Thursday, July 30, 2009

Linking & Loving all Summer: The Girl Revolution

In honor of this super Summer of Link Love, I'd like to share a wonderful post from Tracee Sioux's The Girl Revolution blog about body image, self-esteem and self-loathing. Normally I would do a long and rambling (yet witty and insightful) introduction for something like this, but Tracee's words are so powerful there's no need for me to say anything.

The post is called Self Loathing Sin Bank. In it, Tracee takes a hard look at how a mother's dissatisfaction with her own body can be mirrored in her daughter's body image. It's something that every mama, auntie, grandma, or anyone else who has a girl-child in their life, should be aware of.

Check out Tracee's post here and find out the genius idea Tracee came up with to help counter body negativity in her house. Smart Mama!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Skippy-flouncy girly-walks & the men who walk them

My son (aka The Boy) is in summer camp all day, five days a week. I love it. Our city camp is amazing. The kids are busy all day. They swim, go to movies, take great field trips (They took a cruise around Manhattan yesterday. I was SO jealous!) and he comes home happy and tired. But he's also around new kids, some a bit older, and he's at the age when he's starting to pick up ... things. Here's an interesting conversation we had in the supermarket the other day:

The Boy says, "Look, Mommy. Look. I'm walking like a girl." He bends his arms up, lets his wrists go limp, then proceeds to skip/flounce quickly down the aisle singing, "Walkin' like a girl, Walkin' like a girl," in a squeaky, high-pitched voice.

I won't lie, it was funny as hell. Like stop-pushing-the-cart-and-grab-your-belly funny. But then again, it wasn't funny. Obviously, it required some addressing. So I say, "But I'm a girl."

I can see from his face that the gears are turning, but they haven't quite clicked into place yet. "Yeah ... You're a girl." he says suspiciously

"Right. So I guess I should walk like that," I say.

Now he's laughing.

"Is that how girls really walk?" I ask when he stops laughing. "Does your sister walk like that? Or Grandma?"

More laughter. The image of his grandmother skipping around like that actually cracked me up again, too. But then he says, real thoughtful-like, "No. It's not really how girls walk. It's how boys say girls walk. Or it's how boys walk when they act like girls."

"Yeah, but really girls and boys both walk pretty normally." I say

"Yeah." he says.

I left it at that. It wasn't a big deal, I just want him to know that stereotypes like that are silly. But then again, silly 6-year-old generalizations left unchecked (i.e. girls walk like this, girls can't do that, boys have to do this...) can turn into some really ugly generalizations down the road. And with the amount of stuff that kids are exposed to today (even more than when my daughter was his age 9 years ago) I'm going to do my best to stay on top of it.

This morning he asked me what sexy meant. First grade is going to be completely different from kindergarten isn't it?

Monday, July 20, 2009

A pregnancy break-down that even I can understand

There are a lot of misconceptions among teens and young adults about how pregnancy happens. A look at the increasing rates of teen pregnancy is evidence of that. But honestly, how many of us are familiar with the pregnancy process? I mean, who's really up to speed on things like how long sperm lives in the vaginal canal or what the heck a zygote is?

You gotta love the Internet, Mamas. Sure, you can find a TON of trash online if you're looking for it (and sometimes even if you're not looking for it) but honestly, if you need medically accurate, real-deal information, the Internet is one of the best places to find it. You just have to know where to look. Of course, weeding through the trash can be a bit daunting, but that's what I'm here for. I found the best pregnancy explanation video on Planned Parenthood's Teen Talk site. Check it out here.

A quick note: Mamas of tweens may not be comfortable letting their younger girls view this vid -- as will be quite apparent once you peep the giant lecturing penis -- but if you have a teen at home, I think it's perfectly appropriate and extremely informative. Of course you know your teen better than anyone so watch the video and make an executive mama-decision for yourself.

And of course you can't just roll up to your teen and say, "Hey come 'ere, lemme show you this great sex ed video." Please. We know we need to be more subtle than that. What I did was set up a special folder in my browser's favorites and let my daughter know that if I came across anything interesting that I wanted to share with her, I'd slip it in there. That's where I save the links for educational videos like this, as well as a bit of YouTube foolishness to keep things lively. That way, she can watch it on her own time without letting me see that she's actually learning something.

Happy sex-edding. Oh and here's some other stuff that will enlighten your offspring (and you)

MTVs 16 and Pregnant -- It's not what you think. It's awesome.
Its Your Sex Life (IYSL) -- More awesomeness.
Stay Teen -- Always thought provoking.

Monday, July 13, 2009

A makeover makes everything better!

A very interesting post at Michele & Lexie's page at the about image consultants for teens and tweens. These consultants charge big bucks (upwards of $500) to essentially give girls the "right" look so they don’t feel like outcasts.

Hmmmm…OK, I completely remember what it feels like to be unsure, uncoordinated, hormonal and frankly a little goofy as a young teen. No one feels completely confident at that age; and kids - especially girls - can be mean as hell if you don’t fit the mold. We've all, at some point, been left wishing that we could "just be like everyone else".

But the idea of using an image consultant to help a kid conform to an ideal rubs me the wrong way. What about individuality? What about being liked for who you are instead of being admired because you've got the right label on your blouse or your makeup looks great?

Is image consulting for teens a much needed service or is it just another ploy by marketers to capitalize on natural adolescent insecurity and piggyback on the narrow ideals that are already being pushed on girls… that their real power lies in their looks and their ability to impress others?

This is such an easy answer to the problem. Make them over. Make them fit in...all is well. Oh really? Wouldn't it make more sense to help all kids understand the need for individuality and accepting others for what's inside? Is it OK to just say Let's make them look great and they'll be fine ?

Is this the right answer for our daughters?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Out of Work Mama on a Coffee-Induced Rant

Good News about Jobs

Jobless Claims Drop Unexpectedly

Mortgage Applications Up

Anytime I read news reports like these I have to wonder. Who the hell is writing these headlines? Good news? What good news? There is no good news about jobs, housing or the economy right now. I can rattle of at least two dozen names of talented, highly skilled, hard-working people who have been out of work for over a year. I can also name people whose unemployment (which is a sad $400 a week max in NY State, btw) will be running out soon. Good News? Where?

I've been looking for a job ever since my company announced its closing last November. And I’m not talking just diddling around with sending out a few resumes here and there. I'm talking actively cold-calling, propositioning, dancing, soft-shoeing and doing the just-happy-to-get-some-work jig. It took me 7 months to get the one interview I went on two weeks ago. It didn’t pan out. That's fine, after being sifted from hundreds of other applicants it was "just nice to be nominated." Frankly, I needed the self-esteem boost. But please, media-people; ENOUGH with the slightly optimistic headlines. Who the hell are you trying to boost up? You have a job. Stop it. It's effing annoying.

Much more my speed is this article from Time magazine that touts the power of negative thinking: Yes, I Suck: Self Help Through Negative Thinking. Mmm...yeah. That feels better.

On that note, tough times calls for some smart-mama sharing and as much free shit as you can possibly get your hands on. So here you go: Last day to win a FREE Nintendo DS game.

Giveaway ends tonight. Jump in while it's still warm and bubbly.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Girls Can't WHAT?" - A chat with the creator. Part II

As promised, here is the second part of my Q&A session with Girls Can't WHAT? creator Gretchen Cawthon.

Today, Grethen talks about her wildly popular t-shirt line and the work she's doing for charity. Plus, as a special treat for the star-blogger in all of us, she shares a bit of advice about driving traffic to a blog or website.

Socially smart, artistically-inclined AND tech savvy? Talk about the girl who's got it all!
ROTGC: I notice that you are currently using your t-shirt and gift sales to raise money for charity. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

GC: I joke around that I'm doing it because "Shrek told me to!" but the truth is; I want to be able to give back to women's groups as much as possible. I like to set goals that are challenging, yet obtainable. One million dollars seems like a big stretch, especially when I'm starting at zero, but I'm used to starting with nothing and building. When I started Girls Can't WHAT? I didn't have any money to invest into the business at all. I started from scratch, never borrowed a single dime and today Girls Can't WHAT? brings in enough income to cover my expenses and be able to donate from charity. The referrals I get from the design of that site feeds my web development business which brings in my actual salary. My sole focus for Girls Can't WHAT is to be an inspirational platform for women and one way I can do that is by giving back to women's groups and supporting the dreams of others.

ROTGC: The t-shirt designs are fantastic. How do you come up with the ideas for different designs?

GC: I get requests for new designs from just about everyone. I probably get 2-3 requests via email every week and my friends and family frequently make suggestions. I am always scouting and coming up with new ideas as well. I keep track of all the requests and I have a place on the site where requests can be made and it lists which requests have the most "votes". I try to work on the most popular ones first, but sometimes creativity takes me in a different direction.

ROTGC: You get some great feedback on your blog posts. Since many of the readers here at Reign are also bloggers and big proponents of smart Mamas doing great things in the blogosphere, we've got to know how you're spreading the word about Girls Can't WHAT?. Social media? Word of mouth? Traditional advertising? Do tell!

GC: I've been fortunate in that a lot of other blogs link back to mine, usually to reference an article I wrote or a character I designed. Some of them just like the concept of the site and want to tell their friends. I am grateful that it's been inspirational to so many people.

I do use social media to spread the word about my site. Facebook has probably been the most influential tool. I have connected with so many of my high school and college friends and they have in turn told their friends and family about my site - not because I asked them to - they just did it on their own because they liked what they saw when they visited.

Recently, I hired a PR firm to get some more exposure. They have been pitching me to the blogosphere as well as to major print publications. I've gotten a fair amount of response from that and I am expecting a lot more to come from that relationship soon. It was an investment I have been pondering for quite some time and if things go as planned it will have been very worth it to let them handle those media outlets I couldn't reach myself.

One of my best "tricks" for getting visitors to my site is good SEO within the web design. My early experiences of learning to build my own site led me to additional work as a web designer/developer. Through that "accidental career" I began to soak in as much knowledge about SEO and Internet marketing as I could and that knowledge has been paying off in terms of search engine rankings and shop sales. Of course, I take that same knowledge and apply it to my web development clients and they have seen amazing results as well.

Thanks so much, Grethen, for the informative interview and kudos on creating such an inspirational site!
Head on over to Girls Can't WHAT? now for more smart-mama talk and real-deal girl empowerment. Don't forget to bookmark the site and follow Gretchen on Twitter and Facebook. You're not going to want to miss her site updates and new t-shirt designs. I'll see you there!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

"Girls Can't WHAT?" Let's chat with the creator! Part I

Some things piss me off.

Like what I'm hearing about the fiasco that was the BET award show. Lil Wayne performing " Every Girl" -- as in "I wish I could f**k every girl in the world"...uh-huh, check the lyrics-- while his preteen daughter and other little girls danced on stage. What?!??! SOOO glad I opted not to watch. BET never ceases to disappoint.

Anyhoo, even after such sad social displays of misogyny and stupidity, I can always count on my fellow bloggers to bring me back to positive girl-child reality. Like when I came across a post on What About Our Daughters about a website for girls called Girls Can't WHAT? The tagline of this amazing website is Have you ever been told you can't because you're a girl? Hell yeah, I have!

Gretchen Cawthon,the incredible creator of Girls Can't WHAT?, explains:

My childhood experiences prompted me to create the Girls Can’t WHAT? website in 2005. It is here I share my personal experiences along with amazing stories and interviews from some truly inspirational women. Together, our purpose is to encourage women to pursue their dreams no matter what roadblocks they may

The site is jam packed with real-deal inspiration for girls and women alike. But why listen to me jaw about it, when you can hear about it from the creator herself? Check out my chat with Gretchen below.

ROTGC: I absolutely LOVE the concept behind Girls Can't WHAT?. It's something that every woman has felt at sometime in her life. What made you decide to translate those feelings into such a positive outlet?

GC: I don't know that there was ever a "defining moment" that pushed me to create the site. It evolved more out of a combination of events in my life. I started seeing a pattern of gender discrimination in many of the fields I was interested in... music, technology, sports and business. The idea of "Girls Can't WHAT?" came when I had quit my previous job after being told repeatedly that "women can't do this" or "women don't do this". It blew my mind that my skills were being ignored because I was female. Ironically, one of the things I was told women can't do was "build a web site".

My husband suggested I take my Internet marketing skills and create my own site so I could work from home and be with our two daughters more. Essentially he said "why don't you go sell t-shirts on the Internet". That was in 2005. I thought it was funny at the time because although I had a lot of computer skills from teaching at professional levels, I didn't know a whole lot about web design or even creating graphics. I spent about a year with my head buried in library books
and blog sites learning php, html, css and other coding languages as well as learning how to use graphics programs to create my characters. Today, all that hard work has paid off in merchandise sales that support the site as well as women's charities and a spawned additional
work for me as a freelance web developer.

ROTGC:The site has lots of insight into girl-relevant issues and tons of great advice. Can you tell the moms here at Reign a bit about what their girls can do on the site? Also, what's an appropriate age for girls to begin visiting?

GC: My readers range from preteens to adults of all ages from all over the globe. I am very cautious about what material I post to the site and if there is anything that is geared to mature individuals, I preface the content with a warning. My 12-year-old daughter reads the site so I don't post anything I wouldn't feel comfortable having her see.

The site started with me highlighting a few celebrities and mixing in a few of my own stories. I then started interviewing women who weren't famous but were doing some really cool things like riding bulls and becoming fire fighters. My readers seemed to relate to those much more so I came up with the "share your story" option so women could post their own experiences and network with others in their fields as well as be encouraging to those who struggle to get past roadblocks due to gender.

A newsletter goes out weekly to subscribers which highlights the top posts and outstanding reader submissions. I also give away Girls Can't WHAT? gear to subscribers by randomly drawing names a couple times per month.

I'm currently working on bringing some social networking features directly to the site that will allow my readers to form groups that revolve around their career or interests. I think that would be a great way to hook up with other ladies who face similar challenges. The more brain power we can put into solving the various issues at hand, the better. Girls Can't WHAT? can also be found on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Youtube, etc.


Check back in tomorrow for part two of this Q&A session with Gretchen Cawthon. And in the meantime, check Girls Can't WHAT to find out why I'm so excited about this amazing website.

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