A collection of great books for parents of tween or teen girls

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I ‘ve literally stumbled upon this great collection of books aimed at parents of tween (7-12 years old) or teen (13-17) girls.

The list is sorted into themes:

  • gender stereotypes
  • body image & self-esteem
  • dad and daughters
  • princesses
  • sexualisation
  • bullying
  • growing up

I have personally read many of them and I would highly recommend them: many of them are serious books based on solid research. My personal favourites are Packaging Girlhood by Lamb & Brown and The Lolita Effect by Durham, they both includes a broad review of scientific sources supporting the reflections and arguments put forward.

You can visit this great list of resource by clicking the link below:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/inesalmeida/top-20-books-parenting-girls-survival-guide-hixz

Good reading! ūüėČ

Our You Tube video reaching 6000+ views in one day!

You Tube video girls asking I am pretty or ugly

I’ve decided to make a video collage from bits of the PoU clips in You Tube (yes..very time consuming I know…) hoping to raise awareness of the issue.

The video reached 2000+ views in the space of just a few hours thanks to retweeting and other sharing on social media platforms. I woke up this morning and saw the viewers count at 6000+ : I am amazed!

Even if the funds in Indiegogo are not growing as fast as I wish (I know that without a specific selling point or product to show/pre-buy crowdfunding is notoriously difficult!) I remain optimistic in the power of collective awakening about these issues and the many emails received from supporters along with the growing number of subscriptions to the channel are something which really spurs me to do more.

I would like to publicily thank all the lovely supporters who have written their emails: I hope you will all appreciate that I won’t have the time to reply to each one of you as I am still managing things mostly on my own (will be soon recruiting a team of volunteers so get in touch if you wish to help!) and need to prioritise the writing up of my thesis at this stage ūüėČ

Please keep sharing and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to keep up to date with our progress and receive new blog posts directly in your email box.

Update Feb 2014: the video was removed by You Tube after I started a petition to remove or disable abusive comments. The visitors count was reaching 134,000 in one week due to Upworthy contribution.  I think this shows how much profits can get in the way of ethical conduct. You can still watch the video in Vimeo:

 

My interview with Louise Orwin (Pretty Ugly project)

PrettyUgly Show - Louise OrwinThis morning I had a lovely Skype chat with Louise Orwin, the brilliant artist of the PrettyUgly project.

F: Louise, can you tell me a bit more about the research you were doing before starting the PrettyUgly project?

L: My initial research started to explore how teenage girls express their femininity through thinness and masochism; it’s something that really intrigues me. I came across a site called Thinspiration in Tumbrl and this whole community built around thinness. There are literally thousands of pictures of skinny celebrities mixed with pictures of ordinary girls showing pride in their thin bodies and even pictures of just body parts reaching extreme thinness. I remembered myself at 7 years old wanting to go on a diet: I didn’t have such a large community to turn to for tips and suggestions. Now there are thousands of this type of websites and sharing platforms on the subject. I think social media today open up a new world where girls can really grow in their obsession and preoccupation with beauty and their body: you can find posts for example where they help each other with tips on how to best insert your fingers in the throat to puke, I mean it’s insane! How wonder how my life would have been affected if at the tender age of 7 I was able to access this type of material and find this kind of support for my thinness desire. So, yes, this is a thing which really interests me: understanding this whole phenomenon, seeing how teenagers behave online and how their way to use social media is contributing to the obsession, but also I want to raise awareness of the problem through the Pretty Ugly performance.

F: The thing that most shocked me regarding the PoU videos in You Tube is the fact that so many of these girls are incredibly young (under 8).

L: Yes, it was shocking for me as well, and it was hard to believe at first. In the Thinspiration’s type of sites the average age is older, let’s say 16 years old, so you are kind of expecting that type of behaviour from teenagers, but in the PoU videos the average age is way younger, so many 6-7-8 years old and even younger sometimes, it’s crazy…

F: It makes you wonder what they will be thinking when they get older, if they are already so obsessed at this tender age, how they will manage when reaching adolescence?

L: The other thing I noticed is that these girls grow in such celebrity-obsessed environment which make them craving for popularity, so maybe they think any type of attention is better that nothing. Social media for them is there to get some kind of attention. It seems evident that they want their video to be seen by as many viewers as possible, even while risking so many hateful and horrible comments, they don’t seem to care as long as they get some kind of attention.

F: Yes, and I agree with what you said about You Tube‚Äôs responsibility in one of your interviews: if the minimum age of You Tube users is something to be taken seriously, then they should not allow videos of such young girls or at least they should protect them in some way by disabling hateful comments from being posted. I wonder how the system works: they are very quick in removing stuff due to copyright infringement but they seem completely indifferent towards other type of complaint. Although, of course, demonising the carrier doesn’t address the cause, we need to take girls and parents’ responsibility into account. This is actually what your project want to tackle, right? Can you tell me about your main learnings from your work with the girls so far?

L: I have still so many questions which are still unanswered but one of the main things I see is that teenagers girls tend to value themselves overwhelmingly on the basis of their appearance: for example in one of the exercises, I ‚Äėve asked a group of young teenagers to describe themselves in words not relating to their appearance and I could see that they were really struggling to find words/adjectives which were not appearance-related.¬† Another main thing I‚Äėve realised is that girls have a different way to relate to themselves, depending if it‚Äôs in their real life or online. For example the same girls who post these videos in You Tube would probably not ask the same question to people if they were face-to-face. The Internet seems to bring this careless attitude; they look for confirmation without understanding the dangers. I have done a set of street interviews where I would stop teenage girls in the street and ask them to define themselves though words, writing a few word on a piece of paper. In the first half of the paper they would have to describe themselves in their real life, while on the other half they would find words who define them as they appear online, for example in their social network, Facebook and the like. Shockingly, there appears to be a real split between what they thought of themselves in real life and how the portray their identity online. The online profile was all about portraying a popular, out-going, good-looking girl, while their own view of themselves offline would be full of insecurities: it was really a revealing insight.

F: Absolutely. The internet and social media seem somehow to have exacerbated the issue. A completely new area for research is opening up regarding the construction of on-line identities and how these identities can be conflicting or influence off-line identities. Can you tell me a bit more about the workshops you are currently doing with teenagers?

L: I’ve organised them through the local borough-Council, they put me in touch with some local secondary schools and I had the chance to talk directly with groups of teenage girls regarding mainly body image and how the constant bombardment of media portrayals of beauty can make one obsessive about her own appearance. I found that talking about the issue was really liberating for these girls and they had the chance to put things into context, for example understanding how the many images they see around are manipulated through Photoshop and how the whole celebrity culture doesn’t have much to do with real life. For now I only visited some schools as one-off workshop, we get together for 3 to 5 hours and we have this collective time to discuss and reflect on these issues, but the idea would be to keep in touch with these girls and try to arrange some follow-up. It’s difficult though because they have busy lives and even if I’ve tried to get them engaged in a forum, there is very little chance they will actually go on it. Of course, this is expected: there are so many distractions at this age, so many other social platforms where they can share their experience…

F: What about the process of funding your project?

L: It was fairly easy: I‚Äėve applied to the Art Council as they run this scheme for art projects which was perfect for the idea of my show and I ‘ve managed to raise ¬£10K through them.

F: What are you planning as a future development after this project?

L: Well, for now I want to continue to bring the show in many other places nationally and hopefully even internationally. The show is quite visual so it would be understood even by foreign people. Hopefully we can raise awareness of these issues through this.

F: Thanks Louise, good work! I am sure your show will continue to raise awareness and hopefully be an inspiration for other type of initiatives as well. ūüėČ

More useful articles about the PrettyUgly project:

http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2013-10/11/pretty-ugly

http://dailym.ai/18hTOYM

You can visit the PrettyUgly project here:

http://louiseorwin.com/site/project/id/15

The pornification of media culture: what young girls think?

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A friend sent me the link for an interesting article in Stuff.co.nz today:

The author¬†asked directly a group of young girls¬†about what they¬†thought of¬†Miley Cyrus’s MTV performance. I think is very interesting to hear their point of view on this and¬†what¬†I can read in this article¬†is not much different from the comments I am reading¬†in my participants’ Facebook wall (all girls 10-13 years old)

http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/comment/sexualisation-is-all-in-a-days-twerk-for-some-pop-stars-20130907-2tbnj.html

Their reaction is very well expressed through an old video of Hanna Montana spotted on my FB wall¬†and apparently¬†gone viral among youngsters these days: don’t forget to read the comments, it’s quite illuminating…

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=535714613149558&set=vb.431851636869190&type=2&theatre

My personal impression from talking to young girls directly but also from researching, reading their comments of different forums, social networks and Facebook pages¬†is that most of them are incredibly grounded¬†and¬†maintain a¬†level-head attitude regarding the constant bombardment of sexualised material: it ‘s becoming so normal that I am wondering if all this emphasis the media and celebrity culture¬†put on sex would one day reach the point of having the opposite effect on our children: maybe they’ll get bored out of their heads to see it – completely desensitised – and nothing will really shock them¬†any more, however sexually explicit it might be!

The article made me realise that often adults have their pre-conceptions regarding how young girls (or children more in general)¬†would be influenced or react to certain material, so in¬†many instances¬†talking to them is not enough…we should really learn to LISTEN more ūüėČ

 

An interesting documentary about children’ sexualisation

sext up kids doc

This is a very recent documentary from US regarding the sexualisation of children through media and marketing.

The documentary does a good job in making us reflect on the different values pushed on our kids by media, advertising and celebrity culture and it does stress how the reality in which children live today has dramatically changed from even a few years ago: they are constantly bombarded by images and messages, but there is rarely any guidance provided to them regarding how these messages and images are produced and which financial/political/ideological interests are behind certain representations.

The film¬†stresses also the necessity of¬†providing media literacy¬†interventions¬†at an earlier age. We can’t wait for kids to be 12-13: at that point they will¬†have already ingrained into them an incredible amount of¬†messages/images¬†on how to be successful, popular, sexy, beautiful, rich and so on!

The other day I was at a friend’s barbecue and I¬†had the chance of watching¬†with interest one of my friends reproaching (in a very stern way) her own daughter for posing and dancing in a sexually suggesting manner. Being the girl only 5 years old, the scene was actually quite disturbing for many adults to watch and embarrassing to say the least. The girl could not understand in the slightest why reproducing something that she actually seen many times over in TV shows or the internet was a¬†reprehensible¬†thing.

I felt both her pain and the one of her mother!

Only a¬†few years ago adults’ sexual¬†fantasies and imaginary were carefully screened from¬†children view, so we¬†did not have to deal with this sort of problems.

Today everything is on show and children watch with interest, indeed! There is a also a growing emphasis on sex and being sexy in the media, while at home or at school children are discouraged or told off if they express any sexuality or imitate any of the images and behaviours they see so often on TV, the WEB, magazines and so on.

Children¬†are thus living constantly connected, in a constant flow of images and messages which suggest them to be and act in a certain way, but they are expected at the same time from their family, parents and educators to refrain from reproducing the hyper-sexualised nature of these images/messages: what we demand from them is to continue¬†“behaving like a child”, despite the constant pressure surrounding them and the natural, playful, psychologically relevant attitude of children to imitate adult behaviour.

How¬†unrealistic our demand is! To expect from a child to know a priori whether a certain behaviour, action, presentation, performance is right or wrong without providing any guidance and advice regarding the nature of this ever-growing and ubiquitous media content…

…this is not just unrealistic, it is preposterous and unfair.

So let’s watch, reflect and move forwards: let’s give the chance to our children to fully comprehend what’s surrounding them.

Along with many other parents and educators, I am still wondering why media literacy is not becoming central as math or English literacy in the¬†primary school’s curriculum.¬†Despite the MediaSmart initiative being launched a few years ago in UK, there is¬†still a lot to be done in terms of efficacy, involvement¬†and reach:¬†year by year, we watch the “media and marketing machine” becoming ever more sophisticated, putting an ever increasing pressure on our kids, but – at part from¬†the¬†occasional protest¬†or bewilderment – we don’t offer solutions, failing to act urgently on the issue.

Our¬†children are left behind, wondering about¬†this constant¬†carousel of messages and images, gathering¬†important clues from them, probably constructing their own identity, aspirations and fears¬†around them…it is such a disfavour we are inflicting on our society not to¬†act with¬†urgency on this issue.

Back to the documentary. I am including both links: the first link¬†is for the short trailer in You Tube¬†while the second is the movie full length in¬†low resolution (watchable as a demo from the distributor’s website).

Happy (well…probably NOT SO HAPPY…) watching! ūüôā

 

Slutty Clothes for Young Girls: Irresponsible Parenting?

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I am receiving positive comments regarding the “Don’t you tell us it’s just a shirt!” slides.

But what many parents are more worried about is the “slutty” trend of clothes targeted¬†to girls at younger and younger age: mini skirts so mini that knickers are permanently on show and mini tops so mini¬†that nothing is left to the imagination. High heels are on the rise too and we talk about 6-8 years old sizes!

I have read also many articles regarding parents complaining to chain stores for selling inappropriate clothes¬†to young girls (a padded bra and tongue for 4 years old was a case in point) and in many instances the complaint seemed to work, at least¬†when there¬†was enough collective upraising regarding a particular “unsuitable” item.

Sadly, as we know, most of these clothes are still around.

The thing is: shops are selling this kind of attire¬†as long¬†as there is demand for them and at this stage we would expect the parents to¬†be the buyer of course, so… this means that there are parents around who are buying into this trend, right?¬†Instead of labelling these parents for being uncaring or irresponsible it would be better to consider that perhaps – due to their culture/background and upbringing – they simply haven’t thought about the issue in our terms.

Some parents may think that bringing up a daughter to be a gold digger or footballer wife is indeed a good thing. Messages and slogans that¬†some parents¬†perceive as disempowering, may well be perceived by another class of¬†parents¬†as empowering: indeed, the power of female sex appeal!¬†It all depends on perspectives and if you live your life surrounded by a raunchy culture it becomes second nature to¬†think and act in those terms.¬†For this reason, I don’t agree with many comments¬†accusing parents who buy this sort of clothes¬†being irresponsible and not caring about their daughters: the¬†way forward should be to avoid accusations and judgements, engaging in dialogue and reflection instead.

In my view, creating resources and thought-provoking material to awaken people’s consciousness of certain issues is one way to move forward. And another way is to be open-minded and ready to start a dialogue: next time you see someone buying into the slutty trend, try to put yourself in their shoes, thinking within their own frame of reference (not an easy thing I admit), instead of dismissing them as they were not capable of thinking. I have tried this myself with¬†a mother¬†and the conversation we started has made me realise that my preconceptions were¬†far from¬†accurate¬†ūüėČ

Another slide for reflection today, please pass it around!

Can we stop this stupid T-shirts’ trend against our girls?

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I am reading so many negative and angered comments from parents and girls alike regarding what I would call “the stupid T-shirt trend”!

The ones below are just an example of parent’s comments left on the Facebook page of one of the shop in question:

customers feedback on t-shirt_0

customers feedback on t-shirt_1

customers feedback on t-shirt_2

So despite many parents’ dismay, it looks like some¬†marketers are working really hard to make sure that girls wear the right labelling attire, brilliant! So that anywhere they go the message will¬†be loud and clear about their dumbness? No thank you!¬†ūüôĀ

I was talking with a girl the other day who¬†seems to proudly display her “drama queen” shirt: I asked her “what is it to be proud about being a drama queen?”, she¬†quickly dismissed me by saying “oh, it’s just a T-shirt!”, but I suspect that there are many young girls out there who would not be offended in the slightest to be referred to a “drama queen” or “gold digger” these days: the pervasive media culture surrounding them makes them think that somehow these are normal girls’ attributes (along with being shopping/fashion/make-up fanatic).

The trouble with this type of marketing is that it is a lazy, unimaginative way to push girls into a corner.

Fortunately, they are plenty of ethical businesses fighting back this trend and new companies producing clever and¬†witty¬†T-shirts are popping up all the time: so let’s make sure to give these girls an alternative and I am¬†confident it will be soon out of trend to wear¬† “I am a princess” shirts!

I made a few visual slides¬†regarding this point, I would love to see them¬†circulating far & wide on the web. I’ll post them today, your job is to pass them around! ūüôā

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