Friday, April 22, 2011

Miss Representation

No witty commentary required.
Just a link to some essential viewing. Please be impacted enough to do something today.

Start a conversation, change the channel, give a woman or girl you know a compliment that has nothing to do with how she looks. Think.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

My Top 5 (kid-friendly) 'Girl-Power' movies

So, I took my critter to watch the new Rio movie the other day - and we loved it. The characters were great, and I was particularly taken by the good messages of fierce independence, strength and determination in the female macaw, Jewel. I got to thinking about other great movies that primarily feature great female role models and have come up with my personal Top 10.

10 movies is a lot to talk about in one blog post, so I'm splitting them up. Neatly, 5 of the movies are more-or-less kid friendly, depending on the age of your kids. So here are my Top 5, kid-friendly movies, with positive female role models, and mostly good healthy messages for girls.

5. My Fair Lady - The wonderful Audrey Hepburn delights in this classic
tale of a feisty, independent, confident and strong-willed flower-girl, whose will to succeed challenges the British class-system and does more to change those around her than herself. I love this story, I love the movie, and I love Hepburn in it.

4. The Sound of Music - I know, I know... there are a lot of hardcore feminists who will disagree about this one. 'How do we solve a problem like Maria?" is, on the face of it, not a good start, but here's how I see it. I like that Maria is considered a problem in the first place...that means she's not conforming, not doing as she's told and not down with 'marrying God'. She's thinking for herself. I love 'I Have Confidence', and I love the way she 'disobeys' everything the Captain tries to tell her to do. Of course I cringe at the lyrics in 'Sixteen going on Seventeen', but then I think about the actress who did all that dancing and jumping on a sprained ankle, and I applaud her determination and professionalism. All in all, this movie leaves me with the warm and fuzzies.

3. Chicken Run - This is a great movie. Ginger is the female leader of a band of chickens who are trying to escape their POW-camp like chicken run. The title of this movie was translated in Russian to 'Escape from the Hen House'...which says it all. She's sick of sitting around, being forced to lay eggs and she imagines greater things for herself. Awesome animation, awesome story, awesome female role-model. Yay for Chicken Run.

2. Mona Lisa Smile - How can it not be good? Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal. An amazing cast tell an uplifting story of women in the world of academia. The young women are all different, they all want different things, and they all take different paths. Julia Robert's character chooses not to obey the restrictive rules of the school, she does things differently, and she wants to really make a difference in young women's lives. It's a winner in my books.

1. Mulan - Now I've done my fair share of Disney-bashing. In what is normally a Princess-filled, patriarchal world of passive Prince-waiting, Mulan is Disney's saving grace. The protagonist is a young, carefree, smart woman, coming of age and trying to define her true self against strong cultural stereotypes. She proves herself to be a warrior and proves she can fight, not only with her strength, but with her wit and ability to adapt and overcome. She's a force to be reckoned with, and for that reason alone, I love Mulan.

Check back for my other 5 top movies - next time for grown-ups.

Tell me what you think of the movies on this list? And tell me what movies you love and hate?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Tornado Warning (for Teens)

Author, Elin Stebbins Waldal is pointing a harsh and much needed spotlight on teen-dating violence and abusive relationships, using her own, very personal experience as the starting point, in Tornado Warning. I already admire her courage to survive, grow, share and advocate.

Parents and young adults need this book, and ones like it, so that they can appreciate how abusive relationships unfold, develop and change the people in them.

In Canada alone, between 16% and 35% of women surveyed say they have experienced at least one physical assault by a male dating partner. Another study found that 37% of Canadian women had experienced at least one sexual assault since the age of 16. How many countless others don't tell? How about same-sex dating violence? There are so many untold and unheard stories...

I'm going to buy this book. I'm going to read it, and I'm probably going to cry. Then I'm going to lend it out to anyone that will read it, and then I'm going to save it and make my son read it when he's old enough.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I agree with Nicole Richie...wait, what?

About-Face are right in this article -

I never thought I would find myself agreeing with Simpe Life star Nicole Richie, but her statement resleased today to the media and to irresponsible reporters is a goodie.

I cringe when I see the pictures of celebs and the crude captions about the size of their bellies, or boobs or butts. I give her kudos for speaking up.

We'll never be BFFs Nicole, but this...well, this was classy.

Monday, April 11, 2011

HEROES and BABIES...(and other words in kid's TV commercials)

We don't watch a lot of real-time TV in our house. We're big on the we get to fast forward through the commercials most of the time. It saves a lot of time, and a lot of the "i wants" from the kiddo.

Anyway, the other day we were actually watching some kid's channel TV and on came the commercials. First up, I remember, was the Barbie 'Glamour Camper', whatever the heck that means...I remember thinking that Mattel must be running out of new ideas. 'Glamour Camper'?

Whatever. Anyway, on went the neurotic mom hat, and out came the learning moment.

"Would you like to play with that toy", I asked, neutrally...trying to be nonchalant.

"No way", the kiddo snaps back...clearly exasperated with my ignorance to the 'rules'.

"It's a GIRL'S toy, mom", he said. Fact.

Oh. OK then. Now let me be clear. I bought my 1 year old son a musical tea set (from the pink aisle) when he was 1. He got a kitchen set (with girls on the box) for Christmas when he was 2. He got a vacuum cleaner for his 2nd birthday.
He has a Zhu-Zhu pet, a book about a ballerina and a doll in a stroller that we take for 'walks'. But as we watched the commercials flashing on the screen, he told me, with the wisdom of a 4-year old, whether each toy was for 'girls or boys'.

There were none for both.

These word bubbles, which I found at show a snapshot of the words and phrases used in highly gendered toy commercials, aired during kid's programming.

Just look at the difference. There's no surprise that my kiddo has sorted these images into neat little pigeon holes in his brain. It's human organizes our world; even (maybe even especially) the crazy, frantic, chaotic world of kid's commercials bombarding his little brain-sponge.

LOVE vs. BATTLE. BABIES vs. HEROES. FUN for girls, but POWER for boys.

We'll keep fast forwarding through the commercials and I might even go out and get the Glamour know, just to prove him wrong, and to see if he'd play with it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The best thing I saw online...this whole weekend

As you may have figured out, I'm not a huge fan of the general Disney 'message'.

You know, the girls waiting patiently for their Princes and all that jazz. I think kids can still be told a nice make-believe, fairy tale story without all the bologna that makes Disney movies, well...Disney movies.

Take 'The Little Mermaid' for example. Ariel gives up her voice so she can have some nice long skinny legs instead, so that the handsome dude she's only ever seen from afar will notice her and fall in love with her, completing her life completely. Yeah, that's a great message there for girls.

Anyway, I came across this AMAZING article today...

What Cosmopolitan might look like if it was written by Disney Princesses. Totally the best thing I've seen online all weekend.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Barbie Sucks

Barbie sucks. She just does. I actually don't remember a time when I liked her. Lucky for me, my parents were hung up on spending their hard earned cash on 'educational' toys only, so Barbie and her many outfits, accessories and houses were never on my Christmas or birthday list. I did have a doll at one point called Sadie or something, but I seem to remember she was like a frumpier, geekier version of Barbie. Barbie would never have hung out with my doll...without giving her a makeover first of course.

Anyway, I spotted this article in the Huffington Post, and just had to share it on The Mauve Dinosaur.

I've read Barbie's 'real-life' stats before, but this hideous over-sized form really brings the freakish reality to life. This was a genius thing to do, and I applaud this girl for doing it.

If anorexic Barbie isn't enough to make you think twice, would you buy the Slumber Party Barbie for your daughter? The Get Real Barbie Fact Sheet reminds us that Slumber Party Barbie was introduced back in 1965. That little gem of a toy came with a bathroom scale permanently set at 110 lbs with a book entitled "How to Lose Weight". The directions inside stating simply "Don't eat." Great message for your daughter, if you're looking at promoting an eating disorder. (Insert sarcastic eye roll).

I'll say it again, Barbie sucks. She is a glamorous, glittery model for an unhealthy, unachievable image. Children's toys and playtime blur the lines between fantasy and reality all the time; that's what makes it so fun, but in a world where young girls are already bombarded with negative media images about their shape and size, maybe we really need to take a look at what we're encouraging them to play with and what's shaping their ideas about themselves and the world.

We can't control everything they see and hear, but we can choose not to get sucked in to a Barbie culture, and we can choose to protect our daughters from it.

Next time you're at the toy store and you're buying a toy, for your child, or a friend's child, or a niece or a nephew, just stop for a minute and think. Think about the message the toy you're choosing projects...consider what cultural values it carries and what stereotypes it supports.

Take a walk down a different aisle; step away from the Barbie and for god's sake, buy some Lego instead.