Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick Hit: Girl Scouts release study on Girls and Politics

One of my favorite things about the Girl Scouts is the Girl Scout Research Institute (cuz I am geeked out like that) The institute goes to directly to girls and asks them their thoughts on current topics-- from what girls think about healthy living ("We want to be healthy-normal") to this report on what girls think about politics.

So timely!

Check it out here -- and watch for my comments in an upcoming post.

Or you could kick off a conversation by hitting the comments section, like my friend Ben did.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

More Girl Magazines to Love

Go Canada Girls! Shameless is a three times a year magazine for girls who need an alternative to the traditional magazine fare doled out to teen girls. Best thing about it-- other than its independent nature-- is its teen editorial collective.

According to the Shameless site:
Shameless is guided by a teen editorial collective who give us feedback on the magazine, share ideas, help plan events, inspire us and give us a window into the lives of real teenagers. They make sure the magazine is relevant, interesting and engaging.

Current members of our collective include: Nadia Alam, Sarah Chepesiuk, Heidi Cho, Elliot Carol Chow, Genevieve Flavelle, Lex Gill, Laura Hope, Maddie Lee, Kristin Li, Nevena Martinovic, Olivia Mussells, Linda Paolucci, Julie Sadler, Samantha Williams.

In past issues they have tackled housing, rape, equity in education, and whether the Dove Campaign for Beauty does more than sell soap. The current issue looks at size and fashion . While many girls' magazines might not think these issues matter to girls, clearly they do.

Keep Shameless up and running and keep girls' voices at the helm:

Subscribe and encourage girls you know "who get it" to submit writing

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Very Young Girls at the IFC

I've been working at GEMS for almost a year and a half and my time there has been life changing. We serve girls who have been victims of commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking. Many people aren't aware that US born girls are involved in the commercial sex industry and many get involved as early as 13. Prior to working at GEMS, I certainly didn't know. The girls are bought and sold by adult men and subjected to violence beyong my worst imagination. Say what you want about teen girls and the right to express their sexuality-- being bought and sold on the streets, in brothels, or on Craigs List is just wrong and should be criminal for the adult men who do the buying and the selling. Yet, most often its the girls who are crimininalized. I could go on, obviously, but I'd much rather you come learn about it first hand from the girls themselves.

If you are in the New York City area and you want to learn more, come check out the documentary Very Young Girls at the IFC on Tuesday April 22. The doc follows girls who have been involved in the commercial sex industry, under the control of pimps, as the struggle to get out and stay out. This screening will be followed by a Q and A with Rachel Lloyd and Carolina Cruz as well as the filmmakers.

Check out what Girlbomb author Janice Erlbaum wrote after seeing the film at our fundraiser.

Learn more through and interview with one of the filmmakers Priya Swaminathan .

Want a sense of the what the demand and the marketing of young girls is like in the US? Try googling the words "very young girls" and tell me how many porn hits you get.

From Workshop to Action

Every once in a while an email comes my way that makes me happy. This week the email was from an attendee at the "Battling Backlash" panel at WAM that I participated in with Miriam Perez , Carmen Van Kerckhove and moderated by Jessica Valenti .

She noticed that so many of the comments and questions during the session were from young feminists who felt isolated and lacked a community of like-minded people. In response, she is creating a dinner party and invited her feminist friends to attend. And even better, she is asking everone to bring a guest who they consider a mentee or mentor to make the event intergenerational and to widen the circle of feminists. I'm impressed with her intentionality around making the event inclusive and inviting to people.

I think she would have done this anyway, but I am thrilled that she named the workshop as part of the impetus to start bringing together women in her life.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I Big Pink Puffy Heart Love Orb 28

With the tagline "Share Your Voice, Change the World, Be the Girl Revolution" Why wouldn't I love them?

Orb28 is New Moon Girl Media's \online experience for girls ages 13 - 15+. And of course you know New Moon Media-- the magazine that brings girls voices to the world. Swoon! In addition to being a great ads-free magazine for girls (I don't know how they do it--even mags with ads have a hard time staying in the business) they were the very first publishers of now well known author Courtney Martin

Here's an example of their great work. Go check them out and share with the young teens you know!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Womens E News recognizes Teen Girl Accomplishments

Womens E News 21 Leaders for the 21st Century will recognize 15 year old Iman Belali for her work starting the American Moroccan International Exchange for young women, when she was only 12!

One reason I love this event is that Womens E News has made a commitment to recognizing the work of women of all ages, including teen girls and young women in their 20's-- often left out of the running for more traditional awards.

Read more about Iman and Womens E News

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Writing Girls Make the News

The girls and mentors of Girls Write Now were featured in yesterday's New York Times . The article glimpses into a few of the relationships that develop between mentors and mentees and their shared passion for writing.

I'm excited that the article highlights one of the reasons for an all girls program:
Samantha White, 17, from Brownsville, Brooklyn, said the all-women environment makes a big difference in what gets talked — and written — about. “We had a workshop where we wrote about breasts and the experience of getting our first bra,” she said. “That would have never happened if there were boys in the room.”

Watch one of the mentor-mentee pairs share their bra sharing stories at the winter reading:

Want to see more? Come out to the 10th annual spring reading at the Barnes & Noble in Tribeca on Sunday, June 8, from 4-6PM. I'll be there! (Full disclosure-- I'm the Board Chair!) Click here for the details.

And while we're on Writing Girls-- check out the guest post on Deborah Siegel's Girl with Pen by 14 year old Samantha French.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Teach Girls to ASK!

This book Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide changed my life. Reading example after example of research demostrating that many women don't ask for what they want, and therefore don't get what they want, helped me get over the trepidation I was feeling about negotiating for a salary for a position that I was being offered. And, I successfully negotiated for a higher salary, despite my nervous stomache, over my cell phone in the parking lot of a Dunkin Donuts, no less. Further, the woman who hired me still calls me a savvy negotiator.

I've told many women in my life to buy the book. Author and researcher Linda Babcock details how women are socialized not to ask and then shows us the startling results-- the heaps of money we'll never earn, because we did not ask. Asking is one behavior we can change-- and should-- to help us achieve financial independence and parity in the workplace. Fantastic-- as a result the individual women who start to ask (and the men and women who respond in the affirmative) will bask in the glory, all the way to the bank. But our individual successes will not change the world in which nice girls (and women!) are expected to take what's offered and not ask for what they want and deserve and penalize the girls and women who do.

Luckily--Linda Babcock is tackling some of this too. The New York Times covered her work with Progress a Program for Research and Outreach on Gender Equity in Society at Carnegie Mellon University. Progress has created a pilot badge for Girls Scouts ages 8 - 11 will learn the steps to negotiation.

From a girls' programming perspective-- this is exciting stuff that can lead to real world change for the girls involved. If girls hear a competing message to the nice girl stuff, they have a chance at developing the skills that will serve them well as they grow into teens and adults. So often girls' programming can stuff girls into the nice box, that it's good to see a partnership that actively fights against it. I hope it goes national-- with girls and women everywhere asking for better starting salaries, raised and becoming formidable negotiators in all avenues of their lives.

Progress is also taking a stab at teaching negotiation through the video game Reign of Aquaria which is a valiant attempt at reaching more girls with the negotiation message but it's a little too puppies and clouds for me. I hope some fantastic folks interested in making change through video games can lend them a hand and some dinero for an upgraded version so they can make a huge impact.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Changing the Culture: Ending Violence Against Girls and Women (of Color)

Last week, Black and Male in America hosted a screening and discussion of Aishah Shahidah Simmons NO! A documentary about rape, sexual assault, and violence against women and girls.

Melissa Harris-Lacewell writes in The Root that the discussion was "astonishing." According to Harris-Lacewell-- a diverse audience across all kinds of spectrums of the human experience held an open and public discussion about rape and race. Ms Harris-Lacewell writes:

Black women raped by black male perpetrators often remain silent because they are alone. They don't want to confirm white racial stereotypes; their own families and communities tell them to shut up; they have little reason to think that authorities will take their cases seriously; they fear the devastating ramifications of a manhunt in black communities if they are believed; and in the history of lynching white women have been adversaries, not allies, on the question of rape.

Recovering from rape is burden enough without having to shoulder this vicious legacy.

I am sad and ashamed that the only solution for so many women and girls of color is to silence themselves when they need and deserve a path to recovery and healing. Thw legacy Harris-Lacewell describes won't stop without the open and honest discussions that put race and gender at the center for everyone to see and reckon with. We can't prevent new girls and boys of color inheriting the legacy without talking about it.

White women and men often overlook both the legacy and the burden of carrying it. However socially conscious some white people may be (myself included) it can be easy to gloss over the differences among us when violence is at hand. It's easy for white women to think that the trauma associated with violence bonds the victims together. Perhaps there's some truth to that. But if I, as a white woman feel I can call the cops and seek justice, and a woman of color does not because she is living the legacy, the bond I think I feel with her is one she cannot return to me.

Take Jessica Hoffman's heavy duty piece On Prisons, Borders, Safety, and Privilege: An Open Letter to White Feminists . Ms Hoffman hits on why some white people (and especially white feminists) can ignore the legacy of the race/gender combo on issues like rape and violence. I won't summarize here-- go read it.


These are the real life issues that affect the girls we work with in girls' programs. As issues with violence and violation come up in girls' lives, our programs should be able to respond to them, provide a space for them, an honest dialogue, and the opportunity to organize. My experience as an adult woman is going to profoundly affect the way I listen and the suggestions I make and are going to influence the actions the girls' take.

I don't know that I have seen this discussed in a training or discussion among professionals or volunteers working with girls.

Have you?

Many thanks to Racialicious where I originally read The Root piece.

Monday, April 07, 2008

I love Star Wars as much as the next gal

As a Star Wars fan, this ad is pretty funny.

Honestly, how many times did Natalie Portman whine "Oh Ani' in the last one? (Please don't hate me Natalie-- your work on microcredit is amazing)

But is it necessary to insinuate that calling a guy a girl's name often enough will result in him wanting to destroy the goodness in the universe?


Hey! I'm trying out some new background for the blog and generally just classin up the joint a bit.

One thing I am looking for is a new header that represents the tone and topic of Whats Good for Girls but I haven't found it yet, and I'd like to move beyond what's in blogger's template. I've added the pic above temporarily, but the notion of budding flowers seems a little more Tampax commercial than WGFG.

I love Deborah Siegel's header and I am all about Feminist Gamers . Both headers represent what they discuss on their blog.

If you have any ideas, I am all eyes, I guess.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Scary Conversation at Feministing

Courtney Martin posted about a man masturbating in front of her while she was meeting with her mentee. Scary and unpleasant, for sure. Courtney knew how to take action in the moment.

Scarier-- read the comments section to the post. How many women has this happened to-- and how many while they were girls/teenagers?

When it happened to me, I was 16 or so and was enough of a feminist already to know it was wrong and to do something about it, even when those around me didn't believe me. (My story is under my name in the comments, for those interested.) But as a teenager I didn't have the context or perspective to understand how widespread this kind of experience was. I am sure I thought-- something is wrong with that guy. What I know now is that while harassment usually takes place on an individual to individual basis, but that if you were to add up all of the incidents of harassment-- it's like a pandemic. A single response to a single act of harassment doesn't change much.

What can we do?

One of the best ways to fight back against harassment is to talk about it and create a culture of acceptance for the harassed. Kudos to Courtney for blogging about her experience and for creating a forum for women and girls to share their stories. If you are a person working or volunteering with girls-- figure out how you might be able to open the door to talk about these experiences.

Document it. Turn the camera on the harasser. Check out Holla Back NYC. There's also the girl produced video on street harassment by girls from Girls for Gender Equity that I have blogged about before as well as a Girls Inc NYC video. How can you argue with that kind of evidence?

Start the dialogue with men and boys-- this behavior is not okay. Find a male ally to help in the fight. They are out there.

Take it to the politicans. More kudos go to the Manhattan Borough President for studying it

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Where are the Gaming Girls?

Roy MacKenzie and Naomi Clark rocked my world at the WAM Conference with the session "Beyond Croft and Cooking Mama: Expanding the Discussion of Sexism in Gaming Culture." I could have stayed there all day!

A gamer myself (not super hard core, but I've done my share of shredding on Guitar Hero II on our Playstation 2, and I couldn't total the hours I've played Civilization or The Sims on computers that have come and gone) and the wife of a gamer, I've certainly been aware of the sexism inherent in the ways women are portrayed in games, and the lack of people of color except for the most stereptypical depictions. Trust me, when my husband started playing Tomb Raider I had no shortage of commentary about Lara Croft.

But Roy and Naomi's session covered several topics about how few women there are in the industry, and if they are attractive and smart, the backlash is overwhelming for them. They covered the utter disdain for girls and women that exists in many online gaming environments. And then of course, there is the way games are marketed to girls, pink and sparkly Barbie games rule the corner game store shelves.

Why can't a girl enjoy a good adventure, strategy, or role playing game without it being dumb-downed and sparkled up, or feeling like she has to be one of the guys to be safe? As Roy and Naomi stated in the panel-- just at the age when girls should be getting interested in games, the hostile gaming environment turns them off.

Are you or do you know a girl gamer? Check out: Cerise Magazine

and read this article or anything else by Latoya Peterson

As soon as I posted this-- I read my daily email from and read the news that 69% of girls play and a story on what they play.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Army holds Annual Bring Your Daughter to War Day

wow.....with the way the war is going, you could see someone coming up with this as an actual recruitment strategy. (oops, my politics are showing!) Also, what a great send up of Take Our Daughters to Work Day!

Thank you, Onion News Network! and Happy April's Fools Day...

(Thanks Maya for sending me the link..)