Skip to content

Category: Feminism

The Butterfly Effect

This week my first book is being launched by Random House. The Butterfly Effect provides a positive new approach to raising happy, confident teen girls. 

2009-08-29-1336-44_edited

Advance Praise for The Butterfly Effect

Dannielle Miller is the teen girl whisperer.’ Fran Simpson, teacher and mother of a teen

Dannielle Miller’s book is a must-read for all parents of teenage girls. The first thing that literally thumped me in the chest when reading this book was a total awareness and awakening of what is happening to our teenage girls. At a deep level, it resonated with me. The information is real, pertinent and totally relevant. Great work, Dannielle. Thank you for awakening me. Thank you for snapping me to attention and making me want to become a greater part of the solution.’ Karen, mother of a teen girl

This is the book we have been waiting for. It includes the most up-to-date research and finally gives parents positive, sensible strategies they can easily apply.’ Dr Michele Beale, general practitioner and stress management specialist

If you want to develop a deeply connected and loving relationship with your teenage daughter – then this book is for you. This is a time when many girls struggle to cope and really need our guidance and support, even though they may not be asking for it! The Butterfly Effect is written with passion and honesty, and offers insightful and practical advice for all parents who want to do more than ‘just survive’ the teen years!’ Julie Gale – Founder/Director Kids Free 2B Kids.

Dannielle Miller is not the first person to call attention to these issues, to the phenomenon of girls’ lives sometimes falling apart at the very threshold of womanhood. But in this candid and thought-provoking book, written with passion and conviction, she offers not only insight into adolescent girls as interesting works in progress, but also provides encouragement, solace and solution. She reminds us too, I am pleased to say, that we (their mothers and fathers) are also works in progress…’ Clinical Professor David Bennett AO FRACP FSAM, Head, NSW Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead; President, Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare; and co-author (with Leanne Rowe and Bruce Tonge) of I Just Want You to be Happy (Allen & Unwin, 2009).

What was I hoping to contribute to the vital dialogue on parenting adolescent girls?  

A great deal of research on the issues affecting teen girls’ lives has been conducted by psychologists, sociologists, healthcare professionals and other experts. Throughout my book I considered their data, which has been published in various professional journals and research papers. I am focused on keeping up to date with the latest statistics because they give us a measurable insight into what is happening in girl world.

Yet I also know that the raw numbers do not tell the whole story. They do not always tell us how girls feel about themselves, their world and their place in it. So in addition to statistics and expert opinion, I also collated the more detailed and personal information you can really only get by taking the time to sit down and discuss the issues with teen girls. I gathered this research formally and informally over the many years I have worked with young people as a teacher, as a coordinator for students at risk and as the co-founder and CEO of Enlighten Education.

Ultimately, I believe we can join our daughters and work together to find new connections and deeper mutual understandings. In this book, I want to challenge my readers to do just that: to form a new connection with their daughter, niece, stepdaughter – with all the young women close to them – and work with them to bring about change. I do not want us to aim to merely to ‘survive’ girls’ adolescence, as some other parenting books will encourage us to do. We must aim for something far more mutually respectful and rewarding.

If you are currently caught up in screaming fights or in passive-aggressive girl hell – and yes, I do acknowledge that teen girls are gifted at turning their anger on those who are closest – I can see why books that promise survival might appeal. But isn’t the old ‘Mothers and daughters just do not get along; teen girls are hell’ argument just a little clichéd? It is certainly disrespectful to both parties.

If you, like many of us, have been fed that oppositional, woman-pitted-against-woman approach for years, my invitation to begin a more emphatic journey of parenting through self-discovery may seem too simplistic. Or, if you are caught up in conflict with your teen girl right now, it may seem unobtainable. Let me assure you, I am not setting out to make mothers feel any more inadequate than they may feel already. Girls may do seething anger well, but women do guilt well; we’re gifted at blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong.

I am not one of the ‘Mummy Police’, the smug parenting experts who leave me feeling like I am doing everything wrong. I found myself particularly susceptible to them in my early days as a mother. I spent my time with my new daughter, Teyah, sleep deprived and bewildered by what I was supposed to do with this new and oh-so-perfect creature. I thought I had to be the perfect mother; she deserved nothing less. These were desperate days spent madly reading every book I could find – and becoming even more confused as one only seemed to contradict the next. In the end it was Baby Love, by Australian Robin Barker, that resonated with me. Why? Because she emphasised the need for following one’s instincts, and love was put at the forefront, right there in the title. Isn’t that what it is supposed to be about, after all? Teyah didn’t need a perfect mother; she needed a happy, confident, loving one.

Your teenage daughter does not need perfection, either. It may surprise you to know that out of the many thousands of young people who have crossed my path, including those from very troubled backgrounds, very few have ever questioned their parents’ skills or said they wished their mothers were better at parenting, or were thinner, more beautiful, more successful. Rather, they have told me they want more time, more love, more empathy and more happiness.

I believe the key is empathy. Instead of viewing adolescence as a stage in which fights between mothers and daughters are inevitable, try viewing it as a stage when a new connection can be found and a new level in your relationship reached. And empathy should be easy. Her pain is your pain. Her struggles are your struggles.

Make no mistake, in this book I am not suggesting you stop parenting and become your daughter’s new ‘bestie’. The other thing that young people consistently tell me they want more of from their parents is boundaries. Your daughter needs to see what a strong, confident, healthy woman looks like, how she copes with mistakes and failures, how she sets boundaries, and how she demands to be treated, both within the home and by society as a whole. If you won’t show her, who will?

In recent years a number of books have come out on the plight of teen girls in our hyper-sexual, commercialised and media-saturated culture. These books are valuable because they provide a real insight into teen-girl world – but they risk leaving us in a state of despair, feeling that it’s all too hard to make changes in our daughters’ lives. It’s not! I was determined to offer practical steps we can take to work towards making things better.

The idea of the butterfly effect comes from the science of chaos theory. It suggests that everything in this world is interconnected, to the extent that the beating of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world may ultimately contribute to a tornado happening in another part of the world. Small changes can make a huge difference. My hope is that you may harness the butterfly effect in your relationship with your daughter, by being conscious that your actions and words – even ones that seem trivial – have a big influence on your daughter, just as her peers and the media influence her.

Once you have read my book, I would love to know what you think. I also have 10 copies to give away to my blog readers! Simply post a comment here and leave your email address. I will select 10 winners at random and email them to get their postal details.

The Voice of Iran, and of Women Everywhere

Like the rest of the world, I was sickened by the recent death of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman shot in the protests that followed the dubious election result in Iran. The 26-year-old university student was with her singing teacher at the time of her death. In Iran, women are forbidden to sing publicly, so already we know that Neda was a courageous woman. Because her name means “voice” in Farsi, soon after the mobile phone camera footage of her death was shared around the world, people began calling her “the voice of Iran.”

For Neda’s life not to have been lived and lost in vain, we should begin thinking of her as the voice of women everywhere.

She was described by her fiance and family as a woman who didn’t have much interest in politics, so her death is less about the election controversy and more a sign of women’s enduring strength and determination to stand up for what is right — no matter the repression and intimidation they face.

Even before Neda’s senseless death, I had been struck by the number of women, especially young women, who were brave enough to take to the streets in the Tehran protests. During the election campaign, Mousavi — the man the protestors believe was the true winner of the election — made a promise that he would get rid of laws discriminating against women, so it’s no wonder women have protested in record numbers. And there is an awful lot at stake for women in Iran. We’re talking about demands for basic rights that we in the West take for granted, like marital and financial equality — but we’re also talking about demands for an end to practices that seem simply bizarre and archaic to us: polygamy, the stoning of women and harassment by morality police who can punish women just for wearing fingernail polish.

(Photo by Hamed Saber, Tehran)

This picture of a woman taking part in a silent protest in Tehran a couple of days before Neda’s death is far more radical than most of us in the West might at first realise. No, the two-finger gesture isn’t an insult in Iran like it can be here. What’s outrageous is that her head covering is loose, she’s wearing makeup . . . and those fingernails she’s holding up in a victory sign? Oh, they’ve definitely been manicured. This is an ordinary woman, but this is also a brave woman.

In Iran and some other parts of the world, expressing feminist ideals can be literally a matter of life and death, while in Australia and the rest of the Western world, ‘feminism’ has almost become the new f-word, a word not to be spoken in polite company. I’ve heard too many conversations about gender start out ‘I’m not a feminist, but . . .’

Perhaps the women who came before us did such a good job of fighting for equality and respect that girls and young women here feel that there is little left to complain about. When our daughters grow up they will have the right to vote; they will inherit laws against gender discrimination and sexual harassment, and laws protecting a woman’s right to keep her job after having a baby. Believing that the work of feminism is complete, perhaps many young women feel that it is just an embarrassing throwback, a social dinosaur.

But the courage and strength of the women taking to the streets in Tehran should give us all pause for thought. Our reality here in the industrialised West is not the reality of all women. In too many parts of the world, women and girls are oppressed. Too many girls can’t get the same education as their brothers; they become child labour or child brides. In Haiti, says Amnesty International, the large number of girls who can’t afford schooling either go without an education or enter into exploitive relationships with men so they can pay the fees. In South Africa, women are especially at risk of HIV infection due to the high levels of sexual violence they face, and women in many countries lack protection from sexual assault, domestic violence and sex traffickers. In countries such as Iran and China, women who stand up for basic human rights are harassed or end up in prison.

Our sisters in other parts of the world are risking their lives to speak out, in the hope that their daughters will one day enjoy equal rights. When all this is still going on, how can we say that the time for feminism has passed?

The inequality women are battling against in Iran serves as a reminder of how far we’ve come in Australia and the debt we owe the feminists who struggled on our behalf.

The courage and strength we’ve seen on the streets of Tehran in recent weeks are like a challenge to us: will we take a moment to remember that these women’s struggle was once our struggle? Will we give them our support and do whatever we can to help their cause?

And finally, the protestors’ actions are an inspiration. Though we may have forgotten or overlooked it, the spirit of these women is within us all: a passion for justice and equality, a sense of self-respect and dignity, deep concern for the girls and women of the future, and a fighting spirit that won’t quit till fairness prevails.

Imagine what we could do if we tapped into these qualities. Imagine the world our daughters could create if we nurtured these qualities in them. For let’s not forget that even though it may seem that the major battles have been fought and won for women here, inequities still exist between the genders. Women’s pay in Australia still lags way behind men’s; we are still massively underrepresented at the upper levels of business; and on average the greatest burden of housework continues to fall to us no matter how hard we work outside the home. Meanwhile, too many girls and women will wake up tomorrow planning to starve themselves; too many will feel overly critical when they look in the mirror; too many will experience sexual or domestic violence.

There is still work to be done — here and across the globe — and I salute the women who are fighting the good fight today.

(Photo by Milad Avazbeigi)

There are a great number of organisations to get involved with that help women around the globe achieve the rights we all deserve, including:

Amnesty International researches, exposes and fights human rights violations worldwide. Check out their website for ways to take action against injustice.

Mahboba’s Promise is an Australian aid organisation that helps women and children in Afghanistan, which has the highest proportion of widows and orphans in the world and is one of the poorest countries. Amnesty International has noted that women living in poverty suffer the greatest human rights challenges.

Women for Women International helps rebuild the lives of women survivors of war in countries such as Iraq, Nigeria, Rwanda and the Sudan. In war, women’s rights are often one of the first casualties.

Soroptimist International is an organisation of women in management and the professions working to advance the status and equal rights of women around the world.

The UN’s Say NO to Violence Against Women campaign, for which Nicole Kidman is a spokeswoman, is a global movement demanding that governments make it a priority to end violence against women.

 

Personal Happiness

Guest Post by Enlighten Education’s Program Director for Queensland, Storm Greenhill-Brown

Personal happiness is a subject that has long been of interest to me, so I was most intrigued when I read Elisa’s recent comment mentioning a study called “The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness” by two economists from the University of Pennsylvania. According to their research, since the 1970s there has been a steady decline in women’s subjective perception of well-being — that is, we’re less happy than our sisters from the seventies. This is true of women of all ages, backgrounds and circumstances, all across the industrialised world, even though we have better employment opportunities and access to childcare, and more equality in our relationships and in society and politics than ever before. The researchers also found that in post-feminist America, men are happier than women.

Why? Are women driven to unhappiness by our own expectations or by the expectations of those around us?

A particularly interesting aspect of the study relates to girls at high school. The researchers suggest that young women are attaching greater importance to an increasing number of aspects of life, e.g. “being successful in my line of work”, “being able to find steady work”, “making a contribution to society”. In fact, the only domain that they attached less importance to was “finding purpose and meaning in my life”. Hmmm.

I think most women would agree that we are better off now than 30 years ago. But are we struggling to keep too many balls in play? And is this a challenge we genuinely relish or something we secretly bemoan? It’s not a simple problem and I don’t pretend to have a simple answer. However, in my own experience, I find that when I am able to keep my life as simple as possible and focus on what keeps me happy, I feel wonderfully centred and not overwhelmed. This has been called “leading an examined life”. When others judge the way we live, either through their behaviour or implied or explicit remarks, it becomes very difficult to remain authentic to ourselves. Trying to match others’ expectations is a defining characteristic of being a young woman, and is a behaviour that is likely to be repeated throughout adulthood. But imagine how much more at peace we could be if we learnt skills early in life that help us to identify the things that truly matter, that truly bring us happiness. This is something that we strive to impart in our Enlighten workshops.

To be happy, I believe we need to feel that we are good enough the way we are, and that we are free to make choices that work for us and our families.

Women can be hugely critical of other women. Whether it be girls and their friendship issues or women and their work/family issues, why do we feel the need to pass judgement? 60 Minutes ran a story a few weeks ago, Housewife Superstars, that really emphasised the divide between women on the issue of choosing to engage in paid work, or be a stay at home Mum. Watching this I could not help but think such stories only add to the “us and them” mentality…surely if the choice works for one woman and her family, then it is not up to us to the rest of us to judge?

I am going to make a conscious effort to accept other women and their choices, and celebrate diversity.

I am going to make a conscious effort to choose happiness.

For those interested, in Sydney in 2010 there will be a Happiness Conference – “Happiness and Its Causes” – with Naomi Wolf as keynote speaker.

Show and Tell

It’s been an exciting and busy week. Today I was in a photo shoot for The Weekend Australian. I feel incredibly honoured that they have chosen to include me in “The Next 100” leadership feature:

As a national newspaper with a commitment to Australian success we know that identifying and nurturing good leaders is an essential aspect of nation building…

Over the next three months we will name 100 of Australia’s young and emerging leaders — those who are set to make a substantial contribution to the nation over coming years.

The Next 100 series, which runs in The Weekend Australian Magazine, each week from April 4-5, identifies people who are setting agendas and inspiring others through their work and ideas.

The Australians on our list come from a range of backgrounds and exhibit different talents. But they share a high level of professional skill and offer innovative approaches to national challenges. They share too those essential qualities of leadership — an ability to come up with fresh directions and solutions, to articulate those changes and to make them happen.

Over 10 weeks we are profiling people representing 10 key areas of national life — Society, Sport, Wealth, Science, Culture, Earth, Learning, Health, Thinking and Innovation…

I will be profiled as a Leader in Learning. It’s humbling to be included in such a talented group of nominees, and inspiring to read about the work they are doing. If you haven’t already, it’s worthwhile to take the time to read about their backgrounds: Nominees – The Next 100.

I have also just launched my own website to profile my seminars for parents and teachers and my upcoming book: www.danniellemiller.com. Love to hear your feedback.

And finally, I was really touched when young Western Australian poet Kate Wilson sent me the link to a YouTube clip of her performing a poem she wrote in Enlighten’s honour. Isn’t she terrific?

Making a stand

The latest NRL scandal has brought some ugly, ignorant and misogynistic views to the surface in the media and among the general public. Many people have sprung to Matthew Johns’ defence since Four Corners’ revelations about an incident in New Zealand in 2002 in which Johns and numerous teammates had sex with Clare, a 19-year-old girl who subsequently went to the police, feeling degraded and violated: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2009/20090511_footy/interviews.htm.

I am particularly alarmed that a number of women are pointing the finger at the victim, branding her as immoral. On Facebook, for instance, by today’s count there are 20 “Leave Matty Johns alone” pages, including this one created by a young woman: “Leave Matty Johns alone . . . she’s guilty – guilty of being a slut!!!”

In answer to those who blame the victim, in this post I offer alternative viewpoints that may hopefully dispel some of the myths about sexual assault.

Myth No. 1: The girl was “asking for it” by going back to a hotel with footballers.

This blame-the-victim mentality is one of the main reasons many women do not report sexual assault: they feel their morality may later be called into question. In NSW alone, an estimated 35,000 rapes each year go unreported. My colleague Leanne Cunningham, a clinical psychologist, tells me that she sees dozens of young women traumatised by incidents similar to the latest NRL scandal:

It is an absolute myth that women make up stories of abuse as they are liars and somehow just regretful after a sexual encounter they had enjoyed at the time. I can assure you the reporting process is so traumatic and requires such bravery that women would not put themselves through this if they did not feel they had been genuinely assaulted.”

In recent days, many people have implied that the then-19-year-old woman involved was not a true victim of sexual assault, because the police could find no evidence that physical force was used against her. Though the players involved were not charged with rape or any other crime, I believe that the words of Dr Patricia Weiser Easteal, of the Australian Institute of Criminology, in Rape Prevention: Combatting the Myths are relevant:

Studies have shown that in the majority of rapes, the perpetrator does not use force which results in physical injuries (Green 1987; Weekley 1986). The threat of force and death and the intimidation inherent . . . are sufficient. In reality, many forms of covert coercion and force may be used in rape. It is the victim’s fear of the assault and its outcome that render her passive. Almost three-quarters of the victims in a Victorian sexual assault phone-in reported that ‘they felt an overwhelming sense of powerlessness’ (Corbett 1993, p. 136)”  

Another myth that flows on from this is that unless the victim physically resists, her allegation of rape is not credible. ‘The reality is far different,’ Dr Easteal writes. In fact, ‘women have often been advised not to resist in order to minimise the likelihood of severe injury or death.’

Andrew Bolt, in an opinion piece in the Herald Sun, argued that the issue of Clare’s consent is in fact ultimately immaterial, because: ‘consent does not trump morality’.

The problem is that trusting to consent means – for a start – trusting that people are smart enough and strong enough to work out all by their uncertain selves what’s good for them. In the Johns case, it’s now clear that the 19-year-old woman was neither that smart nor that strong. Five days after the sex, she went to New Zealand police to complain of assault, bitterly regretting what had happened. I don’t doubt that she did feel powerless, or at least intimidated and on show, and if she was indeed smart enough to work out at the time that the sex was wrong, she was not strong enough to insist…Yet even though she consented to the sex – or didn’t object – the woman was still left feeling so “useless”, so “worthless” and so “really small” that her life collapsed.”

And it’s not just that consent may be due to bad judgment. The other reason these men should have based their actions on morality, rather than the woman’s consent alone, is that: “Consent also means it’s every man for himself. That you can do whatever you can force some silly or intimidated woman to agree to, however much it will hurt them.”

Final word on this point goes to the Four Corners reporter Sarah Ferguson: “A woman involved in degrading group sex can still be traumatised whether she consents or not.”

Myth No. 2: It happened so long ago, it shouldn’t matter now.

There is no statute of limitations on the harm we cause or experience. Certainly, time has not healed Clare’s wounds. Women who have lived through similar experiences report that they feel the pain long after the event. The woman at the centre of a sex scandal involving three Broncos players in a nightclub toilet last year told The Courier-Mail:

I’m still functioning and my life is not over by any means, but I will never ever forget this. Whenever I think (about it), I just want to spit, it’s just disgusting, absolute(ly) disgusting . . . (I have) trouble looking in the mirror because (I) feel dirty.”

And if we let this incident and others like it slide because of the amount of time that has passed, we will fail to acknowledge the appalling pattern of sexual assaults across the football codes. Some of these are:

2004 Bulldogs players accused of gang rape
2008 Broncos players accused of rape
2009 Sam Newman’s disgraceful treatment of Caroline Wilson on the footy show
2009 NRL’s Greg Bird’s glassing of his girlfriend’s face during an argument
2009 Reports a soccer player committed a sexual act with a 13-year-old girl
2009 A stripper being used to “stir up” an AFL Amateur Football team


Myth No. 3: There’s no point in speaking out in support of the victim.

Mia Freedman tackled this issue eloquently in her blog post last week. When a journalist asked her to comment on the scandal, her reflex was to go the “no comment” route, because once before, when she had criticised the misogynistic culture of the NRL on the Today Show, she had met with aggressive abuse from football fans.

But then, I thought about it. And I thought about the brave women who came forward on Four Corners to tell their stories. I thought about female sports journalists like Rebecca Wilson and Carolyn Wilson who have repeatedly written passionately and courageously about the issue. And I thought about Tracey Grimshaw who, on ACA the night before her interview with Matty Johns, spoke out stridently condemning him and the culture that could allow such a thing to take place, as well as the off-hand way it was handled by her colleagues at The Footy Show during Matty Johns’ public apology last week.

And I thought to myself, THIS [her fear of speaking out] is why nothing ever changes. THIS is why no NRL player has ever been convicted. THIS is why this disgusting behaviour has been allowed to continue behind closed doors for so many years . . . And I thought about how much I admire all those women for standing up and making their voices heard. And I was ashamed that I was thinking of staying silent.”

I encourage every one of us to also pick our words carefully when discussing this topic. The semantics really do matter. Jill Singer, in her Sun Herald opinion piece Disgraceful League of Their Own, writes:

Group sex. Despite the fallout from the NRL sex scandal, this expression is still invariably being used to describe the behaviour of the disgraced Matthew Johns and accomplices. How could any reasonable person use such a relatively benign term regarding the degradation and trauma caused to a teenage girl by a conga line of hulking, rutting men? The calculatedly mild language being used in discussion about the behaviour of these sportsmen helps explain a culture that allows the sexual assault of women to thrive.”

Myth No. 4: Misogyny is simply a part of male sports, there’s nothing we can do about it.

Dr Easteal acknowledges that there is indeed a culture of misogyny inherent in many Australian male dominated sports:

Misogyny is …derived from the emphasis upon aggression in the enculturation of males which is manifested in the type of sports which are popular. Males are more comfortable with males, they tend to socialise and communicate at a non-intimate level with other men, and they are apt to have a low regard for females. The latter is evidenced by both the type of verbal comments directed at women and the high frequency of physical violence toward female partners that has been well-documented (Mugford 1989).”

The NRL admits too there are massive problems within the code and have invested over a million dollars in an attempt to re-educate players. Many would argue that this is too little too late and that a firmer hand needs to be taken with players who behave in a manner that is clearly unbecoming of the sport. Brisbane chief executive Bruno Cullen publicly acknowledged that it is time to get serious: “I don’t want him (Matthew Johns) to be victimised or ostracised – I don’t want to cost him his job – but from a rugby league perspective, and a result of the stories that have come out, Matthew Johns is the wrong person to be any sort of face of rugby league whether that be on the Footy Show, Channel Nine or the NRL, whoever.”  

There are plenty of things we can all do too to help bring about change.

For starters, NSW Government Primary schools have put the NRL on notice: they will no longer host visits for players until the league takes decisive action to curb the problems that are plaguing the sport. Dr Dan White, The Executive Director of Catholic Education, Sydney Diocese, has taken a particularly firm, and admirable, stand: “People responsible for rugby league have to realise that organisations like ourselves are concerned that if this sort of behaviour goes on in the future we have to review our association with the code or club concerned…Any sport not in keeping with the ethos and values of our school system over the long term runs the risk of being discontinued as the preferred sport in our schools.”

It is vital to emphasise that the onus of preventing assault should not lie with young women. It is never the victim’s fault. That being said, there are some useful personal safety guidelines worth sharing with young women:

• Be assertive. A friend of mine who was once a cheerleader for a first-grade rugby league team described the types of girls the more predatory players were often attracted to:The group of dancers I worked with were all really confident, bright young women . . . They stayed well away from us. It seems to me that the type of girls they go for are always the starry-eyed young, quieter and often naive fans.”
• Learn self defence, so that you are better able to detect danger, fight back and be assertive.
• Know your sexual rights, as an individual and as a partner.
• Understand that rape does not have to involve physical force. If a man insists on having sex with you without your free and willing consent, he is committing a criminal act.

I’d also like to see football’s decent players step up and do more to set the tone within their clubs. What about making a public statement by wearing armbands that proclaim something like “Real men don’t harm women”? A male friend of mine made the following poignant comment: “While I believe the female voice is important in the issue of misogynistic attitudes in these types of sportsmen, the MALE voice is the linchpin. What we need are more blokes willing to have the guts to tell other blokes what’s right and what’s wrong.”

Here, here.

PS You may find the Four Corners backgrounder on the NRL sex scandals helpful. It includes an archive of news reports and resources such as hotlines and support groups relating to rape: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2009/s2567051.htm

P.S.S Four Corners posted an Update on the story Code of Silence on the 19/5- it is vital reading: http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2009/s2575275.htm

 

Sisterhood – performance poem by Kate Wilson

The poem featured in this YouTube clip is written and performed by Kate Wilson.

Have your girls produced poems, songs or art that explores women’s issues? If so, I’d love to see these.

P.S As promised – big shout out to the hundreds of shiny teen girls I have worked with this past fortnight. I have been to Canberra, New Zealand, Wagga Wagga, Strathfield and Perth! A few of my fave snaps below.

LOVE, LIGHT AND LAUGHTER to all my Sisters!

Letter to my teen self

I have lifted this idea straight from Oprah’s magazine, April 2006 edition.

If you could write a note of advice to your teen girl self, knowing all that you know now, what would you say to her? I love this exercise as it encourages reflection, empathy with the plight of our young women and affirms the wisdom and strength we have gained.

Below is the feminist Naomi Wolf’s contribution:

 

And here is mine:

Dear Teenage Danni,

What a conflicted young girl you are! Your head and heart tell you that your strength lies in your intelligence and willingness to fight for what you believe in, yet you spend most weekends drowning these voices in cheap spumante and focusing only on your body’s imperfections. Stop fighting with yourself Dan – you are magnificent as you are. You can’t airbrush all your perceived imperfections and guess what? Even if you could, later on in life it is these very scars that you now hate so much that will make you unique and shiny. It is just going to take time for you to grow into yourself …trust me. It will all be more than just ok. It will be brilliant.

In the mean time, just breathe.  And keep reading . The words you are surrounding yourself with are slowly healing you. Words will always soothe you.

Be kind to your sister.

Go and kiss your Grandfather. He will always remain one of the great loves of your life and you will miss him terribly when he is lost to you.

Make up more “secret” clubs with your friends and continue nominating yourself to be Captain. It is all good practice for when you will run your own company one day.

Practice forgiveness.

Know that mistakes are not devastating. You’ll make many and will learn from them all.  

Ditch the 80’s perm.

Love, light and laughter to you growing girl,

Danni   

I’d love to read your letters!

I also wanted to share the image below with you as after writing this I went searching for a picture of my teenage self and this photo literally fell out of the album and landed at my feet; and how special that it is a photo of my Grandfather and I! I actually don’t even recall ever seeing it before – and what a gorgeous shot it is. I am 8 years old. You can see the love written all over my little face can’t you?

Let’s never understimate how vital connections to the older generation are, and how influential we can all be in shaping our children.  

                       

Love you Grandpa. Miss you always. XXXX 

The standard you walk past is the standard you set

You may recall me sharing my outrage with you over sports commentator Caroline Wilson’s treatment on the Footy Show. The charming Sam Newman decided to dress up a mannequin in skimpy lingerie, staple her picture to its head and thrust it’s crutch into the face of his fellow co-presenters. By all accounts – this was deeply offensive.  

Even more offensive – Sam responded to the ensuing outrage by saying that women who complained were “liars and hypocrites”.

The fallout has been really interesting to observe. And it is not just women who are complaining. In a move that media commentators say is virtually unprecedented, the ANZ bank has directed its advertising away from the show. The Age newspaper has also redirected advertising from the show to other Nine programs after Newman attacked the newspaper and its journalists. Women’s Forum Australia is considering requesting more companies boycott the program. Director Melinda Tankard Reist (a regular Butterfly Effect contributor) has made WFA’s stand crystal clear:  “The program has caused a great deal of hurt to a lot of women and if The Footy Show can’t respond in a proper manner, then maybe they will respond when they start losing money.”

I was particularly taken with writer Catherine Deveny’s assessment of the incident in the Herald on the 21st May. I have attached the link to the full article but really it is just so powerful that I feel compelled to quote from it extensively here:  

I’ve seen Wilson take the lads on. She’s quick and outspoken. So what took her so long to write about her treatment in Mannequingate?…

I’ve often been confronted by jarring or offensive behaviour and chewed it over silently for a while before realising that I’ve been put off my own instinct by an invisible electric fence in my head.

I hold my tongue while grilling myself — “Am I overreacting? Am I being uptight? What will they think of me if I say something?” — before concluding “No, you’re right. That’s wrong. Speak up.”

By the time I’ve got past the invisible electric fences, it’s often too late.

When the blokes encourage you to play the dignified silence card, that’s code for “pipe down, girly, or we’ll demonise you”. Then you won’t be able to do the job you so obviously love and you’ll end up the loser. There’s always an implication that they’re doing us a favour, letting us play with the boys.

Look what the media does to Cherie Blair, Germaine Greer and Hillary Clinton. Any opportunity newspapers have they run the worst possible photograph of them. One that makes them look mean, ugly and hysterical. Punishment for speaking up and refusing to stay within the fences…

If a bloke had been the victim of such premeditated humiliation, the advice would have been “sue the pants off the bastard, Stevo. You don’t have to take that. Stand up to him. What do you mean ‘dignified silence’? Where are your balls? You can’t let him treat you like that. Shirtfront the bastard. And call a lawyer.”

Ignoring iniquity and injustice doesn’t work. The mere presence of pigs in suits reinforces and vindicates other pigs and lowers the expectation of all male behaviour. Letting it go normalises the whole thing and establishes some kind of precedent along the lines of “these things happen. And they blow over. Boys will be boys.” No. Pigs will be pigs. And it needs to stop.

It’s not good enough to be sorry about this kind of debauched behaviour after the fact. We have to stop it happening, and not just in the media. In workplaces, schools, social situations and under our own roofs.

And within our own invisible electric fences.”

991899_efence_warning.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How very true! Yes – this type of blatant misogyny must stop. And yes – we do have to step up and break through our own electric fences. Our girls needs to see what  strong, confident, assertive woman look like. They need to see how we set boundaries, and how we demand to be treated both within the home and by society itself. If we won’t show them, who will?  

 

News flash! With the upgrades made to Edublog over the weekend, I can now upload the audio of an interview I did last month with Prue McSween on girls and bullying. Enjoy!

  Click to listen – Dannielle Miller and Prue McSween on cyber bullying and Club 21, Radio 2UE. mp3

Worshiping the Writing Muse

65105.jpg“I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle
with human emotion.”
 

Laini Taylor

I love to read. I have always been devoted to reading. In the bath, before bed, with my children – I surround myself with words that help me make sense of the world. Words that amuse me. Words that challenge me. Words that leave me breathless with their brilliance.  

This week I struggled to make sense of some particularly disturbing events and searched almost manically for the considered insights of others. I thought I’d share some of my angst with you, and the words that helped soothe me. The pieces of writing I chose to absorb have not provided me with simple answers, but they have at least validated my own inner turmoil and ultimately made me feel less alone…

I have included links to the complete articles I quote from here in my articles of interest page.

 1. Heartache – The horrific abuse of children, both in Texas (where 463 children were removed from a polygamist camp after reports of widespread sexual abuse) and in Austria (the nightmarish story of a father’s ongoing imprisonment and sexual abuse of his daughter) left me feeling deeply sad.

I love children. More than I ever thought I could – and not just my own children, but everyone’s. This love and the empathy I have for young girls in particular seems at times so very large and hard to contain. It has arrived suddenly and unexpectedly into my life and whilst it is key to my success in working with young people (they can see, smell and taste its authenticity) it does also leave me psyche wounded by reports of children being harmed.

I ached to move beyond despair and sought to discover what, if anything, these events could teach:  

There is a link between the horrific violence committed against the women of the captive Austrian family and the apparent abuse of teenage girls in Texas, and it is the same unbroken chord that connects them tangentially—but significantly—to Hannah Montana’s fall from grace. When women and girls are routinely viewed as objects, they are dehumanized. They can be seen as chattel or animals, until someone uncovers a horror so complete that we recoil from it. Yet every day around the world, women are still sold into marriage, shunned for their husbands’ adultery, and raped as sexual assault is used as an instrument of war.

No, the degradation we have seen so much of these past few weeks does not signal the end of the world. But it provides a chilling reminder that history itself, with our own culture of sexism and misogyny feeding it, still consigns women to fates no man would wish upon himself.” 

Thank you Melinda for finding these words for me. Thank you writer Marie Coco – the pieces fit. I can now move beyond despair and get angry, and once again be active.   

2. Dilemma – 

I love reading blogs and am refreshed by the immediate, unfettered way bloggers write. The on-line world buzzed with news that Dove’s “real beauties” may not be so real after all. Crikeyreported that: “In a May 12 2008 profile in The New Yorker posted online, Pascal Dangin of New York’s Box Studios is quoted as saying he extensively retouched photos used in the Campaign for Real Beauty, which, if true, could seriously undermine an effort that already has subjected Unilever to considerable consumer and activist backlash in recent months. –AdAge

Even if this latest report is not true, I still feel instinctively uneasy about Unilever’s involvement in any self esteem program designed for girls. Unilever’s other key brand is the not-so-respectful Lynx. Lynx is a brand targeting young men, it promotes hyper sexualised images of women stripping and gyrating to a guitar rift lifted from a 1970’s porn film: “Boom Chicka Waa waa…”  

I have, of course, blogged on this in previous posts. The quandary? To speak out more publicly via the mainstream media, or to remain composed. On the one hand, I have plenty to say about the wisdom of allowing Dove into schools. On the other, as the CEO of a private company that also works in schools on self esteem and body image programs,  I do not want my arguments to be dismissed as merely “sour grapes”, nor do I want to be seen as criticising The Butterfly Foundation as they manage Dove’s in school programs in Australia. I believe the Foundation is highly reputable, hard working and genuinely committed to the welfare of young women. Other women I also admire enormously have been affiliated with Dove’s campaign too – including Naomi Wolf, a woman I consider one of my feminist role models.

The words below pre-date the latest outbreak of Dove alarm, this piece was written in 2006. I find I continue to return to it, however, as it confirms my suspicions and hearing them articulated so passionately, provides a release…   

HOW comfortable would you be with a fast-food chain providing the nutrition information in your son’s biology class? How about a beauty company lecturing your teenage daughter on her self-image…

What’s going on is a sales pitch. Everywhere we look, we see the beauty industry attacking women’s body images in the name of selling products that don’t actually work. Dove ingeniously aligns itself with the critics of its industry, while doing what exactly? Selling the same you-too-can-be-beautiful creams as its competitors…

Yes, these women are big and fleshy when compared with the anorectic adolescents usually trotted out to convince us to part with mega dollars for small pots of potion. But these confident, grinning women, with their perfect teeth and flawless skin, don’t resemble those I see in my local shopping centre pushing trolleys. There isn’t a wrinkle or a saggy behind on any of them.

What’s more, and despite Dove’s assertions to the contrary, these women are models. They were carefully culled from the crowd and paid to represent a product. Same as any other casting call. They’re now celebrities, touring shopping centres and appearing on television in the United States – a marketing dream…

In the end, even though Dove may ask some useful questions and may even do some good, its measure of beauty is still calibrated by thighs not thoughts, visage not values and appearances not actions.

Dove’s definition is just as disempowering and confining as any other definition of idealised beauty.

Would Dove really be so concerned about my self-image if it weren’t trying to get me to buy its products? Would the company still bankroll its social and educational programs, if sales declined?

If Unilever, which owns the Dove brand, was really committed to the body image issue, wouldn’t it change the advertising (its worldwide media budget is $8.6 billion) for all its other beauty products: Pond’s, Lux, Pears, Sunsilk and Rexona among them? Wouldn’t it be concerned that it’s the maker of Slim-Fast?

If this was anything more than the savvy implementation of a marketing angle, would the same company have given us LynxJet, the most sexist advertising of recent times?

Call me cynical, but I guess there must be real beauty in those dollars.”

Thank you Helen Greenwood.

2412842020_438d35b43b1.jpg 

Finally, thank you to Margaret Gee, my literary agent, and to Katie Stackhouse at Random House. I have just been offered a book deal with Random and am thrilled by their obvious commitment and excitement about the project.  

I too shall swirl and swing words.

Wonderful.

  

Imagine. Daydream…then follow through. See possibility, be bold, blossom.

This week I am inviting you to upload the PDF’s below and learn a little more about me and my heart’s work – Enlighten Education.

Who are we? What to do we do? Why does it matter?

I am very proud of both these articles. The first, “Creating Shiny Girls: moving beyond Bratz, Britney and Bacardi Breezers” was featured in the latest issue of the always excellent official journal of the Australian Council for Educational Leaders.

miller.pdf

The second, “Close to the Heart” was a case study included in the 2008 annual issue of Ms Entrepreneur Magazine. I feel honored to be included in this high profile publication alongside some very creative and savvy women. Other women profiled in the lanuch issue include Carla Zampatti, Sarina Russo and this year’s Telstra Australian Businesswoman of the Year Leanne Preston.      

ms-entrepreneur-2008-magazine-scanned.pdf 

954919_mirror_dream.jpg

Enjoy.

Subscribe

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Skip to toolbar