Monday, October 27, 2008

It's a Monday Power Trip! Hop Aboard!

Like most Mamas, I like to think that we empower our girls by encouraging them to ask questions, speak their minds, and think for themselves. But at the same time, we're competing with an onslaught of media messages that tell them that "girl power" really comes from the way they look and how strongly they can attract the attention of others…namely boys.

"Not my girl-child," you might say. But don't ever underestimate the pull of the hotness factor. Even the most level-headed girls can be influenced by the sexualized cues that surround them. You can see it in the burning 'tween need for lip gloss, itty-bitty padded bras and mini-thongs. It's also obvious in flimsy Halloween costumes designed for preteens (Little Bo Peep in a mini-skirt and knee socks? Which nursery rhyme book is that from?!). And since we're being honest here, I'm no innocent bystander. I've got a few tubes of $40 eye cream in my medicine cabinet, too... and I should know better.

So where does true power come from? Ask Kristina over at Mom on the Rise. Her beautiful post is what got me rolling on this Monday Power Trip in the first place.

In Warrior Marks: Part 1 (the Overview), Kristina reveals how a traumatic experience during her youth (her rape and the subsequent rejection of her claim by those who were supposed to protect her) morphed into angry, self-destructive behavior.

"Sex is Power and I would NEVER relinquish power again. I wore sex as knights wore armor. Rather than get close to some one, I had sex. I managed to detach sex from emotion completely and lived with anger ready to boil over at any minute." --Mom on the Rise

Read the entire post here. Be prepared to have your soul shaken. Kristina was eventually able to move beyond her pain and get the help she needed to reclaim her true power…the stuff that was inside of her all along. I met Kristina during my weekend at the Disney Mom Blogger Mixer and I can attest; this is a woman who knows who she is and is so at peace in her own skin that she gives everyone around her a good-energy buzz. Now that's girl power!

How do we inspire that type of confidence in our girls? Hell, how do we inspire that in ourselves?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Vote However You Like!

Of course Reign is not a political blog, but this was TOO good to pass on. Leave it to kids to get the point across better than any political talking-head ever could.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Disney Week (extented) Part IV-The Princess Paradox

If you're a regular visitor here @ Reign, you know that this blog was created as a gathering place for Mamas to share, discuss and dissect the issues that effect our pre-teen and teenage daughters. You also know that there are a few key things that get my normally comfy panties in a big ol' bunch. They include:

1. Sexually explicit/misogynistic songs playing on the radio at 4 the afternoon.

2. Frighteningly inappropriate television programs playing at 4 in the afternoon (i.e. anything that features Flava Flav in the shower with 2 naked women...dry heave)

3. Music videos, television shows and advertisements that portray women as unthinking objects for the enjoyment of men.

4. Toys that teach little girls that their power and confidence comes from how they look.

5. Advertising that makes girls and women feel like the way they look is not good enough, sexy enough or "hot" enough unless they have the right clothes, make-up, perfume, lotion, shoes, or shampoo.

So knowing those things about me, it should be no surprise that during my wonderful weekend at the 2nd Disney Mom Blogger Mixer, I was especially interested in their view of the princess aspect. C' know them; Cinderella, Snow White, Belle, Ariel, Jasmine, Mulan and, in a pinch, Pocohantas. I don't have a personal problem with the princesses per say. Every girl deserves to feel like a princess at one time or another, I suppose. What I have an issue with is the scarcity of other types of female role models coming out of Disney.

And to be fair, it's not only princesses, recently there is also a crop of female pop stars (Hannah Montana, High School Musical, The Cheetah Girls, and Camp Rock) that have come out of Disney as well. So what's a girl to do if she is not the pretty princess/look-at-me pop star type? What about the girls who don't have a passion for fashion, or a desire to sing and dance? Aren't there more ways for girls to be empowered other than putting themselves on display or being royalty?

How about through outlets like science, technology, art, and sports? Funny thing is; these are disciplines that are actually quite prominent in the WDW parks. There are several attractions that are designed to get kids thinking while having a ball. So the thought is there, but again, it's not something that the company is pushing to the public. But why not? How cool would it be to have a Girl Power weekend at Disney World where the girls get to explore the earth, "swim" the oceans, and the learn about the vast expanse of space? Or imagine a game show where kids go on a scavenger hunt through the parks to find the answers to trivia questions and win big prizes?

Sigh... one day perhaps. And after an incredible weekend of chatting, brainstorming and hanging out with Disney PR and marketing cast members, I do feel like all of our concerns were heard. That's an incredibly important first step, and one that I'm so honored to have been a part of.

A huge thanks to all of the Disney cast members who made our weekend so special: Sarah (yes, that is her with golden "S" on her chest for "Super Woman"!), Laura (who knows absolutely everything there is to know about Disney!), also Michelle, Annette, Cybil, Maria, Angel, Diego and many others. I may not remember all of your names but I certainly remember the role you played in this incredible weekend. It is one I will never EVER forget!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Disney Week--A Quick Sidebar

Ok. Yes. Today I had planned on doing another post about my amazing experience at Disney's 2nd Annual Mom Blogger Mixer last weekend. I have a few other points I'd like to hit on...namely the princess paradox that still eats at me a bit and also the numerous thank-you's I'd like to shower over the wonderful Disney cast members that took care of us while we where there.

And I certainly will get to those points, but today...the Mommy B seriously needed a break! So I'll be back this weekend with the next installment in my Disney Week Review.

In the meantime, Mamas...regale yourselves with this. Someone sent it to me today and I spent the better part of the afternoon clicking and giggling (which is probably why I don't have my Disney post prepared). Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disney Week Part III - Behind the Magic

When you think of Disney what's the first thing that comes to mind? The characters of course! Mickey, Minnie, Cinderella, Snow White, Pooh, Tigger, Donald, Goofy… the list could stretch into one gigantic blog post on its own. But if you have no connection to any of the characters, you may not find yourself enamored by the Disney brand.

Unless you're this lady...

... who promptly fainted after this picture was taken. But that's a whole nutha story.

Anyhoo, in recent years Raven, Hannah Montana, High School Musical and Camp Rock have brought in a huge pre-teen demographic. But still, if you're a bit older or maybe you're a parent who's not thrilled by the idea of having your kids become a walking billboard you may shy away from this aspect of Disney as well.

So what's the point of visiting Disney if you're not fanatical over Mickey or if you're a parent who shies away from heavy commercialism?

The point is...there is a lot more to these parks than the characters. When I was growing up, Disney was all about "the magic" -- Fantasia, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty. None of which appealed to me (or many other African American children) then or now. And those are the images that probably stand out in the mind of many adults when it comes to Disney.

What isn't so obvious is that the educational aspects of the parks are absolutely phenomenal. And it's something that our mom blogger group pointed out to the execs during our fantabulous weekend at Disney World. You could actually spend an entire week at DW and not see one mouse or duck unless you actively stalked one and tackled it for a photo op. Ahem...
So, local schools, community groups, and even parents who homeschool could greatly benefit from a trip that not only gets the kids out of the house, but also aids in their science and technology, social studies, geography, and natural world lessons.

The wealth of educational resources at the parks are really amazing. Obviously they're not the first thing to come to mind when one thinks of a Disney vacation, but it's an incredible selling point. I know the next time I go to the parks, I'll be planning a few educational days in with the standard wait-in-line-take-a-ride exercise. Because let's face it ... after a few 30-minute waits for a 5-minute thrill ... it's pretty much nap time.

Now all the remains is for the Disney marketing whizzes to begin putting together some nice packages that can help families really capitalize on these amazing educational resources. But never fear. Thanks to your trusty Mama Bloggers...

the Disney crew has heard and hopefully taken heed. No need for applause. Mama Bloggers are always happy to help. Thank you very much. (Cash checks please.)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Disney Week Part II-The Mama Strategy

OK, I'm much better today. The headache is gone and I finally got some sleep after my whirlwind weekend at Disney World. WHAT AN EXPERIENCE!!!

Between the food, the limos, the wine, the hotel room, and the VIP treatment (Go right to the front of the line ladies!) it would be very easy for me to simply gush about the whole weekend and leave it at that. Honestly, I still have not come completely down from the experience. Yeah, it was THAT good. But to just go on and on about how great the treatment was would not even begin to touch on how much of an impact this weekend had on me.

Despite the dizzying luxury and all out fun, the best part of this mixer was without a doubt… meeting the other Mamas. The purpose of this weekend was for Disney to get a deeper understanding of the perception of their brand within the African American community. So where do you go when you when you want to know what families are watching, how they're spending their $$, which characters the kids love, and how a brand is viewed within a certain community? Straight to the source, of course…you go to Mama!

The Disney execs gathered a panel of 10 African American mom bloggers from around the country. We repped the East Coast, the West Coast, the South and the Mid-West. We were teachers, and lawyers, writers and artists, stay at home moms, home-schooling moms, working moms, execs and entrepreneurs. We were NO JOKE, OK?

With such a diverse group of intelligent and well-spoken women I think Disney got far beyond what they anticipated. And their method for getting our feedback was smart.

#1 They fed us

#2 They sat us down and gathered our perceptions of the Disney brand. You know this group didn’t hold anything back. We shared our views on: the affordability of their vacations, the lack of diversity among their characters, our feelings on the pretty princess stereotype (you know that was me), the lack of role models for boys, and the fact that for many in the AA community Disney is a non-issue because it's deemed as out of reach (as far as affordability) and out of mind (as far as not developing successful advertising that targets our demographic).

#3 We ate

#4 They unleashed us into the parks. We sampled the best of what Disney had to offer: the food, the shows, the parades, the rides, the educational attractions. Did I mention the food? We were sent out with the task of looking at the parks with a critical eye, finding the issues that concerned us and also being open to discovering things that we may not have known before.

#5 They gathered us again and de-briefed us on our experiences. For me, this was the most impactful part of the weekend. Not only had many of our perceptions of the brand changed, but we were able to give them a wealth of ideas for better communicating the good things that they have to offer to our specific audience. I think they got much more than they bargained for. Enough to start developing a real plan of action to make a change. Go Mom Bloggers!

Speaking of which. Allow me to introduce you to the other savvy Mamas I shared my weekend with:

MelADramatic Mommy
MamaLaw...Making Sense of the Maze of Motherhood One Law at a Time
Days like These!--Daily Accounts by Tanyetta
Mom In The City
Cutie Booty Cakes
The Integrated Mother Blog
Mom Bloggers Club
Mom on the Rise

Be sure to check out their blogs because they will ALL be talking about this weekend and it will be so interesting to read how this experience impacted each one of us in different or similar ways.

Tomorrow: Disney Week Part III-Behind the Magic

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Believe It or Not...It's Disney Week!

It's Monday morning. It's kind of grey outside and I have a banging headache. Normally on a Monday like this I would be sitting here at my desk in a coffee/Tylenol-induced state of pseudo-creativity in which I appear to be working, but am actually blogging, blurking, or doing "work-related research" online in an attempt to look busy until the actual work-mood kicks in, or my boss comes over and asks me for something that requires me to wake up and do what I get paid for. But this morning, despite the gloom and this friggin' headache, I'm actually feeling really energized. WHAT is going on?

Could it be that we are in the home stretch of the most exciting presidential race of my lifetime? I don't know about you, Mamas, but I CANT STOP WATCHING! The debates, the news conferences, the interviews, the subtle insults and full out accusations, the back and forth, the new developments. I'm afraid to turn away because I might miss something!

But that's only part of what's giving this Monday morning so much pop. This could be another reason. It's not every day that a girl gets her own feature spot on Ypulse. (Whoo! Goosebumps, Mamas!) Thanks again Alli! I'm still beaming.

Or could it be this little feature in my hometown newspaper? Nah. That piece is actually pretty old. I just tossed it in because I forgot to mention it before ;-D

So what's the reason for my Monday morning buzz? Well…there is the trip I took this weekend. Oh, did I forget to mention it? I was invited to Orlando this weekend to take part in Disney's 2nd Annual Mom Blogger Mixer.

Now I've done my share of slapping Disney around. When a company has that much power, along with it is going to come some criticism. As the mother of a girl-child, I can not co-sign the pretty princess/pop-diva/watch me sing, dance, design clothes and teach the mean, rich, popular girl a lesson stereotype for little girls that is so prevalent among the Disney propeties. As an African American woman, I've always felt that Disney could do a lot better in the diversity department.

Does that mean I'm going to turn down a FREE trip to the Magic Kingdom? Hell to the naw!!

Plus, from the beginning, this blog mixer struck me as a move from a company that is willing to ask questions and listen. And since they agreed to fly me down to Orlando and house me (luxuriously, as it turned out), feed me (decadently, as it was), thrill-ride me, and treat me to behind the scenes excitement, I had hoped that it would also be a chance for them to hear from me (and other mom bloggers) who might have ideas of how Disney could be more accepting and encouraging to all girls --even those who don't sing and dance or look like Belle, Snow White, Gabriella, Sharpay or Ariel-- and all children in general.

Was I right?

Now, what kind of marketing-Mama would I be if I just blurted out everything about my trip in one huge blog post? Plus… seriously, this trip was a whirlwind. I'm exhausted (hence the headache) and I'm really still processing all the information. It wouldn’t be fair to you or Disney if I tried to get it all in out at once.

So…I tell you what I'm agonna do: I'll take this next week to post a different topic about the trip each day. That way. I get to put some thought into what I write…and you'll get an in-depth report that addresses all the issues that we care about here at Reign.

I like that idea. So I'll see you tomorrow with the first post.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Let's Hear It for Our Girls!

Somebody once said (don't ask me who... 'cause I don't know) "What's the point of talking the talk if you don't walk the walk?" In other words; it's fine and dandy for me to log in here to Reign and flap my gums about empowering our girls with knowledge and confidence, but what's it all really mean if I'm not doing something to make that change? So without further ado...

What do you get when you take 20 preteen girls, 2 pretty cool adults (if I do say so myself), a feel good book, and a ton of fabric, glitter, puffy paint, stickers, and glue?

You get a Real-Deal Workshop, that's what! Take a look!

A big thanks to the Bryant Library
in Roslyn, NY for letting us have our first Feel Good Girl Real-Deal Workshop. This one was themed Work your dreams any way you want!, and it was amazing!! The girls were smart, full of energy, and SO in to the idea that with hard work and some no-holding-back imagination, nothing could stop them from making their dreams come true. And now they've got the dream journals (custom-made by themselves, of course) to work that imagination even harder!

This event wasn't just a nice start for the Real-Deal Workshops, it was crazy fun! My friend and business partner (the highly talented and ├╝ber creative
Maria Ackies) and I were worried about handling so many girls at one time, but it was smooooooth sailing. The girls were incredible and we all had a ball. We can't wait to do it again!

Maybe your library or community center is next?
Drop us a line and let's set something up!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fashion Week?

With the US economy swirling down the toilet, the last thing on my mind is fashion. But alas, it is Paris fashion week, and the beautiful who's who-ses of the world have flocked to the City of Lights to bear witness to the spectacle. That being said, I can certainly understand that fashion is a reflection of society. What's more, many people make their living in the various fashion fields from textile development to pattern making to, of course, designers and models.

I can appreciate all that. But when I have to wonder whether I'll ever be able to own a home or if I'll be able to send my kids to college, the last thing on my mind is finding the right shoes to go with this ...

I'm just sayin'.
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