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#WomenNotObjects – Or, Always Support Women, Always

I learned about the #WomenNotObjects campaign today over at The Gotham Gal blog. You should check out her post as she has deftly put together two unrelated videos — one from Women Not Objects and the other a commercial by Lane Bryant that has been rejected by the tv networks (!) — to tell a story about women, objectification and body image.

Here’s the video from Women Not Objects

Definitely check out the Women Not Objects website.

I think it’s important to understand precisely why objectification is unhealthy in culture. To be objectified is to be stripped of humanity. We have plenty of examples throughout history and currently of what happens when a group of people are stripped of their humanity by another group. Objectifying a person makes it ok to do things to them that you wouldn’t do to a fellow human.

Personally, I believe there is going to be some sacrifice to be made if we truly want women to retain their humanity 100% of the time in all situations (I’m not talking about the bedroom and intimacy — I’m never talking about that here). Women will have to relinquish the idea of using their own objectification as a means to power (which is an illusion anyway). They will have to stop objectifying themselves.

But I also believe that women must embrace and accept the way that any individual woman deals with her battle with objectification, as often and in as many ways as possible. Solidarity is everything. When I see women go after, say, a Kardashian, I cringe. After all, what is it saying to us when even a Kardashian feels she isn’t enough? That she must dehumanize herself to survive? We must embrace the Kardashians as sisters as much as we embrace Beyonce or Mae Jemison. We must be in a constant effort to return every woman’s humanity back to her.

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Women are allowed to be flawed and complicated and to still be ambitious and accomplished. They are allowed to be glamorous and sexy and brilliant and badass all at the same time. Or to not be any of those things, to be introverted, nerdy, soft-spoken and have blue hair. The point is, we must stand up for the right of women to do whatever the hell they damned well please. (All right, so long as it isn’t hurting someone else. There.)

If you’re a woman, as far as I’m concerned any time you criticize another woman, you hurt the cause. Choose those times very carefully.

When we see a woman objectifying herself, we must support her in her struggle for survival. We must insist in seeing the human inside the objectified exterior and return her humanity to her when she has lost sight of it herself. Solidarity like that is tremendously powerful, like a tidal wave.

When my six year old daughter is playing with makeup, I tell her “Yeah, that looks awesome! You’re so creative! Makeup is fun, isn’t it? You get to try on new identities.” I try to frame her as in charge of herself at all times. But it’s important that I interpret the women she sees in media as in charge of themselves, as well. She must see humanity and agency for women as the norm, not the exception.

Women are not objects. But the state of objectification of women is not binary. We need to acknowledge that and arm ourselves with the tools for dealing with it. For me, a simple focal point for responding to various situations of female objectification is to always support the woman. Always.

Recommended Reading: Why Do We Teach Our Girls It’s Cute To Be Scared?

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Image by ND Strupler Some rights reserved.

 

In today’s New York Times, San Francisco firefighter and author of the forthcoming book “The Gutsy Girl: Escapades for Your Life of Epic Adventure,” Caroline Paul, has written an opinion piece about normalizing fear in girls.

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2016/02/21/opinion/sunday/why-do-we-teach-girls-that-its-cute-to-be-scared.html?_r=0

While I often think about battling fear of failure in my daughter, I rarely stop to ask if I’m teaching her to be afraid of physical daring. Do I coddle her or helicopter-parent when she’s considering doing something that comes with physical risk, like skate boarding or surfing?

Paul reports that in a recent study focused on, coincidentally, a playground fire pole, parents cautioned their daughters about the dangers of the fire pole significantly more than they did their sons and were much more likely to assist them. But both moms and dads directed their sons to face their fears, with instruction on how to complete the task on their own.

“We think our daughters are more fragile, both physically and emotionally, than our sons.”

Give it a read and share it.

A Friendship Bracelet That Teaches Girls Computer Programming

Jewelbots are friendship bracelets for the iPhone era. Technology-enabled jewelry for tween and teen girls, they’re a means of communicating with friends by lighting up when a BFF is near or buzzing to send messages to a pal across the school.

Co-founded by three women in NYC, the Jewelbots Kickstarter opened up on July 8 and within two hours had made it 1/3 of the way to their goal of raising $30,000. As of July 19, they had more than tripled that figure in funds raised.

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Believe it or not, the number of women pursuing computer science degrees has actually dropped by nearly half since the mid-’80s. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, women made up just 26 per cent of the computing workforce in 2013. The reasons behind the staggering loss of women in technology are complex and myriad, and often the subject of debate. But one thing is not up for debate: it wasn’t always so. Women aren’t missing the genetic code required to be interested and good at software development. The only question that remains is, how do we make the field a welcoming place for women again? (Fun fact: did you know that the primary coder on the original arcade game, Centipede, was a woman?)

Over 1000 backers of the JewelBots Kickstarter seem to agree that programmable friendship bracelets for girls is a great start.

Sara Chipps, one of the founders and a seasoned JavaScript developer, has been on a mission for years now to get more females into coding. In 2010, she co-founded Girl Develop It!, a national non-profit that has taught over 17,000 women how to build software. A couple of years ago she took an interest in programmable hardware. This developed into a passion during her run as CTO of the Flatiron school in NYC and eventually led to what is now Jewelbots.

There’s still time to get in on the fun and back the Jewelbots Kickstarter. They have added new ambitious stretch goals that would be great to see come to fruition.

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Hack It Back – Girls Learning To Represent Themselves In Media

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I examine every Twitter follower I get closely. You can’t be too sure these days whether a follower is a real person or a bot! It’s truly a 21st century problem. The upside is that all this closer examination often leads me to find out cool things about new followers that I probably wouldn’t know if I just automatically followed back.

This weekend a new follower led me to discover a really cool project called Hack It Back. Hack It Back describes itself like this:

…a new non-profit focusing on teaching technology and leadership tools to teenage girls, so they can learn how to make their own media and represent themselves.

They pursue this mission via workshops, curriculum, online community and community partnerships.

The program is based in New York City and does its work mainly there. But I think what they’re doing  presents a wonderful model for anyone who might want to do something similar in her own city.

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Hack It Back asks teenage girls, “Do you see images in the games you play, or the movies you watch, that you wish you could change?” Their message of, “If you can’t see it, make it,” reminds me a lot of the Geena Davis Institute’s slogan, “If she can see it, she can be it.” Hack It Back is aimed at teens, while GDI is aimed at girls 11 years old and younger. So the teenagers are going to make the images that the pre-teens can see and then be!

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If you love what Hack It Back is doing but aren’t in the NYC area, you can always make a donation. And you can download and print their AWESOME stickers that they encourage you to slap on public images of women that you wish were different. OH YEAH, I do love an organization that gets into guerrilla tactics.

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What can’t you see that you wish you could make when it comes to women and girls in the media? Check out the 14 projects that have already been created by Hack It Back participants for inspiration.

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Recommended Digital Comic Book: Nimona

One of the comic books that I often see on lists of great comics for girls is Lumberjanes. I’ll confess I haven’t checked it out yet (not superhero-y enough for me right now). Turns out, though, that one of the original writers on that series, Noelle Stevenson, is the creator of a digital comic series titled, Nimona.

Stevenson published Nimona, herself, online. It was a bit of a hit and will be published by HarperCollins as a young adult graphic novel early this year.

Luckily, you can still check it out, completely free, on her site.

I read through almost the entire series today. I definitely kept clicking to find out what would happen next.

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Nimona is the main character, a female ‘sidekick’ to a super villain. But, that doesn’t really describe it at all. Because Nimona turns all the themes of comics and superheroes and villains topsy turvy. The writing is really fresh and inventive, yet solidly built on the foundations that make a great story.

It probably isn’t fast-paced or action-oriented enough to hold the attention of younger kids. But I’d say nine or ten years old and up will really dig it. The action does improve as the series goes on. There is one use of “sh*t” once in an early episode. But after that, I haven’t seen anything that would be inappropriate for kids.

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It’s great story telling with characters in which one quickly becomes invested. Nimona, her “boss,” their nemesis are all multi-faceted and complex.

There’s a secret backstory that slowly unfolds as you go. I find that part really satisfying and a big reason why I keep wanting more.

Head on over to Gingerhaze.com to read this innovative story. And, if you really like it, spring for a pre-order of the book to show the powers that be we’re willing to pay for great entertainment for girls.

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In Case You Missed It: The Hawkeye Initiative

Denizens of the comics world have known about The Hawkeye Initiative for at least a couple of years. But as a mere consumer, and somewhat of a newcomer at that, I had not until today. I’ve blown at least an hour perusing the site, and I don’t regret a second of it.

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The Hawkeye Initiative is a Tumblr that invites people to submit their own renderings of the superhero Hawkeye. The twist? He’s to be rendered in the same position and state of undress as an image of any well-known female comic character (preferably superhero). The results are as hilarious as you might imagine.

I’m only going to share three images from the site here, because (i) it’s not cool to use more, and (ii) I want you to go to http://thehawkeyeinitiative.com  and see it for yourself. I promise, you’ll get a huge laugh out of it.

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The site is meant to call out the ridiculous “boob and butt” poses (wherein both the character’s boobs and butt are visible from a single angle) and pornographic outfits (or often, more like paint jobs) in which so many of our super sisters find themselves.

The artwork is all submissions from the outside, so the quality varies. But the result even in some of the rougher sketches, is still hilarious. Enjoy!

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The Mythology Of Star Wars And How It Relates To Superheroes For Girls

I’ve been looking for material to help me inform my opinion that modern day comics are the new mythology. There’s less out there than I expected. So it’s either SO obvious that it isn’t considered to be in need of examination, or I’m kind of a loner on this one. How could either of those be true?

In casting around today, I came across this interview of George Lucas conducted by Bill Moyers. If you don’t know, Bill Moyers is well-known for a long PBS tv series he did interviewing the 20th century’s leading expert on mythology, Joseph Campbell (author of “The Power of Myth” among several other books). Joseph Campbell was (famously) a mentor of George Lucas.

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To me, every single thing being said in this interview applies to superheroes in our comics, tv and films. Star Wars, is, after all, a superhero story of sorts. (It gets a little mystical at one point, so if you’re an atheist it might be a bit of a turnoff. But don’t let that drive you away because the discussion around mythology and the modern world is interesting.)

I’ve included both a short 13 minute excerpt here (the first one), as well as the full interview. If you don’t feel like watching nearly an hour, then the 13 minute version contains most of what I want to point out to you.

At one point, in the full-length interview, Lucas says, “Children love power. Because children are the powerless. So their fantasies all center on having power.” And myths and stories are an extremely efficient vehicle through which children learn about power.

You’ll notice in the intro that “fathers and sons” is pointed out as a primary mythological theme. No mention of mothers or daughters. Yet, the power of myth is just as important for girls as it is for boys. The fact that our myths have either left girls out or placed them in very narrow contexts is, to me, important. It needs to change. It’s why I argue so hard for great female superheroes (myths) for our girls.

13 Minute Version

Full, Nearly One-Hour Version

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Recommended: Lilith Dark Comic Book Series

My travels on Twitter led me to discover the comic book series, “Lilith Dark” this week. I hadn’t heard of it before, and I was excited that it’s available on Comixology. No delaying gratification 🙂  Lilith describes herself on her Twitter profile like this:

One Little Girl, One BIG Adventure! All-ages comic by @CharlesDowd. Action! Adventure! Monster battles & beasties! Available now!

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This evening, I sat down with my 5 year old daughter and 7 year old son to give “Lilith Dark” the ultimate test:  Do The Kids Sit Still For It? (Or, DTKSSFI.)

The spoiler:  Yes. Yes they do. And they ask for more.

We read issues 1 – 3 (digital format) together.

When we first started reading, I was skeptical because this appears to be a story about a girl’s imaginings, not her actual superhero adventures. It’s probably just my own hangup, but I’m on the lookout for girl superheroes, specifically. However, the writing is really engaging and the art even more so. The kids were riveted. And so my skepticism soon melted away.

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I don’t want to give too much away, and since we’ve gotten just through the first three issues, there’s lots I don’t know. But, Lilith’s imaginary world – often fueled by her older brother’s fantasy drawings – and her real world collide, providing spell-binding adventures for the younger reader.

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There’s a spooky tree, a mysterious “kitteh,” an annoying but caring big sister, and a colony of something Lilith and her brother call, “Beasties.”

From what I’ve seen so far (as I say, just three issues into it), there is zero sexualization of the female characters. All the characters have a comfy, rumpled, real-life relatable quality. Yet at the same time, the art is other-worldly, bold and enchanting when it needs to be. Lilith, herself, is a self-confident, adventurous, imaginative kid.

Importantly: it’s all action. There are no pages of panels where people just talk to each other. Whenever I encounter that, I know we’re gonna fail the DTKSSFI test.

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“Lilith Dark” is great fun and has the mojo that draws kids in. It’s the kind of multi-faceted, earthy yet magical story that tends to take root and become more than a passing fancy. A “keeper,” one might say.

You can pick up the anthology of all six existing issues for a mere six bucks at Comixology. Enjoy!

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For Your Arsenal: Geena Davis, Scathingly Funny On Gender In Media

You always knew Geena Davis was damned smart, didn’t you? Did you know she founded the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media? Well, she did. The work they do there is amazing and important.

Next time you feel the need to educate someone (someone who just might be mansplaining) on the representation of females in media, just show them this short clip. I promise, Geena Davis says, “Dick” at least twice. It’s informative, eye-opening, wry and funny.

While you’re at it, think about donating to the Institute and getting involved 🙂

And here’s your complimentary Geena Davis “Go Ahead” meme:

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