Romance novelist Danielle Steel pens book ‘for little girls’

I admit it, I’m judging Danielle Steel’s new picture book “for little girls” by its cover: a smiling chihuahua wearing a pink bow and jewelry sitting in a purple sparkly stiletto. The book in called Pretty Minnie in Paris.

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The Publisher’s Weekly blurb tells us it “will delight young fashionistas.”

The synopsis:

Inspired by the adorable adventures of bestselling author Danielle Steel’s own Chihuahua, Pretty Minnie in Paris is the stylish, ooh la la tale of a fashionable Parisian pup out on the town. Lost backstage during a noisy, crowded fashion show, tiny Minnie is separated from her owner, the girl she loves best. Quel désastre! But chaos turns to couture when Minnie unexpectedly finds herself the star of the runway. With a dreamy Paris backdrop and an atelier full of adorable outfits, Pretty Minnie in Paris is sure to be in vogue as the season’s must-have tale for little girls—and Danielle Steel fans of all ages—who love clothing, glamour, glitter, and all things à la mode.

 

On Amazon.com, Cookie writes:

Adorable!! So pink and glittery and girly. Plus Paris and fashion! Swoon! Perfect for little girls who love pretty things.

 

How did I find out about Steel’s debut contribution to kidlit? A full page ad in Us Weekly. Here are 3 books I wish had ever gotten that kind of PR:

 

Sparrow Girl

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This synopsis from fantasicfiction:

Ming-Li looked up and tried to imagine the sky silent, empty of birds. It was a terrible thought. Her country’s leader had called sparrows the enemy of the farmers–they were eating too much grain, he said. He announced a great “Sparrow War” to banish them from China, but Ming-Li did not want to chase the birds away. As the people of her village gathered with firecrackers and gongs to scatter the sparrows, Ming-Li held her ears and watched in dismay. The birds were falling from the trees, frightened to death! Ming-Li knew she had to do something–even if she couldn’t stop the noise. Quietly, she vowed to save as many sparrows as she could, one by one…

This story is based in truth: Sparrows were eating up grain so Mao’s solution was to make the Chinese people bang pots and walk the land for days. Exhausted sparrows fell dead from the sky. As a result of the sparrow massacre, crops were decimated by insects free of predators. The Chinese people went into years of famine and millions died. In this fictionalized version, Ming-Li saves her people by rescuing the sparrows and coming to a true understanding of what farming really is.

Reel Girl rates Sparrow Girl ***HHH***

Stone Girl Bone Girl

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I first heard about the young fossil hunter, Mary Anning, in an Ivy and Bean book. I was thrilled to learn more about her in this beautifully illustrated story.  Anning begins her life surviving a lighting strike that killed her nanny. She is passionate about finding fossils and is teased for it by the kids at school who call her “stone girl, bone girl.” In 1811, when Anning was 12 years old, she discovered an Ichthyosaurus skeleton, one of the most important fossil finds is history. She goes on to survive her father’s early death, her work supported by two rich female benefactors. I love that this book also features those powerful, wealthy, ethical, smart women. How often do you see that combo in kidlit?

Reel Girl rates Stone Girl Bone Girl ***HHH***

The Story of Ruby Bridges

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In 1960, four African-American girls were ordered to integrate two white elementary schools in New Orleans. Ruby Bridges was sent to William Frantz Elementary as the only African-American student. When children and parents taunted her and police did nothing to protect her, the national guard was sent in to escort her to and from school. At that point, the white kids stopped going to school. Ruby stayed on and learned her lessons. One day her teacher saw her stopped in front of the taunting crowd, moving her lips. Later, Ruby told her teacher that she was praying for those people. Eventually, the white kids came back to school. This story is amazing on many levels; it is remarkable to see how brave Ruby is and that she has such a great, strong spirit.

Reel Girl rates The Story of Ruby Bridges ***HHH***

Trade in your tiara for a light saber this Halloween

Susan Prasher wanted to dress up as Darth Vader for Halloween. Her 7 year old son told her that the costume was not appropriate for “a girl.” Here’s her story.
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Guest blog for Reel Girl by Susan Prasher

 

Growing up, I never had a doll, a Barbie or a princess dress. As a mother and a former teacher, I have seen children verbalizing, practicing and sharing experiences of social interactions with the use of dolls, which is really wonderful and joyful. One can definitely learn a lot by observing and listening to children at play with these types of toys. One thing that throws me off guard are the sheer number of princesses. With each princess, there is a new dress, a story line, and possibly a tiara. I get confused with which princess represents which movie. I’ve had the good fortune of having a best friend’s daughter explain why she felt sad that I didn’t know about the princesses and proceeded to break it all down for me. Perhaps all the role playing actually encouraged her to be an empathic person that understood and heard me.

 

One of my boys is obsessed with Star Wars. When searching for a new sitter, I lucked out by meeting a computer science engineering student who loves Star Wars just as much as my son does. Together, they have the most engaging conversations. The sitter is a young woman. While she did have some dolls growing up, her room is filled with Lego and items from Star Wars.

 

Back in August my son asked for me to please consider being one of three characters for Halloween: Princess Leia, Queen Amidala and Ashoka. I had trouble being a princess or a queen. To encourage me to consider one of these three roles, he began calling me Queen Momidala. I would banter back various lines including “Shaan, I am your mother” using a Darth Vader voice. He’d have this funny expression on his face, laugh and at some point tell me all the parts I was doing wrong. Since this was rather fun, I ordered a female version of the Darth Vader costume. And when it arrived, my son was thrilled and proud. Of course, the costume is a skin tight costume, but it’s a power suit nonetheless. The red light saber was placed on me like the finishing touch of a tiara. And that’s when it all clicked.

 

In the United States and in Canada, light saber sales are up. They sell like hot cakes. With the new movie coming out, you know it’s going to remain a hot toy. They are fun to play with, my kids mimic the exact movement patterns in battles and beg to attend Light Saber School. From what I’ve seen, light sabers are a source of tremendous power. There are even adult versions of these things that can do some serious damage. But is it really a toy? The science behind making one is pretty interesting. And Star Wars has inspired all kinds of advances in science as well as inspire people all around the world. In the case of our incredibly bright female sitter, she grew up loving Star Wars and is now creating a program designed to teach the art of coding.

 

As a teacher, I used to swap the names of characters as we read from a picture book for names of children in the class. Their eyes would light up with joy and excitement because suddenly, they were IN the story. There are females in Star Wars but what if we encouraged children to take on a role that appealed to them personally, regardless of gender? What if we reversed the gender roles in Star Wars by having all the males fill the females roles and visa versa? What if Leia became the great Jedi master and not Luke? When I suggested this reversal to my son all kinds of drama unfolded. He was upset with the mere thought of such a thing and thought that it was being disrespectful to the story. When I told him that George Lucas is an incredible writer and that it would be great to have a different version of the story, my son laughed and blew me off. He pointed out that there are some females in key roles and insists this is the story, like it or not. What I was really aiming for is a demonstration in a growth mindset and that as a female, my version of the story would be different.

 

We all have power, whether we hold a light saber or not. There are different kinds of power and each medium channels its own type. If I walked around with a tiara on my head, I’d be channeling a certain mindset. But the outcome is vastly different. With the use of Star Wars, little girls can be exposed to Science, which is huge, but they need to know the storyline. And yes, it involves a queen and a princess but they are welcome to take on any role of their choosing and rewrite the story.

 

Our friends’ daughters are like my own. It’s time to swap a bit of princess dresses, tiaras and dolls for at least one or two light sabers, even if they choose pink or purple ones, because it helps them channel a different type of power.

 

May the force be with you!

 

New ‘Land of Stories’ available now!

Yesterday, in the book store when we were buying a present for someone else of course, my 8 yr old leaped for joy at the sight of Chris Colfer’s latest The Land of Stories A Grimm Warning. 

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Note on the cover, the girl is front and center, also she’s standing ahead of the boy. Do you know how rare this image is in kidlit? Even series like Harry Potter and all the Rick Riordan books show consistently the female characters a step behind the males.

While I was initially dismissive of the books (Redone fairy tales again? Written by a “Glee” actor? Who is 23 years old?) The Land of Stories is the series is that got my daughter really into reading. Here is what I blogged after she finished the first two books:

“My daughter plowed through the book, requested its sequel, and then finished over 500 pages in about a week. My daughter, now just turned 7, read most of the book herself, so I only got snips here and there, when I read it to her. From the scenes I read, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. The protagonists are twins, Alexandra and Conner. I get annoyed by how books with a female protagonist seem to need to balance her with a co-starring male. Can’t we just see the female protag? Or what about sisters? Or female buddies? Why is that pairing so rare?

But in most parts of Land of Stories that I read, Alex is a strong and brave character. Here are a couple passages that won me over as we neared the finish of the second book, The Enchantress Returns.

“You have to save the fairy-tale world, Alex!” Conner said. “You have to save the Otherworld and Mom, too!”

 

Alex’s grip around her brother’s feet tightened. “I can’t save anything without you,” she said.

 

“Yes, you can,” he said. “It was always meant to be you! You’re the one who got us here and you’re the one who is going to get us out! You heard the ghosts– you’re the heir of magic! You’ve got to defeat the Enchantress so this world can go on!”

 

“I can’t do it alone,” she said, terrified to lose him.

 

“Yes, you can,” Conner said. “I’m really sorry about this.”

 

Conner kicked Alex off of him, and the vines consumed him entirely. They dragged him and Trollbella down into the ground and disappeared.

 

“Conner!” Alex yelled after him, but it was no use. He was gone.

 

Alex looked across the camp just in time to see the vines pull Red, Froggy, Jack, and Goldilocks into the ground with one, final heave.  As soon as Trollbella, Red, and the others clinging on to them had been taken, all the vines in the campsite disappeared into the ground. They had com efor the queens.

 

Alex got to her feet and looked around in shock. In a matter of minutes, all of her friends and her brother had been taken from her. She had no choice but to finish the quest alone– it was all up to her now.

 

Love it! Of course, as I reading this to my daughter, I was thinking: “Right on, Conner, get out of there. Alex needs to do this.”

Unlike Harry Potter’s magical world, this Fairy world has an almost equal number of females and males in power in the government, with a the Fairy Godmother at the head, and the evil enchantress as the villain. Here’s a passage that describes the governing group.

Hung across the wall from top to bottom were Queen Snow White and King Chandler, Queen Cinderella and King Chance, Queen Sleeping Beauty and King Chase, Queen Rapunzel. and members of the Fairy Council. And now, withe the inclusion of Red and Trollbella, the entire Happily Ever After Assembly was at the Enchantress’s mercy.

I appreciate all the subtle ways Colfer recognizes female power. The female characters are not princesses but queens and they are listed before their male partners. Red is Little Red Riding Hood and Trollbella is the leader of the Trolls. It’s great to read a story about what happens to these princesses after they marry and their adventures are supposedly over. It’s also nice that Rapunzel remains unmarried. It’s interesting that Colfer makes an effort to pair the others and gives the kings big roles. It’s sort of like giving a female protags a male twin, and other passages I read, the deference of the Queens annoyed me.

Here’s the passage that made me a true fan. How does Alex find the strength to save Fairy-tale world all alone? She has a dream where goes into a cave and meets four little girls: Lucy of Narnia, Alice of Wonderland, Dorothy of Oz, and Wendy of Neverland. They five girls talk together about the various ways Alex could try to destroy the Enchantress.

 

She looked up at the girls and around the cave. “Now I understand the meaning of my dream,” she said. “Deep down, I knew I could never kill the Enchantress, so I was searching for another way. The cave represents my questioning and you represent the answer— because ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always thought of you when I had a problem.”

“Why is that?” said Alice.

“I suppose I’ve learned so much from you,” Alex said. “I always wanted to be as loving as Wendy, or as curious as Alex, or as brave as Lucy, or as adventurous as Dorothy– I always saw a little bit of myself when I read about each of you.”

I’m not a fan of Wendy, but I named my oldest daughter Lucy and my second Alice after those incredible characters. I really enjoyed the pages where they come together and mentor Alex, giving her sage advice from their own experience.

The writing in these books is not the greatest. There is a lot of word repetition in sentences like: “It happened so fast Alex wasn’t sure what happened.” Also, too many adverbs: “Her hair anxiously swayed above her.” But Colfer is twenty-three, for goodness sake. I’ll be following his writing career. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does next.

If you have read these two books, please let me know what you think. With the caveat that I have only read passages of them, Reel Girl rates Land of Stories ***HH***”

Here’s to hoping Book 3 is as good as the first two. I’ll let you know…

Mini Taylor Swift gets her hands on ‘1989’ as it hits stores

Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ drops today, and I just bought it for my daughter as her reward for getting an HPV vaccine (which turns out to hurt pretty bad.)

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Told she looks just like T.S. practically since she began walking, my music loving, constantly singing daughter dressed as her idol for Halloween back in 2012.

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Back then, I was psyched she chose not to be a princess and since, I’ve only come to admire Taylor more. We’re listening to the CD right now, so I can’t review it yet but Time’s post is excerpted below along with links to previous Reel Girl blogs on TS.

But Swift has gambled before and won. After writing every song solo on her blockbuster 2010 country-crossover album, Speak Now, she teamed up with a varied roster of top-shelf tunesmiths for 2012’s sprawling, genre-spanning opus, Red. That album went quadruple platinum, earned rapt critical acclaim and four Grammy nods and made her an icon.

 

On 1989, out Oct. 27, she sounds like one. Leaner and keener than those on Red, her new songs fizz and crackle with electricity and self-aware wit. Driven by synths and drums in lieu of guitars, all trace of country abandoned, 1989 holds together sonically as a tribute to the electro-pop that dominated radio 25 years ago. Swift executive-produced the album alongside Swedish hit machine Max Martin, who lends pop shellack to her nimble lyrics. Winding choruses have been whittled down to their stickiest essence.

 

Thematically, too, Swift breaks with the past, skirting victimhood and takedowns of maddening exes, critics and romantic competitors. Instead, there’s a newfound levity. Not only is Swift in on the joke; she also relishes it. The bouncy “Blank Space” hyperbolizes her portrayal in the media as an overly attached man-eater who dates for songwriting material: “Got a long list of ex-lovers, they’ll tell you I’m insane/ But I’ve got a blank space,” she coos before, incredibly, a clicking sound like that of a pen, “and I’ll write your name.” The skronky, horn-driven lead single “Shake It Off” communicates a cheerful disinterest in being critiqued, and a panicked, operatic vocal sample of Swift singing the word “Stay!” gives the swerving “All You Had to Do Was Stay” an oddball kick. The angriest song here is “Bad Blood,” a chanting call to arms over a dispute with a frenemy, and even it feels tongue-in-cheek.

 

If Taylor Swift is boy-crazy, is Dylan’s ‘Idiot Wind’ confessional?

I admit it, I loveTaylor Swift’s ‘Red’

Taylor Swift sings her way from victim to hero, triumphs at Grammys

More on Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift

 

 

‘Book of Life’ ticks off tropes in most sexist kids’ movie of the year

“Book of Life” is so retro-sexist, if I weren’t with my kids, I would’ve walked out. Instead, I sat there in the theater with my mouth hanging open, trying to focus on the movie’s dazzling animation instead of the cliched plot.

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Manolo, the protagonist of the movie is a bullfighter/ musician. He competes with his rival, Joaquin, a war hero, to marry Maria who is the prize to be won. That’s right, in 2014 children are shown a movie where the female’s role in the narrative is to be a trophy. Typically, as in most contemporary animation, “the girl” actually has a personality! Maria is educated, she likes to read and she likes art. Isn’t that great, parents? Maria is a smart prize. She can fence too, which she gets to do for about 2 minutes of the movie.

“Book of Life” is inspired by Mexico’s Day of the Dead, art I love and used to collect. The characters and scenery are so gorgeously colorful, I tried hard to overlook the sexism. The point where I didn’t think I could take anymore came when Joaquin is at a party with Maria by his side. He is going on and on about himself and Maria mocks him, “I bet you want a wife who can just cook and clean.” She walks away in a huff. At this point, Joaquin’s buddy comments: “Oh, she’s a feisty one!” If you read Reel Girl, you know I use the term “Minority Feisty” to describe the fake feminism that crops up in almost every animated movie made for kids:

If you see an animated film today, it’s likely to include a token strong female character or two who reviewers will call “feisty.” In “How to Train Your Dragon,” Astrid; in “Toy Story,” Jessie; in “Ratatouille,” Colette. She’s supposed to make us feel like the movie is contemporary and feminist, unlike those sexist films of yesteryear.

 

The problem is that because Pixar or Disney has so magnanimously thrown in this “feisty” female (who may even have some commentary about sexism or male domination) we’re no longer supposed to care that almost all of the other characters in the film are male, including the star who the movie is often titled for and usually his best buddy as well. The crowd scenes in the film are also made up of mostly males.

 

“Feisty” isn’t a word that describes someone with real power, but someone who plays at being powerful. Would you ever call Superman “feisty?”  How would he feel if you did?

 

The Smurfette Principle has evolved into the Minority Feisty. Now instead of a “token” female in a children’s movie, we may see a few females sprinkled around, a “minority” of them. Parents, the next time you watch a children’s movie, try not to let the Minority Feisty population distract you from the limitations female characters are almost always forced into. Ask yourself: Is the female the protagonist in this film? Does the narrative revolve around her quest? Or is she there to (play a crucial role in) helping the male star achieve his goal/ dream?

At the end of the movie, there is a wedding. I’m not going to call that information a spoiler. After the ceremony, Maria is referred to as “Mrs Sanchez.” She has no quest. Instead, “Book of Life” ticks off gender tropes to become the most sexist children’s movie of 2014.

Reel Girl rates “Book of Life” ***SS***

Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 yr old in orange jumpsuit than dressed as slave Leia

Susan Schrivjer, the Florida mom who started the petition against Toys R Us for selling “Breaking Bad” toys to adults, tells CNN, “Kids mimic their action figures, if you will. Do you want your child in an orange jumpsuit?”

Toys R Us banned the toy almost immediately after Schrivjer started her protest, so I want to know: Do we all finally agree that kids imitate their toys? And if we do, why are toy stores selling half-dressed, belly-baring, high heel wearing sexualized figures to little kids?

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If Monster High were atypical that would be one thing, but these outfits worn by female dolls are standard. Polly Pocket is marketed to girls age 4 and up. All that kids are encouraged to do with Polly is to dress her, change her from one short skirt to the next. It was Polly and her endless tiny plastic outfits who inspired me to start this blog about the sexism marketed to kids.

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The Winx girls are also marketed to little kids.

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When Melissa Wardy, founder of Pigtail Pals saw this backpack on a first grader, she  blogged:

Try this test: If the image can be lifted from the child’s toy/backpack/t-shirt and placed on the billboard for a strip club and not look out of place, then things are seriously fucked.

 

Wardy, myself, organizations like Let Toys Be Toys for Girls and Boys, and parents have created and signed petition after petition about sexism, only to be ignored in the USA. After shopping at Toys R Us, one mom wanted to know why Slave Leia was the only available Leia. Jezebel reports:

Over the weekend we received a tip from a concerned mother who had come across something very disconcerting while perusing the aisles of Toys R Us. Apparently the only available toy or figurine of the Star Wars character Princess Leia is of her in the “Slave Outfit” from Return of the Jedi. Bikini? Check. Loin cloth? Check. Chain around the neck? Check. And in case you were wondering if it was actually geared towards children, it’s listed for kids ages 4+….This is a perfect and heart-breaking example of how ingrained sexism is in geek culture. It’s not like there’s a Chewbacca toy in a banana hammock.

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Yesterday I wrote a blog thanking “Breaking Bad” star Aaron Paul for calling out Toys R us hypocrisy with his Tweet:

 Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm…I wonder what is more damaging

The more we all rail against “Breaking Bad” toys, the more we ignore the sexism and affirm it as normal. It is shocking to me, as a mom of 3 young daughters, that sexism in kidworld is accepted so completely. And this acceptance goes beyond toys to media, which of course loops back to inpsire more toys. In Disney’s movie “Planes,” the fast plane, the hero of the movie, mocks the slower planes for being girly.

Plane One: What’s taking this guy so long? Is he really as good as he says he is?

Plane Two: No, better.

Plane One: Whoa! Who was that?

Plane Three: (Descending fast on top of the other two) Well, hello ladies. Ready to lose?

Plane Three goes on to leave the “ladies” in the dust.

As with the toys, this kind of sexism in movies for children is typical. In “Madagascar 3″ a scene features a male penguin mocking other male penguins, “You pillow fight like a bunch of little girls.”

As with “Planes” this sexist scene is so hysterical, it’s the one chosen for the preview.

Training a new generation of kids to learn this kind of sexism is dangerous. In the New York Times, Frank Bruni writes about his discussion with Chris Kilmartin, author of “The Masculine Self.”

 “When the worst thing we say to a boy in sports is that he throws ‘like a girl,’ we teach boys to disrespect the feminine and disrespect women. That’s the cultural undercurrent of rape…It’s not DNA we’re up against; it’s movies, manners and a set of mores, magnified in the worlds of the military and sports, that assign different roles and different worth to men and women. Fix that culture and we can keep women a whole lot safer.

 

I want Toys R Us– and parents– to know that it is far more damaging to sell sexist toys to kids than to sell Jesse to adults. The Florida mom asked CNN if we’d prefer our kids in orange jumpsuits. I’d like to reply with this story. A while back my 4 year old daughter was looking through a magazine, and she saw an ad for “Orange is the New Black.” She cried out, grinning, “Look Mama, so many girls!” It’s that rare for her to see an image of a group of women together in the media, no belly buttons, no cleavage, and also, by the way, not all white. She was so excited, she wanted to be in a picture with them, so I took this.

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Does my daughter know these women are playing convicts? Nope. Would I allow her to watch the show? Of course not. If I saw “Orange is the New Black” action figures sold at “Toys R Us” would I buy them for her? Absolutely, because Florida mom, I’d rather see my 4 year old in an orange jumpsuit than thigh high boots.

Aaron Paul of ‘Breaking Bad’ calls out toy store hypocrisy

While I’ve always loved Aaron Paul, I got giddy when I read his angry Tweet after Toys R Us got rid of its “Breaking Bad” action figures.

Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences' Performers Peer Group Cocktail Reception To Celebrate The 65th Primetime Emmy Awards

Paul Tweets:

Wait, so @ToysRUs pulled all of the Breaking Bad figures from their shelves and still sells Barbie? Hmmmm…I wonder what is more damaging

 

Do I think meth dealers should be sold in a toy store? No. But there are so many things I think shouldn’t be in toy stores like Monster High dolls and gender segregated LEGO sets where girls are sold dumbed down structures. I find it kind of amusing when people who never cared about the horribly sexist and racist stuff we market to little kids every single day, suddenly freak out, calling one item in the store dangerous. Their indignation reminds me of when Eminem got popular and middle aged men were so offended by his misogynistic lyrics. Had these newfound feminists ever listened to the Rolling Stones or Led Zeppelin?

Shopping in Walgreens the other day, I saw the action figure Michonne from “Walking Dead” in the toy aisle. I’m always on the lookout for female action figures and my husband is a huge fan of the show, so I bought Michonne for him and blogged about my purchase:

You probably know how rare it is to find a female action figure, not to mention a non-white female action figure, without her breasts popping out of her shirt, wearing pants even, just sitting there on a shelf in a store and not hiding out on some obscure internet site. Let’s just say she’s far rarer than the unicorn in fantasy figure world…Though, in theory, I’d rather my kids play with Michonne than Barbie, I wasn’t sure if I planned on letting them near her, when she comes with exotic weapons and also a couple severed heads. But when my daughter heard my husband’s joyful cry after he saw the package, I thought all was lost. My concern turned out to be unfounded. Not only did he tell her he’s not sharing, but he’s not even taking her out of the package. He’s worse than the evil dad in “The Lego Movie,” pre-epiphany.

 

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Back again in Walgreens last week, I spotted the action figure of Daenerys Targaryen from “Game of Thrones” in the toy aisle, another show my husband watches.

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Though I liked GoT in many ways, it has so much rape, I couldn’t stick with it. When I saw Daenerys at Walgreens, I thought: Who are they marketing to? Surely kids don’t watch GoT? Do other women buy for these their husbands besides me? For themselves? (please, let me know) I have a feeling this “Game of Thrones” heroine will be in my house soon. I’ll buy her for my husband. If he releases her from the package, and the kids come across her, I will let them play with her, in spite of the rape fest of a show. I love the dragon on perched on her arm, and I think my children would use Daenerys to make up some incredible stories. Fingers crossed my husband buys me Jesse (I watched every episode of “Breaking Bad” cringing and biting my nails.) That is, if he can find a store that will sell the toy.

 

I’m a fan FCKH8’s ‘F-Bomb Princess’ viral video

From the first time I saw FCKH8’s video, I really liked it. Perhaps, I’m a fan because of bias. When I started my blog, Reel Girl, I wrote on my “About” page:

One more reason I started Reel Girl– our movie rating system, and the values associated with that rating system, is totally messed up. So many G movies perpetuate the absolute worst kinds of gender stereotypes, yet they are supposedly “for kids.” In my opinion, this kind of repetitive imagery is way more dangerous for children than hearing the word “shit.”

 

“Cinderella” and all of its endless, infinite adaptations and reincarnations, in my opinion is bad for kids. “Whale Rider” in spite of swearing and drug use is good for kids. Simple concept, yet so hard to convince people of it, that I write and write and write. When I watched the FCKH8 video, I felt like: YES, this is the point I’ve been trying to make: Pay inequity is way more offensive than the word fuck. The video shows what I’ve been trying to tell. It is art. And unlike many writers out there, I am THRILLED when I see my idea coming from someone else as well because it makes me feel like I’m not crazy, like people ‘get it.’ Furthermore, I realize that in order for the world to change, people other than me have to ‘get it.’ If it’s just me with my ‘original’ idea that I’m going for, all I have is my ego, and that is a lonely, static, boring place to be plus nothing much changes at all.

So perhaps, I thought, when I read comments against the FCKH8 video by my brilliant colleagues including founder of Pigtail Pals Melissa Wardy, author of The Princess Problem Rebecca Hains, and author of Her Next Chapter Lori Day, I’m just being selfish here. I’m not thinking about the kids having no idea what they’re saying (and I do believe these girls are too young to understand what they’re talking about.) Perhaps I’m so happy not be so isolated with my vision, I’m blind to the exploitation, hypocritically exploitation I’m trying to prevent.

But after thinking this through, I still like the video. As I wrote, I agree the kids don’t understand what they are saying, this is a job for them. I never thought the kids in the ad were not acting or not reciting lines, and I don’t think the video’s intention is to make viewers assume that. So the question is: Does the ignorance of the kids make the video exploitative? My answer is still no, unless all child actors from the ones in sitcoms who speak in language far beyond their years to any commercial, all who often don’t understand what they are saying, are exploited.

The next question I asked myself: Is the FCKH8 ad exploiting girls because it’s using them to sell a product?

During the World Series last night and the night before, my family and I saw teen baseball star Mo’ne Davis in a Chevy ad. I thought the ad was beautiful. In the ad, Mo’ne says, “I throw 70 miles an hour. That’s throwing like a girl.” Millions of families saw her throw in a mini-movie and heard that line while watching the World Series. We also saw a Mazda ad with Mia Hamm, and my 11 year old, who is a fan of Hamm, said, “Why is she selling cars?” To which I responded, “It’s either her or a male athlete. I’d rather see Mia.” I want to see the images of powerful girls used to sell things, from toys to movies to clothing. These kids are not being exploited because they are being used to sell a product.

Rebecca Hains makes powerful points in her blog about the history of FCKH8:

The slogans found on the FCKH8 t-shirts were appropriated from other feminist nonprofits. For example, the Feminist Majority Foundation has been selling “This is what a feminist looks like” tees since at least the mid-1990s. So despite their promises to support charities with their t-shirt sales, FCKH8 is actually siphoning money away from feminist charities by stealing their ideas.

Furthermore, quality charities have refused to take FCKH8’s money in the past, because FCKH8 is incredibly problematic. They’ve been accused widely of being transphobic (as a quick google search will show), and their anti-racist work is of dubious merit. For example, their response to Ferguson raised so much ire in the anti-racist community that Race Forward—one of the charities originally listed on FCKH8’s page—announced publicly that they were refusing donations from the company.

So to those who are saying that FCKH8 is a company that’s doing it’s best to promote social justice, and we should cut them some slack? No FCKHing way.

I agree stealing a slogan from non-profits is not ethical. I also didn’t know about using the Ferguson tragedy to sell T shirts. FCKH8 sounds like a company with a bad history. But learning this history doesn’t change how I feel about the video. I still like the video. I still like that the video is going viral and, just like the Mo’ne ad, spreading important slogans out into the world:

* Pay inequality. Women are paid 23% less than men for the exact same fucking work.

*Women who graduate university with straight A’s get paid only as much as men who graduated with C’s.

* 1 out of every 5 women will be sexually assaulted or raped by a man

* Stop telling girls how to dress and start teaching boys not to fucking rape

*We’re glad a women’s right to vote is here, but equality is messed up. It’s walking to the car without fear.

* Pretty is a compliment but here’s how the focus works to girls detriment. Society teaching girls that our body, boobs, and butt are more important than our brains leads us to thinking our worth comes from our waistline. My aspirations in life should not be worrying about the shape of my ass so fuck focusing on how I look and give me a book.

*Instead of cleaning these girls mouths out with soap, maybe society should clean up its act.

*Near the end of the ad, there is a boy in a dress. “When you tell a boy it’s bad to act like a girl it’s because you think its bad to be a girl.”

These are messages I work hard every day to promote, and I believe the ideas are presented in this video in a simple, convincing way, easy for adults– yes, adults– to understand.

Rebecca posts comments on her blog from people who are offended that these young girls spoke of rape and assault. I agree that part is disconcerting, and it is for this reason, I chose not to show the video to my 11 year old daughter who I have yet to tell about rape. That said,  I’ve blogged about books for kids that deal with rape, incest, and assault wondering what age is appropriate for these stories. The answer I always get is that it depends on the kid. I want to be the first one to tell my kid about rape, sexual assault, pornography, incest, drugs etc. I don’t want her learning about these issues for the first time from books or movies or other kids. When I’ve written about these kinds of books on my blog, kids and parents have written back that their young kid does know about porn or rape based on experiences that they’ve had– talking to other kids, what they’ve seen, or instances in their own life. Now that they do know, it is important and beneficial for the kid to be able to read literature about it. Here’s one comment that I got when I wrote about Graceling:

Based on the brief snippets of content she saw, I had to not only have “the talk”, but also explain a LOT of things I never thought I’d have to address at that age. Because of this, conversely, she is now very educated on both sex, misogyny, and rape/assault/child abuse.  Therefore, I think these books that are written about very serious issues — but in the comprehension style of a young person who can find the characters identifiable — is a great source of information…I have not read these books to endorse them, but now I am interested and will be checking them out at the library. Thank you.

My point is that I don’t think it’s fair to make a blanket statement that little kids should not refer to rape or assault in a video when in the real world, kids see and experience these things every day.

One more thing: As far as the video not having a trigger warning, I don’t post trigger warnings on my blog ever. My whole blog is a trigger. Everyone is unique, and I think it’s impossible to make some kind of assumption about what will trigger readers.

If for some reason you haven’t come across the video, you can watch it here.

 

My name is Monica Lewinsky

Monica Lewinsky continues to tell her story, and I am happy she is speaking. From the first time I saw Lewinsky’s face on my TV screen, what upset me most was the repetition of the same old narrative, worldwide, through images and text: a powerful man was being brought down by the sexuality of a young woman. A man I voted for as a woman in my twenties because I thought that he would do good things for women.

It is this narrative and text that Lewinsky is speaking about right now. Finally, she’s taking control of her story.

So many say Lewinsky is just being used, she’s talking now because she’s trying to destroy Hillary’s run for president. Once again, this is Lewinsky’s story, not the Clintons’. Why don’t you listen to, and talk about, what she is saying instead of why you think she’s speaking?

Here is one of my favorite lines from Lewinsky’s speech: “Let me tell you about being publicly separated from your truth…Being publicly separated from your truth is one of the classic triggers of anxiety, depression, and self loathing. And the greater the distance between the way people want you to be and the you you actually are, the greater will be your anxiety, depression, sense of failure and shame.”

She also says this: “The problem is that I believe in the power of story, in the power of stories to inspire, comfort, educate, and change things for the better, fictional stories, stories from history, and yes, news stories.”

I do too. That’s the reason I started this blog, because I’m tired of the same old story. I want something better for my kids. From what I can tell, Lewinsky does too. Please watch this video.

Reel Girl’s Halloween List of Monster Movies For Kids Starring Females

My 8 year old daughter is home sick today, and we were looking for a Halloween movie to watch starring a girl. This depressing task reminded me that once again it’s time to post the annual Reel Girl’s Halloween List of Monster Movies Starring Females. I started creating this list in my head when in 2012 no less than 3 Halloween movies came out– “Hotel Transylvania,” “ParaNorman,” and “Frankenweenie”– each with males front and center.

This afternoon, my daughter and I opted for “Hocus Pocus” which was on Reel Girl’s list, but I hadn’t seen it yet. The good news is “Hocus Pocus” has more females than males. The witches are played by Kathy Najimy, Bette Midler, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Penny Marshall is in the movie too, which was a nice surprise for me. Vinessa Shaw plays a smart, brave girl and Thora Birch is the 8 year old little sister who gets into trouble. (My daughter really liked seeing a movie with a kid the same age as she is.)

The not-so-good is that the 3 witches are obsessed with being young and beautiful. I am so over this cliche. Recently, I saw it in “Tangled” and “Snow White and the Huntsman,” both stories obviously recycled fairy tales with this tired theme (not to mention any women’s magazine you open, full of ads for potions, spells of eternal youth.) What these women are after is not beauty but power, which is what beauty has represented and signified for women in narratives for thousands of years. I wish writers today could be a little more creative in depicting stories where women are seeking power without relying on the dull and done youth and beauty cliche.

Another thing that annoyed me about “Hocus Pocus” is that in order for a spell to work, a candle had to be lit by a virgin. While I appreciated that the virgin was a boy, the word came up again and again with my daughter wanting to know its meaning. I told her it’s another word for child, but I was irritated the movie put me in that position for no important reason as far as the plot is concerned.

Finally, while there are many girls and women in this movie, the protagonist is a boy. He’s just moved to Salem from LA, and he doesn’t believe in witches. Vinessa Shaw plays his girlfriend and Thora Birch plays his little sister. It is this guy that goes through the transition of coming to believe. Still, he is a Minority Feisty of sorts, and I can’t actually recall another movie where I have seen a gender flip where the male plays this role.

Reel Girl’s list of Monster Movies Starring Females is short. It is almost the same as last year’s list, except I’ve added the wonderful “Maleficent.” My list is so pathetically short that I have included movies just recommended to me, that I have not seen myself. Those are “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Series of Unfortunate Events” (which I may watch today with my daughter….) We complain, rightly so, about how sexist Halloween costumes are for girl. It would sure help things out if there were more scary stories starring cool or evil powerful females. Of course, we’d still have the problem of Hermione morphing into the sexy school girl. But I digress. As I asked you in 2013, if you have any monster movies for little kids starring females, to add to my list. please let me know. Here’s the list of 10 movies. Please try to watch girl-centered films with your daughters and sons.

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