Walmart pulls toddler ‘Naughty Leopard’ costume

YAY for social media, us, and, most importantly, kids this Halloween. One costume down!

In response to concerned parents, Walmart pulled the Naughty Leopard costume for little girls off its shelves. Here’s Walmart’s apology:

“It was never our intention to offend anyone and we apologize to any customers who may have been offended by the name of the costume.”


Nice analysis from Babble:

It seems as if the producers of the product just got lazy and slapped on the “naughty” text out of habit since their factories perhaps also churn out outfits  like the Naughty Nurse,Naughty Traffic Officer, or Naughty Little Red Riding Hood.


It’s a small victory in the scheme of things, but it’s something. Thank you to everyone who Tweets, comments on Facebook, or takes any action, no matter how small, to stop the daily sexualizing of little girls. Keep it up.


What’s the difference between parents of pageant kids and you?

Did you know that tween girls spend 40 million a month a beauty products? Another fun fact: The percentage of eight- to twelve-year-olds who regularly use mascara and eyeliner doubled between 2008 and 2010.

This info is from Peggy Orenstein’s best-selling book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Here’s the passage where she writes about the difference between the parents of child pageant competitors and “ordinary” parents:

No question, they have taken the obsession with girl’s looks to an appalling extreme; but, one could argue, the difference between them and the rest of us may be more one of degree than of kind.  “Ordinary” parents might balk at the $3,000 dress or the spray tan but guess what? in 2007, we spent a whopping $11.5 billion on clothing for our seven to fourteen-year-olds, up from $10 billion in 2004. Close of half to six to nine year old girls regulatry use lipstick or gloss, presumably with parental approval; the precentage of eight to twelve year olds who regularly use mascara and eyeliner doubled between 2008 and 2010, to 18 and 15 percent respectively. “Tween” girls now spend more than $40 million a month on beauty products. No wonder Nair, the depilatory maker, in 2007 released Nair Pretty, a fruit-scented line designed to make ten-year-old conscious of their “unwanted” body hair. And who, according to the industry tracking group, NPD, most inspires girls’ purchases? Their moms. AS a headline on the cheeky feminist Web site asked, “How Many 8 Year Olds Have to Get Bikini Waxes Before We Can All Agree the Terrorists Have Won?

Pigeonholing your kids pigeonholes your kids

If there’s one really useful thing I’ve learned in my 10 years so far of being a parent, it’s not to pigeonhole my kids. Kids change, and when I assign attributes of a certain stage as if they were permanent personality traits, I can see how it limits them. I get the urge to do this. It’s nice to for a parent to feel like a child has a clear identity. Also, if you have multiple kids, putting them in different categories can smooth things out. Every child has her little box and as a parent, you can work to protect those boundaries for her. Pigeonholing kids can reduce conflict in the short term.

The first way I clearly learned that pigeonholing had a negative effect was with food. Since my kids could eat, I encouraged them to try different foods, that there are no “good” foods or “bad” foods. My kids don’t have to eat broccoli and then get dessert. We don’t even do dessert. They can eat what they want, when they want. There is much writing about this on Reel GIrl, more from when I first started this blog then now, because we are practically food conflict free in our house. The segue is that, because of this philosophy, I never said: “This kid likes pizza, that one likes bagels.” Instead, I told them that their taste buds change all the time, and to keep trying foods, even if they think they don’t like them. I honestly believe, just that, has kept their eating open and flexible. They are risk-takers with food, which may not seem to a big deal for an adult, but it is for a kid.

Obviously, I’m also against pigeonholing because I hate how women are continually fragmented: the smart one or the pretty one. Humans are complex. Pigeonholing them is an a illusion of a simplicity.

Finally, not to get too Buddhist here, but change is the only thing that is real. It’s scary for everyone, but I think it’s much healthier to train kids to embrace it rather than avoid it.

Why I’m writing all this right now is because Princess Free Zone just posted a New York Times article: Mystery of the Missing Woman in Science. It’s great, please read the whole thing, but here’s a quote I love:

Students show greater gains when they are taught that the mind, like a muscle, gets stronger with work, as opposed to being told that talents are fixed and you’re born either quick or slow.

And this is true. It’s called brain plasticity. Your brain changes and grows for your whole life, based on your experiences. Your brain grows most rapidly, when you are a kid. The more experiences, the better.

Facebook helps debunk myth of America’s ‘post-feminism’

YAY! Facebook FINALLY recognizes: misogyny exists. It’s real, FB says, and that’s a giant social media step in the right direction. In 2013, gender-based hate and violence is epidemic and still, for the most part, accepted as normal.

I’m  44 years old, a member of the notoriously apathetic Generation X. Since I started speaking out about feminist issues, back in my twenties (not lazy or apolitical, by the way, didn’t really know anyone who was) I’ve been told sexism doesn’t exist. We live in a post-feminist world. What could American women, not to mention white, educated, privileged ones, possibly be whining about? We weren’t under Taliban rule for goodness sake. Not that college kids, all of us so well versed in South Africa’s racist history, had any clue about the gender apartheid of the Taliban. And if we had known of it? Gender bias, while kind of a shame, was just a cultural difference, not a political issue. “Relative ethics” was the term my sociology professor taught us for female genital mutilation: Who were we, in all our privilege to judge?

So for years, Facebook has been receiving reports on posts depicting gender based violence. While the company actively bans religious or racist hate speech, here’s just one example of its past response to misogyny.


(via Amazing Women Rock . If you go to the link, and you have a strong stomach, you can see many more.)

So why did Facebook change its tune, pledging to take misogyny seriously? Obviously, in no small part, because of a well-run, well organized campaign by Women, Action, and Media. THANK YOU WAM and thank you to all of you who responded. In days, 5,000 emails and 60,000 Tweets went to Facebook’s advertisers who started to take their ads off the site. Facebook, if anyone could, saw where all this viral action was headed. Women have been using social media to change the world for some time now.

In the Nation, Jessica Valenti writes :

Jaclyn Friedman, executive director of WAM… points to the outrage over the social media-documented rape in Steubenville, gang rapes in India and the suicides of several young rape victims as indications that Americans may have had enough of the consequences of rape culture. While she’s still unsure that the country is ready for widespread change, she believes “there’s a critical mass right now; it could be a tipping point moment”…

But this glaring, in-your-face misogyny may be the spark that pushes culture forward—there’s no arguing with these images, these court cases, these stories. Maybe it needed to get a lot worse—or more visible—for it to get better. For years, the most common anti-feminist talking point has been that American women don’t have it all that bad. That we should stop complaining and focus on women in other countries who are “really” oppressed.

But today, telling women that sexism doesn’t exist anymore is a really hard sell. Thanks to the Internet and the speed at which stories move—not to mention the vile sexism in most online spaces—any American woman who spends more than five minutes onlines hears about or experiences misogyny every day.


I started this blog, Reel Girl, because I have 3 daughters, and I was so horrified by the gender stereotyping marketed to kids like it’s okay, like it’s normal, and then how everyone participates in it. It’s so sad that sexism, packaged and sold to kids, is so ubiquitous that, paradoxically, it’s become invisible. I feel like 90% of my work is just pointing out that sexism exists. I’ve posted this a couple times, but here it is again:

Violence against women is epidemic. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale. Here’s some propaganda marketed to kids:


Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938



Africans circa 1931



Females circa 2013


It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?


Since my post, I’ve gotten comments asking how dare I compare sexism to racism and antisemitism. I’ve been rebuked for taking sexism seriously for a long time. When I was a senior in high school, I was talking to a good friend of mine about sexism, and he said to me, indignantly, “A woman has never been lynched for being a woman!” Maybe, maybe not, but women have been murdered throughout history for being women. Does getting raped or sexually assaulted qualify as pretty bad treatment?

Here’s a classic comment from Chinwe:

What I find embarrassing, shameful, and flat out appalling is you comparing the current state of girls in 2013 to the days that Blacks and Jews were stereotyped, discriminated, and killed in the early 20th century. Girls and women have gained so many rights in the last 40+ years and you compared its ”oppression” to Blacks and Jews in the 1930s.


That’s absolutely and utterly lazy comparison and analysis.

Years ago, the Wall Street Journal used to have a Bad Writing Contest where readers can submit writing that’s truly awful. Too bad they don’t have this contest because I would personally submit this post–and your blog–to judges of the Bad Writing Contest and you would win hands down.

Honestly, you need a new hobby because you come across really immature, out-of-touch and bitter towards the world. Once again, do yourself a favor and enroll in an English 101 class at your local community college and learn how to write. Everytime I see a new post, 1) you are embarrassing yourself and 2) you put yourself further down the cultural rabbit hole by making piss poor arguments.

*waiting for your condescending reply*

You are pretty predictable, ya know

Huh, think Chinwe heard about the three women sexually assaulted for 10 years in Cleveland? How their captor, Ariel Castro, got out of domestic abuse charges years earlier because his ex-wife’s lawyer didn’t even show up to prosecute? Or perhaps Chinwe knows that in America, 3 women are murdered by a domestic partner every day? And still, our congress fought over passing the Violence Against Women Act?

I guess that’s my sarcastic, predictable, and, of course, poorly written reply.

We don’t live in a post-feminist world. We never have. According to the Geena Davis Institute, at the rate we’re going, will might in about 700 years. Don’t you think that’s too long for your children to wait?





After massive protest, Disney pulls new Merida from site

Exciting news! Today, Rebecca Hains, blogger and media studies professor, reports:

“As of today, Disney has quietly pulled the 2D image of Merida from its website, replacing it with the original Pixar version. Perhaps we’ll be spared an onslaught of sexy Merida merchandise yet.”

YAY! Check out the link, it’s true! BRAVE Merida is back.

I guess Disney was right to be so terrified of creating a strong, BRAVE, female protagonist (along with Pixar studios which hadn’t had ANY female protags before “Brave.”) It looks like Merida could be turning Disney’s franchise on it’s head. That’s pretty damn heroic.

Another mistake Disney made with “Brave?” They hired a female director. They fired her, but it was too late. Brenda Chapman wrote “Brave” based on her daughter. She was furious with the character’s transformation and wrote publicly about Disney’s terrible mistake.

Of the debacle Hains writes:

That’s right: Although Merida was created by a woman as a role model for girls, the male-dominated consumer product division at Disney has ignored the character’s intended benefits for young girls, sexualizing her for profit. Compared with her film counterpart, this new Merida is slimmer and bustier. She wears makeup, and her hair’s characteristic wildness is gone: It has been volumized and restyled with a texture more traditionally “pretty.” Furthermore, she is missing her signature bow, arrow, and quiver; instead, she wears a fashionable sash around her sparkly, off-the-shoulder gown. (As Peggy Orenstein noted when she broke the news of the redesign, “Moms tell me all the time that their preschool daughters are pitching fits and destroying their t-shirts because ‘princesses don’t cover their shoulders.’” I’ve heard the same from parents, as well.)

Is the sexualized  image of Merida gone for good? Has Disney learned a lesson? Or will that lesson be: No more strong female characters leading a film! No more female directors writing about their daughters! Keep the females weak and quiet!

It’s up to you. This could be a turning point. Parents, please use your voice and your wallet to keep strong, heroic females showing up in narratives and images marketed to your kids. Right now, girls are missing from children’s media and when they do appear, they’re sexualized. This is normal. Not healthy, but tragically, perfectly normal.

Yesterday, Melissa Wardy posted this image on her Pigtail Pals Facebook page, reminding us Merida’s new image was not created in a vacuum.


Objectifying and sexualizing girls is dangerous. A first step to abuse is always dehumanizing the victim. Propaganda, in the form of images and narratives, effectively dehumanizes on a mass scale.

Images/ narratives of Jews circa 1938


Africans circa 1931


Females circa 2013



It’s easy to look back on history and wonder: How did people ever put up with that? I’d never buy into it, not to mention expose my child to it. But what are you participating in right now that is completely accepted, not to mention celebrated, by our culture?

Be part of the solution. Demand narratives with strong female characters for your kids.

Update: New Merida may be off Disney’s site but she’s showing up all over the place including Target. Below is Target’s web page.





Thoughts that come with Dove’s footsteps by Melissa Duge Spiers, guest post

Perhaps I am the wrong person to open this discussion, because I was raised in a house where being beautiful (if you were a girl) was everything – I was dragged from under my bed as a 6-year-old, kicking and screaming, so that my “ugly” straight hair could be permed.  I was the only pre-teen I knew who was forced to wear makeup.  And I existed on air-popped popcorn throughout high school because I dreaded being withdrawn from school and put on a liquid diet until I lost weight like a friend of mine.  I grew up to make my living for a while from my looks, modeling and acting.  So it would be silly to claim I don’t carry some baggage about beauty, and I won’t even try. 


But I’m going to throw my hat into the ring anyway on the latest movement to redefine beauty, to make it more inclusive, to tell every woman she’s beautiful (yes, Dove, that’s you…and so many more).  I hate it.  I absolutely detest it.  Why?  Because even the most well-intentioned, politically correct, supportive, inclusive statements and movements can still be boiled down to this:  beauty is all important. 

The traditional wisdom – from my grandmother’s era – was a terse “if you’re not beautiful, cultivate a great personality, be the smartest, wittiest person in the world, be charming, develop great talents.”   This seems outrageously offensive in today’s era, yes?  It puts beauty in a removed and superior category which excuses the lucky ‘owners’ from doing anything else on that list (plus it reinforces the tired dichotomy of smart/witty/talented vs. beautiful).  As much as we sincerely applaud the use of larger-sized models and real women in these new campaigns, the honest truth is: nothing has changed.  We are still saying beauty is the defining item in women’s lives.  We’re just screaming for an expanded definition.    

If you take out the words “beautiful” and “ugly” in the widely celebrated, empowering “Everyone’s Beautiful!” campaigns and you substitute  the words “white” and “black” or “straight” and “gay” you begin to see how thoroughly stupid it is to waste time trying to define (or redefine) “beauty.”  Go ahead, try it:  “Everyone’s white! You’re white just as you are!” Or  “We just need to redefine straight to include all humans! Everyone’s straight!” 

It suddenly seems ridiculous (not to mention condescending), doesn’t it? These well-intentioned feel-good anthems really just posit beautiful (or white or straight) as the goal, as the “best” option, as the ultimate compliment/inclusion/approval.  Think I’m exaggerating? I can guarantee that someone in response to this article will think the most insulting, awful comment they can summon is “you’re just a jealous, fat, ugly dyke!”  But it’s not just those haters – it’s the advertisers, it’s the lawmakers, it’s the population, it’s each and every one of us.  We all keep thinking that telling women and girls they’re beautiful is the answer, as long as we adjust the definition to include everyone.  But we’re all still holding it up as the holy grail, the pinnacle of achievement, the most important thing they can be. 


You know, my mother thought straight hair was disgustingly ugly (a fact she will still tell anyone to this day).  As a child, did I wish she would open her beauty boundaries, recalibrate her metric, until it included my stick-straight strands?  That would have saved me a lot of tears and chemical burns on my scalp, sure, but really I just remember fervently wishing she would stop focusing on my damned hair so I could go outside and swing on the monkey bars.  Did my young friend wish her parents would say “honey, a few extra pounds are beautiful!” Not at all.  She felt nearly the same shame and humiliation whether they praised her weight loss or put her on a diet.  She simply didn’t want them or anyone else to discuss her body, in any way, good or bad – it was mortifying.  She just wanted to be riding her horse.

Each one of us – me, you, Dove, everyone – needs to stop trying to expand our precious definitions  (“beauty is valued, so we need to make sure everyone feels beautiful!”) and figure out why (and if) they’re important to define at all.  Everyone should be accepted and given equal consideration and rights, even if we’re not all straight, we’re not all white, and we’re not all beautiful.   Who cares? Let’s  cultivate our talents, our charm, our smarts, our personalities.  And then let’s run out and swing on the monkey bars.

 “Thoughts that come with dove’s footsteps guide the world.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Melissa Duge Spiers is a writer whose work has appeared in Adventure Sports Journal, Vermont Sports, and The Monterey Herald, among other publications. She is working on her first novel. A graduate of Barnard College, she lives in Santa Cruz, CA with her husband and four children.

Read Melissa Duge Spiers previous posts on Reel Girl: “ChapStick sticks it to women” and “No comment! A commentary on the ChapStick story.”



What are your kids learning about gender in art class?

My six year old daughter goes to an excellent public school, but like most public schools, its resources are limited. I supplement my daughter’s education with art classes, music, and sports outside of school. She goes to art class at a place called 4Cats every week, and she loves it. I love it too. Every season’s session 4Cats picks one or two artists. The children study all about the artist, her life, and her work. Simultaneously, they create a painting in that artist’s style. Since starting 4Cats, my daughter has studied Leonardo Da Vinci, Monet, Vermeer, Lichtenstein, and Frida Kahlo. I asked her who her favorite is, so far. Her answer: Frida Kahlo, and then she asked me, “Why is there only one girl?”

Here’s Alice’s Frida Kahlo.


I was thinking that it’s great my daughter is getting exposure to art, but also how, and this reminds me of the post I just wrote on boarding school, the more “educated” we get, the more we can “learn” to internalize sexism. Before 4Cats, my daughter had no idea there were many more male artists than female artists. Now she knows. Will that limit how she evaluates her own potential? Her dreams? Her aspirations? Of course, I tell her she can be anything she wants to be. But words are just words. Showing a kid something, modeling it for her, is much more effective. That’s how kids really learn, and grown-ups for that matter. My words contradict what my daughter sees.

My temporary solution? Art class is today, and I’m going to ask 4Cats if they’ll consider featuring more female artists in the curriculum.

Update I spoke with my daughter’s teacher who is wonderful with these kids. She told me that in the 4Cats curriculum, there are only two female artists. 4Cats studios are all over the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Each franchise (the one we go to is in San Francisco) can select who they want use out of that established curriculum. The curriculum includes books for kids on the artist, apps, and games, along with other related activities. Alice’s teacher said that the 4Cats curriculum reflects who the important artists are and that’s why there are mostly males taught. I suggested a few females– Mary Cassatt, Artemisia Gentileshi, and Georgia O’Keefe. I love Kara Walker’s silhouettes, and I bet the kids would have so much fun making those.


The teacher told me she’d forward this blog to whoever is in charge of curriculum. So if this blog, gets to you, we love learning about art. Half of the kid population– and most likely, at least half of your students– are female. It would be great if 4Cats made an effort to educate and inspire kids by teaching them about female artists.

How do you respond to the gender police, kid squad?

My daughters had two incidents this week where other kids asked them why they had boy stuff. The first time was when my nine year old daughter was in ski school and another girl asked her if she had a big brother because she was wearing boy clothes. My daughter was wearing a black parka and gray ski pants. My daughter told me that she lied to the girl, saying she didn’t have a big brother but she had a boy cousin who was older. The girl was wearing white ski clothes and her skis were covered with a pink design that my daughter thought might be birds.


My husband told my daughter, “Just say to her, ‘Did you eat something pink? Because it looks like you threw up all over your skis.”

I kind of like that. I need help from you about how to respond to kids like this. I know exactly what to say to adults but I don’t want to get all intellectual on kids. I also don’t want to shame the kid, even though part of me does. Here are my three daughters, learning how to ski, being brave, taking risks, trying something new, and some little kid makes them think about how they appear? How they look? ARGH.

Have you had similar experiences and what has your kid said or you said that you felt good about?

The next event happened to my six year old daughter. Usually she gets school lunch, but that day, she brought a lunch bag to school that is blue and gray. A boy in line asked her why she had a boy lunch. A boy lunch?

Again, the last thing I want my daughter focusing on is how her lunch looks.

The focus on appearance starts so young with girls, and I hate watching it get programmed into their growing brains. Kids are resilient but girl children get so much attention for what they look like, you can literally see them learn “how I look = attention= love.” Unlearning that message, when it is reaffirmed everywhere for a lifetime, is challenging to say the least.

If there were any way to win this battle of appearance= happiness, maybe I could get behind it. But there is no way for females to feel good about themselves when their identity and power is shrouded in how they look. Even if a woman spends all of her time, all of her money, and all of her mental energy on looking good, say she’s Kim Kardashian, people will still call her “fat” and “a hairy Armenian.” No woman who is in public on any level will escape being called ugly to insult and degrade her. But even say, magically, some woman were so perfectly “beautiful,” she was immune to ever having a bad photo on the internet. That woman will age and then she will be “ugly.” There is no way for a woman to win the “beauty” game. That is why I hate that tiny baby girls are taught by parents, doctors, and teachers that their bodies are valued for how they appear and not for what they do. And one of the saddest things ever is watching little kids do this to each other, because you know who has taught them this– us.


When girls go missing in children’s media, a new generation learns to accept sexism

I posted a comment on Reel Girl from 14 yr old Jessica who wrote about how when she calls out sexism, people say she’s bonkers. A 13 yr old replied to her:

You are definitely not alone or bonkers! In fact, you are intelligent enough to know that sexism is still present in our society. I am 13 and I share the same experiences with you! I never tried to advocate feminism openly in public because I know how ignorant, oblivious , and stubborn people are that they would not accept the truth, or flatly deny the existence of sexism. I would have had the courage if there was such a thing such as a feminist campaign club in my country. At least my sister and all of you here understand sexism!


It makes me so mad and frustrated that neither of these girls, 30 years younger than me, feels like she has a public voice to tell her story. I am happy that they wrote on this blog, and I hope that they will continue to write and refuse to believe that the sexism they experience in their world is trivial and doesn’t matter.

If this isn’t sexist:


And this isn’t sexist:


And this isn’t sexist:


Is this sexist?


This photo of Obama’s inner circle is from the March issue of Vogue magazine.

When girls go missing in children media, it acclimates a whole new generation to expect and accept sexism. It’s an annihilation of half of the population. So why do parents accept sexism in a fantasy world created for children? When did it become normal to us? And why are teenage girls afraid to talk about what they see?