Category Archives: feminism

The Rules of The Game

This morning my 5-year-old son brought me a new board game, he got for Christmas, and asked me if we could play it. I started pulling out the game and his brother and sister joined us at the table, to play their new game. As they started to set it up I found the instructions and started to read them out loud. I didn’t get very far before I noticed a problem with the language used to describe the game play. Luckily I was able to adapt and make the necessary changes while I read the instructions aloud to my children. “Pop N Hop The popping, hopping race ‘n’ chase game. Object of the game: To be the first player to get all of his their playing pieces “HOME”. Set-up: Give each player four playing pieces of the same color as his/her (they managed to do it here, why couldn’t they continue through the rest?) corner of the board. These are then placed in the four corner spaces. Each player in turn pops the die. The player popping the highest number will begin the game with all the other players following in a clockwise pattern. Playing: Before a player can move a laying piece out of his their corner he they must first pop a “6”. He They then move a playing piece onto his their “arrow” space, immediately take another pop and may move this or any of his their other playing pieces already in play. A pop of “6” always entitles a player to another pop. If a playing piece ends by landing on a space already occupied by an opponents playing piece then the opponent must return his their piece to one of his their corner spaces. This playing piece can only then be brought back into play with a pop of “6”. A playing piece cannot end its move on a space already occupied by a playing piece of its own color. Another pop of the die must be used, even if this is to the player’s disadvantage. When a playing piece has made one full rotation around the board it enters its own colored “Home”. The opponents’ playing pieces are not permitted on this path. An exact pop is required when moving into “HOME”. Winning the Game: The first player to get all of his their playing pieces “HOME” is the winner.”

After I read my kids the modified rules of the game we proceeded to play. All three of them, including my daughter, had a lot of fun playing the game. Once we finished playing and they were otherwise occupied I began looking into the company that makes the game. I went to their website in preparation for alerting them to my concerns about the noninclusive language used in the games rules. I typed “rules” into their search engine to see how the language used in their other games compared. The search yielded 346 results.  I skimmed the rules of the first 20 results in the search and all but 3 of the “rules of the game” results used gender neutral language to describe game play. The “Green Lantern Dominoes” rules even used the phrasing “her/his” when describing game play. Unfortunately the “Green Lantern Who’s Who” game used only masculine pronouns when describing game players, as did the “Disney Mastermind Towers” game. The third was the “Disney Fairies” game, which used only feminine pronouns in the rules.  I did not read the rest of the 326 results, but it is my hope that someone at the company will. There is no reason for these games not to use gender neutral and/or inclusive language. When they refer to only one gender playing their game, at best they exclude part of their customer base and at worst incur the wrath of an angry feminist (I guess that’d be me), who will bring their company bad publicity. I wrote the company a letter and I encourage anyone who shares my concerns to do the same, their address is: Pressman Toy Corporation, 3701 W. Plano Pkwy STE 100, Plano, TX 75075. I will update this post if and when I get a response from the company.

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Curious George, Stride Rite and The Color Purple

My daughter just turned 2. She is an extremely bright child who is constantly surprising me with her ability to grasp advanced concepts. One of the concepts that she’s getting pretty good at is knowing her colors. When an adult finds out that a child knows their colors usually, the first question they ask the child is “What’s your favorite color?” Although she is grasping the concept of colors (well before the curve of between 3 and 5) I don’t think she yet fully grasps the concept “favorite”.

Now, her brothers didn’t learn to name different colors until they were 3, by this time they also had a firm grasp of the meaning of the word favorite. At the time one’s favorite color was green and the others favorite color was orange. Now that they are older, both of them have conformed with their peers (much to my chagrin) and their favorite color is blue.

A few days ago, my daughter walked up to a flower and correctly declared it to be orange. The person next to me was impressed “she knows her colors?” they asked me. “Yeah, she’s getting pretty good at them.” I answered. “What’s your favorite color?” they asked her. This is not the first time she has been asked this question, usually she just replies by repeating back “favorite color”. But for the first time she gave a color as an answer, she said “PURPLE”.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if she had said blue parroting her brothers, but purple, where did this come from? Maybe she did understand the concept of favorite and actually had a preference for purple, or maybe she just arbitrarily named a color. Later I asked her again to test if she would give the same answer. “What’s your favorite color?” I asked her. “Purple favorite color” she answered. She was sticking to it.

The next morning she woke up and I turned on Curious George for her to watch, while I got her brothers ready for camp.  Before the show started, a commercial for Stride Rite shoes ran.

 

As a little girl is twirling, in front of a mirror, in a Tu-Tu the narrator voices over and starts talking about the shoes: “She doesn’t know that her new shoes are designed for kids to be as active as their imaginations. All she knows is that today purple is her favorite color, and that’s good enough for us.” Right after the commercial ends my daughter says “purple favorite color”. From in the kitchen I whirled around “that’s where she got it!” I realized.

To an adult, their favorite color usually is not all that important. To a child their favorite color is a large part of their personal identity.  If you ever doubt this try to tell a child “No, (fill in the blank) is not your favorite color” and watch the dramatics that unfold. I already knew that ads marketed to children can hold a huge influence over them but I thought my daughter, being so young, wouldn’t be affected. What other influences have these 15 seconds of television had over my daughter? If I really pick it apart and psychoanalyze it, the message could read as “she doesn’t need to know that she can be active in these shoes, all she needs to know is that they are purple.”

I stopped and tried to take a step out of my own head for a second, “maybe I’m reading too much into this” I thought. So I looked on-line for other Stride Rite ads and found this:

 

The commercial features a little boy and this time the narrator says: “He doesn’t know that his new shoes have over 90 years of first steps behind them. What he does know is that today he started walking and life got a whole lot more exciting!” by comparing and contrasting these two ads, the message has become incredibly clear “Boys should be  concerned  with the action of their shoes, while girls should be focused on the appearance.

I know that there are way worse messages that our children receive but this one is sponsoring a very gender neutral show, that my daughter happens to love. Which makes me wonder why are they putting an ad marketing to “girly” girls before a show like Curious George?  PBS  list 15 Curious George characters  on it’s website,  5 of them are female; Professor Wiseman,  Gnocchi (cat), Charkie (dog), Allie (littlest girl) and Betsy.

george girls

None of these charters would be described as “girly”. Most of the other females who occasionally  appear on the show don’t come off as “girly” either, and are often cast in traditionally masculine roles.tumblr_l91vb0xdSY1qcx2yno1_500

 

So why does Stride rite think that showing a super “girly” girl in their ad, before a show featuring a curious monkey and non “girly” female characters, is appealing to their target audience? I’m not sure, but regardless, I’m writing them a letter voicing my concerns. I am not overly optimistic for a positive response, as I know I am not the first person to voice gender representation concerns to them.

A study has shown that children who watch Curious George and read the books, scored significantly better on science and math concepts.  There has been another study showing that trying to make S.T.E.M. seem girly actually turned girls off from wanting to peruse careers in those fields. Another research group has found that girls who play with “girly” toys see fewer career options for themselves than for boys. So if I want my daughter to watch a show that can help her to excel in math and science, why must she first be exposed to an ad that may have the opposite effect? I find this unacceptable! 

I will follow up if and when I receive a response from Stride Rite.

 

When my oldest son was 2, he was adventurous and fearless. As a new mother, I was a nervous wreck at the park when he climbed up a 7 foot vertical ladder to the slide. “Be careful baby!” I’d call up to him as he steadily climbed. “Don’t worry, you’ll get used to it, that’s just the way boys are.” another mother reassured me. My second son was much more reserved and cautious. People would comment to me “isn’t it amazing how different it can be from one kid to the next?” Then came my daughter, who like her oldest brother, is also fearless. At 19 months old she was climbing the same 7 foot ladder her brother did, only because she is my third child I wasn’t nearly as concerned. “Be careful sweetie!” another parent calls to her. “Don’t worry she’s done it before.” this time I’m the one reassuring the other parent. “You can tell she has 2 big brothers.” the other parent says.

No wonder stereotypes against girls persist. When a boy is boisterous it is accredited to his gender (even the word seems gendered), when a girl is boisterous the credit is given to a boy, and when a boy is placid it is considered a fluke in the system. Society already has a theory of how things are, and when evidence to the contrary presents itself, we begin scrambling to find an excuse for why it’s different just this once. This is the kind of scientific method that kept the world flat for such a long time. We assume all girls are a certain way because they are girls, then this assumption confirmed by observing girls being “girly”.  We are leaving out a major factor, our assumption that girls are that way, is a major influence upon how they get to be that way.

Getting back to how this applies to my own daughter. If she had been my first born and I called up to her “Be careful baby!”  and the parent next to me commented, “I’d be nervous too, she could hurt herself.” this could have influenced me to pull her down and find something more “lady like” for her to do, in effect influencing her budding personality. I am very grateful that my first son was so boisterous, though it was very trying at the time. Because of his influence, I became a much more laid back parent, which allowed me to step back and let my kids natural traits come through. I am very proud of the people they each are and proud of my self for not hindering the process that got them there.  fotor_140182470176016

Dreaming of the Day

Women’s Empowerment Week is still just an idea floating around cyber space and I already find myself dreaming of the day when it is no longer needed. I dream of a time when men and women are considered equals in every aspect. In this dream reality, a week devoted to empowering women would be insulting. In my dream of the future,  suggesting  women need more power, would make you a sexist bigot. Am I the only one who hopes that society will change so much that my views will become unneeded and out dated?

dream

The Journey Of Women’s Empowerment Week

If you haven’t read “A Vision of Women’s Empowerment Week” yet, please do so, to better understand this journey (it’s not very long I promise). I’ve been reflecting on the idea of Women’s Empowerment Week, how it started and how it has evolved. I’ve decided to share this journey with you.

Through most of my life I considered myself a passive feminist. I’ve always believed that women, like men, could achieve anything they set their minds to, and that no one should let their gender be a barrier to those achievements. As a gymnast I always took pride in my physical strength and was angered by anyone who added the phrase “for a girl” to the end of a compliment. Throughout my youth I’ve always been more of the “walk the walk” type than the “talk the talk” type. I’ve always avoided confrontations when ever possible, so if I was speaking up about something it meant that it had affected me profoundly.

As this past November was winding down, I came across the cutest video of girls, building a Rube Goldberg machine, set to a parody of the song “Girls”. This was an advertisement for a toy company called GoldieBlox, I was intrigued. I went to GoldieBlox’s site, it was here that I was first introduced to the idea of empowering girls. I was fascinated by this idea. I grew up surrounded by a culture of “girl power” but never before had I given much thought to the idea of “girl empowerment”.

On the surface, the two sound the same, but they are very different concepts. “Girl Power” is a philosophy that involves telling girls that they have power. “Girl Empowerment’s” philosophy is, you need to take steps to give girls power. One might argue, “If males and females are equal than why must steps be taken to give girls power?”. The answer to that is: steps need to be taken to give anyone power. Our culture empowers males more than it does females. From the time they are born we focus on ways that our sons are smart and strong, with our daughters the focus is on how they look. This means from infancy our boys are learning, they get attention for being smart and strong and our girls learn to get our attention by acting cute.

These differences are amplified and exaggerated as our children grow. When a toddler boy puts on an adult’s hat and shoes he is told that he looks like a clown. When a girl does the same she is called a fashionista. These different reactions to similar situations encourage our children to amplify these qualities. Encouragement is the beginning of empowerment. By encouraging children to engage in activities that focus on learning, creativity, strength and confidence we are empowering them to succeed in life. We, as a society, subconsciously raise our children in biased ways, because that’s how we were raised. To undo a subconscious tendency, a conscious effort must be made.

Getting back to the topic of my “November of discovery”, there was another intriguing event going on. One morning I flipped on The Today Show and I noticed that all of the anchor men were sporting beards. I looked into this and discovered that it was for “Movemver”, the campaign for men to support and raise awareness of men’s health issues, by not shaving. I now had this idea of Movemver and of women’s empowerment swirling in my brain and the inevitable collision occurred. If I were a cartoon, a light bulb would have lit up then exploded above my animated head. I had it, it was so simple, women can go without makeup, for a week, to advocate women’s empowerment.

I proudly told my completely original idea to my husband. “I’m pretty sure that’s already been done” he responded. “No”, I assured him, “If it already existed I would have heard about it!” (because obviously I am informed about everything in the world). “I know I’ve heard of no make up day before.” he protested. With a quick internet search I found “Natural Beauty Campaign” (Friday, Dec 7, 2012), “No Make-Up Campaign” and low and behold “National No Makeup Day” (4/24/2011)  and (6/1/13) . I also came across “Natural Day” (2/13/14)  [I feel compelled to point this one out separately because Sanah Jivani was the first person who reached out to me to offer encouragement, even though she was swamped by work related to her upcoming event. This meant a lot to me, thank you Sanah.] I’m sure if you search you can find more, the internet is practically infinite and full of ideological people.

I began to feel defeated before I started. If all these minds came up with this idea before me, and the philosophy of women’s empowerment was still buried within feminist subculture, then the idea must be flawed. But there was a ray of hope. In my search I learned that March is Women’s History Month. Yes I admit to you all that before this point, I did not know that there was a Woman’s History Month. To be fair to myself I suspected that it existed, I discovered it by typing “When is Women’s History Month?”, into a search engine. This is where I began to see the small glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. The ah-ha moment was the realization that if I (as I stated earlier I know almost everything) didn’t know when Women’s History Month was then the education system was failing to teach it to it’s students. So this must be where the journey begins. I realized that the vehicle to launch Women’s Empowerment Week was already in place.

Now armed with the Knowledge that Women’s History Month is in March, I began contemplating ways to inject my concept into it. The obvious first choice was to put it at the end of the month, learn your history before planning your future. I quickly scratched this, when I realized the logistical obstacles standing in the way. The end of March is filled with distractions to the cause, St. Patrick’s Day, the changing seasons, and Easter. By this point Women’s History Month will be old news. If I wanted to grab people’s attention it had to take place in the beginning of March.

Now I had the how; Women not wearing makeup (as this idea has evolved ‘no makeup’ has become just one of many hows), and I had the when; the first week of March. I quickly began to feel overwhelmed again. I’ve never taken on anything like this before. I didn’t know how to begin getting something like this off the ground. I decided to reach out to one of my original inspirations. I sent a message to GoldieBlox asking them to take on this endeavor. Very shortly after contacting them I received a very positive response. They responded “Thank you so much for your words of support. This is a fantastic idea, and I bet you have more resourses than you think. I can’t give you a yes or a no right now, but can I circle back with you in 2014?” What was I thinking! I contacted a toy company, on the verge of becoming a national sensation, just weeks before Christmas and asked them to take on a campaign of this magnitude. But the encouragement in their response gave me an extra nudge, to believe that maybe, just maybe I can pull this off. After all a toy company, on the verge of becoming a national sensation, took the time, just weeks before Christmas, to encourage me.

So with my new-found confidence I created a Facebook page. I slapped together an image of Rosie The Riveter spouting my slogan and got to work trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. I designed some memes to visualy get messages out. Most of my efforts so far had been Facebook-centric, since this was the form of social media that I was the most accustom to using. [I’m currently trying to branch out, I’ve opened a twitter account and I am in the process of figuring out how to use it (if any one could help me with #wearemore or #WEW I would be extremely grateful), I’m looking into getting a true website and hey look, I’m blogging!]

At first I was just pestering my friends. I thought if I could get all of them to share my message, then more of their friends would share and it would spread by seeping along. The seepage quickly spread as far as it could and sat, as a stagnant puddle. Luckily while educating myself about issues facing the modern feminist (and searching for content to share with my nearly dozen followers) I came across some wonderful sites. Here comes the name dropping of a few that I recommend to anyone who wants to look into the struggles they address. Miss Representation & The Representation Project, Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Pigtail Pals, Rethink Pink, Beauty Redefined and  A Mighty Girl. These  are just a few of the many sites I’ve been following and sharing from.

While meandering through many sites and taking in all their angles, my vision, of what Women’s Empowerment Week could be, began to evolve. Women’s Empowerment Week shouldn’t be about one single project, it could be a tool used in constructing every project! If we make Women’s Empowerment week about education and awareness, then members of every group along the feminist spectrum, along with those who fall outside it, can use it as a tool, to help shape their campaigns.

Armed with my new vision I began reaching out to whom ever I came across. Since I’ve reached out in this way the likes on my page have nearly tripled (I’m currently at 29, who wants to be the lucky number 30?) and I had received some promising responses. Although the numbers were still small, the jump within less than a week, was encouraging (I’ve already pointed out what happens when you encourage me). I believe that the flexibility and ease of implementing this program, are what will make it work. The implementation of Women’s Empowerment Week doesn’t take any money, just people. All people need to do, to make this a reality, is want it and encourage others. So Please, all I’m asking you to do is show support, by talking, typing and sharing. Lets put Women’s Empowerment Week in place, then shape it into what ever we need it to be.

I want to leave you with one last thought. I started this journey with little hope. Whenever I hit an obstacle I felt defeated, but at every tripping point along my journey someone offered me encouragement. This encouragement was the fuel I needed to keep powering through (i.e. empowerment). A little empowerment goes along way, and then leads us to find more of it. Thank you for taking the time to understand the journey that this campaign has traveled in just 3 months.

goes a long way

Update 3/6/14: the journey continues

I have run into a few people, who support the goals of Women’s Empowerment Week, but don’t like the idea of asking people (mostly women) to forgo makeup. This has caused me to spend a lot of time contemplating the objective behind the concept, and ponder other ways to achieve it. The true aspiration behind this aspect of WEW is to have people visually make a statement: “I am more than my appearance”. By visually making this statement we create awareness and start conversations.                                                                                                           I still maintain that not wearing makeup is a great way to make this statement, but these discussions have caused me to think deeper on this topic. Many paths can lead to the same destination, so what could be some other ways to show support for WEW? Let’s brainstorm, you could: Change your profile picture to reflect something other than your appearance, wear something (t-shirt, button, sticker) reflecting this message, you could write WEW with lipstick across your forehead! Anything someone does, as long as they are not hurting anyone, to help raise awareness, show support and start conversations is what it’s all about.                                                                                                                                                                        As the first unofficial WEW is coming to a close I am already planning for next year (hopefully the first official WEW), So please, while this campaign is in its infancy let me know your thoughts. Together we can shape WEW into something that will appeal to the masses, furthering its impact on the next generation of women.