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Author: Danni Miller

This Is What a Feminist Looks Like

For some time now I have been lamenting the fact that feminism seems to have become the dirty F word – particularly with young women.  Why do so many women who talk to me begin their discussion with “I am not a feminist but…”

Is it fear of being perceived as a man hater? Hairy? A wearer of sensible shoes?  

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Essentially, feminism is the belief that women deserve equality and an acknowledgement that for many women, this is simply still not the case. Not too radical surely?

Certainly, like all movements aimed at creating change, feminism has had its share of outspoken radicals. I connect with many feminists (Naomi Wolf in particular) but not with all. However, I am not threatened or alienated by the other voices of the sisterhood for it is this diversity that allows us to question, reflect and shape our own understandings. For example, although I find Jessica Valenti, US blogger and feminist author, frustrating at times (she uses lots of swearing for one – I think she would be more pursuasive without the hard core language) and I do not share all her values, I really like the passion she brings to interpreting feminism for this generation of young women.   

I had contemplated describing my own ever evolving feminist understandings in this post in an attempt to demystify the movement and encourage others to “come out” and join me in proudly waving the sisterhood flag.

That is, until Sonia Lyne, Program Director for Enlighten Education Victoria, sent me a YouTube link to a clip recently posted by a young Australian man, Brett.

This, my friends, is ALSO what a young feminist looks like. 

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I love that he is questioning, challenging and shaping his thoughts. I am so inspired by young feminists, male and female, who are refusing to rest on their laurels. The hard work is not all done. If it was, our daughters would not be cutting, starving, comparing and despairing. Women would not be massively under represented in the boardroom and in politics. We would see more women of all shapes and sizes, and those over 40, in the media. Working women would all have access to affordable, good quality childcare. Women overseas, and indeed here at home, would not be subjected to circumcision and other barbaric practices…  

My feminist movement welcomes all who support the radical notion that women are people too.

Welcome to the hairy and the clean shaven: those that like Birkenstocks. and those that are in love with their stilettos.

Guys definately included. And enlightened guys like Brett- absolutely embraced.  

There is nothing to be ashamed of; wear your “F badge” with pride in 2008.   

        

The Grinches Who Steal Innocence…

I am really pleased the media has supported us in our outrage over the numerous examples of inappropriate products and services being marketed to little girls in the lead up to Christmas.

An interview with me over the inappropriate promotion of brazilian waxing on children’s web site girl.com.au featured recently in the Adelaide Herald Sun:

Herald Sun : Children’s Site Promotes Brazilian Waxing

Melinda Tankard Resit from WFA and I also collaborated on an opinion piece that was published on page 11 of the Sydney Morning Herald on 4/1/08

SMH: The Grinches Who Steal Innocence

Prue Mc Sween on 2UE interviewed me too and showed genuine interest in the agenda. Could it be that society has finally reached tipping point? Worth a listen…you may access below or via my Vodpod.  

Prue Mc Sween and Dannielle Miller – 2UE 4/1/08 

Christmas Wish….

Don’t steal childhood away this christmas:  

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Love, light and laughter at Christmas and always…

Danni and the Enlighten Education Executive Team –

Fran, Sonia, Storm, and Jane XXXX

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Getting Trashed is SO HOT right now.

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New Foxtel show “Gossip Girl” is causing an uproar with its scenes of underage drinking – teenage star Serena downs vodka shots like Carrie downed Cosmopolitans. But is this just art imitating life? Young female celebrities are famous predominately because they regularly binge drink and go into rehab; there are entire web sites devoted to drunk celebrities ( all of those featured are female). Whilst back in the “real world,” Facebook features profiles with pictures posted by young women that proudly show themselves passed out when drunk, drinking beer on the toilet, vomiting…

American site Feministing, aimed at radical young feminists,  argues this phenomena is no biggie – girls and women should have the right to get just as trashed as the boys and should not feel pressured to act “lady like”:

“I can take the health line of approach that maybe binge drinking isn’t good for you, but the young women should know better or should be ashamed doesn’t work for me. I am always weary of shaming women for things that men do freely. Guys in college get wasted as a ritual, they don’t have to hide it from future employers, in fact they are practicing to drink with future co-workers. But women have to be careful not to ruin their ladylike manners.”

I don’t like double standards either but I do think binge drinking in women, and particularly in our young women, is deeply concerning.

The fact is that research shows teen drinking is on the rise and not just accepted, but expected. This is not new – all the “cool kids” got trashed when I was in High School too  – myself included. Why we thought it was cool to vomit all over ourselves and stumble about alludes me now but it certainly was the thing to do.  Drinking excessively has become a huge issue for teenage girls – recent Australian surveys show that half say they drink alcohol, with one in five confessing to having done something they regret while they were drunk.

The fact is that drinking, even in small amounts, affects women differently than men. And heavy drinking, in some ways, is much more risky for women than it is for men as we are more quickly affected by alcohol and much more vulnerable to the effects of overindulging. Keeping up with the boys is not a badge of honour – it is dangerous. The attached PDF put together by the Commonwealth Government is well worth reading:  womenshealth.pdf

I am concerned too by by the emotional damage our girls are doing to themselves – one in five confess to doing something they regret when drunk. 

The reality is that young girls are also at risk of sexual assault and violence when they are drunk and vulnerable. Let me be very clear here – I am NOT BLAMING THE VICTIMS. It is NEVER their fault. All I am saying is that being drunk does make you less able to think clearly and may make you a target if some vile predator is lurking…and of course the predator may well be a trusted friend of someone within the home. That is not fair, it is not right, it is unjust – but it is also reality. If girls are going to drink, they need to at the very least ensure they stay together and watch out for each other.

Blaming “Gossip Girl” and the media would be all too easy. I am more concerned by the prevalence of unsupervised teen partying.  Teens focus on the here and now, not the prospects down the road. A good lecture and then sending them off into the night won’t cut it. God knows I would glaze over when my mother talked about damage to my liver – I was 16 and invincible!

Do discuss the risks. But also be practical – know where your kids are, discuss whether or not alcohol will be present and how you both feel about this, know what time they’ll be home and how they will get home, and if the party is at your place – actively supervise.

Finally – consider cutting back on the chardonnay. It is unrealistic to expect your daughter to listen to you tell her that she doesn’t need to drink to have fun if every time visitors come around you drink excessively.  

Image from Gossip Girl – Blair and her Mother at Xmas:

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I stopped drinking completely over two years ago. I knew I was a born binger and wanted to hang up the wine glass before the kids got old enough to notice Mummy boozing on.

Sorry Feministing but it ain’t pretty and we should know better.    

P.S Talk about timely – a Government report widely published in the media on the 18th declares teen drinking is reaching epidemic proportions with children as young as 10 in rehabilitation for alcholism. The Sun Herald published a very interesting article blaming parents on the 19th: Parent’s Branded Gutless Over Teenage Boozers.

  

Christmas gifts for girls…the good and the very, very UGLY!

Why is it that every toy catalogue that lists gifts for girls then offers up Bratz, Barbies, kitchen sets, and pages of pink? I know some of it is definitely fun. Teyah (my 8 year old daughter) has the oh so cute “Littlest Pet Shop” high on her list – but be warned Santa – no Bratz here thank you very much! I found the image below for Sportz Bratz in the latest Target catalogue – can someone please tell me how the last doll plays sport in fishnets, killer high heels and a midrif top?  

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I have been wanting to buy a few alternative gifts that offer all the little girls I LOVE something more and thought I’d share my findings with you.

Indigo Girls. Australian magazine written by young girls with a little help from a few passionate women. No airbrushing – beauty in all shapes and sizes! What about subscribing? indigo-subscription-form.pdf

Faking It. Special one off magazine that reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media and the sexual objectification of women. For 16+? Ideal too for a parent with a teenage daughter who wants to know the truth behind the glossy mag’s. Order through Women’s Australia Forum.    

2007-12-06-1003-55_edited.jpgIndigo Dreaming positive affirmation cards for children (as seen left and published with permission in My Photos). These are just beautiful and each boxed set contains an instruction booklet outlining ways in which these can be used to empower children to think positively. I bought mine at Dymocks but the Indigo Kidz web site allows you to order on line.   

You Go Girl. Gorgeous little bright book that celebrates each girls beauty and strength. I have seen mini-versions at most newsagents; publication details are in my Library. Speaking of which… there are loads of other brilliant reads in there that would also make amazing gifts.   

Wonder Woman action figures and merchandise. Actually, these are really on my Wish List! I am in lust with a poster I have just seen on the Ms. Magazine’s site – they have a whole section for WW merchandise 🙂 

Piggy Bank– I love encouraging girls (and boys!) to save and become financially independent.  I bought Teyah’s best friend Christen a butterfly Piggy Bank for her Birthday recently and she loved it – she is filling it so she can then pay to go on horse camp. SOOOO cute.  

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CD’s – So many little girls I have had stay over have just loved the Butterfly Dreaming meditation CD put out by occupational therapist Denise Allen. Can be contacted on 02 43651666. 

2f79_2.jpgAND let’s not forget many girls are not into pink… or even butterflies at all! My sister would have cringed at some of the gifts I have suggested here. When we were growing up, she was far more excited by Star Wars ( Han Solo, Yoda – just not Princess Leia!), and Lego building sets. Go girl!   

There are so many other great options – stationery (little girls cannot seem to get enough of papers and stickers!), active toys (trampolines, skates, bikes, balls etc), torches, sleeping bags ( yep, Teyah is planning a sleep out – under our pool table!) … love to hear your ideas! 

Also thought I’d add some of my BAH HUMBUG discoveries. Ebay want to convince teen girls that they need ultra expensive designer items in order to be “Cool for school” – $220 Sass and Bide jeans? PLEASE! This is not the OC! Marissa Cooper is dead!

As most students in Australia wear a school uniform I can only assume Ebay was pitching this for the odd mufti / plain clothes day schools do hold. OH that is so cruel. I still clearly recall the HELL the night before such events – lying awake obsessing over what I would wear in order to be seen as “cool” by my peers. AND I was only trying to choose between pretty standard gear – imagine if I had felt the added pressure of thinking it had to be Burberry!  GRRRRR…

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Even worse – and I DO NOT UNDERSTAND this – when googling “Girl Power Gifts” I came across a site aimed at young girls – www. girl.com.au . It claims to be “Empowering Girls Worldwide.” It must be aimed at pre-teens and young teens as its home page promotes films including Disney’s Enchanted, High School Musical, and the “Smart Cycle” -a toy for preschoolers. HOWEVER – it has a special page devoted just to….BRAZILLIAN WAXING! I kid you not! This is the advice offered to young girls…

The Brazilian bikini wax is an acquired taste and is not for everyone. Some women can endure the pain while others it’s just too much to bare. For those of you interested in modeling it’s a must, but I’d recommend a lead up before you take the plunge.

Brazilian waxing involves spreading hot wax your buttocks and vagina area. A cloth is patted over the wax, then pulled off. Don’t be alarmed if the waxer throws your legs over your shoulder, or asks you to moon them, this is normal and ensures there are no stray hairs. A tweezer is used for the more delicate areas (red bits).

So why does it appeal. Nobody really likes hair in their private regions and it has a childlike appeal. Men love it, and are eternally curious about it.”

All I want for Xmas is for companies that exploit and poison girls to stop pretending they are a “girl’s best friend” and back off 🙁

I have emailed girl@girl.com.au to tell them how I feel and to demand they remove this page. Why don’t you speak up too?

P.S. I have decided to make my outrage public – listen to the audio from my interview on 2UE 11/12 below ( also appears in my VidPod) :

Audio: Interview on 2UE 11/12

Loving Wonder Woman!

Those of you who know me will know I LURVE Wonder Woman. Always have. It is not about the star spangled pants or hot red boots (although both are kind of cool). It is all about her Amazon attitude and – most importantly – her Golden Lasso.

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Wonder Woman’s Golden Lasso is actually officially known as the “Lasso of Truth”. Once she wraps it around the baddies, they must speak words of truth to her. YES – our words are powerful. YES – they can take us to dark places, or to light, love and laughter. This would be one prop I would love to have…along with her Goddess Powers of course!

You can understand my excitement then when I read on Feministing this week that for the first time, the Wonder Woman comic will have an ongoing woman writer! Although women writers have made “guest appearances” since WW was launched 66 years ago, Gail Simone will be the first regular. The New York Times profiled Gail Simone: “Ms. Simone was effusive when discussing Wonder Woman. ‘She’s just the best kind of person,’ she said. ‘She was a princess who didn’t need someone to rescue her. I grew up in an era — and a family — where women’s rights were very important, and the guys didn’t tend to stick around too long. She was an amazing role model.’ ”

Ms. Simone came to the attention of DC Comics through her site Women In Refrigerators– an online chronicle of the suffering experienced by female comic-book characters. She makes some excellent and disturbing points about how women are presented in comics –

It occurred to me that it’s not that healthy to be a female character in comics… superheroines have been either depowered, raped, or cut up and stuck in the refrigerator… Some have been revived, even improved — although the question remains as to why they were thrown in the wood chipper in the first place.

Not every woman in comics has been killed, raped, depowered, crippled, turned evil, maimed, tortured, contracted a disease or had other life-derailing tragedies befall her, but given the following list it’s hard to think up exceptions:

All of Savage Dragon’s girlfriends (dead)
Alysande Stuart (dead)
Amethyst (blinded, merged with Gemworld, destroyed in LSH; became a power-hungry witch in Book of Fate)
Apparition (one of her three bodies dead, soul bound to boyfriend)
Aquagirl (dead)
Arisia (dead)
Aurora (Multiple Personality Disorder, depowered)
Batgirl I (paralyzed)
Batwoman (dead)
Betty Banner (abused, changed into a harpy, multiple miscarriages, dead)…”

And this was just her A – B list!

The YouTube clip below also questions the portrayal of women in cartoons. the young filmmaker who posted it, “Tomalley” makes some really valid points: “The portrayal of females and femininity in cartoons, in particular, is quite skewed, to say the least. When they do have screen time, which isn’t often, they are often objectified, overtly feminine, begin rescued or absurdly sexualized. This is an issue in American media as the target audience of such productions is primarily children. It is no wonder why the youth of our society grows up with distorted views of women.”

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Get that lasso out and round ’em up WW. No more victims…no more Bimbos.

All power, all the time. 🙂

P.S It would be worthwhile getting students to deconstruct the way women are portrayed in cartoons and comics – they would really enjoy this exercise! How about asking them to create their own Superheroines too – what super powers would they have?

P.S There are some really interesting perspectives and new threads in the comments here – join in!

Shortlisted in International Awards – Best New Blog!

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As a brand new blogger, I am thrilled at being shortlisted for the international 2007 Edublogger Awards, Best New Blog! The list of finalists is most impressive – they offer powerful insights into education and learning. Do check them all out – and vote for us ;)! Just click on Best New Blogenlighten education.

Voting: The Edublog Awards 2007.   

Why did we decide to blog? It was our intention when we first set up “The Butterfly Effect” (enlighten education) to provide a tool that would support and inspire parents and educators who care for girls. We wanted to celebrate our work, provide links, videos, images, references, articles of interest – conversation starters. We elicited the help of award winning blogger Judy O’Connell to help with with the initial set up; she did a terrific job. It has all just been a thrill and oh so addictive!

What I had not anticipated was the fact that apart from allowing you to share, blogging introduces you to amazing people you may never have met had you not had a chance to explore each other’s ideas and mutual passions on line. Loved “meeting” Leah from All for Women and the gorgeous, shiny Jane Manning who is working on what will prove to be a brilliant SBS documentary -About Women:

In a ‘post-feminist’ environment, what have the struggles of ‘Women’s Lib’ of the 1960s and ‘70s delivered to today’s women? Has ‘Feminism’ made their lives better or just more complicated? With different opportunities come different challenges, so how are women coping in the contemporary world?

As a companion series to the groundbreaking About Men, the three episodes chart women’s major life stages from youth to old age. Our characters’ compelling stories of development, achievement, conflict, maturation and wisdom express the powerful themes underpinning this timely series. We meet these girls and women at pivotal times in their lives, as they come to terms with their identity, sexuality and relationships. Their stories are moving, funny, often surprising and informative. Each episode includes moments of insight, transformation, diversity of experience, emotional intensity and revelation.”

Jane read about our work through this blog and came to see us present to the DIVINE girls at Santa Sabina College earlier this week as part of her research for the series. Jane just loved the day and feels, as we do, that despite the many issues they face and the increasingly more complex lives they lead, teen girls are simply beautiful and worth celebrating.

Stay tuned to our blog – we will continue to transform and connect :).

Dear Body…

A young English girl “Mememolly” started a phenomena on YouTube when she posted “something of an apolgetic love letter” to her body.

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Since she posted this in March, many others have posted their own “Dear Body” letters. Some are quite lovely: 

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I turned 38 TODAY and it has got me thinking about what I would like to thank my body for:

Dear Body,

I am really happy with the way we are growing old together.

Thanks feet for being so pretty. I love the way your nails look when they are painted. I don’t always treat you so well though and I know it hurts wearing high heels all the time. I have stopped but hey, we both know the damage is done. 🙁  

Thanks legs. You are fabulous; so long and you rarely change shape, even when I eat loads of junky foods. You have made me feel glamorous on many occassions.

Belly – what can I say? You are a podgy, bloated little thing aren’t you? I have tried exercising you, sucking you in and constraining you in in special “Bridget Jones” style bloomers… but you will just not be denied.

Breasts – you will not be denied either but you are lovely. You make me feel so feminine. And you fed both my children – that was truly amazing. I will be forever grateful.

 Arms. My special body parts. Lefty – you are a bit of a non-event really aren’t you? I don’t write with you and you are quite non-descript. But righty – yes, you have tales to tell. I love your scars and burn now. Really. I do. You make me strong, unique and show the world I am a girl with a history of bravery. I am sorry that I hid you for so many years when I was young but I just hadn’t learnt how to deal with something so large. We both had to grow into the tight, twisted and melted flesh.  

Face – you are just fine. Elegantly shaped eyebrows, a few wrinkles that show you have lived, laughed and worried. Nose – a little smaller may have been better?

Hair – I am sorry I bleach you but I just can’t stop now. Too much invested in this “blonde thing”. You do well to hang in there and I do treat you to great shampoos and head rubs from my girlfriends.

Thanks Body for getting me this far. You are so resilient and so strong. You rarely get sick and you can withstand great pain.

You are an Amazon’s Body. Happy Birthday. xxxx

Love to read your letters.

This might also make a great activity to do with a class or with your daughter?

Girl Thoughts…

I don’t usually post up our feedback pages from each event we run as although they are ALWAYS amazing, and quite often bring me tears, I guess I have previously questioned their broad appeal to those who do not know the girls personally. However, as I was reading through the sheets from our last three events this week, I  felt so moved I just had to share them! I also believe there is in fact broad appeal as it is vital for us to know what is going in our young girls minds.

I love that teenage girls are passionate, articulate, questioning and open to love and change. 🙂 Please take 5 minutes to skim through – these  comments will light you up. 

galston-high-school-2007-student-evaluation.pdf

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The sublime and the ridiculous.

Indigo 4 Girls – an alternative voice.

2007-11-19-1444-31.jpgI first heard from Beverley Park and the group of “Power Gals” behind new independent teen girl magazine “Indigo 4 Girls” after Enlighten Education was featured on A Current Affair in May 2006. This group of dedicated mothers, and their passionate, clever daughters were keen to offer girls a magazine that explored issues that really mattered…without all the marketing and manipulated images! They had asked for my advice and they have shared their progress with me.

I am just delighted to report that after much hard work they are now launching Issue 2! Editor Bev sums up what they are hoping to achieve: “Indigo will fill hearts and minds with inspiration and encourage girls to be themselves by identifying the potential they have within. The majority of the articles are written by teen girls, with just a little help from a few amazing grown ups.” I am very pleased that I am able to volunteer to offer my voice to the other authentic voices that fill this joyful, and inspiring magazine; I will write a column for each edition. 

At $5.50 an issue I think this magazine is great value and will be a fabulous addition to all school libraries. I have attached a subscription form here indigo-subscription-form.pdf and a “sneak peek” PDF copy of my first column to give you a taste of the types of article Indigo 4 Girls offers: learning-to-fly-beginings.pdf

P.S I have no commercial involvement with this magazine – just want to help share the love. 🙂 Enjoy and pass it on!

What the?

Jane Higgins, Enlighten Program Director for South Australia, forwarded me this link late last week. It is a recent article about a mobile phone-based game entitled “The Coolest Girl In School.” Apparently teen girls, who are targeted as the market for this vile game, will be “encouraged to take drugs and fall pregnant in an online life-simulator game…players must choose whether to experiment with drugs, alcohol and smoking, skip school, spread rumours, bully and even fall pregnant in their effort to win the game.”

Jane was mortified and so was I! A 30 Year old Adelaide woman, Holly Owen, is behind this and claims there is nothing wrong with it…”It’s not about glorifying bad things, it’s about giving young girls the opportunity to play around with high school.”

Please.

So proud of Enlighten Program Director for Victoria, Sonia Lyne’s, reponse… “That would have to be one of the most infuriating articles I’ve read lately Jane- her comment ‘it’s about giving young girls the opportunity to play around with high school’ just tops it off – maybe Holly Owen needs a little enlightening! What must her own self image be like if she honestly thinks this is ok??? ACTUALLY – she has really #*#!!!! me off – I’ll google her and send an email! I’m talking back on this one!”  

You go girl!

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