Since we’re building a revolution here together, it made sense to me that newcomers need a welcome package. A sort of starter kit for girls who’ve just joined the revolution. After all, sometimes the best way to kickstart a revolution is to go shopping. Everything is linked to where you can buy it (and I do not get any kickback or affiliate income from them).
Here’s what I think goes into the Cool Girl Starter Kit for younger girls:
Today’s title is a great quote from Peggy Orenstein, the author of “Cinderella Ate My Daughter.” It’s from an interview conducted with her and Angelica Perez, founder of the Ella Institute and CEO of The New Latina on the PBS NewsHour.
This 12-minute segment from back in May is a great watch. It’s encouraging to see ‘princess culture’ addressed critically in the media.
Orenstein’s quote comes at the end when the two guests are asked how they suggest parents push back against the princessization of our daughters. “Fight fun with fun!” It made me think of my own experience with my daughter.
For five years I’d managed to keep Barbie (not a princess, but certainly the next best thing) a secret from my daughter. Finally, in the latter half of last year she discovered the existence of Barbie, and boy, was I in trouble! Why had I been keeping this from her? Why didn’t she have any Barbies? Why did I HATE Barbie?
Uh oh. I had managed to create a magical mystique around Barbie. She was now the most desired object in my daughter’s life. So when my mother-in-law sheepishly asked if it was ok to get my daughter a Barbie veterinarian for Christmas, I immediately answered, “yes!” (Much to her surprise.) When my girl unwrapped her Barbie on Christmas, I made sure to rejoice with her and let her know how happy I was that she was finally the owner of the girlhood classic.
Veterinarian Barbie was a hit. For a while. And now she’s collecting dust while my daughter rocks it with her cooler characters, like her I Am Elemental action figures.
Being a princess or socialite is fun. But being a superhero or spy or an astronaut is more fun. I had to let go and let the chips fall where they may, and put my trust in Goldie Blox. So far it’s worked.
I bring home new comics for my two kids at least once a month, if not twice a month. I always buy them the same number of comics each (about three or four). My kids are five and seven years old – not quite at the reading level required for even a younger title like “Gotham Academy.” So I always read their comics to them.
When we first started this practice, they inevitably had a hard time staying focused through to the end. I always had to point to which panel I was reading and explain what was happening in the picture. Both of them looking over my shoulder to get a good look at the gorgeous but relatively small-format artwork got tiring for all of us.
Then it dawned on me: I should put their comics on our big television and read to them that way. This way, the images would be projected nice and big for all to see, if would be easier for me to keep them focused on which panel I was reading, and everyone could sit comfortably in the couch.
How did I get their comic books on the TV, you may wonder? Easier than you might think.
I started buying digital copies, in addition to print ones, at Comixology. For what a comic book costs, it’s really not a hardship to buy both print and digital copies (the kids love having their print copies to take with them in the car). But if you’re on a wicked-tight budget (I’ve been there!), just buy the digital copy.
Comixology presents the digital comics that you buy in a reader (special software for displaying the specially-formatted comic books). You can begin viewing them the minute you pay for them. Getting them onto the big TV screen can be accomplished a couple of ways.
If you have an HDMI or other cable that you already use to connect your computer or tablet to the TV, you’re all set. If you don’t, there’s another great option that’s available – the one I prefer – for a fairly small investment. Buy a Chromecast stick. It runs around $35.
The Chromecast stick looks a lot like a flash drive. It plugs into the HDMI port of your TV. It takes about five minutes to configure after that. Once it’s working and sync’d to your computer, you can wirelessly display what’s on your computer on any TV that has the Chromecast stick plugged in. Plus, you can also use it to stream video content from the internet on your TV. So, for example, you have an Amazon Prime account, it’s dead-easy now to start watching those on TV if you want.
The Comixology reader has a fabulous feature called “Guided View.” When you use Guided View, it zooms in and focuses on the right panel in the story as you go along so that you don’t have to point and show the kids where they’re supposed to be looking! How awesome is that?
My kids really look forward to comics-reading time, and now they’re able to stay focused through to the end. Not to mention, it’s a pretty great way to enjoy comics. The art looks great when I use the Chromecast, excellent resolution. It’s a whole new way to appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into comics (most especially, “Gotham Academy”).
I’m sure I’ll miss reading the comics to my kids like this when they get old enough to read them on their own. But maybe we’ll continue to enjoy them together this way. Who knows?
There were some murmurings on Twitter today about the future of the amazing new DC Comics title, “Gotham Academy.”
As I mentioned in “Batgirl Is A Programmer,” I consider “Gotham Academy” to be part of a small revolution taking place in the comics market. I don’t know how much of a limb DC went out on in order to produce and release this book, but it’s mesmerizing, charming, and girl-power-positive.
This book is the full package, excellence in: premise/setting, writing, and art. Oh, the art. You’re gonna wanna frame every page, I kid you not.
Here’s the description from DC’s website, if you aren’t familiar with “Gotham Academy”:
Gotham City’s most prestigious prep school is a very weird place. It’s got a spooky campus, oddball teachers, and rich benefactors always dropping by…like that weirdo Bruce Wayne. But nothing is as strange is the students!
Like, what’s up with Olive Silverlock? Is she crazy or what? Where did she go last summer? And what’s the deal with her creepy mom? And how come that Freshman MAPS is always following her around? And is she still going out with Kyle? P.S. Did you hear the rumor about the ghost in the North Hall?!
GOTHAM ACADEMY is a new, monthly teen drama set in the shadow of Batman and the craziness of Gotham City, with new characters and old plus a secret tie to Gotham’s past…
I’ve been buying “Gotham Academy” for my five year old daughter since the first issue was released. Since my daughter doesn’t read to that level yet, I read it to her and sometimes change slightly dicey dialogue such as “crap” to “crud.”
I hate comparing it to “Harry Potter,” since I’ve only seen one “Harry Potter” movie (I imagine more are in my future as my kids get old enough to watch). But, it is slightly Potteresque. Except, the focus is on female characters and Batman is always looming as potential surprise appearance. Pretty hard to beat that!
You can pick up digital copies right now at Comixology. I like getting both digital and print versions of our comics (they’re SO inexpensive). I’ll explain why in tomorrow’s post (shameless teaser!).
It’s unclear to me if the title is in jeopardy or not. It doesn’t seem to be in the first 600 “Top Sellers” titles on DC Comics’ website. But I have no idea if that represents print and digital or just one or the other. Perhaps this Tweet by a “Gotham Academy” writer is telling
There ended up being a lot of Twitter chatter about “Gotham Academy” today. Hopefully a grass roots social media campaign is shaping up. But if you’re interested in saving the title, the thing to do is put your money where you mouth is and buy a copy (or three or five). Run, don’t walk!
Was she choking up there at the end? Wow, I love that passion!
I’m so so so excited that she referenced superheroes in her talk, because I think they’re immensely important. The abundance of male superheroes available to boys and the lack of female superheroes available to girls, I believe, has had a tangible impact on the mindset of girls and women. I’m a bit obsessed about this and have been blogging about it all week as part of the Your Turn Challenge 🙂 http://bit.ly/1wuxBir
It’s thrilling to hear her talk about revolution and superheroes all in one talk about women entrepreneurs. She’s absolutely right that we’re at a tipping point. This is when resistance gets its most fierce. We have work to do, battles to fight and minds to change. Time to roar!
After a couple of interesting and constructive replies, a defender of the status quo showed up to mansplain to me how I was wrong. His parting shot is captured in the screenshot above (along with a little cheerleading from a like-minded guy). The shirt in the image refers, of course, to #shirtstorm.
That picture came from him after a day-long exchange between us, where I found myself defending my call for more girl-power-positive superheroes for girls.
First came the usual, “there are plenty of female superheroes!”
Can you guess what came next? “How dare you pigeon hole me! Besides, girls don’t want superheroes.”
Him: I love how you are so quick to generalize. I represent all men now?
If you want it, create it.
But, chances are, if there were a market for your kind of super hero, it would already exist. Super heroes are a big business. Marvel and other studios aren’t going to leave any money on the table.
Me: I didn’t say you represent all men. But you did happen to repeat the same experience I’ve had 99.99% of the times that I’ve had a discussion about this with a man. Just an observation.
Who says I’m not creating it? 😉
Honestly, I don’t know how Marvel would know if there was a female market for comics, considering they’ve made little to no effort to actually appeal to one. Male-dominated companies leave money on the table all the time due to cultural blindness.
DC Comics has actually discovered that when the story and the art are done right, female-targeted comics sell. The new “Batgirl” is doing very well.
At that point it got a bit tail-chasing on his part. I wasn’t even quite sure what we were debating or what he was defending. I asked him point-blank, but he never answered.
Then Other Guy chimed in with this, which to be honest, I’m not quite sure if it was just for the purpose of baiting me:
I think every commercial and every sitcom since 1998 is about the female superhero mom who holds the house and office together despite being surrounded by pudgy, incompetent men. And she does it with a knowing smirk!
God the pandering gets so old.
BTW Barbie is a superhero in my house.
I thanked both of them, who I know from years of hanging out in the comments of that blog, for being dependable and giving me just what I needed for today’s post. That prompted this fairly angry and insulting reply from my primary debate opponent:
What [name removed] wrote about how men and women are portrayed in sitcoms and commercials is true in almost all cases. But you are impervious to facts. He could post dozens of examples supporting his point and you’d dismiss them with some bit of sophistry.
That could be one of your super hero’s powers: able to ignore copius facts in a single bound.
Mind you, neither one of these men are living in holes where they never see the light of day or interact with society. Both are quite accomplished in their fields. These are ‘thinking’ men.
So what will I take away from the experience? I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK. Thanks, guys, for filling me with purpose and inspiration.
I don’t think I can say it any better than Joan Jett did
I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation You’re living in the past, it’s a new generation A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s what I’m gonna do
No, really. Batgirl IS a programmer. There’s a tiny revolution happening in comics and it’s coming from the current “Batgirl” comic story. I’ve scanned the comic book racks for anything else with the girl-positive, savvy, modern swagger of “Batgirl,” and the only thing that comes close is another “Batman” offspring, the brand new “Gotham Academy.” And sure enough, the two titles share a writer, Brendan Fletcher. Both creative teams include women.
For anyone who remembers Batgirl over the past few decades, you probably won’t recognize her now. DC Comics relaunched its entire line in 2011 under the “New 52” banner, and Batgirl was one of the biggest winners. But it wasn’t until the current creative team became involved that the “Batgirl” series really came into the 21st century, as far as being girl-friendly is concerned. They’re finally writing and drawing “Batgirl” for a GIRL audience.
Since relaunching in 2011, Batgirl has gone from this…
It’s when we see the line up of Stewart, Fletcher, Tarr and Wicks, that “Batgirl” suddenly emerges as a comic that could very well be defining for a new generation of girls. The skin tight (and sometimes unbearably shiny-slick) bodysuit has transformed into a wicked-cool motorcycle jacket and leggings. The go-go boots? Now they’re Doc Marten’s – aw yisssss!
Batgirl, whose name is actually Barbara Gordon (“Batman” fans will recognize the last name), is a computer programming genius by day. And so are her friends and a roommate. They work on important things and solve hard problems. By night they party and have fun, without requiring the presence of men.
The current “Batgirl” series is so modern, so progressive and so forward-thinking, you’ll find it actually presents numerous “teachable moments” per issue. Gender, race, religion, culture, LBGT: “Batgirl” is taking on real life while still making Batgirl, herself, thrilling and aspirational.
According to DC Comics Senior VP, Bob Wayne, “Batgirl” orders are up. Way up. Buy these comics. Vote with your wallet. Show DC Comics and the industry that girls are an incredible market who will reward you with sales if you reflect girl-power-positive stories and images back to them.
This list of things we’re gonna do (except, probably, the fifth one) is implied to boys every day. It’s sewn into the media that they consume, the books they read, the messages that are sent and the culture in which they live. For boys, it quickly becomes second nature.
If you have a young girl in your life, and you’re passionate about giving her every possible opportunity to live her life to the fullest, consider memorizing this list. Then weave some part of it into your every interaction with her. Most powerfully, model it. Live it.
It could be more challenging than you might think. The training and conditioning the other way goes very deep. But before long, it will be second nature. You’ll find yourself perplexed by people still operating under the ‘old’ list for girls (you know the one, ‘be nice,’ ‘be agreeable,’ ‘make other people feel good,’ etc.).
Imagine a generation of girls who will grow up internalizing this list. Yeah, that’s the sixth item on the list.
My daughter charges into the kitchen from the front room, with a fierce look on her face. She stops suddenly and strikes a powerful, dynamic, dramatic pose. She launches a session of “guess who:”
“Guess who I am!”
“Guess who YOU are!”
Just who are Sparkles and Daisy Thrash? They’re our very own superheroes that we created together.
A few months ago, I began noodling on and sketching out an idea I had for the ultimate female superhero. This wasn’t something that I’d done around my kids before. So the activity, itself, was novel and immediately drew their attention. As I quickly drew rough pictures on my big drawing pad, it was instantly clear to my daughter, from my character’s costume and posture, that this was some kind of superhero.
“Who IS that?!”
“It’s Daisy Thrash,” I answered.
“Does she have a sidekick?” (How quickly the five year old mind operates!)
“Why yes, she does,” I was winging it now. “But I haven’t given her a name yet. What should her name be?”
Zero hesitation: “Sparkles!”
“I love it. Sparkles, it is.”
From there we talked about what kind of powers Daisy and Sparkles should have, what their relationship is like, and what kinds of villains they face. I let her color a couple of my drawings with crayons. Since then we’ve both gotten countless hours of fun and creativity from our characters, as well as a fountain of inspiration.
My son got in on the act and created his own superhero, Shellshock Boy, as well.
When I was a little girl, my mother used to let me tell her stories that I invented about our family cat. She would then illustrate them for me and write them up and turn them into little handmade books. I loved our cat (and all cats), and I cherished this activity together. It’s fun to take it another step and actually create the characters together.
Kids are natural story tellers. My daughter makes up wonderful stories full of conflict and drama and suspense. She’s the ideal collaborator. She never has “writer’s block.”
My daughter also takes enormous pride in Daisy Thrash and Sparkles. It’s often the first thing she tells someone when meeting them for the first time. Sometimes she’ll say that she and I have secret identities, and then immediately give them away, “Daisy Thrash and Sparkles!!!”
If you think it’s fun seeing a kid light up in enthusiasm over a superhero created by a stranger, wait until you see them bursting with excitement over their very own superhero. I happened to stumble upon it by accident. And it’s ended up being a pretty big deal in my daughter’s life, not in small part because she doesn’t have a lot of female superheroes out there in the ‘real’ world to enjoy.
Looking for a fun project for a rainy day? DIY your own superhero. And tell me about it here!
Go ahead, I’ll wait. Open up a new browser tab and search on the phrase “action figures for girls.”
Were you shocked? Yeah, my neither. While I’m excited by the two brands that currently dominate the page one results, I Am Elemental and Goldie Blox (yay!), the rest of the results devolve pretty quickly into dolls, baby dolls, and well, hot babe dolls (and an egg).
Sadly, it’s not shocking or surprising at all.
There ain’t much for the girl who wants to play with power. A California dad recently posted a video on YouTube dramatizing his superhero-crazy daughters’ fruitless search for action figures, and it quickly received over a 100,000 views.
But the good news is that there’s change in the wind! The first page of web results is dominated by two amazing, awesome girl-power-positive brands. My daughter owns toys from both. They are among her favorites, and my son often caves into the urge to play with them, too.
I Am Elemental has released a line of actual honest-to-goodness action figures that just happen to be females. Just LOOK at them! They’re exactly what I’d make if I was making action figures for girls. They’re cool and powerful. They inspire fantasy and imagination. They mean business.
One thing I love so much about these figures is that I believe they are relatable for just about anyone. They are not culturally or racially specific. (Although if anyone would like to correct me on that one, I am all ears. It’s important to me.)
Goldie Blox produces a line of toys intended to get girls making things, mostly from an engineering standpoint. We got the Goldie Blox Zipline Action Figure for my daughter for Christmas. It and I Am Elemental got the most play time. Now my daughter has progressed to building her own zip lines with string or yarn, fashioning carriers for her stuffed animals and sending them zipping around the living room. Pretty cool for five years old.
Neither of these are, of course, your household name superheroes like Wonder Woman or Batgirl. Those are hard to find, when you do find them they’re often expensive and/or not something you’d want to give a girl. But there is progress being made on that front. DC Comics, in particular, is doing some exciting updating to all their characters, and the females have been among the biggest winners in the deal. But that’s a topic for another post…
This post is not about convincing girls to become engineers. It’s about the fictional superheroes who typically come to mind when the topic is raised.
Several months ago I came across this video shared by The Gotham Gal on her blog. It was produced by USC’s “Introduce A Girl To Engineering Day” program, and you should absolutely positively show it to your daughter (grand daughter, niece, little sister, etc.) and her teachers.
In the video, several young girls (I can’t quite place their age – maybe 11 or 12? maybe younger?) answer questions about being a superhero. And the answers are just, wow. Wonderful. Really, I mean I wanted to do nothing but hang out with these girls from now on until the end of time after watching this. Watch it and tell me if I’m over-doing my enthusiasm.
While the video’s purpose is to encourage girls to consider engineering as a path, I was equally fixated on the superhero aspect (being that I’m obsessed with superheroes). The girls’ answers are enlightening and inspiring. One girl in the video says something along the lines of, “I don’t really think of superheroes as their powers, but more of what’s in their mind.” I don’t know many adults who could give such a thoughtful, soulful answer.
This is why superheroes are so important and why giving girls their own superheroes is going to save the world. Kids actually understand that the superheroes’ stories are metaphors for what they can hold in their minds. They totally get that it’s about a way to live one’s life. But one has to be able to step into the superhero’s boots, in one’s mind, in order to try on that life, that way of thinking. A girl needs to be able to relate to and see herself as a superhero.
I can’t help but wonder about the dissonance the girls in the video must be experiencing while discussing superheroes. What image instantly pops into a girl’s head when she’s asked about a superheroes. Which one represents, for her, all superheroes? I want that superhero to be a female. I think every girl deserves not one or two or three, but a legion of incredible female superheroes to choose from.
Jerry Seinfeld says, about superheroes, “When men are growing up and reading about Batman, Spiderman, and Superman, these are not fantasies. These are options.” It’s said that when he steps on stage to perform, Seinfeld still likes to imagine that he is endowed with extraordinary powers.
Girls should have so many amazing superheroes to choose from that they are options, not fantasies.