Skip to content

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.

329500.jpg

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.”

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/4BQm9UEuSrs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

wonderwoman_100.jpg

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!

nombestnew.png

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.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dXcj6KeVPLs" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/eEPZlTZsn5Q" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

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

loreto-normanhurst-student-evaluation-161107.pdf

mt-st-benedicts-day-2-student-evaluation-2007.pdf

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!

Learning to fail

“I don’t believe in failure. It is not failure if you enjoyed the process.”

Oprah Winfrey.

How many of us can honestly say we enjoy the ride even when it ends with a crash? Whilst it is not hard to fail, it can be very difficult to accept failure. Yet accepting mistakes, and developing emotional resilience, is essential if we are to survive life’s inevitable setbacks.

558629_wrong_turn_okay1.jpg

Research shows that girls in particular strive for absolute perfection and chastise themselves for anything less than being the “Best.” They want the best school marks. Best body. Best clothes. Best friends. As Courtney Martin so eloquently states in her book Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, “There is nothing more disgusting to a perfect girl than the taste of failure.” 

The fear of failure can be almost paralysing for some girls. They may choose to opt out entirely, so scared of failing that they will not take risks; think girls who sit out PE lessons, girls who are terrified of answering questions in class. Other girls may look like they are participating and taking risks, but may in fact be silently imploding under the (often self imposed) pressures they feel. 

Why is failure such an issue? Girls are often desperately worried about what others might think of them if they fail.

It is powerful to remind girls that others rarely spend nearly as much time noticing our mistakes as what we do – although I have to admit the media’s recent obsession with celebrities transgressions (be they with diet, drugs or fashion faux pas) does not help us convince girls that no one else will notice their mistakes! Britney and co’s trips in and out of rehab and battles with weight and booze are keeping magazines in business, and make no mistake – it is just the girls that are under the microscope. Very few magazine stories focus on the errors men make. I don’t think I have ever read a magazine story that focuses on what male celebrities eat, or on their fashion boo boos.

                                                                     102434_i_need_protection.jpg

How do we convince girls that the current media obsession with highlighting failure is not something they should allow to feed their own anxieties?

My shiny new friend Ella James, media guru and “Goddess” of The Voice , sent me the following link to a most amusing piece that featured in the Sydney Morning Herald recently: it is a satirical look at the inane, unforgiving world of the woman’s magazine:  Stars Bigger and Bigger as Fat is the New Black. 

The first pudgy cab off the rank is Jennifer Aniston. Normally praised for her hot bod, Aniston is on the brink of obesity after packing on 50, I mean five, kilos. “Unlucky in love Jennifer is comfort eating after her latest split,” Famous reports. “Insiders believe that Jen is seeking comfort in her favourite foods after collapsed romances”, including her most recent fling with Orlando Bloom. Since splitting with Bloom, Miss Piggy has been “eating like crazy”, stuffing herself with “fried sardines” and “steak with shallots and horseradish flan”. Yum. Feel free to send over any leftovers, Jen.”

Hard to take Famous’ “outing” of Jen’s failed relationships too seriously when the reporting is exposed as so terribly shallow and pointless.

Worse case scenario – even if others do notice our mistakes and want to highlight them, will that really make us look silly or just reflect poorly on those who want to shame us?  

Apart from naming and poking fun at the ever so fickle Failure Watchdogs, what else can we do to support girls in learning that it is not only ok to fail, but an essential part of living and learning?

Be honest and lighthearted about mistakes you have made. Share them with girls, show them you survived the crash. I am quite open about mistakes I make with the girls I work with and I have to say, I think they find most of my “Danni bloopers” quite endearing! I also make a point of explaining what I have learnt from my mistakes and can usually find joy in them.

My business partner Fran and I have been known to laugh so hard over some mistakes we have made that we fear for our poor bladders. In fact, telling a group of girls that Fran and I laugh so hard we are scared we might wet ourselves was in itself a major mistake. I thought the girls I was working with that day would find this an amusing anecdote. Note to self – 14 year old girls are repulsed by tales of post baby incontinence.   

Finally, encourage girls to forgive and model forgiveness. If someone has made a mistake and is big enough to offer a genuine apology – accept it. 

Most importantly, discuss and model forgiving yourself.

xxxxxx

Success – It’s all about eliminating the wrinkles and getting the right wardrobe – NOT!

cover-23.jpgI do not buy womens’ magazines. I gave up that self-destructive little habit some time ago. I got sick of the nasty after taste ( “I really am not coping as well as insert celebrity Mum am I”? “Wow, I had no idea I could / should loose 3 kilos by next week!” “Maybe I do need to update my wardrobe”…)

However, on a business trip last week I decided to dive back in for the flight and picked up a copy of “Vive”, a magazine promoted as being aimed at “Women Who Mean Business.” 

What sage advice for business women was included in the 128 pages?

  • 15 different types of wrinkle creams were advertised – yep, I counted – including the $930 La Prairie Pure Gold featuring “finely ground 24-carat gold” WHY gold ??? Just because we can?  
  • Seven of the fourteen business women profiled were either in the cosmetic / beauty industry or in fashion – including a  four page feature story on the stylist for channel 7 Kelly Smythe. She sounds a talented, hard working lady but the story seemed to be implying that the main reason channel 7 is rating well is that the stars now all dress “for success” and that Kelly is there to “keep a check” on how they all look. Surely there is more to success than just the right pants suit?  Another full page profiled an ex-supermodel, Carla Bruni, whose main claim to fame seemed to be that she “once dated Mick Jagger and Eric Clapton.” The magazine claimed there was more to her than just her love life – but if so, why mention it repeatedly? 
  • The fashion spread featured a model that must be no older than 15. She was obviously very young and physically almost pre-pubescent. Flat chested, all long, gangling limbs, shown wearing a 70’s inspired playsuit and enormous retro wedges in one shot – oh how “Career Gal”. And if the Editor knows her readers are older (and by the looks of all that anti-wrinkle advertising they are targeting over 35’s) what is this spread hoping to achieve other than making their readers feel inadequate?     
  • The recipe section ( you won’t see this in boy’s own BRW) featured silly, fiddly Hors d’oeuvres (what career women has time to whip up “Mulloway and caviar tartare”? “Iberico ham and quail egg tarts”??). I particularly resented the guilt loaded implication that crackers and cheese were now a definite no no and that even “risotto balls are considered passe.” Blimey – don’t come here for nibbles then.   

Oh look I could go on and on…and don’t even get me started on the tokenistic story buried up on page 114 on what Feminism means today entitled “The F-word” – mmmm, me suspects this may be a revealing little Freudian slip.

The F word that came to mind for me when reading this magazine was … frivolous.

So if it is not all about the clear skin, clothes, and the oh so modern meals – what does it take to be a successful businesswoman?

I do not profess to know all.Despite my deep love for children and years of experience teaching and designing special programs for adolescents, I will never be part of the “Mummy Mafia” who know it all about child rearing. And despite my business qualifications, years of working on improving business performance, and enlighten’s recent Award as AUSTRALIAN Small Business of the Year for Children ( Ohhh I have been dying to get this achievement out 🙂 more in a minute! )  I do not think we are perfect by any means. We just do the best we can on any given day.

However, I do think many of the ways in which we do business work well – not only as they are founded in best practice principles, but as they utilise our natural capabilities as women. I thought it appropriate to share one of these learnings here.

 HOW DO WE DO BUSINESS?

 dsc03642_edited.jpg

We are transforming options for women.

“Women can and must help run the world…women, a natural resource should be mined for energy.”

Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project

In the majority of cases, women are still the primary caregivers. We appreciate the needs of working mothers; in fact, we are working mothers! Important considerations include working predominately during school hours, allowing time off in school holidays, and having flexible meeting times eg: after 8pm when the children are (hopefully!) in bed. We also choose to support other women in business and use working Mums who have started up their own “at home” enterprises wherever possible  – Steph’s Design for graphics, Jennifer Lugsdin for PR / Media, Judy O’Connell for blogging brilliance, Tanya Mc Grady for Taxation… 

Significantly, within enlighten we have also embraced what is unique and harnessed traditional female qualities; women are skilled in effective communication, empathy, and the ability to build relationships. Women are also passionate about the welfare of all children and feel a particular affinity with the plight of adolescent girls.

see-jane-lead-9780446581592.jpgIn the very interesting book “See Jane Lead”, by Dr Lois P Frankel, it is argued that many innate female qualities make women highly effective in the workplace:
“There is a new generation of employees who reject hierarchical leadership and respond to behaviors and characteristics that women have been traditionally socialized to exhibit. Employees, volunteers and children want to be muscled less and influenced more.”

Yes. YES! I believe much of my success is due to may ability to network and influence AND I also deeply resent being bullied – who doesn’t? In recent times I have had my own run ins with business bullies. Often bullies will claim that their behaviour is harmless, just part of “hard nosed business dealings.” I don’t buy into this approach.

This does not mean we have to succumb to the child like desire to be liked by everyone. Tough decision may need to be made, and although some women find it hard to be assertive, setting boundaries will ultimately earn you respect and may even get you promoted (“Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office” is another fascinating read by Dr Frankel). However, threats and power games destroy what might potentially be very positive, mutually beneficial relationships. 

Business is all about building meaningful relationships. With clients, with colleagues, with other service providers. Leadership development guru Sally Helgesen has gone so far as to declare women’s skills in building relationships and webs of inclusion as the “female advantage.” My business partner Francesca and I are both passionately in love with our business and when others see this, they fall in love with it too.    

I will be forever grateful to the men and women I admire who have also fallen in love with enlighten and supported us with our work. I thanked many in my previous entry after winning our State Award but want to also mention the wider network I have established that is so valued.

Clinical Professor David Bennett AO,  Head, NSW Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health, National President, Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare, Dr Michele Beal, Stress Management Specialist, Greg Byrnes, Program Director 2UE radio, Jenny Lewis, CEO, Australian Council for Educational Leaders, and of course last, but by no means least, Precedent Productions, The Commonwealth Bank and all the other major sponsors of the Australian Small Business Awards who have just made enlighten the Australian Small Business Champion, Children’s Services.   

 2007-11-04-1758-13_edited.jpg

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. 🙂

   

Subscribe

Follow this blog

Get every new post delivered right to your inbox.

Skip to toolbar