Sunday, November 30, 2008

Reflection

I was definitely glad to see that our professor, the lovely Leandra Preston, aka Leila, decided that we should conduct our our posting on a blog as opposed to communicating over WebCT, (which I support because my.ucf applications are a tedious excuse for social networking.) So when it asked me to sign into my account. I figured I must have had an account, and to my surprise my e-mail search results yielded to me my short-lived but memory-packed blog from high school. I was quite surprised, and happy, with my 17-year old writings and rants. 17 was not that long ago, but from the perspective of girlhood and growing up, the surprising difference was... a pleasant surprise. It was almost like a small gift that went along with the course- Girls Studies and here, your blog from when you were still a girl in high school. The class itself was quite a profound experience, also an unexpected surprise. As I mention in my service learning reflection, it was/is awesome to see, hear about, and realize the common experiences and hardships we face and share as girls. In the introduction to another text book, Women's Lives a Multicultural Perspective, they say that womens studies course delve into "every day" behavior, and makes one stop and look back on one's past, and to analyze it critically within feminist discourse, and therefore womens studies almost becomes like therapy. Not only was the in-class discussion and online blog posting beneficial in these aspects, to heal and celebrate our own past, but also to create a solidarity amongst the (amaaazing) gurls in our feminist community. I will miss our carpool meetups and taco-bell drive thru's, and the rides home jam-packed with course-related discussion!

I think we all got a lot out of this class, (especially upset stomachs from crunch-wrap supremes and friendships <3) and I hope to continue such experiences (minus the farting) in other classes under the GS certificate (!)

take only photos and leave only footprints

I chose this title because throughout this semester I have felt like the grrrlz studies class has been sacred ground for us. In the times leading up to class we do readings which expand our minds and make us think critically. When we can’t be together in person we use new age communicative tools (the interwebz) to keep in touch with one another. And right before class we come together to share what we have learned. And we always leave with newfound information that makes us all the wiser. I know that I for one will try to continue my foray into grrrlz studies because I feel after our months together I’m still not finished. While taking this course I found that I still have residual growing pains left over from adolescence and that until I get over them I won’t be able to completely understand grrrlz studies. I learned so much from this course about how to speak with grrrlz and how to relate to them. However, in my actual interactions with grrrlz I found myself falling short. And I think this is because I felt put back in that old awkward situation of judgment and a need to prove myself. I think my favorite part of this class was listening to everyone during their lead discussions. I felt like we all had something important to bring to this new adventure and I was always excited to come to class and listen/reflect. I fully appreciated how we not only focused on problems and issues within grrrlhood but also solutions. This was another favorite part for me because I love thinking about how to make things better. I also absolutely loved how we used the blog to keep our class together. I think it is important that when going dissecting a culture you use their tools to dissect. And after many of our readings I see how important technology and anonymity through the internet has influenced today’s grrrlz. I hope that we can all keep using this blog whenever we find relevant things or just want to catch up with one another. I feel like we have all bonded this semester through education and personal stories. I am really going to miss this class and hope to see all of you next year !!!

Grrrl, I love you!

I don't really know how to convey how amazing of a class Girls Studies has been for me. This post isn't going to do it justice and is going to be all over the place.

I was not initially registered in the course. I didn't want to go all the way to Cocoa and a million other excuses as to why I should be in another class instead, all rebutted by my friends who were taking the class and swore that I would love it and needed to switch into it immediately. Part of the reason that I caved was because of how many amazing women that I knew were taking the course and how great I knew the discussions would be as a result.

What can I say? Y'all proved me right. All of the women that I already knew and whom (who? that?) I'm glad that I know now consistently had such unique and fascinating stories, arguments, and ideas that sometimes the continuing discussion on the ride home wasn't even enough for me. Maybe I'm overzealous. I was always excited for every other Wednesday night to hear what everyone had to say. Everyone was so passionately engaged in what was going on. I've never seen another Women's Studies class, or feminist space in general, like it.

What exactly IS girlhood? Did we all experience the same thing, along with all of the authors in the texts and the girls and women in the movies or did we all have crazy different experiences that we choose to lump together as same? I have no idea. I related a lot and I didn't relate a lot.

Either way, why is this the first place that we've really delved this deep into discussing girlhood? I didn't even realize it until taking the course. I am constantly talking about and deconstructing what it means to be a woman, but never until Girls Studies, did I discuss so much what it means to be a girl.

The discussions were AMAZING. Sitting in a circle, discussing things the way that we did, is how I wish every class was. I've seen attempts at it in other classes fall flat, but everything came together perfectly in that room, somehow. I learned and thought and connected so much, I don't know where to start or how to convey it in a blog. I didn't memorize and regurgitate material. I critically thought and grew as a person and I can carry that with me.

How do we create a better culture for girls? We're doing it and going to do it. I especially enjoyed hearing from the women in YWLP. They're really doing feminism, whether it's called such or not, and actively and tangibly improving the lives of girls.

I loved having a woman-only space to talk about these issues. I love talking about feminism and women and girls' issues with men and I love feminist men, but the dynamics of when it's just women are so different. For this class, it worked. It would have been fabulous to have men in the class too, but it would have been different.

Can we just keep holding class?!

Remembering Grrrlhood

I have been putting off writing this blog until I could find the right words to describe our Girls' Studies class, yet it's hard to articulate such a powerful experience in a few short paragraphs. I was nervous about first beginning the class because I only knew a few other women who would be taking it, and I wasn't sure how I would relate to the other women enrolled. I was confident in my feminism yet knew I had much to learn, and this class was the perfect answer. Not only did I meet some of the most incredible, inspirational women I have ever been blessed to know, but I also learned a great deal about myself and the young girls in my life. Through the texts we read, my knowledge about feminist theory in relation to girlhood was greatly expanded upon, especially about the two main constructions of girlhood currently debated within the scholarly realm, that of the drowning Ophelia and of the consumer-driven "Girl Power!" tween. More importantly, however, I learned how no girl fits neatly into either one of these categories, and how it is imperative that we as feminist scholars recognize the individuality of every girl and her experience, and never silence her voice.

It is through the voices of girls that their experiences can be known, and the greatest lesson I learned through Girls' Studies is never to silence a girl, or to speak vicariously through her. We must also never let our own experiences and memories dictate the girlhood of our sisters. Girls are our future, and it is through their work and ours that a truly feminist world can be achieved. I was lucky enough to be able to experience their strength and power as a YWLP facilitator this semester, and it was amazing to be able to utilize what I learned through Girls' Studies while instructing middle school girls. Though we cannot use any political terminology like feminism with the YWLP girls, our lessons were all based on feminist principle, and I felt as though every week I met with the girls, I could relate Girls' Studies to our lesson, and vice versa. Through this experience, I was finally able to understand the importance of applying theory to activism, and the reality of living feminism.

I would recommend Girls' Studies to anyone with a young girl in their life, or to anyone who wishes to understand feminism on an even broader scale. It was an absolutely incredible class, and I cannot thank my professor or classmates more. You all make me proud to know you, and I cannot wait to see the grrrls of today become the women of our future!

Women Rock!

When I first walked into class, I instantly realized how we all looked very different in the way we dressed and acted. Although it is always more comfortable to be around people like yourself, I quickly came to the conclusion that we were actually quite similar in our beliefs about how women should be treated. I found myself nodding with what everyone said as a response to our assigned reading. I enjoyed having the ability to laugh with the person next to me, or whisper about parts of the movie we watched. Overall, I enjoyed being around so many women. Everyone was so kind, open, and approachable. Besides all of the useful information I learned about girlhood and girl power, I learned that sharing experiences and thoughts with other women is a wonderful thing!

I walk away with more than I came with

I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful this class was. Going to class was so enjoyable because I knew I would be surrounded by such amazing women/girls. Personally this class made me reminisce upon the trials and tribulations of my girlhood and engaged my interest in the current/future generations of girls so much more. My favorite part of this class was the service learning portion. It felt so good to actually get out there and apply what we talk about in class. It was so inspiring to see girls so much more informed than I was at their age. It gave me hope that they can conquer their battles with body image, gender issues, sexuality, boys, and all they must deal with. Also, it’s comforting to know that everyone I sit in class with has gone their own version of girlhood (whether enjoyable or less) and you have all turned out to be amazing women with powerful intelligent opinions. I also thoroughly enjoyed our discussion on the term "girl power." I fully plan to reinvent the word to portray a positive powerful image that girls can really embrace. The think the concept is amazing; its definition just needs some tweaking. This was my favorite women’s studies class I have taken yet, and because of discussions and projects performed during it I have decided to try and be a Girl Scout troop leader next semester.

Reflective Blog

This semester has gone by so fast, and I can’t believe this is our last blog (for the class). I wish other classes I have taken went by as quick as this one did. Originally, I was a little hesitant to sign up for this class. I was not sure what exactly it would be like, or what it would involve. As I had said in the previous blogs, I have never taken a women’s studies class, and I thought for my last semester it would be something different to try. I feel like I got so much out of this class. It was incredibly interesting to hear what everyone had to say each week about the discussion topics. It was nice going to class and not having to worry about knowing enough about the topics or making sure you understand everything in the book, because everyone to could relate to the topics and could explain their opinions on each issue. It made class fun and interesting to be able to share stories and hear what other girls have gone through in their lives. I feel like I have a better understanding of girlhood after reading the texts and doing the class projects. Even though we all went through it already, seeing the websites and magazines that girls have for them today seem like great learning material for girls these days. It would have been nice if some of those were around a few years ago when I was growing up, or if I had someone to tell me about the stuff that was out there for young girls. This class has really helped me to see ways to empower girls and to learn how to minimize threats that girls face in their everyday lives. I am so glad I decided to take this class, it was such a good experience and I feel like I learned so much more than could be taught in a book alone.

Girls Studies shouldn't have to be online!

When Meredith Tweed, my Intro to Women's Studies professor, told me that Girls Studies would be offered in Fall 2008, I knew I had to take it. But when I found out it would be offered at a campus that was a 45 minute drive from the UCF main campus, I decided it would be too much of a hassle. However, after talking to some of the other girls who were registered for the class and hearing about possible car pool arrangements, I ultimately decided to take the course.

And I'm glad I did! Girls studies has heightened my awareness of the unique issues that girls have to deal with and their relation to feminism. Before I took this class, I had little knowledge of these issues. As a feminist and women's studies minor, I had read feminist literature and taken women's studies classes, but none of them had covered the issues of girls. This class is essential to any feminist's education and should be a required class for the women's studies major (and possibly the minor).

It makes me sad that this class has to be online from now on. One of my favorite parts of the course were the class discussions we had. Getting to know my class mates and hearing their views and personal experiences made the course particularly enlightening and enjoyable. Budget cuts are a drag, but maybe we can fundraise as a department? Or maybe we can write a letter to the administration, President Hitt, or whoever is in charge of funding for departments? While I'm glad we will continue to offer the course, a student taking the class face to face would get a lot more out of it than if they were just staring at a computer screen.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

I <3 Girls Studies

As a Women’s Studies major, and as a feminist, most of my time and energy is spent trying to improve the lives of women. Girls Studies was different for me because instead of fighting for all women, we got to focus on girls. It was an interesting and exciting for me, mostly because many of my family members who I am close to are young girls. It is hard to see them struggle in the world today. They are taught to be “good,” but still attractive to boys. They are taught to buy buy buy! They are taught to be straight, white, and quiet. A lot of time I wish I could offer them feminism as a solution to some of their problems. This class helped me to identify the resources I could use to give feminism to the younger women in my life. As a die-hard Spice Girls fan (theirs was the first concert I ever went to) it was hard for me to deny that “Girl Power” was a real source of strength. But this class has given me other sources of strength for young girls, like New Moon magazine and websites like gurl.com. Although Mary Pipher’s Reviving Ophelia had it wrong to assume that all girls are helpless and drowning, she made a good point when she said, “What can we do to help them? We can strengthen girls so that they will be ready. We can encourage emotional toughness and self-protection. We can support and guide them. But most important, we can change our culture.” I think that learning about the unique challenges girls face in classes such as this, we can counteract these certain problems with certain solutions. This class was a place to identify problems in our society that affect young girls and brainstorm solutions for these problems. After studying the hardships that girls face in our culture, it makes me believe in programs like YWLP even more. I really and truly believe that programs like this one can make girls strong. With a focus on competence, connection, and autonomy, girls in the program are taught that they can be strong, smart, and independent, but that they can rely on other women in their lives. Teaching these kinds of values and ways of thinking to girls is a great way to instill feminist values in a new generation of women. I am so proud that I attend UCF because of classes like this one and programs such as YWLP!!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thank You!

Girls’ Studies has been an interesting class for me, and most definitely a learning experience; coming into it, I was uncomfortable being surrounded by so many women who are so passionate about Feminism, something which I felt very uneasy identifying with. When I really stopped to analyze my discomfort, I found that its root was in the image of Feminism, not with the principles, which I, for the most part, agree with. I think the image of Feminism, like any other image, often prevents people from really trying to understand the philosophy and belief system. Not really having much previous interaction with “radical feminists,” I bought into the stereotype and feared that a bunch of angry girls were going to cast me out of the group because I wear make-up, or wear high-heels. I will admit that it was really threatening to me to be in a class, or car, full of people who I perceived to be so different from me. I am not a confrontational person, and I fear being judged (although, it is judgmental of me to assume that any of the girls in the class would judge me); especially in the political climate which was so heated at the start of our semester, I felt that there was no way I could fit in. Wrong. I am sorry to all of the smart, powerful, beautiful, and funny people in our class for having so many pre-conceived notions, and for assuming that you wouldn’t be inviting. This has been one of the best dynamics I have ever encountered in a class; I really feel like everyone has really embraced everyone else, no matter what their beliefs or outward appearance. Reading, discussing, laughing, and crying with all of you about our own experiences of being a girl, as well as the experiences of others, has not only been extremely cathartic, but also really eye-opening. I feel much more comfortable communicating with younger girls because of this class, and feel more in touch with things that I have both struggled with and overcome. We are all so incredible, and I thank you all for making this such a great experience!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm Just A Girl

I remember last fall semester Kathryn telling me that there was going to be a new awesome women’s studies class offered in Cocoa and that we have to take it. When it came time to register for fall classes I immediately signed up for it, I did not even read the course description. I decided to look the course description up now to see what it actually says,

“Girls' Studies, an emerging field within Women's Studies, focuses on the material experiences of girls in U.S. and global cultures using academic and popular texts.”

Honestly, that does not even begin to give it justice. For me girls’ studies was so much more than focusing “on the material experiences of girls.” It was an opportunity to dissect how society and our culture constructs girlhood and relate it back to our own experiences.

While women’s studies allowed me to learn about the struggles I might be facing now or in the future, girls’ studies gave me answers to the struggles I faced as a girl.

The most exciting part of this class was just knowing that I was not alone. Girlhood is a scary, stressful, and confusing time now days and you can’t help but think that you are alone and no one else knows what you are going through. This class allowed us to have such an open and safe environment for us to share our experiences and the struggles we faced during girlhood. From toxic friends, to periods, to body image issues we were all able to relate to this class and our text.

One of my favorite things about this class was looking at all the great activism that young girls do now days. I can’t help but be envious of these little feminist girls who help write New Moon or the Youth Together Against AIDS group. Gosh when I was a young girl I was too busy focusing on what to wear. I only wish that I had some idea as to what feminism was.

My only one complaint about text for this class was the emphasis on the Spice Girls. Yes the Spice Girls were popular. Yes they did the whole Girl Power thing. But there are other popular girl bands besides them. While No Doubt may only have one girl in the band, she is the lead singer and she writes some awesome songs. Who didn’t drive around blasting “I’m Just A Girl” in the 90’s? I mean I still do it. I wish they would have mentioned that song rather than spending five chapters on the Spice Girls.

Being a girl is a wonderful thing and our society doesn’t seem to give it the respect that it deserves. After this class I’m proud to be a girl. As I said in my first post, I still can’t seem to identify as a “woman”-but I’m fine with that now. I never want to stop being a GRRRL!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Girl Talkkkkk!

My time in Girl's Studies enhanced the relationship that I shared with my "little sister" this semester. Not only did I regain an understanding of my own upbringing as a girl, but I felt as though I could offer something unique to my little sister because of it.

Our class time talking about periods and prom may have just seemed like a series of short, personal stories, but amounted to a group of womyn rediscovering the intricacies of their bodies and minds as a girl. While I've never discussed sex, prom or periods with my little sister, the subtleties of these subjects and the insight I gained from every one in the course made for more intimate conversations that allowed a more natural form of sharing with my little sister, whether it was about eating an alternative diet or music about "serious stuff", it was cool.

One of the weirdest and most unexpected things that I got out of the course was my evaluation of my self as a "rebellious teen". I thought about the ways that I used to communicate with my parents and express my individuality. As for every girl (or at least it seems), those are desperate times. "I can't wear my dead milkmen shirt to school?! God mom, I hate you!" and then you sneak it in your backpack just so you can "truly express yourself". I'm not mocking these situations at all, but I see them happen with my little sister who is very conscious of her fashion sense and how she looks, but she is simultaneously so confident and patient with her growing self. So, I think I've taken with me a sense of pride in the awkward, horrible time which seemed to dominate my mindset for a long while. It seems, after reading and discussing, that if those times never occurred or were made so dramatic, that I wouldn't know who I was today. That's the moral of the class, I think, is to understand that aspect of you life as forever with you and forever changing, but never insignificant enough to not recognize as a social impression, a societal observance, a cultural tracking device...really beautiful.

So yeah, Girl's Studies is pretty cool.

P.S.- for those of you who are interested in the life of Randy of Acorn Falls in the story "Girl Talk: Rebel, Rebel", I was thinking we could all either carpool together next class or maybe just read the final chapter as a class. If not, I'll just inform you of all the juicy details of Shrek and the crew!

hearts and stars-
jill.

End of Semester!

I really enjoyed girl studies this semester. I took it as a class just to fill up one of my last electives for my last semester and it ended up being my favorite women’s studies course! I was taking women’s heath issue for my last women studies minor and I really hated it, it will be really cool when classes like girl studies can cut out some of those classes that aren’t exactly women’s studies geared. For example women’s health issues was a nursing course and I found it hard to understand because it was designed for nurses to take. Girl studies was great because it was so largely discussion based and I feel like I learn so much more when I’m actively participating in the coursework and not just listening to a lecture. I also thought the blogging portion was really cool; I had never blogged before so I was really interested and surprised when a feminist author commented on our blog. The internet is such a great tool for this course. Girls spend a lot of time online these days so incorporating the internet and websites in this course really connects to girl culture.
My favorite parts were exploring the websites like new moon and scarlateen. Immersing into girl culture was a really good way to see what girls were doing and going through today. The political sites for girls were also a fun part, it was so exciting to see girls involved in activism from such a young age. I have to say parts of the texts were a bit boring, but I did enjoy the spice girls articles and the postings where they interviewed real girls and discussed it. I’m just excited to continue with the blog and keep what I learned to focus on mental health counseling in graduate school.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Playing with the boys

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20081117/sp_wl_afp/lifestylejapansportsbaseball_081117063048

this is an article about a 16 year old girl drafted to play pro baseball in Japan, i couldnt help but think "Go Girl!" when i read it. just wanted to share.

Girls' Voices

This week my fourteen-year-old cousin, Mary, came down from Michigan to stay with me. Some of you had the pleasure of meeting her :). I would definitely have to say that although we spend a significant amount of time together throughout the year, this week of being together 24-7 really taught me a lot about girlhood and reminded me of how life was when I was fourteen. One thing I was reminded of is that sometimes girls just plain don’t want to talk. They may have a problem they need to address but don’t want to chat about it. Instead, they must get their feelings across in other ways.

I think that it is really important for girls to be able to express themselves in many different formats and outlets. Cultural productions like New Moon really give girls a place to speak their minds about issues in a different way than everyway life. Sometimes girls have a lot of things on their mind, but they don’t want to talk about them. Sometimes they would rather write or draw to express themselves. I know that this is true for my “Little Sister” in YWLP. She has told me before that when she gets upset she does art to get out all of her frustrations. I think New Moon is great because someone like my Little Sister can share her feelings to other girls through a different medium other than just talking.

My cousin doesn’t do art like my Little Sister, but instead is a writer. She often writes short stories. I truly believe that when she creates different characters and scenarios, she is actually expressing problems she has in her own life. Being able to write a story about someone with a different name but then sharing it with others eliminates any embarrassment young girls may have about their own problem or situation. Plus, she can write a story that begins in a way her own life begins, but then she has the creative ability to change the end of the story. Maybe this means in her real life she cannot solve her problems because they are out of her control, but in her stories she can make her own Happily Ever After. I think having this kind of control and power makes girls feel strong and positive. With this kind of positive attitude it is possible that girls with have the self-esteem to start solving problems and overcoming adversity.

I wish I had these when I was younger!!!

All of the websites were really cool, but my favorites were New Global Citizen and Girls Inc. New Global is definitely awesome, because if you are young and want to get involved with world issues and actually make a difference, than this is totally it. I wish I had known about this several years ago so that I could've gotten involved, because I was always interested in something like this. Also, Girls Inc. was good too, because it gave links to multiple sites that are other Feminist sites. I really wish that these sites were more well-known than what they are. It's just really unfortunate that it takes this class for me to experience them, so how are younger girls getting exposed to them? It would be so perfect if these sites were advertised in magazines like CosmoGirl, YM, or even like American Girl, and whatever else these kids read these days. That way when you're flipping through a magazine that is overpopulated with useless things in life, than you can see an ad for any of these empowering, informative sites.

Kid activists

So, I have to admit I'm a little bitter when looking at these websites. I wish so badly that I'd been aware of alternative magazines/websites, especially sites as cool as these while I was growing up. When I was really young, I read Highlights Magazine and this other science-y mag, but unfortunately by the time I was 12, only Girls' Life interested me.
Anyway, that being said, my favorite of the sites was New Global Citizens. I like it because it not only empowers boys and grrrls, but it encourages kids to go out and help others too. As a kid, you always hear all this rhetoric about "volunteering in your community," but I can say that it never meant much to me. But seeing something like this that provides an easy way for KIDS to be ACTIVISTS - it's just awesome. The smartest thing New Global Citizens does, I think, is include links to facebook, myspace and other social networking sites - thus, making it even easier for kids to be involved.
I kinda wish I were in high school so that I could start up my own "team."

- Bianca

Beautiful Grrrls

I came across the section Beautiful Girls on the New Moon website, and reading some of their stories made me smile and have hope that girls aren't just falling into the media/societies trap of conventional beauty. These girls are saying I am different because of this, I may get made fun of, but I know my worth and I am confident in me, and to have that knowledge of self worth at a young age is awesome, especially if you keep it growing up. Young kids have a way of saying things so blunt and honest that is so refreshing.
What is also refreshing is to see the Girl's Bill of Rights form the Girls Inc page. It was also fun to see the version from 1945 which is about girls doing things freely but wholesome and with some insinuation that women will all be mothers someday. Todays version is about doing away with stereotypes in gender, the workplace, success and others. I don't know if girls themselves made this, that would be even better, and I wonder if they modify the list every so often or can take new suggestions to be put in. And Girls Inc has action campaigns but i enjoyed reading some of the Free Child Project, especially Girls Action Media which is working with girls and their everyday struggles that are more specific to them and their lives and giving them outlets to express what is going on in their lives.
Seeing the opportunities girls have to get involved is just really cool, and looking at these websites and seeing these girls makes me smile that they are getting into creative outlets and using the internet to empower themselves and girls around them. Oh and Ask a Girl on new moon just shows how many similar questions/problems girls go through. I think that by expressing girls similarities rather than their differences, and pitting them against each other, is one of the best ways to get girls together, connected and working towards change. Who knows better than a girl going through the same thing:

Ask a Girl,
I like this guy Jesse, but as I wrote in a recent letter, I never see him. Now whenever I see the name Jesse I feel like I'm about to cry because I miss him so much. I feel so stupid! Is there something wrong with me??
Cozette, 12
Pennsylvania

Dear Cozette,
there is nothing wrong with you! I am going to face the saame challenges because i am leaving my school behind. My crush's name is common and i see it everywhere, so I even feel that way now. Cry whenever you feel like it. It's normal to cry.
Mikhaila, 13
California

i <3 new moon

Ahhh this is like the eight millionth time this semester I have looked at the New Moon website and it never fails to make me soso happy. I had a semi-deificult time this semester finding grrrlz that would be willing to participate in Ashley and my Service Learning project so it is always really inspiring to look at something like New Moon and see that there are grrrlz out there who do care. However, the one thing I always wish had been different with New Moon is that it would be less adult run.
So, when i saw the Free Child Project site I was really excited because in their about us section they specifically state how they are combating adultism which is something that I feel is one of the sections of Girls Studies that doesn't get mentioned too much. Many of the readings talk about how grrrlz are obviously oppressed and all of the different things that go into causing them to be oppressed. Because adult womyn and men are usually the ones doing the writing I feel they ignore adultism a lot. SO it was refreshing to see a website that stated that they were working against adultism.
I also have super fond memories of girls, inc so that was cool to check out as an older person.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

More Girls' Voices; Less Passive Consumers of the Sparkle

To start, I had a bit of a disappointing experience related to girls' computer games. I had become excited when I saw "New Moon" on the syllabus, mistaking it with an entirely different thing -- Purple Moon. Purple Moon was a computer game company from the '90s that began marketing games specifically to girls. The one that I remember best and most fondly was called Rockett's New School, a game in which you are Rockett Movado, new girl in school. You try to make new friends, get by in your classes, avoid or befriend the mean popular girl, and, oddly, break into people's lockers and rummage through their belongings. It's Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-esque, with decisions to be made and consequences following.

The game definitely wasn't perfect and according to my fair source, Wikipedia, apparently the company faced charges of sexism and ethnic stereotyping. The next time that I'm at my parent's house I intend to play it again and see if the game stands up to scrutiny at age 22. The way that I remember it now is pretty favorably in terms of identification, helping girls with positive decision-making and simply being fun to play.

So, where is Purple Moon today and why am I so disappointed? In 1999, Mattel bought the company and did this with what was originally www.purple-moon.com. If you can remain on this animated pastel eye-sore for more than 15 seconds -- the looping unstoppable ads for Mariposa the Barbie Diamond Sparkle Queen of Castles Cupcakes Flutterfield Adventure or whatever are pretty intolerable -- you will note that the entire purpose of this site is to push product, and a certain brand of femininity while they're at it, at young girls. While Purple Moon existed to sell products as well, I feel like it had substantially more depth and possible measurable positive effect on girls than the floating plastic fairies of Mattel.

After this crushing of childhood memories, I went to the real New Moon website. I actually do remember this magazine and may have gotten it a couple of times. Sadly, it doesn't stand out in my memory mush of Teen Beat, 16, CosmoGirl, Teen, etc. Why couldn't I have latched on to this instead? New Moon seems to really encourage creativity, thought, friendship and other positive qualities in girls. I love that girls can give advice to other girls.

Along the lines of girls helping girls, I was excited to learn about the Youth Together Against AIDS program. Sadly, I found the New Global Citizens site to be somewhat vague and confusing. What exactly do they do? Do you have to apply for a team to find out? Was I on the wrong part of the site?

I was more impressed with the FreeChild Project, guiding girls to avenues where their voices could be heard, no matter their situations, demographics, or experiences.

Encouraging girls to be active participants in our society is definitely on the right track. Girls are so frequently taught to be passive. We need to raise active and loud girls! It is clear from all of the sites, that through technology there are at least some people and organizations attempting to change this. Hopefully girls can find these websites underneath the mountains of garbage thrown at them daily.

I LOVE Reading About Girls Getting Politically Active!

Of all the web sites we were assigned to view, I must say that I was incredibly impressed with Girlsinc.org!

I'm so glad that there are other programs like YWLP which focus on mentoring young girls, and Girlsinc is the most active, comprehensive, widespread, and amazing program that I have ever heard of!

Being engaged in the political process is very important to me, and my favorite part of the organization was the She Votes campaign. Through Girlsinc, girls were not only permitted to cast their vote in a mock presidential election, but they actually went to the DNC as reporters! GIRLS WERE THE PRESS! Understandably, these girls were older (16-21) than most targetted by the program, but it was still totally cool! In addition, girls from different chapters got to meet senators, register voters, and view documentaries about the history of women's political involvement! I've never heard of an organization that motivates girls to become involved in politics more than this one!

The website also does a great job of educating girls about politics in a fun and appealing way. This page teaches girls about presidential primaries:
https://www.girlsinc-online.org/inspire/she-votes/presidential_primary.html#

In addition, there are links on the She Votes portion of the website that explain the DNC and RNC, in addition to explaining what exactly a convention is. I especially like the "Girl's Guide to Conventions" section on the left hand side of this page =).
https://www.girlsinc-online.org/inspire/she-votes-conventions/she-votes-conventions.html
In this FAQ section, questions like "who's there?" and "what's the main point?" appeal to girls who may not yet understand the political process, and they are invited to learn in a fun and friendly enviroment.

"Inspiring all Girls to be Strong, Smart, and Bold."

Girlsinc does all that and more, and I believe that inspring girls to become invovled in the political process best exemplifies the mission of the organization.

looove the links!!

NewMoon.com is an awesome website, if I was a parent I wouldn't hesistate dropping the 30 bucks for a year subscription. My favorite aspect of it is advertising-free! (In 2003, $893
million was spent in consumer magazines on cosmetics advertising alone) Many magazines and such will contain positive messages for young women, only to be followed up by a misogynistic/sexist advertisement depicting women poorly! Also, without the dependency on advertisers dollars, websites such as newmoon can publish what they WANT to, without worry of influence from big-buck product-pushing companies. "Learn about helping the environment, participating in politics, building better communities, and so much more!" This is definitely more of what young girls should be being taught- not how to make-out "like a pro" or deciphering "does he like you back." Politics??? Hell yeah!

The FreeChild Project is designed for an older age-group, but is a wealth of information and resources. "
The Freechild Project believes that the machoism and sexism inherent in many activist projects attempts to derail many young women's ability to lead and demand social change. " This is freaking awesome, because a lot of instances gender roles will still impact an action and girls will be pushed to the back. This website, to me, is a true fist-up in solidarity to Girl Power.

The fact sheets provided on GirlsInc are awesome. I'm used to seeing the same repeated facts and statistics, and these sheets provide NEW information- very helpful for getting people's attention and starting a revolution. This information is great for NOW's Love Your Body Day campaign, and I used one of the statistics in the above paragraph about newmoon.

Overall, AMAZING websites. I hope these websites are making their presence known to young girls in schools. Maybe we could do that??

www.thesesitesrock.com

Although I usually don’t like reading extensively on line, I’m glad our homework was to visit these websites because Jill and I are going on an internet strike starting tomorrow for an entire week!!! That’s like a year in internet time!

Anyway. New Moon did rule. I think this line stood out to me the most: “We recognize that no one is more expert at being a girl than girls themselves…” This is an important message to the rest of the world to be reminded of, and especially to young girls themselves who are constantly being told that they don’t know what they want-or they’re too young to understand. I strongly feel that if young women have the intellect to ask certain questions, they certainly have the power to face the answers (which these answers shouldn’t be so scary and negative to approach anyway). And it was incredible to watch the short video of Orb 28 brainstorm about their upcoming blog. It was refreshing to see girls shown in the light of confidence and cooperation rather than in a catty gossip circles.

I was weary of girlsinc.org because I thought it was going to be a different website which spouts feminist agendas while simultaneously acting as a more scrutinizing version of myspace for young girls (you can post pictures of your style, which the other girls tear it apart). Unfortunately, I couldn’t re-find that site but I’ll keep looking. I suppose I entered girlsinc.org with an extra critical view because I was also hesitant about the categories such as “Bold Girl” or “Smart Girl” because I was afraid that this could potentially further segregate young girls by being label-focused. But I don’t think this is the case at all. Although individuals will of course identify with one category more than the other due to unique interests, all categories share a sense of empowerment and need to stick together! Several topics called for unification such as “Starting your own club” or donating to Hurricane Katrina victims.

The other two websites were certainly great resources too, but I liked how New Moon and girlsinc.org appealed to a younger age. I sometimes forget that the computer is not solely an adult toy or tool anymore.

Girls have the right to be themselves

So I really wish I had New Moon when I was young. It seems to be so much more helpful compared to the magazines I read as a young girl- J14, CosmoGirl, ect. In New Moon instead of “What Kind of Guy is Right For You?” they have “Female First-do you know who these famous women are?” Instead of “What Store in the Mall is Your Favorite” Poll, they have “What topic are you most interested in hearing about in the presidential and vice presidential debates?” poll. My favorite part of the site was the Ask A Girl and Beautiful Girls. I love how they had they girls write in about someone they know who has inner-beauty. Here’s one of them…

“A beautiful girl doesn’t pick favorites. A beautiful girl listens when you want to talk. A beautiful girl is there when you need her. She isn’t afraid to be herself, and she doesn’t force you to be like her. A beautiful girl keeps your secrets no matter what they are. A beautiful girl doesn’t care what others think about her; she knows who she is, and she’s proud of herself. She tries to do her best, and that’s what counts. A beautiful girl lifts you up instead of putting you down. A beautiful girl laughs, but not at you.
Do you know a beautiful girl? I do. Her name is Aftin. Aftin Long.
Aftin the Girl: I want to be a defense lawyer (because I like to argue a lot) or an FBI agent, who solves mysteries. I also want to be an actress—my favorite movie is Steel Magnolias. My favorite class is P.E. because I love to run and play basketball (I play wing and point on our team). The craziest thing I ever did was yell out “Where’s the spinach dip?!” during communion when I was 3. I was very hungry. I kept saying, “Mom, I’m hungry,” until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Boy, did I get in trouble!
Aftin recommends "A Child Called 'It'"
by David J. Pelzer.”

I enjoyed reading about these young girls who made a difference in someone else’s life or helped better their community. Makes me wish I were more active when I was little. If more girls read this magazine they would probably feel motivated to help create change as well.

On Girls Inc. I LOVED The Girls’ Bill of Rights and the fact that they have them listed in different languages…

“Girls have the right to be themselves and to resist gender stereotypes.
Girls have the right to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm.
Girls have the right to take risks, to strive freely, and to take pride in success.
Girls have the right to accept and appreciate their bodies.
Girls have the right to have confidence in themselves and to be safe in the world.
Girls have the right to prepare for interesting work and economic independence.”

I want to print them out and just give them to everyone girl I come in contact with. So empowering.

*Oh and here's an awesome site that I found through feministing...www.girleffect.org
Watch the video. It's amazing!

The opposite of war isn't peace, it's creation

I'm ecstatic to know that websites like these exist for girls, but my question always is: how do they find them? It's possible that they are advertised to girls somewhere, but I don't see where. When I was younger, the only way I found out about (alternative) websites and magazines for girls was through friends or my mom. I would have loved to peruse sites like this when I was younger, I feel like they would have helped develop my sense of agency and self confidence.

I love New Moon because girls are a part of the production - which moves them from simple cultural consumers to cultural producers. The various sections encouraging girls to submit artwork, poetry, record themselves singing or dancing, to debate hot topics, or simply send in her thoughts, provide a space for girls to explore and create, things that are too frequently ignored. The section that struck a nerve for me was the "Beautiful Girls" section, the blurb explanation says a lot about its purpose: "Beauty comes from the inside, and every girl has it! At New Moon Girls, we turn the definition of beauty inside out! Find out why these girls are amazing and beautiful, and why you are too!" Each of the featured sections provide an interactive space for girls to get involved at whatever level they feel comfortable.

The Freechild Project is an amazing resource that is interesting to me because of my activist work. We've discussed in some of the groups that I've been in how male bodied people are frequently chosen to be spokespeople, media liasons, and generally the front people, while the women and female bodied people are more often doing behind-the-scenes work. It's something I've worked to improve in the groups I've been involved with, and I'm glad to know there's a resource working to do the same on a larger scale.

In case it's not easily apparent, I'm drawn to the sites that encourage girls to be active and engaged. Rather than simply working for the girls, they provide a space for girls to create, often with other women, which is so cool.

Girls' Voices

There is so much garbage on the web that young girls can come across. It is good to see there are sites made especially for them. The New Moon site gives them a place to ask questions, things to do, and plenty of stuff to learn. The new moon site was great. Also, what makes this site so neat is that not only is it made for girls, but girls also contribute so much to it. It seems like such a fun site that they can get on. There are games, quizzes, questions & Answers, and so much information. This magazine and website really gives young girls a voice!

Girls inc. also had a lot of information and programs for girls. One thing I really like about this site is that it had both a section for adults and then a link to the site for girls. The section for adults had the history of Girls inc., news, information, and programs that are offered. I think it is a good idea to have parents participate in what their kids are doing online. It gives them an option of sites to suggest for their daughters to go to and more of which ones to stay away from. Although, while this site was interesting, I still do not think it has near as much to offer as new moon. If we want girls to turn to these websites, they need to be structured in a way that draws them in. Which means they have to have a say and be able to construct it and contribute to it.

The other sites were also interesting. It’s great to get people involved when they are young. The new global citizens web site has a “mission to educate, equip, and mobilize young people to help solve the greatest challenges faced by communities around the world.” Computers were obviously not quite as prevalent in homes ten or more years ago. However, today kids are online all the time and it is good to see that there are fun and educational things for them to do.

These websties make me proud to be a girl

While browsing through the new-moon website I found the bio’s of the girls who had written poetry and submitted it to the website. It makes me smile when I read the bio of a 12 year old and it states
“I am a seventh grader in a very liberal and democratic neighborhood. I support Obama-Biden.” “I HATE it when people are homophobic or sexist. I also hate it when people try to convert me to their religion…”
It shows me that the youth is becoming more active with current issues and politics. When I was 12 I don’t even think I knew who was running for president and so many girls now are aware of who these people are and what their stances on issues are. More so they have their own opinions about all the “ism’s!” The other day on the radio (I can’t remember what station) elementary school kids called in to tell them who they would vote for and why, afterwards the crew would quiz them on politics. One of the questions asked was “what do you think is the biggest issue in the United States right now” and I was shocked when a seven year old girl answered that she couldn’t pick one because there was too many, but she came to the conclusion that the war needed to end. Girls forming their own opinions gives me hope that they will voice them and their voices will change so many things in the world for better.

Also, on the girl’s Inc. website I fell in love with this advertisement, http://girlsinc.org/images/psa_print_fourfootframe.jpg. It reminds me of when I was little and my dad used to put me in all these sports and his message was always the same “give it all you got.” Giving girl’s positive encouragement produces women who really obtain their goals. I think it’s so important for young girls to have a good support group so they understand that there are people who know they can do anything. It really helps to have someone believe in you.

New Moon rocks...others, yeah, not so much

New Moon Girls is incredible because it is made by young girls, not simply for them. In the sample issue, various topics such as mood swings, haunted houses, and historical accounts of the Salem Witch Trials are explored by girls for girls. I think that other sites like freechild.org, or newglobalcitizens.org, which clearly cater to an older girl, are less approachable and definitely less user friendly. I love the setup of New Moon Girls, mainly because it is clear that it is produced by girls, and because it is so heavily influenced by adolescents, it really appeals to what a young girl would be interested in looking at and reading. Without being pedantic, or childish, it offers a great option to families searching for something wholesome and inspiring.  Although girlsinc.org is also pretty manageable and easy to navigate, I'm not crazy about the way it categorizes the site into strong, smart, inspiring, and bold girls. Girls are constantly bombarded with pressure to be something beyond what they are... acceptance is unfortunately not a major theme when it comes to literature for women. Girls do not need something to tell them how they need, and can be, stronger, bolder, smarter; and although I don't see that as the intent of the website, I do see it as a possible consequence.  Categorization sucks. It creates a narrow minded and limited attitude; I can just see a girl thinking, am I a)bold, b)strong, c)inspiring, d)none of the above, or e)all of the above? And once they identify with a word and a category, they can begin the journey towards the mirage of self-realization and actualization of that idea of what they should be. That being said, I think the web site is better than others I've seen, and certainly better than nothing, but I was just immediately put off by the tabs at the top. I really like the content, and the advice; but the set-up just seems to be like an extended result of a personality quiz. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Interesting Article- Bond Girls

http://movies.yahoo.com/mv/news/va/20081113/122660364200.html

In your hands

I enjoyed browsing around several of these sites and found Girls Inc. to be one of the more interesting. While I noticed that the website worked to make girls "strong, smart and bold", it managed to accomplish these tasks differently than several of the other websites.

I looked at the section that was provided for "girls" instead of adults and found a wide variety of resources involving multi-cultural information, health, crushes, steps to take in order to start a club and more. While I think it is vital for the Girls movement to claim the right to media, I like that Girls Inc. simply provides girls with interesting quizzes, maps and data that they can rely on and immerse themselves in. It gives them the backing for participating in cultural production because they are informed. It also allows them to explore the strong, smart and bold aspects of their personality by seeing which sections they relate to and find more intriguing. I find it a much more natural way to develop a group of informed girls rather than simply saying "girls should make media". It takes that first step to allow girls to pursue their interests, learn more about themselves and find a community which embraces similar pursuits.

New Global Citizens was also an interesting site due to the inclusiveness. It tells everyone with passion that they have a way to follow through. This is sometimes weird for me though, I find that some of those calls for a strong group become similar to advertisements. Those passions turn into generalizations and seem empty. Ie:"We are looking for young people with a PASSION for change, the desire to TAKE ACTION and the COMMITMENT to build a better world...just like YOU." I had trouble finding direct information that tells HOW to make this kind of change, what they're doing, why they're doing it, can anyone just qualify? Does it turn into another service requirement that a graduating high schooler in need of a scholarship is looking for? I like what they seem to be doing, but I sometimes wish that these calls for service asked more of the individual rather than the general population with a "passion".

Regardless of that critique, I do believe that these websites are great resources for girls. At the very least, they provide cool information for every type of girl and expose issues that effect them everyday. At the very most, it gives girls the chance to understand their (haha..)passions and vigorously pursue them.

jajajill

Love all the info

The Young Women-Led Activism page has a list of organizations that “empower women of all ages to stand up and use their power.” I browsed through the links, and really liked the page for the NOW organization. It contains so much information for women from topics like the economy, to men, self-image, and violence. When I went under “self-image,” I found a neat bumper sticker I want that says, “I am NOT your Barbie doll.” This Women-Led Activism page is wonderful because it provides women and girls a good-sized list where they can find all kinds of useful information. I know in class I brought up that I did not know where to look for books or magazines addressing women’s rights. This website does some of the work for us.

When exploring the Girls Inc. page, I found a link to their “Fact Sheets”. This area gives statistics for girls ranging from how often girls in high school exercise, to how the media affects young girls. The sheets provide graphs along with commentary explaining the information. One area noted, “26 percent of women’s magazine covers contained conflicting messages (e.g., a message about losing weight next to a cookie recipe) regarding weight loss and dietary habits.” This website can help so many parents understand what important issues they need to discuss with their girls or boys.

When I first opened the New Global Citizens Project, I noticed the neat graphics, and social networking links. In this day and age, it is important to keep pages current because it draws in young teens and makes activism seem “cool.” The concept of working in teams to create projects battling important issues, seems like a great idea and a lot of fun. I can see how it would boost a teenager’s self-worth, and help him/her to make friends with the same interests, while improving problems with society.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Girls Productions!

I thought the sites produced by and for young girls were really cool and I wish I had known about these when I was a girl. I’ve seen New Moon before and its such a cool magazine produced by girls. I’m really impressed by the young girls who write the articles and come up with all the cool things to write about. My favorite part is the ask a girl where girls can ask for advice and other young girls answer them. If a girl writes about her best friend being mean to her instead of an adults advice she gets another girl her age who may understand better what she’s going through.
I also really liked Girls Inc. I think their dear world campaign was awesome. They have a number you can call and record a message on what you want to say to the world as a girl. Girls said a lot of really empowering messages, and the PSA was great! It reminded me of Antigone’s postcard dreams for women project. They also had a she votes mock election which I thought was really cool because it shows that young girls are concerned about issues for our country. Its just a really great company that gives girls a voice and empowers them.
I also thought the activist sites were a great idea too because its getting girls involved from an earlier age. The Free Child Project was cool because it shows girls how to create their own activism about whatever they find important. Its easy to join a cause already established but making your own is really unique. New Global Citizens project was similar and I thought the Youth Together Against AIDS program was a great idea, if younger people were involved in fighting AIDS we could have a better hope for a cure in the future.
My only concern about the sites are again, how do young girls find these sites? I think its up to parents and adults to pass these on to young girls. I don’t see how girls would find these activism sites all on their own. I think its great that parents are showing these to their kids and I even saw some stuff about it being in schools which is also really great.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

13 year old girl raped then stoned

I found this via Feministing and wanted to bring it to your attention.

A 13 year old girl in Somalia was raped by three men while she was walking to her grandmother's house. When she sought help from the authorities, they accused her of adultery.

"Reports indicate that she had been raped by three men while traveling on foot to visit her grandmother in the war-torn capital, Mogadishu," Unicef, the United Nations children's agency, said in a statement.

"Following the assault, she sought protection from the authorities, who then accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death," Unicef added. "A child was victimized twice -- first by the perpetrators of the rape and then by those responsible for administering justice."


Read more here.

There's supposed to be a letter-writing campaign happening. Is anyone interested?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Flip Turns by Monique Polak

When I was growing up, I was completely devoted to reading two series: The Saddle Club and Animorphs. I was tempted to re-read a Saddle Club book to gain a different perspective on familiar territory since my views on competition and riding horses have changed, but I found a more interesting choice in Flip Turns.

This book centers itself on 13 year old Veronica. She is an extremely competitive swimmer living in a highly dysfunctional family. Her mother has major depression issues, which impairs her parenting ability and forces Victoria to mature quickly: She takes the city bus to school and practice, provides moral support for her mother, helps prepare dinner with the house help and tries to convince her mom to eat (lack of appetite due to depression, not a classic eating disorder).

Victoria’s dad is a workaholic who will always choose a sale over bonding with the family. She feels as though she and her father are strangers. He doesn’t even know Victoria’s schedule, let alone her concerns with every day life.

Besides these serious family troubles, Victoria must cope with an average teenager’s dilemmas such as jealousy, crushes and being the best friend you can be. However, the biggest problem arises when her mother suddenly disappears without warning, leading her on a search as to why and where her mother might be. While rummaging through her mother’s room she finds fragments of her mother’s past life and the reason behind her depression.

Feeling as though her life is spiraling out of control, she finds stability in swimming and the upcoming big competition. I feel as though every teenager goes through an incredibly rough time and clings onto, or forms different ways to cope with this part of their life. I can relate to Victoria’s case because I was competing with horses, and always viewed it as a safe haven from all of my troubles. And despite not having the finances to own the best horse (horse industry is crazy expensive), this, and my problems drove me to practice three times harder than my competition. I often dismounted my horse with the inside of my knees bleeding because I had done countless exercises without stirrups (the part of the saddle that you put your feet in for stability). But it didn’t matter because the pain paled in comparison to feeling accomplished, and in control.

The great thing about this book is that it shows how parents are people with their own complex problems too. This is a really important step in a person’s life in order to get past the “my parents are stupid and don’t understand me!” mentality…although sometimes this feeling may linger after this enlightenment.

It also shows Victoria learning that communication is the best way to figure out what she’s feeling, or solving problems. She eventually confronts her father about him being so absent from her life, and demands that they call the cops to find her mother (he was afraid the media would ruin family’s reputation). By doing so, she brings her family back together in a very believable way and teaches young adults that speaking your mind is the first step towards independence, and getting things done.

Overall I thought this was a great book for young girls, because let’s face it-no family is perfect. It not only focuses on Victoria’s family, but also provides a glimpse into a couple of the other girls on the team to provide a wider range of dysfunction. Through this variation of teen troubles, it shows how to empathize, and deal with stressful situations in a healthy manner.

The Life History of a Star

Although I had a difficult time scouring my younger sister's shelf for the perfect book, I am incredibly glad I finally stumbled upon Kelly Easton's "The Life History of a Star." I remembered reading the book myself when I was younger, but I had no recollection of how essentially feminist it was until I began re-reading it this week. "The Life History of a Star," is narrated by 14 year-old Kristen Folger through a series of journal entries. Set in Glendora, California, in 1973, Kristen not only deals with the personal difficulties of growing up girl, but also with the global issues of the Vietnam War, especially as she mourns the "ghost" who lives in her attic - her closest brother who was severely disabled during his time served under the draft.

By page 4, I was already thrilled with Kristen's keen insight and commentary on growing up girl during this time. In response to her mother's harping about her late development, Kristen writes, "I try to explain the benefit of looking like a boy. Girls are subject to all amounts of attention ... and [have] to put up with sweet remarks from just about everyone" (Easton 4). Similar sentiments are expressed throughout most of her journal, as Kristen desires to be valued for her intellect and ideas rather than something as bane as her looks. As a novel geared for teens, I was delighted with her character, because Kristen is not only a strong girl with self-affirming beliefs, but her hilarity and wit disprove the stereotype that girls who don't desire male attention are boring and lifeless. Her entries are strung together with her unwavering desire to do something more with her life than the women she knows, and her dreams of basing her future around herself rather than someone else.

I've been thinking about being female. We grow up with all kinds of interests, but drop them for the end all, be all - getting married. Then all of our eggs are in one sorry basket. Simon's mother is the only happy grown-up woman I know, and she's an archaeologist... her life seems pretty good to me, and whenever I see her, she seems happy as hell. Because she has many baskets" (Easton 70).


Kristen's views on the world are greatly shaped by the women around her, such as Simon's mother who inspires her to follow her dreams, or her best friend Carol whose new boyfriend Freddie is the perfect example of why boys are of no real importance in her life. Kristen's friend Simon plays an important role in her understanding of her new sexuality - she is saddened and alone after her body begins to develop and Simon can no longer look at her as a friend, but rather a being he claims he physically "needs" to be with. Their relationship provides excellent insight on the complex ties boys and girls begin to form as their sexualities are developing, and the raging hormones and feelings that can often escape their grasp, as Kristen herself finally gives in to Simon's unwavering pleas.

Although there are countless other examples of personal journal entries which instantly won my feminist heart over, the ones which left me the most moved were the entires dealing with "the ghost." Kristen cannot even call her oldest brother by his name, David, until halfway through the novel, and the details of his time spent in Vietnam are absolutely gut-wrenching. Kristen's description of the heartless VA hospitals, the lack of support David felt upon his return to his community, and the independence which he was fighting for yet no longer had in his personal life hurt to read. Kristen's words are a call to action to end war and question the government which would fight such a senseless battle, and I could not be happier that these serious issues are tackled in a teen novel.

There is much in "The Life History of a Star," that, after studying feminist theory, I was able to pick out and dissect while reading. Kristen's reading of Simone de Beauvoir, her constant analysis of the male/female dichotomy, the gender roles of her time, her developing sexuality ... the list goes on. Although there is much to be analyzed from a scholarly perspective, I believe there is even more to gain by reading this book as a girl. Kristen's reassurance that it is ok to be smart, that you don't need a boy to be happy, and that you can make a difference in your own life and the world around you is an extremely important message, and one that is stressed through humor and love in "The Life History of a Star."

Sloppy Firsts

Sloppy Firsts by Megan McCafferty was my book of choice. This novel is a girl's diary that starts in January of her sophomore year of high school, and runs through December of her Junior year. Jessica Darling is the owner of the diary, and she writes about her life-how much she misses her best friend Hope that just moved away, how much she can't stand her friends, and how no one understands her like Hope does. This novel is so realistic, and while I was reading it I definitely felt like I was reading my own diary sometimes. Jessica is a girl that doesn't know exactly where she belongs, but she definitely knows that she doesn't belong with her current friends. She is basically just counting down until she can leave for college and be with real people that are not the "Bubble-Gum Bimbos" that are her current friends. Jessica struggles with trying to deal with not having her best friend around anymore (which equaled her sanity), her dad being obsessed with her high school track career, and her older sister constantly getting attention for her wedding from her mom. She has a huge crush on a senior that really doesn't know that she exists, her best guy friend wants to date her for the longest time and she constantly turns him down, and she starts befriending the "bad boy" of her high school. The book definitely takes some twist and turns, because she goes from trying to ignore the "bad boy" also known as Marcus Flutie, to actually having a rather large, secret infatuation with him, and the book ending with him also liking her equally. Through out the entire book Jessica is raging with hormones, because she hasn't gotten her period and she doesn't know what is wrong with her. She is so frustrated about it being M.I.A but she knows that she isn't pregnant, but is definitely ready to expel some of the pent-up emotions that she experiences from January until the very end of the book in December, when she finally gets her period again. She not only deals with friend and family drama, but of course boy drama. Drama whether there is a boy in her life or lack thereof. Jessica goes through multiple encounters with boys, whether they like her or she likes them, but she never seems like she is desperate to have a boy like her other friends are. I think that is what makes her so cool is that she has her crushes or her infatuations, but she isn't boy obsessed. She is the typical awkward teenager but she doesn't get carried away with the high school drama, instead she gets annoyed and tries to move on. 

I really loved this book because it was definitely realistic, and it seemed like a healthy read for young girls. If you are currently in high school, than this book is a relief that others feel the same way, and if you're older than you definitely can relate 100%, and be able to laugh at those times. I definitely remember being in high school and seriously thinking that no one understood me, and secretly disliking everyone around because I thought that I was so much better than them, and couldn't wait to get to college. My friends and I had some rough patches and by senior year we were just completely different people. Most of them were going to FSU and rushing, but I on the other hand was going to UCF and anti-Greek in every sense of the word. We valued different things and started seeing the world differently. That is how I completely saw myself in Jessica Darling because through out her entire diary she reveals how cynical and miserable she is because she knows that she is different, but she doesn't want to conform. 

.::Andrea::.


*Stargirl*

As a middle schooler I had heard of the book Stargirl from a number of friends who read it and loooved it, so I thought what better excuse to catch up on some good 7th grade literature!

The book is narrated by a high school boy, Leo, who attends your everyday high school, full of fear of being different and striving to conform, "If we happened to somehow distinguish ourselves, we quickly snapped back into place, like rubber bands." So when this breath of fresh air comes in, Stargirl (previously she called herself Pocket Mouse, Mudpie, Hullygully, depending on her mood) she shakes up the entire system of Mica High School. Not only is she the new student, but she is a new breed of human to these students trying so hard to fit in, they would almost rather go unnoticed. But Stargirl truly appreciates everyone in her community and tries to give everyone a little spotlight or gift. She sings Happy Birthday with her ukulele to who ever is celebrating, she gives gifts to her homeroom on holidays and she cheers for everyone playing the game, not just the home team.

Although people are weary at first of her antics (the singing, having a pet rat, carrying around a large sunflower in her bad and NO MAKEUP!)they begin to embrace her enthusiasm for life and her ability to lift the spirits of all those around her...so she becomes a cheerleader! Unfortunately to Stargirl the game itself is more exciting than who wins and she cheers for both teams, this does not sit well the Mica High students and when their team starts losing she becomes the scapegoat. Throughout this whole time Leo has been observing Stargirl, and becomes more curious and infactuated by her, as does Stargirl with him. The two become close, right at the time when the whole school has decided to give Stargirl intense silent treatment, ignoring her to a point that would be unbarable for any other person (that is a person who strongly relies on caring about what other people think).

Leo begins to see the world in a whole new light, as Stargirl shows him the things he has been overlooking all his life, the simple things, the song of the mockingbird, the desert, how one house always changes the color of their door. He is 'seeing' for the first time. Even though Stargirl is amazing, enlightening and he feels strongly for her...he cannot stop worrying about everyone else. The wise old man of the town, Archie, tells him he has to choose: who matters more to you, what she thinks or what everyone else thinks. Unfortunately instead of realizing that "everyone" does not matter as much as we think, Leo tries to change Stargirl into an 'anybody'. He is embarasses by her, too worried about the others. So, she changes for him, her long flowing dresses into jeans and a tee, wears makeup, carries her book, loses the rat and sunflower and tries to be ordinary, but still people shun her. The whole time Leo is debating between his true feelings for Stargirl and his battle to be acknowledged and not associate himself with her, becasue she is unpopular. I won't ruin the book for you by spoling the ending but her good deeds go through a rollercoaster of acceptance and the mystery that surrounds her continues on.

Overall I just loved Stargirl and was a little jealous, the reason why most people in the high school despised her, of her selflessness and how connected she was wither her community. Throughout the book Leo talks about 'the way things are' but the more you see it from Stargirl's perspective you see how silly we are about things. We focus on what others think, how they will react and worrying about "everybody" when we dont know this illusive everybody! Stargirl was actually connected to her community, to this everybody. She celebrated peoples fortunes and cried at thier disfortunes, and truly cared. But people feel guilty when they see someone so committed and selfless and therefore attack that person rather than emulate thier good ways.

Stargirl is an individual,she marched to the beat of her own ukulele. I did not enjoy the part of her conforming to please Leo (even thought she did it because she loved him) because if he truly cared he wouldn't have asked that of her. She was a community builder, making connections with others, giving personalized gifts and not even wanting the credit. I could seriosuly go on and on about her and how amazingly in tune she was with herself and her environment but you can do this quick read at home (if you want to borrow my book feel free!) She was an activist, fighting against conformity and the protective walls we have seemed so eager to build up in our society.
"It was a rebellion she led, a rebellion for rather than against. For ourselves. For the dormant mud frogs we had been for so long."

There are so many cute details in the book that I couldn't cover so here are some fun things that Stargirl did: http://www.randomhouse.com/teens/stargirl/societies.html

Also, the sequel came out in 2007 Love, Stargirl which is told from her point of view!

Sweet Valley Twins...oh my

Okay, so this book was probably one of the silliest books I have ever read. And normally I am a huge fan of silly, but in this case I was not at all. First off, it was a book about twins so of course it had to pigeon hole them right from the start, claiming Jessica to be the more attractive, bubbly, mischievous on and Elizabeth to be the smart, sensible, hard working one. Francine Pascal makes many efforts all throughout the book to remind the reader that the two girls are nothing but the picture she has painted them as, talking about how Elizabeth's room is blue and Jessica's pink. In the story, Jessica of course has a scheme and Elizabeth is forced to be her cover. Jessica takes a job dog sitting even though she hates dogs, just so she can earn enough money to sneak off to a rock concert. However, she leaves the dog tied up outside the night of the concert and the dog runs away. Jessica also steals the earrings that Elizabeth had just purchased to give to her mother for her birthday, so she could wear them out and loses one. So, basically through some lying and such Elizabeth helps her sister out mostly because she just looks so helpless when in trouble.
At one point in the book Jessica states that she wants to be more like Elizabeth and Elizabeth tells her that, "if you stopped being so wild, we'd never have any fun." I think that books like this are harmful to grrrls because they perpetuate the stereotype that you can only be certain things. Pretty or smart, funny or thin, adventurous or timid. Once grrrls are under this impression that they can only do these things they tend to act in that fashion for most of their lives. So, the morale of the Sweet Valley Twins book is, if people fuck you over and take advantage of you (even if it is family) you shouldn't stand for it. And toxic friendships are just as bad as bad relationships.

Francine Pascal "Sweet Valley Twins and Friends: Sneaking Out"

Stop Pretending

The contemporary young adult novel that I read was Stop Pretending: what happened when my big sister went crazy by Sonya Sones. I found this book by searching in the young adult section of Barnes and Noble. It caught my eye and after I picked it out I realized that I had read this when I was in middle school. I didn’t remember much about it so decided it would be interesting to reread it and analyze it from a much different perspective than my middle school self. I also liked the fact that this book was inspired by the author’s own true story.
This novel was different and interesting because it is actually a book of poems that tell a story. The story is from the perspective of Cookie, a thirteen-year-old girl. Cookie tells how her life changes when her nineteen-year-old sister is sent to a mental hospital. Cookie not only feels depressed and guilty about her sister going crazy, but she must also deal with her world falling down around her. Her parents become extremely disheartened and turn into people Cookie cannot lean on and barely even recognize. All of her peers at school eventually find out and she feels alienated from them. They pass notes about her saying, “COOKIE’S SISTER IS CUCKOO” (85). Her closest girlfriends stop talking to her and walking her to school. Cookie’s parents send her to therapists and counselors that she refuses to talk to.
Many of the poems are of Cookie recalling old times she and her sister had prior to her sister’s mental illness. She looks back on many happy memories and then becomes sad that things are so different now. Cookie and her family also visit the mental hospital where her sister is staying. It is very hard on the family to see Cookie’s sister acting in outrageous ways and not like her old self.
I liked this novel because it describes an average girl who had a good life until her whole world got flipped upside down. Her situation is very hard on her and she must overcome feeling depressed and alone. I think it is a good novel for girls because Cookie experiences a great trauma and must deal with all different types of feelings from sadness to loneliness to anger to guilt to shame. Eventually, through time, Cookie and her family start feeling back to normal again, even though her sister never comes home from the hospital.
One thing that I did not like about this novel was that after Cookie loses all of her girlfriends at school, she gets a boyfriend who makes her feel better. I did not like that the only person in the whole book she could lean on was a boy. Having a boyfriend does not always make a miserable life better, and I think that young girls need to know that they can rely on their girlfriends and do not always need a boy in their life.

Sones, Sonya. Stop Pretending: what happened when my big sister went crazy. New York: Harpertempest, 1999.

PREP...a.k.a the book with the ribbon belt on the cover.

The first time I read Prep, by Curtis Sittenfeld, I think I finished it in one day, and then stayed up until five in the morning with my then-roommate discussing which celebrities we envisioned playing all of the characters. It was a pretty intellectual conversation, and we ended up somehow casting it as a Muppet movie…oh yes; this is a book which inspires frilly, funny and unpredictable conversation. If there is one clearly identifiable aspect of this novel which makes it so addictive, it is the tell-all, multi-dimensional nature of Lee Fiora, the novel’s “author” who shares her experience at boarding school from start to finish. Lee confesses everything; stabbing feelings of inadequacy, fascination with other girls, a crippling crush on a boy named Cross Sugarman (the untouchably cool name tells it all), and passive attempts to exhibit boldness within the intricate boarding school society. Sittenfeld, through the character of Lee, exposes all the raw and unspoken emotions experienced in high school, and although it is not a great work of literature, it is familiar, comforting, and oddly cathartic. It is interesting; I have had many conversations with people who have read this book, and they are all strikingly similar. They all begin with, “I had no idea other people felt this way in high school…I thought I was the only one!” Now why is it that it takes a work of fiction to evoke conversations about the realities of life? The point is, if we only knew in middle school; in high school; in college, that we all sometimes feel inadequate, desperately alone, isolated, or so very un-cool, then I believe there wouldn’t be so much animosity among girls and women. I think sometimes, girls are mean because they are experiencing pain, and assume that other girls are not feeling the same way, and therefore feel the need to bring others down. If this book can offer a fun way to look back and laugh over high school insecurities, while still reassuring girls that they are not alone, then I think Sittenfeld has accomplished what she set out to do. This book deals with sexuality, it deals with the loss of virginity, and therefore is somewhat “scandalous” for young girls; so I really doubt it would be found in a classroom. But, I would definitely give it to a little sister or cousin…or classmate/friend. It’s awesome; read it!

Hannah Montana! What?

So I’m sure EVERYONE knows what Hannah Montana is. I mean, how could you not. But just in case you do not, here’s a brief summary…

Miley Stewart is a young girl who lives a double life. She’s a famous pop singer that goes by the name Hannah Montana. To keep her life “normal” she acts puts on a blonde wig when she’s Hannah Montana that way people do not know it is really Miley (yeah I know, a genius story line). The whole show pretty much revolves around the same story line…regular Hannah trying to keep her identity hidden and the crazy antics she and her friends get into during the process.

For some reason tweens are obsessed with this show and everything Hannah. I think it is safe to say you can go anywhere without seeing some sort of Hannah product. And that’s where my post comes in. For my young novel I read one of the Hannah Montana “novels”…Don’t Bet On It. To be sum up the novel, Miley wants to attend a fashion show but needs a ride. She acts her older brother, Jackson, if he would take her. He then takes advantage of Miley needing him but placing a bet with her. If he wins, he no longer has to drive Miley around, if she wins he will continue to take her around. The twist in the story is when Jackson is seen with Hannah Montana and then becomes famous by association. The story then follows the crazy antics Jackson gets into while being “famous” and Miley trying to get a ride.

I have very mixed feelings about the whole Hannah Montana franchise. Hannah could kind of a role model for young girls because she made her dreams come true (being a famous singer) yet she still leads a “normal” life. Also girls can identity with Miley trying to fit in and find who they are. But then it’s hard because Hannah is not being true to her self. It must be hard living two lives as a teenager. The show and novel always revolves around a boy too. Also she reinforces the ideal beauty standard. When she’s famous Hannah she has to put on a blonde wig and change the way she looks.

Then the whole subject of Miley Cyrus comes up. We have all seen what becoming famous at a young age can do to a girl (ie Britney and Jamie Lynn Spears). While what is happening to Miley is the result of our sexualized society and media, it can be very damaging to her. Miley (as do all young actresses) have an opportunity to be a great role models for young girls; they often do not take the route. While girls can identify with Miley and her trying to get a boy to like her, I wish the show and book focused less on boys and more on her. Girls need to know that their lives do not revolve around a boy liking them. If anything the teen years would go by so much better if girls focused more on them rather than boys and trying to look a certain way.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted is like Cinderella meets Harry Potter. I debated whether to go with this or read a more serious book. But I went with this because it's fun and, let's face it, girls like fairytales. It's a book that I really enjoyed; however, I'm struggling to decide whether it's feminist or not.

Synopsis: The story opens with Ella as a child. Ella was given the "gift" of obedience when she's born. However, it's more of a curse because she's forced to do anything anyone tells her. When she's 15, her mother passes away. She meets a prince (Char) and although he leaves the country for a year, they write to each other frequently. Eventually he proposes to her, but she lies and says she's eloped with another man in an effort to protect him. She knows that if they were to marry, she could be forced to obey him. During the rest of the book Ella goes on this journey to find the fairy godmother that gave her the gift of obedience (this is where she fights ogres and other shitty people/creatures - which is really cool). At the end, Char holds a ball in order to meet a woman to marry. He finds Ella, who is in disguise, and follows her back home. Things get really Cinderella here, but it differs when he asks her to marry him, she finally breaks the curse and says yes. Yay yay happily ever after.

Pros:
The protagonist is a girl (Ella)
Ella is rebellious and super independent
She's cursed with obedience (I think this could be a metaphor)
She has pretty cool powers that get her out of sticky situations
She makes sacrifices to protect others
True love conquers all (this is debatable but I think it could be feminist)

Cons:
The whole thing is based on fairytales (which we know are questionable)
Much of the story is centered around a boy (Prince Char)
Char comes to Ella's rescue more than once
In the end everything is ok because she got her man

My interpretation: If I had a daughter, I would let her read this. One can easily argue that the story lacks some creativity and might not be the BEST story for girls. However, I think it's pretty cool. I was definitely emotionally invested throughout it and I think Ella is a pretty good role model. (I mean, she can speak ogre - who wouldn't want to do that?). I think it's interesting that her curse is obedience. It's like most women and girls in general - they're expected to do as they're told. It's especially interesting here, because she's a naturally rebellious girl. However, because she's cursed, no matter how much she fights it, she cannot break the curse. (Perhaps a metaphor for patriarchy? Or am I thinking too much into this?) Romance stories are fun sometimes, and at least in this one, the protagonist is not passive, unlike in most other fairytales. All in all, this is a good/safe book for girls.

Walk Two Moons ya ya

Walk Two Moons is a freaking sad book. This Newberry winner by Sharon Creech is about the main character, Salamanca's journey from Ohio to her mother's grave in Lewiston, Idaho, and her experience moving with her father to a new town after her mother's death.

I really think Creech is an incredible writer and that she tells women's complex stories in a simple sort of way. Both of the mother figures in the story leave a husband and kid/s to go heal, and both of the situations point to the intense pressure that patriarchy creates in their lives. Sal's mother leaves their farm after a miscarriage to go visit a cousin via bus, and dies when the bus veers off a cliff. Her mother struggled with a sense of inadequacy within Sal's fathers eccentric and generous family. Sal's connection to her mother and her mother's struggle is really personal to me, because her mom didn't struggle economically or in any way that was visible to the outside world and because she felt so isolated even with her daughter and husband.

When Sal encounters Phoebe's family, she is especially in tune to Phoebe's mother, 'Mrs. Winterbottom.' The two daughters are extremely critical and Mr. Winterbottom is really unresponsive to the tremendous work and emotional energy that the mom puts into the family.
Sal is like a certified feminist in interpreting the family situation and the huge sadness that weighs on Mrs. Winterbottom but is so invisible to her family. Eventually Mrs. Winterbottom leaves home without any explanation and eventually Phoebe and Sal discover that she is spending time with her college-age son who she had out of wedlock and has never discussed in their family.

Creech writes Sal with some traditionally feminine traits and some traits that are often associated with masculinity. Also, she uses some of the traditionally more masculine traits to paint Sal as more grounded in her native Indian heritage...for example:
When Sal's classmate Phoebe says "You are brave. You are" Sal responds, "I was not. I, Salamanca Tree Hiddle was afraid of lots and lots of things...But I was not afraid of spiders, snakes, and wasps. Phoebe, and everyone else in my class, did not have much fondness for these creatures." She then describes how she gently carried a black spider from her desk to the school window to the amazement of her classmates.
I think passages like this are really neat in that they establish Salamanca's traits without a discussion of bravery being feminine or masculine....But is there implied that since Sal is brave around scary creatures, which is generally considered masculine, and is obviously presented as a positive trait, that Salamanca is a stronger, better character/person because she has boyish traits?
Not that bravery is actually boyish, just that she played against the stereotypes in her classroom and in our society...

This book is really beautiful and naturally sparks discussion on struggles in women's lives. I recommend it as a book to read with little sisters for sure.

Age 8

I chose to re-read a classic: Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary. I had not read this book since, probably, when I was around the age of the character Ramona herself. Although the book has been around for 20-some-odd years, it still feels contemporary and relevant in reading it, and I hope that girls are still enjoying it today.

From the very beginning, I found Ramona identifiable. I couldn't help but get nostalgic about the incredible feeling of importance surrounding being an 8 year old girl. I remember taking an art class at this age and painting "Age 8 1/2" on the bottom of every single painting. It was imperative that everyone know I was 8, ahem, and a half years old. There was a sense of strength and wisdom attached to being this age. Years before I was socialized to be a quiet girl, I talked constantly and thought that everybody needed to know what I had to say. I smiled at moments like when Ramona felt important and independent taking the bus alone for the first time or felt the need to correct 4-year-old Willa Jean's minor errors. This is an age where being smart, strong, and confident is still considered a positive thing for girls.

Beverly Cleary has such a great attention to detail. While Ramona's daily activities and problems are not relevant to all girls' experiences, I think that a lot of girls or women like me can identify with them a lot. All of the new experiences and excitements of Ramona's new school are documented, as well as all of the embarassments and frustrations. Maybe most of us didn't throw up in the middle of class, but we've all done/had something mortifying happen to us during class that we still vividly remember to this day.

Ramona also worries about and is made fun of for the size of her feet, but always comes back strong, insisting that there is nothing wrong with her feet and that she is just growing, like she is supposed to be.

She thinks about things like her dad's going back to college while working in the supermarket warehouse and the bully at school.

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 is fairly light, fun reading, but it serves its purpose. It is a fun book for girls to read. It also provides an identifiable character, working through things and experiencing things like them. Do girls really have that today? I'm not sure if they do. I know that we talked about in class, and part of the purpose of choosing this book was to find this out, whether more recent books than Are You There God... were out there. I couldn't find them if they are. I hope there are.

I also hope that 8-year-old girls are even reading. I feel like so many aren't and I hope that I'm wrong. Reading books like the Ramona series is so much better for their development than watching the Bratz movie. A book like Ramona gives a "normal" character for girls to identify with, rather than something ridiculous to aspire to be. Ramona doesn't make girls insecure in themselves or want to purchase products.

She's a strong girl and a realistic girl.