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Childhood Flashback

Author:

By Kara Chyung

Manners-book

Did anyone else grow up thumbing through American Girl’s guides to health, friends, and manners, or poring through their quiz books with your friends? I certainly did. Funnily enough, The Care of Keeping You, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friends, A Girl’s Guide to Money, and a few others still have a place on my bookshelf, although they remained untouched until recently.

The other day, as I was rummaging through my room, I came across A Girl’s Guide to Manners. I smiled as I looked through its pages, remembering fondly how well-informed I felt after reading about which foods should and shouldn’t be eaten with your fingers. I then went and found The Care of Keeping You (this seems to be by far the most popular American Girl book), and as I read, I was amazed at how different it felt to read it when I was no longer a scared eleven-year-old, when my friends and I combined had experienced the eating disorders, the hormonal moodiness, and the acne described in its pages.

At first, you may not think that any sort of girl-empowerment would be found in a product of American Girl, whose dolls are often criticized for their exorbitant prices. But as I looked through my other American Girl guides, I realized that many of the basic messages about self-respect, self-esteem, kindness, and empathy were first imparted to me through these books. It’s nice to know that there is a company out there that seeks to nourish young girls physical, mental, and emotional health and help guide them through difficult situations.

I wish that there was an equivalent series for boys. Perhaps one exists, but if so, it isn’t nearly as prominent. Should boys and girls be educated differently about how to approach difficult topics? How different would A Boy’s Guide to Manners be from the female equivalent? Does the fact that these types of guidance books are more available girls than to boys girls indicate anything?

They may seem like silly books full of trite advice, but it’s important to be aware of the messages that we are imparting to children. These are the ideas that they will carry with them into their adulthood.

Cheering at What Cost?

Author:

Guest Blog by Molly Nash

Football is one of our favorite national past times. Whether it’s Friday night under the lights, Sunday afternoon at a tailgate, or Monday evening curled up next to the fireplace, football defines autumn for many Americans. And you can’t have football without cheerleaders. While little boys grow up dreaming of playing in the NFL, young girls idolize the beautiful smiles, sculpted bodies, and feminine curls that outwardly define the women on the sidelines. Cheering in the NFL is the ultimate pipe dream for millions of girls involved in the sport. Whether you find cheerleading a credible aspiration or not (in reality, it is a pretty demanding combination of gymnastics and dance), you’ll be astonished to know that NFL cheerleaders are routinely paid below minimum wage, if compensated at all. While their male counterparts on the football field are racking up millions, cheerleaders are literally sidelined by the $1,000-2,500 they take home at the end of each season.

This has been the case for decades, but Lacy T, an Oakland Raiders’ cheerleader, is finally bringing change to the crisp autumn air with the lawsuit she filed against the team last January, citing a take home pay of less than minimum wage for the hours she worked. The $1,250 salary initially agreed upon in her contract in no way covered the hours she spent on the field, in practice, or at press events. Furthermore, she was required to maintain nearly perfect hair (dyed and styled with 1.5 inch diameter curls at a team mandated salon!), painted toes and nails, bronzed skin, make up, tights, and a body weight of no more than four pounds over 103 lbs, at all times and on her own dime. The team paid for none of this and her salary, which she received at the end of the season, hardly covered the beauty regime, much less the hours she worked.

cheerleaders

Interestingly enough, this is pretty much the status quo for NFL cheerleaders. Teams throughout the league have maintained these practices by framing cheerleading as a sisterhood going back generations; women on the team, it seems, should be privileged just to be included. Cheerleaders are repeatedly reminded that they are dispensable and that thousands of girls will line up to take their place. In a strikingly cult-like manner, cheerleaders remain silent and loyal to the team. Needless to say, Lacy’s lawsuit rattled the Raiders and the entire industry. ESPN wrote a lengthy article about it, entitled ‘Just Cheer, Baby,’ and news media such as The Guardian and The LA Times have followed the case.

Still, the Raiders are doing everything in their power to combat the lawsuit and have shown no signs of remorse. This begs the question: How does such wage inequality still exists in our so-called  ‘post feminist’ society. Oh, that’s right.  We’re not there yet.  Because if we were, it would not be acceptable for a whole industry of women to be paid below minimum wage. Especially when they bring in millions of dollars for the teams they cheer for.

What do we tell young girls who dream of cheering professionally? Did someone say to little Lacy, “Keep at it, and after years of practices, private coaches, competitions, and workouts, you’ll grow up to earn less than a hundredth of what the professional football players make?”  Probably not. And while this crazy disparity in salary doesn’t exist in most careers, the young Lacys of the world need to know that women still only make 77 cents for each dollar earned by men. If they knew this, maybe more Lacys would file suit and maybe more of her ‘sisters’ would stand with her.

Thanks for Defining What it Means to Be a ‘Dude,’ Veet

Author:

By Christiana Paradis

dudeness

Oh geez I didn’t shave AGAIN last night? Well actually, if we’re being honest, I haven’t shaved all winter! I call it winter insulation. It helped keep me cozy and warm during the Polar Vortex! But apparently I’ve misunderstood what I’ve been doing; I thought I was doing what I wanted to, as a woman, but Veet has shown me the light. My decision to not shave my legs has exposed me to a whole other category, a category they’ve so cleverly named “dude.” As they’ve expressed in their commercial series the very act of not shaving makes you at risk for ‘dudeness;’ it is an act of warfare against your femininity. Though this idea has been resonated over and over again and shaving conglomerates have always tried to make women feel like their bodies were wrong if they didn’t shave, this new ad campaign sinks to an all-time low.

It implies that even the smallest amount of stubble turns you from a beautiful woman into a hairy man and that should offend you! First of all, what’s wrong with a little stubble…or a forest!? Secondly, what makes me less female for having Yosemite National Park on my legs or under my arms for that matter? Thirdly, why did you think this was funny, Veet? Hold on, I’ll answer that for you… you thought this series was funny because any time we make men appear “less manly” and more feminine it’s automatically hilarious! A man getting a pedicure? Hahahahah. Laughing for days on end. A guy in a dress who can’t get a cab because of armpit hair? Fantastic! Pure comic genius! Not only do you insult one day stubble, but you insult anyone who exists outside of specific gender stereotypes. Gender is a spectrum not a dichotomy. Maybe after marketing execs realize this, we can stop telling people their bodies are wrong, because that is a cruel, tidal wave of a lie. 

*Due to a strong public reaction these advertisements have now been dropped – yay!

Why we Must Speak Out

Author:

Guest blog by Kylie VanBuren

sarabrave

I love Sara Bareilles’ Brave. Who doesn’t love a message about overcoming fear in order to express one’s opinions?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave

But why is simply expressing who we are and what we think interpreted as brave? Why is this so controversial that we have to be afraid of opposition? We live in a culture where backlash has become extremely harsh, especially when it means challenging the white middle class straight status quo. More than ever we need inspiration from brilliant thinkers like the late great Audre Lorde, who challenged us to push past the fear and voice our opinions.

Speaking out can be truly and honestly terrifying. It can hurt and put us back in our place. It can leave us vulnerable and accessible to the whims of others, who can use the opportunity of our opposition to tear us apart, either because of our opinion, or because of their own weaknesses. It can make us cry and feel shamed and like a scolded child. It can be hard and it can hurt.

And yet we still must speak. Audre Lorde reminds us that silence separates and creates boundaries that only speaking our truths can bridge. It is our responsibility then, as activists and as compassionate people, to stand up to inequalities. It may be as simple as disagreeing with what someone says or it may be as important as rallying a group together to truly and loudly oppose something. We have the right to challenge a system that puts so much pressure on us and forces us into so many contradictions. If we are pressed to see ourselves as individually responsible for upholding a system that is not necessarily meant for us or good for us, then we should be able to express our opinions about that system. We should be bold and expressive, even when there’s push back.

I have been shamed for speaking. I have been shushed for questioning. I have had people attempt to put me in my place. It is scary. It hurts. I have been embarrassed and afraid. I spoke. Then I got over it. Not all situations where we speak out will lead to the back patting, to “Good job, you exposed an inequality,” but it’s practice for another time, a time when we’ll be heard, and when it will really matter. It toughens our skin and reminds us that there’s always a next time, and when we’re pushed and shushed, we will be able to handle it better, and we will sleep at night.

As Audre Lorde’s daughter reminded her, “You’re never a whole person if you remain silent, because there is always one little piece inside you that wants to be spoken out.” Sometimes I will make the choice not to speak out and to avoid controversy, but not every time. I am not ready to surrender my values to that extent. Instead, I will take Bareilles as my inspiration and Audre Lorde as my muse, and I’ll continue the messy work of activism and speaking out.

My Media Thank You Notes

Author:

Guest Blog by Brianne Wheeler

As children, we’re taught to use our manners, to say “please” and “thank you.” So I thought I’d use my manners and thank one of the biggest influences in my life: the media! I mean, when I look at the flawless woman on the cover of the magazine as I check out at the grocery store, I’m so grateful for all the choices I’m given: the clothes, the makeup, the products to make me look as perfect as this woman looks.

Dear media, I’m so grateful that you help me better understand and see what society wants me to look like, dress, act, and behave like so I can change myself for the better. Lucky me, right? What would I do without you telling me who I am?! Because you do all this work to help me out, I simply must thank you!

thanks

Seventeen: Thank you for making me feel like I must blow out my hair and put a ton of product in it to make it pretty. Thanks for putting Leighton Meester in pink to make her look even girlier. Thanks for giving me tips on how to look cute for spring… perfect hair and makeup tricks!? Wow! That’s so nice of you. Anddddd you’re going to show me how to get flat abs and a great butt by spring break, too? You’re too kind. Once again… thank you!

thanks2

Cosmo: Thanks for showing me how to look sexy while putting on my high heels… I can’t wait to pause and look up as I put them on next time. I’ll be sure to hold my hair back just like your cover girl.  Oh and I’ll make sure my dress and shoes match perfectly. Thanks for giving me crazy sex confessions… I can’t wait to laugh my ass off. And I am soooo thankful for the best birth control tips! Who knew you were so knowledgeable about women’s health!? Again… thanks so much!

thanks3

Glamour: Thanks for putting Rihanna on the cover! She looks so happy which must mean I will be happy if I read this magazine! Also, I am so thrilled you are giving me easy beauty tricks with three-minute miracles… did Rihanna use them while getting ready for the cover shoot? I figured! Oh, and thank you for reassuring me I can relax because guys love me just the way I am, I was really worried they didn’t. Also I am so excited you told me how to eat, drink and not gain weight… let me guess: eat celery and drink water? Thanks for that!

How can one little magazine cover have soooo many important messages about hair, makeup, sex, secrets, body, and clothes!? What would I be without you?

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