Kids Say The Darndest…

Yesterday morning was an early one.

A little before 6AM I was awoken by some commotion next door, and try as I might, I just could not head back into dreamland. As I struggled to fall back asleep, I noticed that EZ had crawled into our bed at some point during the night, and was snuggled up against me, his little face buried into the pillow.

It was sweet, peaceful, and quite joyous…while it lasted.

About 20 minutes later, the whole bed was awake. MD was off to shower for work, and EZ started stirring. It was still much too early for me to properly function, so I hoped it would be one of those slow-to-fully-wake up type mornings.

Oh, how wrong I was.

Only minutes later, I heard his scratchy-from-sleep voice pierce the quiet.

“Hey Ima?”

“Yeah, bud?”

“Do you think that bad people know that they’re bad? Or do you think that they think what they’re doing is good, and that we’re the bad ones?” Continue reading

That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles

There’s been a recent backlash against the Girl Scouts of America’s policy of inclusion, after a Denver, Colorado troop allowed a transgender girl to join their ranks. Three troops in Louisiana have disbanded over this after their leaders resigned, and more recently, a video of a 14-year-old girl calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies has quickly gone viral, spurring reactions from many (including this fabulous tumblr).

After watching the video, I found myself getting lost in the website that’s promoting it, Honest Girl Scouts. This group seems to have a host of issues with the GSUSA, and they have no problem letting you know about them. In their “cookie boycott flyer,” they list all the reasons folks should stop buying those delicious cookie shaped bits of tasty, tasty, crack.

Their words in bold, my commentary in green:

Continue reading

Scouting A New Path

A few months ago, the Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA) found themselves in the midst of a unique controversy. A Denver, Colorado troop initially refused to let 7-year-old Bobby Montoya join their ranks. Montoya, who identifies as female, was denied entry to the troop when Felisha Archuleta, Bobby’s mother, first approached them. After protests from Archuleta, and some media coverage, the Colorado Girl Scouts of America ended up welcoming Bobby into the scouts, and released a statement through GLAAD, clarifying the organizations policy,

“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. [...]If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

However, not everyone associated with the scouts agreed with this message of inclusivity. Just last month, three troops in Louisiana have disbanded over this policy when their troop leaders resigned from their positions. One of the former troop leaders, Susan Bryant-Snure, claimed that the message from the GSUSA is “extremely confusing,” and that it “goes against what we (Northlake Christian School) believe.”

In addition to disbanding some troops, thereby not allowing any girl in these areas the opportunity to join the scouts, some parents are calling on a cookie boycott to protest the GSUSA’s inclusion of transgender girls into their organization. With a video quickly going viral, a 14-year-old girl, identified as Taylor from California, speaks on behalf of the group, Honest Girl Scouts, and is calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies.

Not only is this video filled with inaccuracies about being transgender, but it does not seem to be espousing any of the Girl Scout values that I learned as a young scout. Compassion, diversity, education, and tolerance were all values that I, and my fellow troop members, held dear. In fact, part of the Girl Scout mission includes the following, “Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect.”

To call for a boycott of cookies based on a decision to become more inclusive on the part of the GSUSA seems to go against everything the organization actually stands for.

I spoke with Peggy Orenstein, author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter, a book that takes a look at modern girlhood. Orenstein weighed in on the current Girl Scout issue.

“If you start regulating what is a “girl” and what it is not, you quickly devolve into something really ugly. Think about the controversy over Caster Semenya, the South African runner whose sex was called into question because she was “too fast” for a girl. That was shameful. But what’s next? Should a girl born with no uterus be barred from Scouting? What about one with no ovaries? Should we test chromosomes to make sure there are no girls with Turner’s syndrome (meaning they have only one X chromosome)? What about girls who are chromosomally male but appear (and identify as) totally female because they don’t respond to their male hormones? Obviously, this particular issue affects few girls; the radical Right is using it to create a sex panic, to further its own agenda of intolerance and homophobia. By picking on little girls with cookies. That is so sad.”

For the most part, the video has ended up having the opposite affect. Instead of encouraging people to participate in the boycott, it has actually spurred many more folks to support the GSUSA by buying more cookies this year. Crystal Harvey, a mother of two young girls from Massachusetts, shares her reaction to the video, “I honestly feel really sorry for that girl, that she’s been raised so bigoted and small minded. But on the other hand, I now have a really good reason to buy their cookies!!”

I know for a fact that I, too, will be doubling my order of Thin Mints this year in support of a national organization that welcomes, supports, and empowers all girls.

To-Do List: 2012 Edition

Every new year I make some resolutions (either out loud, or quietly in my own head), and every year, without fail, those resolutions ultimately fall to the wayside. My resolutions, like those of other folks, end up in unused gym memberships and as balls of fancy yarn that mock me as they sit unused.

*swoon*

So, instead, I’m taking it upon myself to write a “to-do” list. While I may fail whole-heartedly with the resolution thing year after year, I’m quite the master list-maker/accomplisher. In fact, one of my most prized Hannukah gifts from this year is a clipboard made specifically to hold lists.

There is something inherently satisfying about checking things of a list, and with that in mind, I’ve decided that instead of “resolutions,” I’m going to write up a “to-do” list for 2012. It won’t hold anything earth shattering or life-changing (as most of my lists do not as well…usually they involve, laundry, grocery trips, books I’m interested in picking up, or reminders to set the DVR/pay bills/return calls/etc…). Without further fanfare (because, really…we’re just talking a to-do list here)…may I present to you:

TO-DO LIST: 2012 EDITION

- Spread the good word about TIWAFLL far & wide.
I absolutely loved all the feminists that participated in my This Is What A Feminist Looks Like series in 2011, and I’m beyond excited to see who will be profiled in 2012. You can help by spreading the word to any and every feminist that you know, or by signing up to be profiled yourself!

- Have somebody with skillz do something professional with my hair.
I can’t actually remember if anyone from an actual salon touched these curls in 2011. I’m thinking I will rectify that (at some point) this year. 

- Be a bit more on top of laundry.
If only because having mini-mountains of laundry around the house was not the design feel I’ve been going for…

- Pitch to more print publications
I absolutely love blogging (on my own site and others), but I also really love magazines and newspapers. There’s something delicious about flipping the pages of something in print, getting your fingertips smudgy with ink, and folding down corners to find your place a little later on. So, instead of sticking to my comfortable and cozy spots online, I’m going to try and venture out to more print publications. I love the ones I’ve worked with so far, so…why not? Let’s get daring here and dip toes in other printed waters.

- Bake an effing CAKE IN A JAR.
I mean, really. It’s cake. In a jar. Why do I consistently put this off? Clearly something is wrong with me.

*

So…that’s that. No promises related to weight or food (well, except for baking cakes in jars). No promises so huge that they can’t be accomplished. And yeah, sure…this list still kind of sounds like some new year’s resolution, but really, it’s only because “resolution” is totally just fancy-talk for “to-do” list.

What’s on *your* to-do list (or fine…call it a resolution, or whatever else you want). I just want to know – what do you hope to accomplish in the coming days, weeks, months, and even…year?

“Why I’m A Feminist Boy”

…well, obviously I’m not. But my pal, Ritch, is! And he has made yet another wonderful video about feminism. This time he breaks it down plain and simple (while still acknowledging the complexities of feminism).

 


While this video isn’t the end all and be all of defining feminism, it is an excellent place to start. So if you’re having a tricky time explaining feminism to that one relative at the holiday table who just doesn’t quite get it, or are frustrated with that co-worker who keeps cracking offensive jokes (no matter how many times you ask him/her to stop), then perhaps you’ll find this video helpful.

Watch it. Share it. Pass it on…to other feminists, to those unsure of what feminism actually is, and to those absolutely opposed to feminism.

LEGO’s Loss

I recently wrote a piece for Ms. Magazine’s blog about a UK toy store that decided to organize their toys via “type” vs boy/girl. While the ultimate reasoning behind the toy store’s decision is still up for debate, the fact that they actually did away with gender codification within their aisles is a win in my book. As I worked on the post, I wondered if others would follow suit, when they realized they didn’t have to divide their store amongst blue and pink lines to sell merchandise.

And then…LEGO happened.

LEGO has recently announced “Ladyfigs” – a new line aimed specifically at girls. This line features a lot of pink and purple, slimmed down, yet still curvaceous figures, and pre-created background settings that include beaches and cafés. A few folks have already written about LEGO’s latest offering, and needless to say, they’re not so thrilled.

Dear LEGO, I Have a Girl

Et Tu, Lego?

My feeling about all of this can be summed up by this tweet:

Lego is launching a product line for girls. Someone should tell them that they already have one; its called legos. 

It’s not that I’m anti-pink and purple. I just can’t wrap my head around why LEGO has to go out of its way to target girls with overt stereotypes, when they already have a product that is awesomely gender neutral.

A few weeks ago my family went to to CT to check out the big LEGO expo that was going on at the local convention center. The place was filled with wall to wall kids – boys and girls alike. LEGO blocks of every color were being used to build cars, buildings, planes, boats, and more. There was no “boy section” or “girl section.” This new line of girl-centric LEGOs was nowhere to be found, and the majority of blocks were the primary colored ones we all know and love. (There were a few new colors thrown into the mix…an awesome chartreuse green and a bubble gum pink were some of the highlights for me)

Nobody seemed to have any trouble building something amazing out of the blocks provided…boys or girls. I’m not disappointed with LEGO in trying to build up their female customers. I get that they have a business to run and are trying to find ways to boost sales. But why can’t they attempt to do so in innovative ways that don’t rehash and promote tired stereotypes? Why can’t they remember older ads, where instead of promoting gender codification, they promoted creative, innovative playing (regardless of gender)?

There is currently a petition making the rounds (Spearheaded by Spark Summit) asking LEGO to rethink their decision regarding Ladyfigs. The petition is simple – it is asking LEGO to not underestimate young girls, and their imaginations. It is asking LEGO to not play into the cycle of stereotyping that occurs on a daily basis.

LEGO, we are asking you to:

1. Bring back your “beautiful” campaign;
2. Include girls in your advertising for all LEGOs sets;
3. Include more girl characters in your regular LEGO sets;
4. Market regular LEGOs in the “so-called” girl aisles of toy stores.
5. Release a public statement committing to the above actions and to practices that won’t sell girls out.

I am hopeful that LEGO actually listens to it’s customers and rethinks the way they market to girls. Hopefully they can set a precedent, similar to the one that Hamleys’ toy store has set with their gender neutral aisles – and show that it’s not about marketing ploys that exploit a tired stereotype, but about the integrity of the toy itself.

Pepsi 4 Lyfe

…or rather “Pepsi for Life?”

Actually, I guess the most accurate description of this post should be “Giving Up Pepsi Until Abortion Ends” – but really, isn’t “Pepsi 4 Lyfe” catchier?

And really, when it all boils down – that’s what this whole abortion argument revolves around: marketing/branding/language.

People who are against abortion are extremely clever in the way they frame their arguments. (not right, just clever). The term “pro-life” sounds innocuous, and even good. I mean, who would ever say they are “anti-life?!” But the way anti-abortionists make their argument at least sound somewhat appealing is using the way they phrase their argument. If you’re not “pro-life,” you’re obviously against it, and who wants to take that on?

It’s branding/marketing/smart use of language no matter how you look at it. Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with musician and activist, Ani DiFranco. One of the many things we ended up talking about was abortion, and how Conservatives have very carefully crafted their language around their position. We need to do the same.

It’s just tackling the language on a daily basis I think is so important. For me I have to stop and choke back the words, “pro-life,” because that’s a particular frame that somebody came up with to misguide us, and say “anti-choice,” because there’s “pro-choice” and there’s “anti-choice.” Because when you frame it that way then it will ring in people’s ears differently. – Ani DiFranco

And what else is marketing but framing something in a way that appeals to people? We need to continue reframing/rewording ourselves to make just as much of an impact as “pro-life” (aka ANTI-CHOICE) supporters.

Now…back to Pepsi 4 Lyfe. A couple of YouTubes have floated pass me that need to share. Apparently there is an online campaign called Until Abortion Ends, where people can add pictures or videos of them swearing off something…until abortion ends. I’m not quite sure how giving up soda, coffee, Taco Bell, video games, alcohol or chocolate will help end abortion, but these folks sure are giving it the old college try. Again, this is just another marketing tactic from conservatives to reframe the abortion argument. In fact, the site itself asks you upon visiting “How Whole Life are you?”  - with the assumption being that if you are pro-choice that you are clearly less in some way.

In response to one of these videos, a young woman named Erin made her own video, and I think it’s well worth the four minutes to watch:

Break The Cycle

Whenever I’m tutoring the teen moms I work with, I never quite know what to expect. Beyond working on math, science or history, we always tend to get a little sidetracked about one thing or another. Sometimes we talk about clubs or my age. Other times they school me in new music or shows I should be watching.

And sometimes? It can get a little heavy.

The other week one of the girls was going on and on about how she saw this picture of Chris Brown naked. A few other girls started getting all excited, before I reminded them that we weren’t about to go googling for Chris Brown’s googly bits. But before we moved on, returning back to our math problems, I couldn’t help but ask…Why?

What’s the fascination with Chris Brown?

Now, I don’t read my celebrity gossip like I used to, but I’m well aware of the Chris Brown/Rihanna assault story from a few years back.  I don’t profess to know every single detail, but I know the general gist of it all. So, I asked them – could they really be into a guy that beat on his girlfriend?

The range of answers were a little frightening. Some were quick to overlook it, others pointed out that we didn’t know what really happened, while others shrugged and admitted it was bad. However, my stomach twisted at the following response, “Well, if you’re going to get beat up anyway, like so many girls do in our area, it might as well be by somebody hot, rich and famous.”

That thought got a lot of heads nodding in agreement while I sat there, speechless. My mind whirred with what to say, but I couldn’t even begin to figure out where to start. I had never experienced domestic abuse first hand. Sure, I had read all about it, studied statistics and read research, but I had a feeling they wouldn’t really respond to any of that.

Thankfully, another girl spoke up. She talked about her ex and reminded the girls how that (abusive) relationship went down. We started talking about the cycle of domestic violence, and how even if it looks like somebody is “ok” with it, that’s probably not the full reality.

Everyone seemed to have a story…recalling something that happened to them, or a loved one.

We talked a lot that morning. The math was put aside for a few moments for questions and answers not found on the GED.

I’m sure our talk didn’t dissuade the girls from later going off to google Chris Brown’s naked bits, but I have to hope that maybe, just maybe, it makes them think just a little bit more the next time they hear about a friend or family member caught up in the cycle of domestic violence.