work from home and “work from home” with two kids + two dogs + two kittens is nuts. N – U – T – S.

So the other afternoon I had the kids go to their bedrooms with their kittens for some quiet time. An hour later I went to check on them on account of too much quiet – which is always unsettling for parents – and found Benny slumped over napping in a giant bucket of LEGO and Amelia sorting through all of her Barbie outfits and accessory pieces. Earlier in the day she had found a castle and furniture at a garage sale she just had. to. have. As her kitten purred in the background she dressed and redressed each doll as she planned out their role in the story she was creating in her head.

Kittens love Barbie.

Kittens love Barbie

I sat down and looked at the pieces around me which led me to think back on when I was her age and would have been doing the same thing during a rainy summer afternoon. I wondered what she was thinking about and if she would remember these lazy hours of her childhood like I do mine.

Amelia plays with her Barbies, obligatory Naked Barbie present and accounted for.

Amelia plays with her Barbies, obligatory Naked Barbie present and accounted for.

I asked her what she was playing and if her Barbies liked their new house. As we chit chatted, I surveyed the pieces around me.

The accessories around me gave me pause, they might not be what people associate with Barbie.

The accessories around me gave me pause, they might not be what people associate with Barbie.

The bright pink (SO much pink) accessories around me made me smile. They reminded me of the adventures my Barbies played out when I was a girl. They are bits and pieces to imagination. A key meant to unlock stories. A prop able to enhance a script waiting to be written and rewritten each time they were pulled out.

You know, Barbie takes a lot of heat for being vapid, focused on beauty, shopping etc. Maybe some Barbies facilitate that,  but I feel the dolls we’ve brought into our home for Amelia send a different message. I think it is easy to sell girls short and assume they’ll play “Wedding Day” or “Shopping Spree” over and over again with their dolls.

I think it is wise to expect more from girls.

Amelia's favorite dolls and their accessories.

Amelia’s favorite dolls and their accessories.

Pilot hat

Passport

Suitcase

Treasure chest

Ocean creatures and a bucket of fish

SCUBA tank, mask, regulator and fins

Briefcase, tablet, smart phone

Astronaut helmet and suit, air tank, moon boots

These things tell Amelia to go out into the world. To dive deep, soar high. To run a business instead of work for one. That the layers of the atmosphere do not confine her. They remind her girls are confident, competent, and courageous.

These items spread across Amelia’s bedroom floor could take her to a sunken ship full of treasure, an investment meeting, or a new planet waiting to be explored. Of course, those are the obvious uses and my eight year old would roll her eyes and says she is far more clever and creative than that. One of the things I like about Barbie is the outfits and accessories are interchangeable, meaning the stories waiting to be created during play are interchangeable as well. So the woman of color who is a pilot can easily change into the business outfit for a press conference because now she is the POTUS. YES. PLEASE.

And the astronaut suit could become a hazmat suit for compassionate health relief workers delivering a much-needed antidote to victims of a terrible epidemic or intrepid engineers who rescue people in danger on a broken space station who had been hunting treasure in space that is guarded by aliens posing as familiar sea creatures who cover you in goo and feed you to fury orange monsters who live in purple tents.

Listen, I’ve been critical of Barbie before and I probably will be again if need be. But I like the side of Barbie that shows girls they can dream and aspire to do big things in the world.

I guess sometimes I have to ask if it is Barbie who limits girls…..or the adults around girls who assume they know what will happen during play because girls are so……girly. I define “girly” as girls who see themselves as accomplished pilots, extraordinary ocean researchers, powerful businesswomen, and explorers of our world and beyond. Yeah, that’s VERY girly to me! More importantly, that’s how my daughter views being a girl and playing with Barbies has not come close to undoing any of that.

Amelia commented that she really really liked how the dolls' faces were different from each other.

Amelia commented that she really really liked how the dolls’ faces were different from each other.

The child’s imagination is limited only by toys that are limiting. The afternoon I spent watching Amelia play I observed Barbie as a great companion for story telling. Better put – Barbie was a vehicle for storytelling. When chosen with diverse storytelling in mind and with the idea that girls should know no limits, there are many Barbies that offer this type of play to girls. In our home I try to guide Amelia with choosing toys that reflect what real life looks like, so we make sure to have dolls that represent women doing a variety of jobs, experiences, and adventures. Equally important to us are dolls that represent women of color as the world is a colorful place.  I’d love for there to be even more diversity in Barbie’s appearance and body, and Amelia and I talk about that issue and how we’d like for Barbie to explore that more. Maybe some day they will.

I think there is a lot left to explore, including parents really exploring how their daughter’s imagination works and what stories unfold on bedroom floors or tree forts or where ever it is your girl’s dreams come to life and they use Barbie as a tool in that storytelling.

What stories does your daughter tell?

 

Learn more about The Barbie Project and meet the other bloggers on the project.

On twitter, look for hashtag #BarbieProject and join the conversation.

{Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign as part of The Barbie Project. All thoughts and ideas are my own.}

Barbie Project

 

LEGO’s Female Scientists Here and Gone In Two Weeks

The public learned via a New York Times article last week that toy giant LEGO would cease production of the enormously popular LEGO Ideas Research Institute featuring three female scientists. People are shocked, frustrated, and not shy about expressing their outrage at the company who seemed to finally be listening to hundreds of thousands of consumers saying they wanted this very product. LEGO has announced this was only a limited edition and would not be mass produced nor sold nationally at retailers. And we’re all left wondering, why is LEGO walking away from sales for an item in such high demand? And why stop production and cripple availability right as stores are placing their holiday toy orders?

Sign the petition asking LEGO to save the scientists and keep this set in production and available to consumers.

The LEGO Research Institute sold out at $19.99 within days of release.

The LEGO Research Institute sold out at $19.99 within days of release.

The set was brought to production after LEGO fans and consumers cast well over the 10,000 votes needed to push the prototype to the next round of consideration for production. It was such a hullabaloo the story made national headlines at the time and then again when the set of the STEM based female minifigs was available for purchase. Despite customers being limited to one set per purchase the item still sold out in a few days. All over social media customers were making comments about needing several more sets as Christmas or birthday gifts and stores were inundated with calls asking if they stocked the item. After heavy criticism for its Friends line LEGO was getting great press for finally doing right by girls and supporting the girl empowerment movement that has been wildly popular for other brands like Goldie Blox, Verizon, Lands’ End and Always.

While the LEGO Friends line has greatly improved from the first sexist, stereotyped sets offering girls the lowest common denominator of girlhood, their ‘girls’ line is still highly gendered and does not provide the gender equitable toy experience so many parents advocate for today. The new Friends jungle series shows girls being active, adventurous, intelligent, and using technology to rescue cute animals. While the new direction of the Friends line seems to align better with what parents are asking for for their daughters, it still has a different feel from the Research Institute set. Every week there seems to be an article about a new study on the disparagingly low numbers of women entering and remaining in STEM fields despite that expertise being the future for high wage earners and the future of the economy in general. As the New York Times says, “Lego is demonstrating this summer that role models in science and technology for girls are still fairly scarce in toy land, just as in the real world.”

Sign the petition asking LEGO to save the scientists and keep this set in production and available to consumers.

In the real world LEGO is a $4 billion giant in the toy industry, one whose brand has enormous influence over what is marketed to children and what children play with which is why strong female characters are important for both girls and boys to see represented in LEGO toys. Research has shown the importance of the depiction of empowered female characters in children’s toys and media as they learn about and absorb culture while they grow. A large section of LEGO’s customer base is female, an even larger section have used their voices and wallets consistently for three years to communicate they are wanting, ready for, and will purchase sets like the sold out LEGO Ideas Research Institute featuring three female scientists. 

 

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.

An astronomer, a paleontologist, and a chemist make up the Research Institute. LEGO definitely had room to grow with this line.


Awareness of the importance of encouraging girls into STEM fields is at an all-time high and millions of parents across the globe are advocating for more gender equal toy aisles. It is important to myself and my family that LEGO honor its customers when we say we want and will continue to make successful sets which feature female minifigs depicted as smart, daring, and adventurous. We want sets like the LEGO Ideas Research Institute to be a long time fixture on toy shelves everywhere. 

Over 111,000 people have signed petitions in recent years to LEGO requesting more empowered female minifigs in LEGO sets.

Tens of thousands more voted online through LEGO Ideas to have these available for purchase.

Thousands of people purchased the Research Institute featuring the three female scientists and within days of release they were sold out.

Yet just two weeks after the release we’ve learned that LEGO isn’t going to make this set anymore.

Which leaves the consumer asking “WHY??” and questioning what message is Lego sending its customers about how much it values our voices very clearly asking for representation of more smart and strong female figures in building sets. Maybe the more important question to be asked is, “How much does LEGO really value its female builders and cultivating a new generation of builders?”

LEGO could be a thought leader in the toy space by making gender equity a mainstay in its brand, something parents by the millions have been asking for for years. LEGO, be the brand we are wanting you to be, be the brand we remember from our childhood, the brand we want for our children.

Sign the petition asking LEGO to save the scientists and keep this set in production and available to consumers.

 

 

Melissa Atkins Wardy owns and operates Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a small business in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.

If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.

Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.

Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Image source.

This Is The Good Stuff

I needed to go to the grocery store tonight. Like the kind of grocery run that saves you from eating leftover rice, a few odd slices of pepperoni, that gross flavor of juice box in the back of the fridge and some craisins that came in the mail for breakfast. But my six year old son and eight year old daughter were all wound up about having their first lemonade stand this weekend. I could have cajoled them into getting their shoes on and trudging out the door and into the car for yet another errand.

Instead I decided to stay in the moment. While my daughter chattered 70 miles a minute to my husband about the profit margin and fair market value of pre-cut fruit cups, I put my car keys and purse down on the table and sat next to my son. We sounded out “lemonade”. We sounded out “fruit” and we decided water should be free. We talked about what type of cookies we would bake, but because he is missing so many teeth he whistles his “s”es and every time I almost burst with too much love for this boy. We planned out what the lemonade stand would look like and how many nails they would need to build it. We discussed why blow torches are not necessary to the construction of lemonade stands. We discussed the merits of selling cupcakes vs cookies. We talked about making sure we got seedless watermelon and decided we would offer free dog biscuits for dogs who did not try to eat our cookies.

Being in the moment allowed me to hear every time my little guy started an important thought with, “Okay guys so…..”. I told the kids about the time their uncles and I had a lemonade stand and our mail carrier paid for a 50 cent cup of lemonade with a $20 bill, told us to keep the change, and we lost our minds. I listened to my daughter talk about what charity she wanted to donate their earnings to.

I could have been checking off my list at the grocery store in that “I have serious things to do” way that grown ups do. Instead I stayed put and watched my son’s tiny hand hold the crayon he wrote with. I listened to the sound of his little voice. I watched him get frustrated when he misspelled “cookies” and wrote a “5″ backwards. I listened to him giggle. I watched his eyes sparkle with excitement. In the background my daughter had not stopped talking and dancing for a full twenty minutes.

I want to remember the night my kids planned their first lemonade stand. I wanted to hold their glowing childhood wonder like fireflies in a jar. I want to remember this night when I turn to their dad years from now and say “I wish the kids would come home from college for a visit.”

We’ll eat ice cream and split an old granola bar for breakfast because some things simply are not worth missing.

This is what this raising small humans is all about. This is the good stuff right here.

 

Benny plans out our first lemonade stand.

Benny plans out our first lemonade stand.

How Do I Tell My Kids I’m Going On a Diet?

How do you responsibly introduce your new health plan or diet to your children?

How do you responsibly introduce your new health plan or diet to your children?

A member of the PPBB Community wrote in with a great question about how to approach her kids with information about a new diet and health program she would like to start, and how to balance that with the strong body image messages she’s already been giving her kids.

Parent Question:  I have never told my 6 year olds what I think of my body, thanks to Melissa and all you lovely people who love Melissa with me. We talk about strong bodies, moving bodies, wiggly bodies, dancing bodies, sleeping bodies, relaxing bodies, sometimes mommy and daddy-tired bodies, but never fat bodies or could lose weight bodies. I’m thinking of restarting Weight Watchers and with Daddy as the already busy dad but family cook, I haven’t broached him switching to a WW friendly, all inclusive family meal plan. How best to count points without telling my kids I’m potentially not eating everything they eat? I don’t want to say “diet” and I don’t want to say I’m trying to get a stronger or healthier body (because then why aren’t they eating what makes me strong or healthy, too?) Any advice for non body-shaming words would be gladly heard!” -PPBB Community Member Kelley L. 

PPBB Answer:  Thanks for those kind words! Your question about Weight Watchers and body image is really important. My advice to you is to introduce the general concept to the kids that as you age your metabolism slows as your hormone levels shift and sometimes adults have to eat different foods or different amounts of foods to stay strong and healthy. For little kids their food intake is not the same because they are so busy all day long and growing so quickly. Adults are done growing so our bodies are different from kids. This is a great time to remind them that no two bodies are alike and each body is a unique machine that requires different fuel.

Next step is to introduce the specific WW program to the kids – maybe do it as a family meeting so that Dad is involved and can add input on how he transfers knowledge of healthy foods to the WW point system. Be honest with the kids about why you want to do WW, and if losing weight so that you can be more active and feel better is one of those reasons, go ahead and tell them that. Just make sure it is included in a conversation about making our heart, lungs, cholesterol and metabolism as healthy as can be so that you can be around to be their mom for a long, long time. Talk about favorite foods you love (healthy and unhealthy) and which foods you might be adding to the daily diet. and tell them which things you might be cutting out and replacing entirely, like diet soda or iced mochas and why.

What I like about WW is that there are no good/bad foods, each food is assigned points based on nutrition. We eat food for nutrition so this makes sense. The points seem to bring a good balance of protein, fiber, healthy carbs, and nutrients to the daily diet. I also really like that WW seems to be a supportive community and there is a lot of sharing of recipes and healthy living tips. I think it is important for kids to see women being supportive of each other’s bodies and quest for health , as opposed to the cattiness and picking apart we see in media and social media. WW also seems like a sensible approach to teaching people how to eat healthy and maintain a strong body. Good stuff!!

At the same time, the point system shifts the way we think about food. Instead of intuitive eating we shift to counting and measuring food and our days are controlled by points. If you are at your point limit I think you are supposed to deny yourself food, which I’m not keen on. And as an outsider to WW I’m not sure how I feel about the weigh ins and measuring progress in pounds. I would monitor how much you talk about the scale and weigh ins around the house because weight is not a measure of health. Instead vocalize how foods make you feel full/energized/powerful/etc.

Overall the WW diet seems reasonable and a family meal makeover (as opposed to the word “diet”) may not be such a bad idea. Be honest with your kids about what you are eating and why. Let the kids continue to enjoy their favorite meals and make healthy food always available to them. Let them see you keep loving yourself and your body, and stay committed to enjoying physical activity/exercise as a family. At the end of the day what they will remember from all of this is that mom and dad want the family to be healthy and our family meals are full of healthy foods and the occasional sweet treat.

 

What has been your experiences with your children and approaching the topic of dieting or healthy make overs? How did you frame things in a way that keep positive body image + health at the center of the conversations? What advice would you give?

 

Image Source.

Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 
If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
 
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

A Princess Camp Worthy Of Our Girls

A few years ago I wrote about the Princess Camp that was offered in the little town I grew up in, where girls were invited to come to school for a week long summer day camp that had them sitting and making crafts in the school gym and ended the week with a celebratory tea party.

This year’s brochure had improved a bit, now no longer specifying the camp was just for girls by using the more neutral “child” in the program description. That’s a big plus because we know there are lots of Princess Boys out there. The camp is still pretty much centered around music, crafts, and story time. None of those things are bad things for the junior kindergarten to second grade children welcomed to the camp. But…..

An example of princess camps offered across the nation. Seriously.

An example of princess camps offered across the nation. Seriously,

 

But what defines “princess things” and why are we in general selling girls (and a few boys) a definition of princess that is incredibly passive and ornamental. While the camp has improved it is still absent of adventure and leadership, as most princess camps are from all of the descriptions I’ve read online. Why do the toys, most media, and apparel around princesses show them in just one light? Thank goodness for Merida, Mulan, Elsa and Anna.

What if we sold our daughters a version of “princess” that was less about ball gowns, the perfect courtsy, and grabbing princes with feminine charms and more about wise leadership, compassionate ruling, smart economics and daring acts.

I would never consider sending my child to princess camp or princess lessons (I know someone who did this this summer) as they stand now, but if my friend Anastasia were put in charge I could very easily change my mind……Take a look at her response to a “FAIRY PRINCESS BALLERINA CAMP!!” advertised in her town this summer: 

Every day on my commute to do drop-offs I drive past a big, bright pink sign that advertises “FAIRY PRINCESS BALLERINA CAMP!!” And every day I think about what *I* would offer for a princess camp.
Week 1- Geography and Cultural Studies: Come with your maps, Ladies! Because knowing the nuances in your neighboring countries’ culture and physical makeup can help you avoid a war. Or win one.

Week 2- Hand to Hand Combat: Body guards don’t always cut it.
Week 3- Dancing: From formal ballroom, to meringue , to African dance we’ll study the history and moves of dances from around the world and have fun keeping our bodies strong and healthy. 

Week 4- Economics: Your country is facing unprecedented inflation and your PM wants to raise taxes yet again. What do you do?

Week 5- Microbiology: Your country is being overrun by a plague. What’s the most effective way to isolate the strain and mass produce a vaccine?
Week 6- Dresses: The big ball is coming up and you want to be armed to the teeth *and* wear chiffon? Okay! We’ll sketch dream gowns and discuss tear-away seams.

Week 7- Fantastic Beasts and How to Make them: Have you always wanted a flying unicorn? The finer points of gene splicing and DNA. 

Week 8- Surviving Sibling Rivalry: Whether it’s vying for a favorite toy or the throne, we’ll learn the power of gentle words. And birthright. 

Week 9- Political marriages: Why or why not?

Week 10- History: “Let them eat cake!”, “We will invade Russia in Winter, what could go wrong?” This week we’ll examine the legacies of those who have come before us and hopefully learn from their strengths and avoid their mistakes.

{Anastasia Nicholson is a doula and birth coach who lives in Wisconsin with her husband and two young children.}

Queen Elizabeth I of England rallying her troops before a major battle. Her leadership is credited to earning England a major victory in 1588 against Spain.

Queen Elizabeth I of England rallying her troops before a major battle. Her leadership is credited to earning England a major victory in 1588 against Spain.

 

Boudica, ancient queen of Celts and ferocious warrior against invading Romans depicted through the ages.

Boudica, ancient queen of Celts and ferocious warrior depicted through the ages.

Queen Nzinga was an excellent military leader who waged war against slave-hunting Europeans. Her thirty year fight inspired leaders who came after her like Madame Tinubu of Nigeria; Nandi, the mother of the great Zulu warrior Chaka; Kaipkire of the Herero people of South West Africa; and the female army that followed the Dahomian King, Behanzin Bowelle.

Queen Nzinga was an excellent military leader who waged war against slave-hunting Europeans. Her thirty year fight inspired leaders who came after her like Madame Tinubu of Nigeria; Nandi, the mother of the great Zulu warrior Chaka; Kaipkire of the Herero people of South West Africa; and the female army that followed the Dahomian King, Behanzin Bowelle.

Tea parties and princesses when you are five are great, to a point. But there is a whole lot more that we can be teaching our daughters about what it means to be a woman in leadership and power. Start here:
Makers – a video collection of world changing women
Girl Scout alumnae page – discover girls today and the adventures they have while in Scouts
Famous Scientists – learn about ten women who made important contributions in their fields of science
Women in Government – find female legislators from your state and encourage your daughter to write a letter about an issue important to her
Women Thrive Worldwide - bringing voices of women living in poverty worldwide to decision makers in Washington DC
Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Questioning Celebrity Role Models

Guest post by Erin Taylor.

Jeanette McCurdy has been making a lot of headlines recently. McCurdy is a familiar name to some; she played Sam Puckett, a member of the main ensemble of the children’s show iCarly. I watched iCarly as a middle schooler, and I loved Sam. She was never traditionally “girly”; she rarely, if ever, wore pink, she was loud and messy, she loved motorcycles and fried chicken. And yet, this wasn’t played for laughs, and she wasn’t a bit character. Sam was clearly female, and no one ever questioned it (unlike on many children’s shows that feature less stereotypically female girl characters). There are many ways to be a girl, and Sam wasn’t afraid of being who she was. Definitely a cool and rare character to see on what was one of the most popular children’s shows at the time.

Jeanette McCurdy is another young Hollywood star who had to come of age under the media microscope.

Jeanette McCurdy is another young Hollywood star who had to come of age under the media microscope.

Recently, McCurdy has been under fire for some photos of her in lingerie that were released by her boyfriend. The controversy behind these photos makes little sense; she is 22 years old, and the photos were sent to her boyfriend (both people were over 18 years of age), yet parents are in an outrage. Many feel that she sets a poor example for the girls who watch her on television (whether on iCarly, or on her current show, Sam and Cat). Some have even speculated that the release of these photos, and the controversy that they generated, has caused the recent cancellation of her current show. In reality, the cancellation likely has much more to do with the booming music career of her co-star Ariana Grande, who is choosing to devote time to her music, but it’s interesting to note how quickly our society jumps to slut-shaming. With all that has occurred, there has been a lot of pressure for McCurdy to step up and apologize for making a mistake, for setting a poor example.

She stepped up. She spoke. But she didn’t apologize.

Instead of releasing a phony apology to save face, Jeanette wrote a Reddit post discussing the pressure she feels to be perfect, and the fact that she refuses to step up to the plate and pretend to be something that she isn’t. She encouraged fans of her show to look for role models in real life, as celebrities are like strangers, and what the camera produces is, so often, not true to life.

” I…love a cute dress, a good pop song, and a vanilla-scented candle,” she wrote, “But these things don’t define me or determine that I am any kind of a role model. What defines a person as a role model is the way they live their life. And no offense, but none of you know how I live my life…I am proud of the way I live my life. I am proud of my choices. I am proud that no one can call me fake or say I don’t stand up for myself. I am proud that my friends and family would say that I’m a good person. But in order to be thought of as a real, true role model, I believe you have to know a person and their actions, inside and out. Calling a celebrity a role model is like calling a stranger a role model. The knowledge you have of a celebrity is no more than a caricature drawn by media tastemakers specializing in selling you an image you’re dying to buy.”

As Melissa has said in the past, “sometimes your mind [will] try to fool you with [the way celebrities look] as you think to yourself, ‘I don’t look like that.’ The secret to remember is, ‘Neither does she.’” Jeanette’s answer discourages slut-shaming in the media, and encourages people to use real-life references as their role models. And I think it’s awesome that she never apologizes for what she did. She isn’t necessarily defending her actions, or claiming that she is perfect; she’s not. But that doesn’t mean that she isn’t a good person.

Ironically, her actions show a lot of traits that would be fabulous for young girls to model; self respect, responsibility, honesty. The vitriol leveled at her was absolutely ridiculous, but she handled it with grace and a calm head. It’s so refreshing to see truthfulness like this, especially in such a difficult situation. Jeanette’s words have made me rethink, in many ways, the concept of celebrity role models.  I often look up to celebrities, or, at the least, people whom I have never met, whether bloggers, actors, or authors.

For example, I really respect Mayim Bialik, and aspire to be like her in many ways. However, I have never met Mayim. All I know of her, I have received through the veils that the internet and television provide. I see a tweaked and distorted image, created using only the information that she (together with her PR team) chooses to release. As media-savvy as I might be, I’ll admit that this isn’t something that I usually consider while I am reading her latest post or checking out a photo she shared on her facebook page.  Mayim is a pretty tame example (it seems fairly clear from her blog that she isn’t trying to generate a perfect media image or create unrealistic expectations), but idolizing anyone that one hasn’t met can be dangerous.

As Jeanette says, the images we see on screens, whether television or computer, are perfected and held to an unrealistic standard. The media creates “role models” that people can never truly become, and this can leave girls feeling disappointed and flawed. And, just as Jeanette points out, this false “perfection” is just as damaging for celebrities to attempt to  meet; after all, they are real people, too. And, and unlike people whom one knows personally, they cannot discuss their choices with you, explain their imperfections, or talk about why they did what they did. The same distance that seems ideal while creating a perfect image becomes detrimental while trying to maintain it in the face of inevitable imperfection.

As “messy” people, doesn’t it make sense to look to “messy” role models? The fact is, no one can be a perfect role model, and the perfection that the media is trying to sell to us is detrimental, not only to young girls, but also to  young actors. I applaud Jeanette for encouraging people to show their whole self, no matter how messy it is, and I hope that we all can learn to follow her example.

 

Erin Taylor is a student and caregiver who spends a lot of time thinking about how gender stereotyping and media messages affect kids. As a caregiver and a human being, she is committed to working along with others toward a world free of these kinds of biases; for herself and her generation, for the kids with whom she works currently, and for those whom she hopes to raise in the future. Erin blogs from anfsdc.blogspot.com, or you can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/violettheyukasaurus.

 

What Choice Do I Have In Explaining ‘Sexy’ To My Little Girl?

In a hyper-sexual culture that markets sex directly to young children, parents are forced to explain adult concepts at ages we never dreamed of. When I first became a parent I never dreamed I’d be having conversations about sexiness with my 8yo almost-third grader. But I am, because I’d rather she get our family’s definition than that of the marketers.

The most popular fashion dolls in 2014, marketed directly to young girls.

The most popular fashion dolls in 2014, marketed directly to young girls.

Blog Comment (Judgement) left by Helga P: “8-year-old going on 25. Third grade teacher is going to have loads of fun redirecting conversations with this girl withal all her talk of sexiness.”

PPBB Response: “Helga – No, actually my daughter is 8 going on 9. I’ve been forced to explain topics to her I didn’t think we’d approach until middle school, but our hyper-sexualized culture made it impossible to ignore or hide from. She is a very intelligent child who asks insightful questions so I felt it was best to answer them with the information she was looking for. Most kindergartners these days know the word “sexy”, I am a parent who decided to inform my child what it actually means so that I can teach her that “sexy” isn’t for kids, despite it being constantly marketed to them.

I cannot raise my daughter in a bubble, but I can make sure she is brought up to think critically about media, to have a strong body image, and to receive an education about sex and sexuality that is both sex positive and age appropriate.”

 

Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
 Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. 

Why Does My Son Hate ‘Girl Stuff’ All Of A Sudden?

By kindergarten most children have learned and adopted cultural gender norms and roles.

By kindergarten most children have learned and adopted cultural gender norms and roles.

PPBB Community comment: “I wish I could control what my kids are learning in the classroom. My son comes home from kindergarten feeling like all he can play are superhero games. 
I’ve been telling both he and his sister from their day ones that all colors are for everybody, al
l characters are for everybody, princesses are for everybody and superheroes are for everybody. We live that way. 
But a few days in school and my boy yells “yuck” every time I ask him if he wants a pink heart sticker for crying out loud. 
It’s depressing, really.” -Kelly F

 

PPBB Reply: A lot of what your son is doing right now is totally age appropriate and common for kids who are in the phase of establishing gender permanence. Kids his age categorize everything and the world is very “this or that” for them right now. Good/bad, pretty/ugly, mean/nice, funny/scary. This is why the preschool/kinder age has such big emotions as the huge world they are learning so much about every day doesn’t line up with their boxes and they feel shifted and out of sorts. 

The categorization helps them feel a sense of control, because going out into the world every day without mom/dad right there can be scary and overwhelming so they compartmentalize everything and take their roles VERY seriously, which is why your son is overemphasizing that he is a B-O-Y right now and pink heart stickers make him wretch. 

It is completely frustrating and also a great indication he is learning and absorbing everything around him, including our culture’s definition of gender roles. Just be patient and keep emphasizing little gender equity mantras. It will stick with him as he matures.

Some PPBB gender equal and media literacy mantras you can use are:

Colors are for everyone.

All toys are for all kids.

There are many ways to be a girl.

There are many ways to be a boy.

Each person is Full of Awesome in their special way.

 

Images source.

 

Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies is a small business owned and operated by Melissa Atkins Wardy in Wisconsin, where our shirts are printed and shipped with love.
 If you would like to order empowering apparel and gifts for girls and boys, please visit www.pigtailpals.com.
 Find Melissa Atkins Wardy’s book “Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, Birth to Tween” on Amazon.
Join the PPBB Community in conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest

Sex In A Bottle: Deconstructing Perfume Marketing With My Kid

The 8yo Original Pigtail Pal and I were at the mall yesterday running some errands when a marketing poster at the department store perfume counter caught her eye while I was making a return with the cashier. She has been paying a lot of attention to the images displayed in stores lately, and I can tell she is giving them a lot of thought. The woman in the photo was wearing an evening gown and was very thin. The angle of the photograph drew your eye to focus on her exceptionally long legs. She was in a seated position reclining backwards with her legs spread partly open, the high slits in her dress causing the fabric to fall between her legs. The position of her body made her look like a prop and look on her face was a highly suggestive “Come hither” gaze. It prompted Amelia to ask if the woman was being sexy.

I answered that she was, but then compared that photo to one of a different model for a different perfume brand. The second model was wearing a women’s suit jacket that was open with nothing underneath. Her photo was also sexy, but in a different way. In this photo her eyes were closed and she had a sublime smile on her face, Her head was titled back, her smile turned towards her shoulder, her hands gently touching her neck. Her image gave off a feeling of self love and radiated beauty. Those two things together made it sexy.

(Unfortunately I can’t find either photo online to show you here.)

Amelia and I talked about how the two different images made us feel, why the first model was so thin, why it looked like the first model was waiting for someone while the other woman seemed to be by herself, why one photo focused on spread legs and the other focused on a happy face, and why companies would use those pictures to sell perfume.

“If perfume is supposed to smell nice and it is grouped into the groups you talked about then why aren’t they showing the different smells inside the bottle so you know what you are getting?” -Amelia

“Because they aren’t really selling perfume, they are selling the illusion of beauty and sex. The perfume isn’t the only thing people are buying when they buy this.” -Me

“They buy it to be sexy?” -Amelia

“Right, they buy it to feel attractive and sexy. People are drawn to the various scents, but the photos influence our feelings around the products and how we want those products to make us feel. That is called advertising. The companies do this to get our money. Feeling sexy is totally fine, but companies trying to sell that feeling to you isn’t always a good thing. Feeling sexy isn’t something you buy or get from other people, it is something you feel on the inside once you are more of an adult.” -Me

“You probably have to be in college to feel sexy.” -Amelia

“Right, or maybe a little bit in high school. Also, if you notice in all of these photos around the perfume and makeup counters the women are all white, all thin, all young and all more or less look the same. Women of all shapes, ages, and colors feel sexy and beautiful, but you don’t see that in advertising and that is why Mommy doesn’t like those photos. I don’t like when companies tell women how to feel about themselves.” -Me

“I would never listen to that because I would just listen to myself that I am beautiful. And I guess for third grade I don’t really need to be sexy but I would like to do a ninja obstacle course.” -Amelia

My work here is done. For today.

Amelia and I then walked hand in hand down to Bath & Body Works, whose lotions and potions  feature images of the scents inside and doesn’t rely on sex to sell. I bought my favorite oriental floral perfume and then I bought a little lotion with a light, sweet floral scent for Amelia who has no business being sexy in third grade but can certainly be a nice-smelling ninja.

I don’t mind her wanting to try on little bits of adulthood here and there, like high heels, makeup and perfume. When she is dancing around in my bras or asking to try my lipstick I just make sure she understands she is a visitor here, that the bras are too big and the lipstick too dark for a little girl. I teach her that everything that goes into being a woman is fantastic, and worth waiting for. I tell her there’s no need to rush it because being a confident little girl is equally fantastic.

People will always be selling sex in bottles and limiting versions of homogeneous beauty to her. I can’t stop that, but I can raise a girl who understands from a very early age that she is under no obligation to buy into any of it.

A simple trip to the mall to return some dresses led to a big conversation with my daughter on the marketing of beauty and sex.

A simple trip to the mall to return some dresses led to a big conversation with my daughter on the marketing of beauty and sex.