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Month: October 2007

Helping Girls Develop a Positive Self Image – Tip Sheet for Parents

Karen Robinson from Women’s Forum Australia recently forwarded me the link below. It is a very useful resource from the Australian Psychological Society; a Tip Sheet for Parents on how they can best support their daughters in developing a positive self image. Do check it out…

http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/girls_positive_image/

I also wanted to take the opportunity to say a big hello to all the amazing parents I met recently at St Brigid’s in Perth.

I was invited by the school’s magnificent Principal Ms Amelia Toffoli to go over to WA and present earlier this week with Sonia Lyne, the Program Director for Victoria. We worked with 450 girls and a number of their parents. I should be exhausted but am actually exhilarated! Our young girls are beautiful, funny, affectionate, and deep thinkers – working with them is never a drain. 🙂

The feedback we received was awe inspiring but I did want to share a few special comments as I think they serve as “Tip Sheets” of their own – they clearly articulate what engages girls to the learning process and highlights what they are so desperately seeking from older women…

I really got a lot out of today as I liked the truth and confidence you guys shared with us in all your stories. At the moment I have been struggling with myself but you really helped me. I love you guys. Tori

 My favourite part of today was just talking. Being told things no one ever tells me. I learnt to love myself, the importance of words and that I’m perfect the way I am. You guys are really sweet. Thanks so much. Shannon

The way you are so enthusiastic Danni makes everyone else want to be too. Anon.

My favourite part was ‘Stop I Don’t Like It’. It was very helpful in a practical way. I love how you girls really connect with us. You guys are extraordinary people. Tabitha

I just loved that you greeted when I first walked in as it brightened up my day and made me feel happy. I am beautiful no matter what. I love you. Bridgit

This workshop was so helpful. Especially the speakers. They had so much anticipation and helpfulness! They believe in us so much and I believe they can change the WORLD and I hope that I can look up to you guys and give that advice to my children and everyone I meet. It was YUMMY! Rebecca

When you girls have the confidence to love yourselves, then we realise it is ok to do the same. You are “da bomb diggity!” Jordan

Would I recommend this? HELL YEAH! I loved sharing the notes at the end from our friends as it made me feel good inside. I had a wonderful day and it is good to let things out that are positive. I hope you loved us because we loved you. Kamisa

It was hilarious, I really enjoyed listening and learning. I respect my body and love me now.  Anon.

I thought today would be a bit boring and not very useful. My favourite part was listening to Danni tell stories, she is a darl and we all got the warm fuzzies. Sonya and Danni you’re full of energy and are great at what you do. I learnt to be myself, about strength, love and to be  accepted for who I am – I won’t change for others! Jacqueline

Danni and Sonia are crazy and funny and make everyone laugh lots which means we learn lots!  AWESOME!!!!! Chelsea

I loved the Friends workshop as it made me feel good about myself, I learnt the type of friends you have reflects the type of person you are. You guys made everyone feel good about themselves today and showed us that it is ok to love ourselves. Ashni

AWESOMELY exciting and fun, you got the messages through to everyone! I loved that you were both so open and truthful! You rock, I learnt to FLY!!!! Bianca

Grab them by the emotions (capture the heart and the head will follow), be truthful and real (be brave – show them that you are not perfect either), and bombard them with positives. 

Notice them.  Love them.

The Invisible Woman – Coming soon to a cinema near you!

Various newspaper articles have reported that the Head of Warner studios, Jeff Robinov, recently declared that; “We are no longer doing movies with women in the lead.” It is alleged that his studio believes that female stars cannot guarantee top box office returns. No surprise that Warner Bros is now denying this report. Best this type of talk is kept for behind studio doors. 

The edict was uncovered, however, by journalist Nikki Finke, who posted it on Deadline Hollywood, her website devoted to movies, as distinct from celebrity business, on October 5. Despite Warner Bros denial, she stands firm.

If women cannot guarantee “big bucks”, should we then become invisible? And if women are no longer given lead roles, what implications will this have for the way girls and women are depicted in film? Surely they will be dire!

There’s no question the amount of product for women has diminished. Every year it’s a little less. The major studios only want to do the sure thing. Of course, these are decisions being made by men, who have a certain language for some of their films. The movies aimed at teenage and even grown-up girls are called chick flicks. The majority of the rest, filled with explosions of cars, buildings and bodies, with enough bare female flesh to satisfy the lowest common denominator, are aimed at teenage boys, the ones who reliably go to the cinema on Friday nights. Those films are called dick flicks. Of all the major studios, only one, Sony, is run by a woman Amy Pascal.” ( Say Goodbye to Hollywood Baby, Oct 15, 2007).

One cannot help but wonder if the reason why films starring women leads are not bringing in top dollars is because many are just so damn inane!  It is rare to see strong female leads in film nowadays, unless it happens to be a period piece ( surely this is ironic given women are meant to be more liberated now than ever before – wouldn’t it be reasonable to expect we would have more diverse experiences and more interesting things to say and do NOW?).   

Hylda Queally, an agent at the William Morris Agency who represents Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett and Hilary Swank, among others, has made comment on the lack of meaty roles for women in film;  “If you don’t want to play the stereotypical wife, girlfriend, lover – a corpse, basically – it’s hard. You see a lot of actresses gravitating to period movies, which are better written and have fully fledged characters.”(As reported by Sharon Waxman, “Fade to Black – Women’s Role in the Movies”, International Tribune, 2001).

 she.jpg

I suspect part of this trend towards patronising “chick flicks” and uninspiring films with female leads that do not fare well at the box office may be due to popular culture’s narrow definition of beauty and intolerance of the ageing process. If films choose to only explore the lives of traditionally beautiful women under 30, they will be less likely to have the scope to explore the more complex lives that other females, including those who are older and have had more rich life experiences to share, might offer.

Frustratingly, the trend towards resorting to radical plastic surgery in order to make older women look more acceptable in film is turning them all into bland, expressionless aliens. Nothing has distracted me more in a film than seeing Jane Fonda’s terrible face lift in the recent film I saw on DVD “Georgia Rule.” As if the sight of the once interesting Jane Fonda looking pained was not bad enough, star Lindsey Lohan looked dangerously thin and was an ugly, cliched version of a Troubled Teen (all sex and attitude). Lohan’s character actually says to a shy young cowboy she has just met, when he tells her he must go as he has to ride his horses, “You won’t have to brush or feed me after riding me.” In fairness to the film, it may have improved but that was 20 minutes in and enough for me. Who writes these lines?!

1217763.jpgIf this is the type of film Hollywood thinks women, and teen girls, will be drawn to – no wonder we are not buying tickets. I don’t blame the actresses but rather the idiots who decided a character who was after all a Grandmother had to be wrinkle free, and that a sad teen had to be, above all else, HOT, HOT, HOT and THIN, THIN, THIN.    

Howard Cohen, the President of independent film company Roadside Attractions, has publicly supported Robinov – to a point – “On a statistical level, he’s right. If you put an equal number of men and women in equivalent movies, the men would carry the day because they’ve been developed as action stars, thrillers, comics. No one develops a James Bond franchise with women. There’s no money put in women stars in other genres, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that they can’t carry a big movie.” 

Although after watching the clip with Sean Connnery and Barbara Walters below – and brace yourself, it is a shocker -one must wonder whether all that testosterone / action is so wonderful. And if the world needs more Bonds like this one! “Dick flicks” may bring in the bucks but just what are they doing to our boys’ brains?!  

 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3FgMLROTqJ0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

May I suggest studios don’t give up on the girls, but rather start asking what interesting projects they can develop for their leading ladies that will appeal. 

Poor workmen always blame their tools.    

Champions!

As mentioned in a previous post, Enlighten Education were Finalists for the NSW / ACT  Small Business of the Year, Children’s Services.

The Awards, hosted by Precedent Productions and sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank and the Australian Government, celebrate the achievements of the 1.88 million small businesses in Australia. We were incredibly honoured to be a finalist in these prestigious, national awards and were just thrilled to have WON!

dan-and-fran-on-stage.JPG

In our speech Francesca and I acknowledged the many clients schools who have supported us, and the thousands of beautiful girls who have joined us in schools and held our hand on this Enlighten journey.  

enlighten is  championing the rights of young women and ensuring our girls are empowered to respond with intelligence to the changing world around them. “

I was just flabbergasted when it was finally announced that I was also the NSW / ACT Small Business Champion Entrepreneur of the Year! Oh my! Official Press Release

Winning such an incredible Award has made me stop and reflect on why I have been so driven by this work. I thought I would share some of my motivators with you here… 

The heart connection.

When I was two years old I was badly burnt; I received third degree burns all down my right arm and neck. As is often the case with burn victims, I also suffered two major secondary infections – german measles and the potentially life threatening golden staph.

Growing up, my feelings of inadequacy due to this scarring were quite overwhelming; I was a bright, popular and ambitious young girl but my main preoccupation was with my scars and how best I could hide them from the world.

 me.jpg

And as we choose to believe we are less because of how we look, and our inability to conform to a perfect image, we become less.

In my adult years as a teacher I explored ways in which I might come to terms with my burns, indeed in many ways teaching forced me to come to terms with them as I was now a role model – if I could not accept myself, how could I possibly ask my students to accept themselves?

I became aware of the importance of a dialogue around gender and identity, and of the urgent need to help girls come to terms with the mixed messages about beauty they were being bombarded with. Although the scars I had to accept were more obvious, so many girls carry scars of their own.

With enlighten I have created a platform from which I can question, encourage and spread love, light and laughter.

The head connection.

One of the many things that I love about enlighten is the fact that we celebrate diversity and recognise that women are many things; our workshops focus on the girls as consumers, friends, students, budding career women …

I too see myself as the sum of many parts. Whilst I definitely connect with this work on a profoundly personal level, if I am being entirely honest part of my motivation for creating enlighten also emerged from my compulsive desire to innovate and create – I am most stimulated when involved in designing and leading new projects and in seeking creative ways around problems. I also find the business sector enormously stimulating – hence my desire to undertake post-grad. study in business management.

I am also a person with firm beliefs and a strong sense of justice; I have always had a strong interest in gender issues and in empowering young people to reach their potential. For me, enlighten has provided a fabulous opportunity to combine my skills in innovating and promoting with my own personal passions.

Both the desire to be a successful manager and a change maker are equally as important to me. I have always approached my work with a commitment to quality and have been at times quite hard on myself (and perhaps Fran) in my pursuit for excellence. Yet what other way is there? I believe our young people deserve more than just good intentions. This underlying approach to my work also partly explains why enlighten was never established as a non-profit. I think it needs to be good enough to be highly valued in the market place; I did not want to rely on hand outs. I have seen too many programs that have been funded externally become complacent, inflexible and more focused on quantity than quality.

The hand connection.

Nothing drives my success quite like seeing the faces of the girls we work with (they literally transform – from looking tentative and perhaps even dejected to shining).

For me, there is no greater motivator than simply being with my girls – all my girls – the teenage ones we work with in schools, and my amazing staff.

danni-and-her-entrepreneur-of-the-year-trophy.JPG

I would like to publicly acknowledge here all the friends, family and colleagues who have nourished and challenged me – intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

Much love and respect (in no particular order!) to all the enlighten girls – my “Amazons”- Frantabulous ( enlighten’s co founder and my partner – how can one girl be so yummy? I could not have possibly selected anyone better to share this all with) , Sonia ( Program Director, Victoria) , Storm ( Program Director, Queensland), Jane (Program Manager, Adelaide) and the NSW “dream team” – Mel, Kellie, Lucinda, Monica, Nikki, Donelle and my scrumptious “Admin Angel” Christine.

Thanks to all our client schools and particularly to those women in leadership I have been blessed to developed a real friendship with – Ann, Amelia, Elizabeth, Stephanie, Sarah…

My former managers and colleagues in the Catholic Education Office, Diocese of Parramatta, who had faith in many of my ideas and allowed me to innovate – I shall always be equally as proud of what I achieved by founding the Lighthouse Project ( a youth mentoring program for at risk students, now coordinated by the brilliant Melinda Phillips) and “Project E”, a program developed to foster entrepreneuralism in young people and show them that enterprise is about adding value, not just making money. I was so blessed to have worked in an inspiring environment and with people of enormous integrity: many, many thanks to Leo Keegan, Cathy Smith, Magda Quinlan, Kerry Stirling, Mick Bezzina and Kevin Jones. Dreamers all. 

Gratitude too to my TAFE colleagues Rob Hart and Anne Ford, and to Barry Calvert, Jennie Rudder and Vicki Clark. What fun we had growing Lighthouse and seeing her shine! Hundreds of young people have literally been saved by this amazing program and the beautiful mentors who commit to acting as role models for young people who are particularly vunerable. I am so proud to see Vanessa and Melinda continuing and indeed expanding on this work. 

Love to my family and friends – you know who you are. 🙂

   

Beginnings…

I have just finished reading an insightful new book by Courtney E. Martin, “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, the Frightening New Normality of Hating Your Body.”   Courtney laments the fact that many young women, raised by feminists who told them they could be anything,  have misinterpreted the power messages and are now obsessed with becoming everything…successful, thin and pretty. Self hatred has almost become a rite of passage for many teenagers.

Courtney challenges readers to “step through the looking glass” and create new stories. She emphasises that no one story describes our healing as women, but rather that there are a series of moments when the light is let in.

There is no healing without help.

There is no power as potent as possibility.

There is no transformation without truth.

There is no change without vulnerability.

There is no wisdom greater than that found inside you.

There is no beauty without struggle or aberration.

There is no statement like your life. There is no end.

There are only beginnings. “

learningtofly.jpg

enlighten aims to be just one more beginning of a series of amazing, brave, wild adventures into self acceptance, and indeed self-love, for many girls. Wow. We love this role. 🙂   

Let me now pose a challenge to you all  – what is one small step you will make this week to end the culture of self hatred and help create a new beginning for yourself as a women?

  

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