One of the great rewards of this work for women and girls is the global collaborations that have been forged by like-minded people who recognise there is strength in numbers: that a combined voice will achieve more.
The latest exciting initiative is Brave Girls Want, a powerhouse think tank and advocacy group that brings together experts, activist, and parent voices to communicate why our culture needs healthier media for its girls.
We are asking media creators to expand their version of what it means to be a girl, and recognize our girls as whole, complex people and not as gender stereotypes. To stop profiting from selling girls short.
We believe that girls deserve better, because we know that the consequences to girls’ well-being are serious. The alliance is asking media creators to rethink products in development and ensure they teach girls to be strong, intelligent, and adventurous. We are tired of girls being pigeon-holed and reduced to homogenized images and stereotypes.
We are asking media creators to practice corporate social responsibility – to take the sexy out of childhood. Reducing female characters’ value to being about physical appearance and nothing more damages girls.
A force of leadership asking everyone from parents, educators, loved ones, legislators and businesses to support, empower, and encourage brave, adventurous, strong, smart, and spirited girls. We are looking to rid the world of labels that confine, constrict or compress the growth of our girls so they can be their most authentic and awesome versions of themselves.
The initiative was spearheaded by the amazing Melissa Atkins Wardy of Pigtail Pals and Inês Almeida who I interviewed in September 2012 when she launched ‘Toward the Stars’, an online marketplace of products for girls which were gender stereotype and sexualisation free.
Inês made this You Tube film to launch Brave Girls.
Says Melissa: “The BGA takes its unique collection of voices to pair our expertise in girl advocacy with our passion for healthy, empowered girls to work as advocates when speaking with media content creators and corporations to guide a conversation on how to improve media.
“We also bring girls voices to the front, so that they may speak directly with media creators and tell them what messages, characters, and stories they want to see and hear.”
As part of Brave Girls Want, the alliance is planning to invade Time Square on October 11, coinciding with the International Day of the Girl. For seven days, we will rent a billboard in Time Square and talk about what we want for our girls and what they are telling us they want for themselves: fewer limits, more choices, less photo-shopping, more real images, less sexualization, more time to enjoy childhood.
“We have kicked off a revolutionary campaign that is bringing together the power of social media with the power of old media (billboards) and giving a voice to communities all over the world to be showcased on the business street corner in the world – Times Square, “ says Melissa.
“We need all the support we can get to make it happen and have our voices for what brave girls want seen and heard by millions just as the holiday shopping season kicks off.”
You can support the campaign here. Sign up to Brave Girls Want and please kick in whatever you can to buy some messages in Times Square!
“When we label our children, we unwittingly define them.We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them and who they are to be…As we all want our children…to have every opportunity to flourish into the person they are meant to become, it’s vital that we stop labeling and acknowledge room for growth, change and reinvention.” — Dr. Robyn J.A. Silverman
You’re about to be bombarded. Bombarded with junk mail, TV, radio and outdoor advertising all competing for your Christmas dollar. Before you purchase gifts for your friends and loved ones, lets remember those brands that have excelled in sexploitation this year, the brands and companies that do not deserve your hard earned money. Cross ’em off your Xmas list! For our third year running (see lists from 2010 and 2011) we are making it easier for you to make ethical decisions rejecting of companies which have not demonstrated corporate social responsibility.
As a first this year, we’ve added a positive alternative: Toward the Stars, an inspiring on-line global marketplace for products for girls. And we’re hoping to be able to add our first major corporate to sign on to our Corporate Social Responsibility Pledge. (Watch this space!) Here’s our list for 2012.
The popular youth surf store continues to push pornified products to young people. City Beach sells what we’ve called ‘porn t-shirts’ -clothing with pornified images of naked and semi naked women.
The range extends to thongs, hats and at the start of the year even pencil cases
were available at its ‘back to school’ sale. We’ve held protests outside City Beach stores in Brisbane and Sydney.
We’ve taken City Beach to the Equal Opportunities Commission and yet they refuse to budge. While City Beach insist on pimping porn accessories to the youth market, you insist on taking your Christmas shopping elsewhere.
Jewellery and accessories retailer Diva began selling Playboy branded jewellery
in 2011 to its target market of tween girls. (also read: The Age)
A petition through change.org accumulated over 8000 signatures and Diva withdrew much of its Playboy advertising and stock from the shelves. But dodgy Diva continued to sell their Playboy range from underneath the counter and stock has slowly crept back out on display in stores again over the past year.
When challenged again, Diva defended their Playboy range as marketed to their ‘mature’ customers. No matter their age, girls and women deserve better than being sold the merchandise of the global sex industry – when it comes to your Christmas shopping, drop Diva.
Lynx, men’s deodorant has continued to churn out their trademark sexist ads throughout 2012.
Lynx’s ‘controversial’ promotions – including the “Rules of Rugby” and the ‘Washes Your Balls’ promotion – are the perfect demonstration of how a company can misuse advertising industry self-regulation to its advantage. Create a ‘controversial ad’, wait for the complaints to roll in, cross promote with sexist ‘lads mags’ then cash in the dollars from the increased exposure. Lynx seems to think this manoeuvre will stop us from speaking out – it won’t.
And while you’re boycotting Lynx, you might want to give this brand a miss too…
What? Dove? The brand that brought us the campaign for real beauty? Absolutely! Dove is owned by Unilever, the same company who owns and markets Lynx. But the sexploitative hypocrisy doesn’t just stop there – under the Dove label, Unilever also sell a number of ‘skin whitening’ products, as well as anti-cellulite, breast-firming and breast growth creams. Making money off body dissatisfaction, sexual objectification AND positive body image campaigns? We’re not buying it Unilever.
In February this year, Mossimo ran a competition asking people to upload photographs to their Facebook “peep show” campaign. Images of Australia’s Miss Universe contestant in her underwear were given as examples, with the ‘peep’ which received the most votes winning a digital camera.
Despite the clear references to the sex industry as well as (the crime of) keyhole peeping on women, Mossimo denied any wrongdoing. The Advertising Standards Board saw it differently, upholding complaints about the campaign. Read about the online protest (and how we won a lovely new Canon camera!) against Mossimo here.
We wrote about General Pants explicit, sexist, and degrading advertising campaigns last year. They have a history of sex industry inspired stunts including live pole dance shows in their shop front windows. We have continued to hear from supporters about shop window displays and the images they display inside their change rooms. Give General Pants a miss.
The Buddy Ball
The Buddy Ball is the creation of AFL poster boy Lance “Buddy” Franklin. When Franklin’s not busy flogging over priced footballs to youngsters, he spends his time ‘co-directing’ Nena &Pasadena, a line of overpriced porn-inspired shirts, popular in surf stores such as City Beach.
In the past 12 months Franklin has brought us (caution when opening links) this, this and this. Posing as a role model for young boys, and then selling them the degradation of women to wear across their chests? We’re not buying it.
Despite being aware of Lance Franklin’s clothing line for almost two years, the AFL has refused to enforce their Respect and Responsibility policy and discipline Franklin. The AFL claims to be committed to addressing sexism and violence against women, but their silence and lack of action indicate they are not serious about these issues. Thinking of purchasing tickets, a membership or items from the AFL store? Think again.
Lovable is not so loveable following its ‘Besties’ campaign, which encouraged women to upload ‘selfies’ to its Facebook page. Jen Hawkins and fellow models, posed in their underwear, featured in the promotion. While the terms and conditions stated that participants didn’t need to upload images of themselves in underwear, the promotion sent mixed messages about cyber safety, prompting the Ad Standards Board to ban the promotion on this basis.
Of course, this is not the first time Lovable has objectified women – previous campaigns have also been so sexualised that they’ve been featured in the now defunct ‘FHM’ magazine.
Typo’s ‘back to school’ 2012 promotion pimped a wide range of porn-inspired travel mugs, iPod covers and notebooks to students. After parents complained and media caught on, Typo agreed to remove the ‘Porn is my saviour” and ”Dirty” ranges. While they withdrew these items, other items, including notebooks with sexual themes intended for school, remained in stores.
Typo are owned by the Cotton On group, who are serial offenders for selling porn t-shirts and sexploitative advertising campaigns.
These are companies that appeared on last year’s ‘crossed off’ list last and which have continued to use sexploitation throughout 2012.
A positive alternative – Introducing Toward the Stars
Created by Inês Almeida, Toward the Stars is an online market place and a safe haven from the commercialisation and sexualisation of girlhood, from the toxic gender stereotypes that dominate the marketing, media, and products targeted to children and young adults. A place full of gifts that inspire and enable girls to reach for the stars. Offering a venue that motivates and supports artists, business and craftspeople to innovate and explore new products that have the potential to change the world.
If you’re looking for gift ideas that will inspire and empower girls, check out Toward the Stars.
Now over to you!
Which stores will you be avoiding this year and why? Are there alternatives to the brands we’ve listed above? Please join the discussion in the comments section below and at Collective Shout.
‘A safe haven from the commercialisation and sexualisation of girlhood, a place full of gifts that inspire and enable girls to reach for the stars. A venue that will motivate and support artists, independent producers and businesses to innovate and to explore new products that have the potential to change the world’
One of the many privileges of this work is the inspiring women I’ve met in Australia and globally, who feel the same way on the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls – and are taking action to address it. One of these women is Inês Almeida who I met last year. She is an entrepreneur, activist and business leader who applies her skills in technology, business, strategy and innovation to projects related to the health, wellbeing and education of girls. Until recently she was part of the Global Executive team of a large IT consulting firm. In April she has left the corporate world to focus on TowardTheStars, a global online marketplace focused on empowering gifts for girls. I interviewed Ines ahead of the launch.
Can you tell us your motivation for launching ‘TowardTheStars’ Ines?
I was born in Portugal in a small town in the Atlantic Coast and have an Engineering degree in Computer Science. For most of my life I have been part of male-dominated environments – my career path led me to roles that are stereotypically associated with men. The ratio of women to men in my university classes was never higher than five percent and things did not improve as I joined the workforce.
I was raised with seven boys – a brother and six cousins. I had a very healthy childhood away from stereotypes and gender limitations, but as soon as I joined the workforce, and especially as I moved into leadership roles, I was faced with self doubt. I was different, the odd one out. First I tried to fit in and be one of the guys, model their style, but that really didn’t work for me. As I matured and gained confidence and experience, I learned to accept myself and to create a leadership style that matched my personality and my strengths.
As I started coaching my fellow female colleagues, I discovered that we shared a lot of common patterns: we struggled with the lack of female role models, we were trying to release ourselves from passive, voiceless female archetypes and we had impossibly high standards, a need to be perfect, congenial and at the same time highly effective. This left little space for risk taking and audacity. Failure of any kind was seem as a catastrophe. It was feared and avoided, and because of that the muscles related to resilience and resourcefulness were not being flexed enough.
Six years ago a little girl came into my life, Ally, two-and-a-half-years-old. She spent weekends with me and I fell in love with her. As I immersed myself in her world and started to look at the world through her eyes, I was at first drawn by the magical world of princesses, Barbies, sparkly dresses and tutus. But as time went by I started becoming more uncomfortable with what I was experiencing. I was looking at the root cause for all my own limiting beliefs; I was looking at the reason why my colleagues struggled to speak up, why women were risk-averse, why girls don’t pursue science, engineering, technology, math, sports and leadership.
Ally was surrounded by toys, books and media that were telling her everyday that her value came from her external appearance. She dreamed of being Snow White, a voiceless passive princess waiting to marry her prince; she wanted to look like Barbie, a doll with impossible proportions. I started noticing that science kits, sports gear and building blocks where placed in the ‘boys’ section of toy stores with boys pictured on the packaging. I came across the horribly sexualized Bratz Dolls and started noticing the sexualized media surrounding Ally.
Ally was my biggest teacher; this was a time when I went through an enormous adjustment of my core values and belief system. I wanted to rebel, for me, for her and for all little girls. I decided to do something about it and started to raise awareness with parents and educators via social media. I created my own ipad app with empowering stories for girls 7Wonderlicious and my community grew to 100,000 people online across several social media channels. This year I decided to leave my corporate executive role in IT to launch TowardTheStars a global online marketplace for empowering gifts for girls.
What are you aims?
My aim is to continue to inspire and motivate a tribe of parents, educators, business leaders, entrepreneurs, activists, artists, craftspeople and loving adults to come together in defence of healthy girlhood.
TowardTheStars will be a safe haven from the commercialisation and sexualisation of girlhood, from the toxic gender stereotypes that dominate marketing, media and products targeted to children and young adults. It will be a place full of gifts that inspire and enable girls to reach for the stars. A venue that will motivate and support artists, independent producers and businesses to innovate and to explore new products that have the potential to change the world.
What kind of products will you be offering?
In a world overwhelmed with messages that restrict the definition of girlhood, and tell girls that their value comes from their external appearance, it is imperative to showcase girls who are courageous, strong, bold, determined, accomplished and athletic. Girls who are leaders, scientists, adventurers, politicians and, of course, superheroes. TowardTheStars will be filled with books, media, clothing, games and toys that counter stereotypes, products that tell girls that math and science are “girly” subjects too, that tell her that fixing her bike and saving the day are girls’ activities.
We will also have a huge selection of gender-neutral and eco-friendly products. Clothes that allow our girls to move freely and play in the mud, building blocks, sports gear and so much more.
I am also very excited with our partnerships with not-for-profit organisations and businesses that will use the profits from product sales to support causes related to girls all over the world. My goal in the coming years is to drive as much funding as possible to causes related to the security, education, health and wellbeing of girls in less privileged parts of the world.
How many companies have signed up so far and from what countries?
We have 250 business, independent producers and not-for-profits from all over the world currently signed up to TowardTheStars. At the moment many of our sellers and buyers are based in English speaking countries – US, UK, Australia and Canada – but we are starting to see significant engagement from our large third world economies like India, China and Brazil and also northern European countries.
Are you pleased with the response so far?
I am very pleased with the response! The success of this marketplace is very much dependent on the number of great business that decide to join this movement, and I am delighted with the positive response. We have many businesses and craftspeople creating new products inspired by TowardTheStars, we have artists reaching out to us asking for ideas and suggestions from parents and girls as to what products they would like to see in this marketplace.
Do you think TowardtheStars will send a message to mainstream corporations that many of us who care about girls aren’t satisfied with the limited, sexualised, gender-stereotyped products and services they offer girls? Do you think it could help contribute to the global groundswell for change, demanding corporate social responsibility?
As an idealist, passionate activist and entrepreneur, I am certain of it. I strongly believe in the power of movements when they bring together consumers, like-minded producers and artists. The benefit of this type of venue is that it has the potential for rapid expansion and high visibility online.
With TowardTheStars, businesses create their own shops for free, the combined tribe of sellers generates a lot of buzz for themselves. Every time anyone links to the site or mentions the site online the brand becomes exponentially stronger. Everybody wins.
I know through media literacy work I do on social media via twitter and facebook that consumers are desperate for such products, they just find it very hard to find them. Once TowardTheStars is launched they just need to go to one place, they will vote with their dollars which in turn will give a very clear message to the big corporates in the only language they understand.
When is the launch?
I am working night and day on the launch of TowardTheStars, so that parents can enjoy this venue during their Christmas shopping.
The current plan is to have a beta launch in late September for our passionate online community and then to have a huge media push early November all over the world. I am asking our sellers to set up shop next week.
My medium to long-term plan is to include our boys who are also faced with toxic stereotypes that are as damaging for them and to the women who are, and who will be, part of their lives.
Doing this project on my own is the ultimate endurance sport, but I am enjoying every moment. I am taking a huge risk with TowardTheStars as I left my job and have not been receiving salary for the past five months. I knew the only way I could deliver such a bold project was to focus on it full-time, so I took a leap of faith that will hopefully be the first of many bold leaps in my path to make the world a better place for all our children.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
“As you read, be prepared to feel both grief and rage.” Robert Jensen
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“This powerful and humane book is a breakthrough…Big Porn Inc shows us we are poisoning our own spirits.” – Steve Biddulph
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Purchase Big Porn Inc, Getting Real, Faking It, Men of Honour, Sexts Texts & Selfies, Raising Girls, Raising Boys, MTR DVD, Ruby Who? DVD & book, Girl Wise guide to friends, Girl Wise guide to being you, Girl Wise guide to life and Girl Wise guide to taking care of your body, and the new Wise Guys for the combined discounted price of $250.
‘The foremost authority in Australia cyber safety lays it on the line and challenges parents to find their digital spine.’ – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
Whether it is problems with friends, worrying about how you look or just feeling a bit down in the dumps – these books are written especially for you – to help you in your journey. Purchase all four together and save $18.50 on postage! Author: Sharon Witt
In this DVD, Melinda takes us on a visual tour of popular culture. “Melinda’s presentation leaves audiences reeling. She delivers her message with a clarity and commonsense without peer.” – Steve Biddulph, author, Raising Boys, Raising Girls
In this easy-to-read updated book, Steve Biddulph shares powerful stories and give practical advice about every aspect of boyhood.
“Overflowing with incisive understandings…a comprehensive and in-depth guide.” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychologist
Men of Honour -written by Glen Gerreyn- encourages and inspires young men to take up the challenge to be honourable. Whether at school, in sport, at work or in relationships, we must develp our character to achieve success and experience the thrills life has on offer.
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“Getting Real contains a treasure trove of information and should be mandatory reading for all workers with young people in health, education and welfare” – Dr Michael Carr-Gregg, Adolescent Psychologist
Do you read women’s lifestyle magazines? Have you thought about how magazines might affect you when you read them? Faking It reflects the body of academic research on magazines, mass media, and the sexual objectification of women.
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Ruby Who? is the sweet and innocent story of a little girl’s adventure in re-discovering her identity. Ruby wishes for so many things and dreams of being like others. Will she end up forgetting how to just be herself?
Defiant Birth challenges widespread medical, and often social aversion to less than perfect pregnancies or genetically different babies. It also features women with disabilities who were discouraged from becoming pregnant at all.