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Month: December 2008

The two faces of Facebook

Social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook are becoming increasingly popular; 41% of the Australian population uses a social network profile, and 70% of them have 2 or more.

I am a self confessed Facebook addict. Through FB I have reconnected with old friends and past students I taught, made new friends with like-minded women who have sought me out after seeing me in the media, and received the most beautiful “wall posts” from teen girls I have worked with who have wanted to touch base to tell me how much the day Enlighten spent at their school meant to them.

But I am careful about what I do, and don’t share on line. And I wish more young people were too.

50% of users of social networking sites don’t use any privacy controls. And even when we do use these tools, there is no absolute guarantee that our information cannot be accessed anyway. Back in September The Hack Half Hour, a brilliant ABC television show that explores various elements of youth culture, produced a highly informative episode: “Will you end up regretting what you reveal about yourself online?”This is well worth watching and, coincidentally, features my very clever cousin Tyron who is a professional hacker and strong advocate of exercising caution when on line:

A few key points to note – it is very easy to hack into our profile pages (with or without security settings in place) and even when you delete information and images off MySpace or Facebook – Google still has a record of these.

Apart from the issues around privacy, I have also seen the on-line world turn ugly when people post comments they would probably never be rude enough to make in person. Janice Turner wrote a perceptive piece on this phenomena in the UK Times recently: When hatred comes to your home page.

The following extract from Turner’s article articulates why the on-line world can be a dangerous place for those who are more vulnerable – including our young girls:

…my friend (a psychotherapist) suggested I look at Facebook with a 12-year-old’s eyes. She pointed out the popular “honesty box” application where you ask a question – “What do you really think of me?” etc – which then anyone can answer anonymously. Like a ouija board, evil yet so tantalising. My inner pre-teen came out in a terrified sweat.

Besides, said the psychotherapist, it is the ordinary stuff which devastates her patients, the photos of a sleepover to which you weren’t invited, your best friend ignoring you and chatting on someone else’s “wall”. And everyone will know, by how many friends you have, whether you’re a big, fat loser. It’s not even proper bullying, just crude kidult passive- aggression. But, boy, does it hurt.

Even so, her patients cannot stop themselves logging in. They have to look. And so the mean-girl snubs, the whispering behind hands, follow them home and upstairs into lonely bedrooms.

We think as adults we are tougher, that something as remote and notional as a chat room cannot hurt us. Indeed, it is a blast, a liberation, when talking online to say what you really mean for once, to make mischief, to dispense with uptight British niceness, or even assume the guise of an atavar, a pumped-up, better-hung version of our own weedy workaday self.

In the glow of our screens, safely at home, we think our egos are armour-plated. But there is no protection as we step on to the ten-lane superhighway of a billion heartless strangers. It can smart like hell, that withering rebuke from someone you’ll never meet…”

As valid as the points raised are, I do not think the answer lies in banning social networking sites. Rather, we should be educating users on how to use these responsibly.

As so many teen girls were starting to “find me” on FB I have recently set up an Enlighten Education Facebook Page in the hope that girls will find here a safe place to share ideas and develop a sisterhood connection with other “Enlightened” girls across Australia and New Zealand, and with our team members and assorted fans: 

I have established some guidelines for contributions though and will be monitoring the wall posts carefully.

All our words have power and may have long term implications – including those words we use on line.  

FB responsibly. 🙂  

Let us strive to create “Raging Angels”.

In the lead up end of year dance concerts, and the annual shopping frenzy that surrounds Christmas, this guest post by Sonia Lyne, Program Director for Victoria, and her newest team member, Amanda Hull, is timely.

Amanda begins:


I recently attended my 5-year old cousin’s dance recital. It was the most unsettling experience. I witnessed a group of 40 or more pre-kinders dressed in hot pants and mid-riff halters wearing fake eyelashes, layers of foundation, bright blue eyeshadow, and candy apple lipstick doing club dances and “dropping it like it’s hot”. I have to tell you, it was anything but hot. The only thing that was hot were my blushing cheeks and swelling sense of injustice. These precious little innocents were being exposed to (and exposing the viewer to) some of the raunchiest dance moves I’ve seen this side of a “gentlemen’s club”. Strangely enough, I appeared to be the only embarrassed person in the crowd. All the other parental faces were beaming with pride.

I spend many of my days dancing with pre-kinders to Wiggles songs and various other nursery rhymes. I am quite familiar with a way a child naturally dances. They are full of giggly excitement, with bouncing feet and clapping hands. Children who dance, when not performing choreographed moves and wearing costumes designed by adults, look nothing like the “Sportz Bratz Dance” wannabees I saw in action. 

When I asked my cousin’s parents what they thought of the girls’ dance costumes they replied that they looked “adorable” and that the girls were simply wearing what the dance teacher mandated for the performance.

I want to start a one woman revolution! I want to start my own dance company in my backyard with bumblebee, butterfly, ladybug, etc, costumes and age-appropriate dance moves!

There are other (less extreme) ways around this conformism too, and it must start at home. Upon reflection, I can now see that many of the mothers at this dance recital were like 5-year old girls themselves, dressing up their daughters and playing with them just as a child would a Bratz doll. I felt the pain of mothers who were influenced themselves by the myths of the media, doing their best to stay ever-youthful, thin, painted, and “sexy” for their mates.

How sad.  

I treasure the real beauty of women: their ability to reproduce, to run a household, to kiss an injury and magically make it better, to demand justice for their children, and insist on preserving their innocence. Unfortunately, these are not the traits that our society upholds as “beautiful”. I felt for these mothers and wanted to present a few Enlighten Education workshops to them, in the hopes that the positive, self-affirming messages would also trickle down to the daughters.

Sonia continues:

Yes, we can all be change-makers. And yes, it does start at home and with the decisions we make about what is, and is not, ok for our daughters.

Amanda and I had the honour of attending a forum recently hosted by St Michael’s Grammar School. “The Early Sexualisation of Children and Young Teens” forum was presented by popular actress Noni Hazelhurst and Julie Gale, founder of Kids Free 2B Kids and comedy writer/performer. Both speakers were informative and captivating.

There were numerous occasions where I found myself nodding pleasantly in agreement and other times where I found myself consumed with either anger or optimism, stirred by their statements. One of those poignant moments was when Noni Hazelhurst announced she wanted to create a room of “Raging Angels”. YES YES YES… 

Don’t we all have a strong desire to be active guides in our girls’ lives – and active against the toxic messages they are presented with? 

As a parent, I do my best to be a “Raging Angel”. I do filter and ”switch off” but I am also aware that at times I am no match for the endless avenues of sexualised imagery that appears on billboards, mobiles, at cinemas, shopping malls and supermarkets. I recently visited a toy store and upon entering the girls section I felt overwhelmed by the raunchy nature of the branded dolls section. Obviously the Bratz dolls were leagues ahead of the rest but it was sad to see that many of the other branded dolls now look very similar. Even Barbie has succumbed and taken a turn for the worst. I thought to myself, “This is not good enough for our little girls, how far will these companies go?”… alas, further than I anticipated. The following clip clearly illustrates the irresponsible nature of the minds behind these dolls. Somehow I don’t think the Bratz team were sitting around their meeting table discussing the value they can add to little girl’s lives when they came up with this “ingenious” idea.

 

So wrong on so many levels!!!

As Christmas is fast approaching I wanted to find alternatives to these ridiculous dolls. It is easy to criticise, but I do not just want to just deconstruct – I also want to offer alternatives!

I was able to find the following dolls for younger girls that clearly allow for creativity, exploration and yet still maintain childhood innocence.

The Only Hearts Club™, is a content-based brand of dolls for real girls that is drawing raves for combining beautiful, real-looking dolls, with content that delivers a much-needed, positive message to girls. Only Hearts Club™ dolls look and dress like real girls, and they deal with the same experiences and issues as well. You can click on the following link to find out more: http://www.onlyheartsclub.com. How interesting it is to compare the Only Hearts Sports doll (above) with the Bratz Sportz doll Amanda included in her opening! 

The all-new Australian Girl Doll is another fabulous alternative. I love the story behind this launch. Australian Grandmother Helen Schofield was so angered by the hyper sexualised dolls that were being pitched to her granddaughters that she decied to invest her retirement fund into creating dolls that are a more enlightened alternative!

 

www.australiangirldoll.com.au

You may recall last year Danni also wrote a post that suggested some wonderful gift ideas for girls – this is worth revisiting too: Christmas Gifts For Girls

My Christmas wish? We allow our daughters to dance to their own beat.

We set boundaries and seek out creative alternatives.  

We heal our girls – and their mothers.

And we bring the Rage in 2009!

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