Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2009 = A New Age of Enlightenment???!!!

What in the hot and holy heck is going on??!!?

I base the content of this blog on the unending barrage of bad influences from our overly commercialized, hyper-sexualized, consumer-crazy culture.

I'm the analyzer and the bearer of bad news. I enjoy my job. But recent browsing through all my Google feeds has left me wondering: Are we taking a turn for the better? Take a look at these headlines.....

MTV scraps crappy reality crap for shows that feature themes of affirmation and accomplishment! "Says Brian Graden, president of entertainment at MTV Networks music channels and president of Logo. 'Our shows are going to focus less on loud and silly hooks and more on young people proving themselves. These are themes that are consistent with the Obama generation.' " -- Target Market News


Teens cut back on holiday spending and tell their parents it's OK to do the same?! Shakara Walker, 18, a senior at Benjamin Banneker High School in Atlanta says. "Since I've gotten older, it's got to the point now where gifts aren't everything,"


Bratz are going away??!

No way!

A new essay contest that encourages teens to think about the greatest obstacle they've had to overcome and awards a cool grand to the winner?

What? Who dat?

Marketers, MTV and popular culture trends that encourage our kids to open their minds and hearts? Could it be that the Reign of the Girl Child is finally beginning?

{gasp…gasp…gasp…rolling on floor clutching heart}

But wait! It's not all candy hearts and rainbows...

Video game makers are still pushing the same stereotypical cheerleader-y, pretty-look-at-me, fashiony , entertain the masses ideals on girls.

Bratz may be going away? But Barbie's still hanging on with her perfectly manicured hands and gravity defying boobies.

And of course, there's still THIS

Yup, I still have a job to do! Not sure if that's good or bad, but I'll take it!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Girl-Child Lesson #1: Don't get stuck without savings!

My daughter will be 15 soon. And so it begins...

Already she's dropping hints about driving (BOOO!)

She's mentioned getting a job next summer (YAY!)

She's also under the mistaken impression that once she is making her own money (via the aforementioned summer job), she will be free to get her ear cartilage pierced (ouch!) and accumulate clothing in various styles that are more "her taste". (Ahhh… the insane chutzpah of youth! Sweet thoughts, but not it in THIS lifetime, honey).

The one thing that I will be stressing, as she takes her first babysteps out into the real world, is the importance of SAVING.

As a woman of the married variety, some people find it strange that I keep my own personal account, separate from my joint account with my hubs. Is it strange? Hell to the naw!! It's something the women in my family have always stressed..."Every woman needs to have her own money! You never know when some fool of a man is going to run off, go crazy or drop dead." Okay, so my family is not the most eloquent (or subtle) of clans, but they do have a point.

Even if it's only ten bucks a week. Put it aside and don't touch it! Hell, that's $520 a year… and that's nothing to sneeze at. Gail Marks Jarvis goes even further with the math in one of her recent columns in the Chicago Tribune.

"A person who saves $5 a week and invests it in CDs at a bank could have about $8,800 if they earn 5 percent on average over 20 years. A person who saves a little over $12 a week, or $50 a month, can accumulate roughly $20,400."

She goes on to tell us that in households headed by women "only 33 percent of the women said they save regularly, compared with 41 percent of all households. Just half of women who were divorced or separated had some savings, and among women who never married, 47 percent had savings." That's a little scary.

It's vital that when our girl children do enter the workforce, they begin to understand what they're facing. Women, on average, are still making less than men and tend to know less about handling money. Compound that with no savings to fall back on during tough times (like right now!) and you've got yourself a recipe for credit card debt, bad last minute loans, and scrimping to make ends meet. It's not pretty.

But at the same time, I know some women who are very good with their money. I could personally stand to be better. I'm more of a standard saving account /occasional CD girl. I could definitely benefit from learning more about other ways of savings that are safe and guaranteed, even in this economy. I think I'll take my own advice and have a chat with some of the more saving-savvy mamas I know so I can pass the advice on to my girl-child.

Anyone with any good saving advice to share?

And almost as if we were in some sort of crazy-Mama mind sync, Amy over at
Shaping Youth has just finished a 2-part series that focuses on money management for kids. It features tons of links to cool money management tools and smart advice for kids and adults! Check it out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A holiday shout out & a special gift 4 you!

So, I'm mired knee-deep in holiday prep, but wanted to take a moment to say a quick Happy Holidays to everyone!


Plus, what better time to share the gift of information? So if you have 20 minutes to spare, check out THIS jaw-dropping piece of informational awesomeness!!! (Which I discovered through PEM).

The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something, it'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

Please DO watch it, and walk away a more enlightened Mama.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Annual Eggnog-Laced Rant on Toys - Part II

So yesterday I started babbling about segmented toys. You stuff, blue stuff, girl's toys, boy's toys. What IS the big deal? After all, girls and boys play differently right? Toys should be different to some extent? Right?

Sure, kids play differently, because boys and girl learn differently. Many parents who've raised both sexes will tell you that girls usually master language sooner (hence role-playing games like "house" and doll play) and boys tend to have the advantage in spatial skills (Legos, blocks, building toys,). So there's nothing wrong with boys and girls playing with different of toys.

The issue is with the gender messages being sent by many of the toys that are marketed exclusively to boys or exclusively to girls today.

For girls there's Bratz, Barbie, Hannah Montana, Disney Princesses, and Polly Pocket, to name a few. All of these toys are centered around a few central ideas: let's do our hair, let's put on makeup, let's get dressed up, let's have a party, let's sing, dance or put on a fashion show, let's design clothes, let's put ourselves on display.

For the boys we've got Power Rangers, Star Wars, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Hot Wheels. Anyone remember Masters of the Universe? The messages are: let's fight, let's race, let's be tough, let's compete, let's gross someone out, let's take over the world, let's beat up some people. (How scary is the dude on the right, btw? I wouldn't let my 5-year-old see Spider-Man 3 because of him, even though the movie was marketed to kids that young.)

And since most toys today are based on television or movie characters, kids already have ideas of how these toys should act. So where does that leave us?

Hmmm. Hundreds (thousands?) of toys, all sending the same sorts of messages. Millions of kids, just getting settled into the awareness of their own gender, all very likely to identify with the actions of these toys and internalize the gender behaviors...I no likey

It would be one thing if there were only a handful of toys pushing these limiting messages, but have you walked through a toy department lately? This stuff is pretty much all you can find. For the aware parent or caretaker who wants to add a little variety to the toy box , the search can get real frustrating, real quick.

But you don't have to take my word for it. Just take a stroll through the toy department of any store and experience it for yourself. Try it. It's entertaining.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Annual Eggnog-Laced Rant on Toys - Part I

With Christmas only two weeks away I'm running a bit behind schedule on my annual eggnog-laced rant on modern toys. But never fear, after my last week who needs rum-spiked beverages to work oneself into an angry tizzy over greedy marketers who would sell sex toys to our kids if they thought they could get away with it?

Plus I've got a leg up this year, because I did a section on toy messages in my LICAC workshop a few weeks ago. So I can be lazy and worked-up at the same time. Whee!

For those of you who are new to Reign, I’ll fill you in on the method to my madness so you don't think I’m a complete nut job (partial maybe, but definitely NOT complete!). I do not have a problem with toys. I LOVE toys! We had lots of them growing up and spent many a magical afternoon playing out fantastical scenarios. I also work in the toy industry, so I have an understanding of what goes into creating great toys for kids. At the same time, I'm a promotional writer, so I've spent many hours studying consumer trends in order to speak to consumers in language that motivates them to make a purchase. So I'm not coming at this toy thing one-sided … I'm looking at it from all sorts of nutty angles.

But for the sake of space (and time, because I could easily go on all day…and no one wants that) I'll tackle one thing at a time. So today, I'll just give you some food for thought...

Have you ever noticed that you don’t really find big gender differences in baby toys? Children under 4 years of age don't give a damn what they play with. Boys and girls will play with a doll a car a box …an old shoe... they don't care. Their stimulation and learning comes from interacting with the world around them, and they're curious about everything. It's a beautiful time!

For a preschooler or a kindergartner on the other hand, gender is starting to come into play. Toy makers know this. Which is why once you move from the infant/toddler section of the toy department into the preschool section, things start to get very segmented…either the aisles are PINK PINK PINK or BLUE BLUE BLUE. For example…

Images from --LIFE Weekend Magazine, April 2007

Pretty striking, huh?

So what's the big deal? Oh dear, I've become faint with excitement and must now rest. In other words, tune in tomorrow for Part II.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Out of a Job … But Back in the Saddle!

I've been out of the loop for a little bit, Mamas.

As of last week, I've officially joined the masses of the soon-to-be-unemployed. My company is closing and I'll be out of a job at the end of January (BOO!!).

I figure I'm entitled to a few low-down days of wandering around in a whoa-is-me daze, so I took my pitiful act on the road for about a week. Guest stars included Big College Sweatshirt, Stained Pajama Pants, and Jumbo Doritos with his road crew, Ben & Jerry.

It was nice while it lasted (not really), but being down in the dumps gets old (and fattening) after a while. So today, I climbed out of my sad sack and I'm ready to get back to business here at Reign.

Also, I've missed about a week of updates, insight, and smart Mama talk from my favorite blogs ... and that simply will not do! So I'll be spending the next few days catching up on all the good stuff. I missed during my pity party. Whee!!!!
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