Empowering Our Girls: Keeping our Teenage Daughters Safe

12 Essential Tips to Keep Your Teenage Daughter Safe

We all want to feel confident when our teenage daughters go out at night with their friend, knowing they know how to prevent themselves from being in unsafe situations, and how to defend and advocate for themselves when they needed to.  As a teenager, I experienced sexual assault, and now as a mother of a precious ten year old daughter, I do what it takes to keep her safe, including teaching self defense to girls for the past 30 years. Here I am sharing tips on ways we can keep our daughters safe as they navigates through their teenage years, and beyond. Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Inner Strength, Smarts & Resources for Girls

Fight Like a Girl: A New Definition for 2015

When I was a little girl, “Fight like a Girl” was a term I heard used by boys calling other boys wussies. As a teenager, the term used in the lunchroom after two girls would have a brawl, arms flailing, scratch marks on faces and hair left in clumps on the floor.

Today, I believe that “Fight like a Girl” needs of a new definition, based on the inner strength, smarts and resources that all girls can draw on any time she needs to.

So, we need to teach our girls how to fight like a girl. Here is a list of 5 things we can teach them.  Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Being a Role Model

19 Ways to be a Healthy Role Model for Your Daughter.

As we know, our children will learn more from what they see us doing, than what we tell them to do. Correct? Sometimes it is hard to sit with that truth. The truth is that we all may have some ways of acting and communicating that may need some revision. We are after all, only human. But do we need to carry on certain less-than-ideal ways of being that have been passed down from generation to generation?

I challenge myself and invite you to join me in being a better role model for our daughters (and sons!). The benefits of doing so will ripple through their lives and the lives of future generations! Here are 19 ways we can consider being a healthy role model for our daughters…

Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: 20 Ways to Get Active with your Daughter

Let’s Get Physical

Jumping rope, hiking, swimming, bike riding, skateboarding, rock climbing… there are so many fun ways to get your girls active and engaged outside in their community in the summer!

Wondering what activities to do with your daughter so you both build a healthy and fun exercise habit that can last a lifetime?

Having fun while exercising is key to building the belief that physical activity is something to look forward to, not something to dread.

Here are 20 ways to get active with your daughter. I hope you get inspired!

1. Jumping Rope — You can get two jump ropes and have a competition as to who can jump the most times in a row. Make up a silly song as you jump. Try to synchronize your jumping. Get a long jump rope and if there is just two of you, tie one end to something and one person spins the rope while the other person jumps. With toddlers, just lay the rope on the ground and watch them jump back and forth over them.

Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Tips to Building Confidence

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun and 7 More Empowering Tips for Girls

Stepping stones to empowerment.

Do you ever wonder what the secret sauce is to helping little girl grow into a truly empowered young woman?  By empowered, I mean being fully embodied, strong and resilient in body, mind, voice and spirit. We are all hoping to watch out daughters grow into young women who believe in themselves and have the courage to express their full selves in the world. There really is no secret sauce to building confidence and self-esteem. But if you mix together these eight key ingredients into your daughter’s life, she may just wind up being a very healthy, expressive and strong person; a person we will feel good about sending off to college or to travel or just out of our homes into their own futures… Read the rest of this entry »

Empowering Our Girls: Strength In Confidence

14 Ways Martial Arts Training Can Help Raise Confident Girls

Martial arts training for girls is an outstanding way to bolster self-confidence in our girls as they navigate the ups and downs of growing up. It can teach so many valuable life lessons, strengthening their connection between the mind, heart, voice and spirit, providing a strong foundation for a lifetime.

I have been teaching girls self-defense and martial arts for the past 30 years and have been introduced to many martial arts and different teachers along the way. I cannot tell you how many times I have witnessed a quiet, shy girl transform into an assertive, confident person through the practice of a martial art.

Confident girls are less likely to become bullies and less likely to be bullied. True confidence comes from accepting oneself as a unique and special being, just like everybody else. The most confident people always respect others and are among the most respected by others.

Don’t we want this for our girls? I know I want my own daughter to grow to be confident, strong, able to stand up for herself and others and to be able to fight for her safety if necessary.

Most martial arts schools have confidence builders built right into their classes. Here are 14 ways I have found martial arts training able to strengthen confidence in our girls:  Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching Your Daughter to be Assertive

5 Essential Tips for Teaching Your Daughter to be Assertive

In her debut column, “It’s a Girl Thing: Empowering Our Girls to Be Expressive, Safe and Strong,” Hilltown Families newest Contributing Writer, Nancy Rothenberg, shares essential tips for teaching assertiveness to our daughters. These tips to teach our daughters to be assertive are a starting point for investing time and energy into giving her the skills she needs to communicate with confidence. It is a gift that she will carry with her for the rest of her life

We all want our daughters to grow into confident and assertive women, able to express their thoughts and feelings without hesitation in any situation. My own personal experience growing up was one that taught girls to be quiet, “seen and not heard.”  My voice was thoroughly squelched when I was young, spending half my life adult life waking it up!  So, when I gave birth to my daughter, I was going to make sure to encourage her full expression!

Now, I have a preteen whose voice is loud and clear. I chuckle to myself saying,”Can she just stop being so sassy?” But I trust that with the self- awareness that comes in time, the self-correction that comes through the influence of her peers, and supportive parental guidance along the way, she will know when to take up lots of space with her voice and when to choose to be silent.

Girl empowerment has been my focus for the past thirty years, not only for myself and my daughter, but for all girls and young women.  Being assertive is an important skill that supports empowerment in all girls. Here are five tips that support teaching our young girls to be assertive as they blossom into their full empowered selves: Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: 5 Ways To Talk With Your Daughter About Technology

The New Odd Girl Out: 5 Ways To Talk With Your Daughter About Technology

As part of my series celebrating the newly revised and updated Odd Girl Out,

I’m leading parents and girls through some of the twists and turns of girls’ social lives online.

With stories of cyberbullying everywhere, parents’ anxiety increases with every headline. But parenting can’t only be about saying no and laying down the law, or operating from a place of fear. Rules are important, to be sure – and I’ll write more about that soon – but so is conversation. When parents take the time to ask why their girls love and struggle with social media, they exercise empathy and gain crucial insight into their children.

Asking questions about your daughter’s life online also cuts down on the “us vs them” mentality that exists between many girls and their parents. Perceiving a parent only as a digital policeman makes a girl far less likely to confide when she’s in trouble, or to listen to why a rule might be in place.

Here are five conversations starters. My advice is to have discussions that come from a place of sincere inquiry. You are taking the time to learn about your daughter’s experience and empathize. This is not the moment to discipline or yell “A-ha! I knew it!”

1. What is your favorite thing about [name a form of social media, like texting or Facebook, that you know she loves]? Or: What’s your favorite thing to do online or on your phone?

Discussion Tips: Make a genuine effort to see social media through her eyes. Ask her how fast she can text or if she can do it without looking. Invite her to show you her favorite videos. Ask her to take you on a tour of her digital life. The point here is for both of you to connect over the positive aspects of social media, and for her to see that you respect – or at least tolerate and understand – her relationship to this very important aspect of her life. If she’s not engaging, try this one: If you had to give up your phone or your computer, which one would you pick? Why?

2. Would your friendships be better or worse without technology? Easier or harder?

Discussion Tips: Be careful here. If she’s honest and says, yes, my friendships are harder, don’t do the I-told-you-dance. Technology isn’t going anywhere, no matter how much it taxes her relationships. This is a great opportunity for you to share your own feelings about how social media has changed your own relationships. The answer is never black and white here. Wrestle together with both sides of the question.

3. Do you think people act online the same way they act in real life? Why are people more inclined to be rude or mean online?

Discussion Tips: These are exciting questions because they can open a window into personal stories. If you promise me that you won’t come down hard on her for the answer, try asking if she’s ever said anything online that she’s sorry about. Extra points if you can share your own confession. The point is not to freak out, but to talk frankly about the challenge of learning what belongs online and offline. We can’t learn unless we know what we want to change. It won’t help any if she feels like she can’t talk about her learning process.

4. Technology can bring friends closer together. Can it also make you more insecure in your friendships?

Discussion Tips: This is not a question about bullying or even aggression. It’s about what happens when friendships become public and tangible, as they do online, and how we compare ourselves to others by using our social media lives as a barometer for social status and self-worth.

Trying asking if she’s ever felt left out of something online. Some ways this could happen include texting someone and not getting a reply; watching someone get lots of texts while you don’t; seeing pictures of parties or hang-outs that you were not invited to; or getting fewer Facebook wall posts or birthday messages than someone else.

5. Are there ever misunderstandings caused by technology?

Discussion Tips: This is harder for younger girls, so you may need to prompt a bit. Have you ever thought someone meant to say one thing in a message they wrote, but they really meant something totally different? Or: have you ever thought you were being left out of a situation because of something you saw online, and then realized you weren’t? You will feel the symptoms of I-told-you-so-dance coming on. Hold back and put your most empathic foot forward.

Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Our Daughters: My Teenage Werewolf

Mom Embeds Self in Teen Daughter’s Life! (Read the Author Q&A)

My Teenage WerewolfAre you currently on a wild roller coaster ride with that charming/ alarming pre-teen or teen in your midst?  If so, Lauren Kessler’s book, My Teenage Werewolf: A Mother, A Daughter, A Journey through the Thicket of Adolescence— just released in paperback — may save your sanity.  The award-winning author launches an 18-month mission, embedding herself in her own about-to-be teenage daughter’s life. From middle school classrooms to the mall, from summer camp to online chat groups, Kessler observes, chronicles—and sometimes participates in—the vibrant, dynamic and scary life of a 21st-century teen. With the help of a resident teen expert (her daughter), as well as teachers, doctors, therapists and other mothers, Kessler illuminates the age-old mother-daughter struggle from both sides,  interweaving personal experience with journalistic inquiry.

Why did you write this book, Lauren?

The short answer is:  I had to.

I had to write about my feisty, moody, mercurial girl-woman and her generation of take-no-prisoners girls.  I had to dive into the deep end of teen girl culture and attempt to navigate the stormy seas of the mother-daughter relationship.  It was the only way I could figure out how to survive her teenage years.

She was 12 when overnight, it seemed, I toppled from my throne. I ceased to be Mommy the Genius, Mommy the Wise and Beneficent, the font of all things cool and fun, the curer of all ills.

That’s how little girls look at their mothers. But at 12, my girl was no longer little. She was already full throttle into teendom and had mastered the vocabulary: deep sighs, exasperated eye-rolling, monosyllabic responses, snotty retorts and stony silences. Mom (that would be me) was now the enemy. All of a sudden, it seemed to me, Lizzie and I were sparring over everything, from food to friends to fashion, school work, chores, screen-time, bedtime, you name it. Most mornings we would eye each other warily, waiting to see who would cast the first stone.

I had to do something.  I’m an immersion journalist, so that’s what I did:  I took it on as a major research project.   I’m a storyteller.  I told a story, a story I was in the midst of living.

So you embedded yourself in teen girl culture, in your daughter’s life. How did you convince your daughter to let you do this?

First let me assure you that I employed no coercion or bribery…although it did cross my mind!  In fact, although our relationship at the time was, shall we say, tempestuous, she readily – almost enthusiastically – agreed.  I can’t answer for her about her motives, but I can tell you my take on it. I think it was all about the balance of power. I basically asked Lizzie to be my expert, my source, my guide. She got to teach me. I was her student. This was particularly the case when she instructed me on her online life and taught me computer games, and when she helped me through my week as a summer camp counselor. But it was just generally true. She was empowered throughout this process, and she loved this position as “boss.”

What most surprised you about what you learned?

I was also astonished at how savvy the girls were about just the things that keep us mothers up at night: sex, drugs, internet predators. I am not saying they did the right thing, that they invariably made the right choices (blame at least some of this on that discombobulated brain). I am saying that they understood the terrain better than we think they do (and sometimes better than we do).

I sat through a week of sex ed classes at school, for example. During one session, the kids were asked to share what their responses would be if they were being pressured to have sex and didn’t want to. Only the girls volunteered responses – no surprise here – but if their mothers (all mothers) could have heard those responses…the intelligence and power and self-confidence behind those responses – well, we would all be sleeping better at night.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: CyberDRAMA

Why Girls Need to Learn About CyberDRAMA, Not Just CyberBULLYING

If it bleeds, it leads: it’s a popular saying in journalism that refers to our attraction to sensational, often violent headlines. As an anti-bullying educator, I have seen something similar: we tend to focus on the most extreme levels of bullying as a way to teach and build awareness.

The problem is that most kids are not bullied in such dramatic ways. Yet almost every child experiences day-to-day aggression. If we only teach intervention strategies for the worst crimes, we don’t teach kids to cope with the daily injustices. We imply that only the most extreme aggression is problematic, while other behaviors – like saying “just kidding” after you do something mean, or giving someone the silent treatment – are unavoidable rites of passage. Lacking the tools to deal with these smaller infractions, kids are more vulnerable to the “flare-ups” of extreme behavior.

This same emphasis on extremes is evident in the anti-cyberbullying world. Most of what’s out there for parents and girls focuses on what to do when the building is already on fire. But what about preventing the fire in the first place?

I’ve spent several years traveling around the country talking with students about how to avoid drama – by which I mean conflict – online. It’s worth mentioning that I rarely use the word “cyberbullying” in my assemblies. That’s because of what I call “cyberbullying fatigue:” many kids have been lectured already about what to do if they are bullied online. While fatigue is a happy sign of the success of anti-cyberbullying initiatives, it also points to the need for more textured education about digital citizenship.

As the girls in your life prepare to begin their school year, consider sharing some of these tips on avoiding drama online. You can find several more girl-friendly video tips in my BFF 2.0 series.

If you wouldn’t say it, don’t send it.

When they are upset, girls type things they would never say to someone’s face. Surges of panic and anger lead to impulsive messages that leave smoldering holes in relationships.

I give girls two tips to avoid making this mistake:
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Our Daughters: Texting While Hanging Out with Friends

BFF 2.0: She’s Texting While We’re Hanging Out

Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Our Daughters: Cinderella Ate My Daughter!

Q & A with Bestselling Author & Girl Shero Peggy Orenstein

"If looking in the mirror and asking, “Who is the Fairest of them All” at three years old helped them attain a healthier body image, shielded them from eating disorders, gave them healthy perspective on their appearance, reduced their obsession with it... I’d be all over it... but it just doesn’t. It’s a really damaging paradox: girls are told that the thing that makes them girls is the obsession with appearance, but that that appearance is never good enough. Most of us lived that. None of us want that for our daughters." - Peggy Orenstein

Do you have or know a young girl obsessed with princess culture? A girl who, despite your best efforts to raise her to be strong and independent, suddenly insists on growing up to be Snow White?

Journalist and bestselling author Peggy Orenstein is back with Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontlines of the New Girlie Girl Culture, a whipsmart, funny new book that explores the challenge of parenting in a culture determined to sexualize and sell to girls from the youngest ages. What are girls learning, and what can we do about it? Read on.

RS: Why did you decide to write a book about girls and princess culture?

PO: The short answer is: I had a daughter. Until then I was blissfully unaware of how gendered, hyper-sexualized and appearance-focused the culture of even the tiniest girls has become. The Princesses had sort of blindsided me. We didn’t have the products in the house. I had never even heard of Disney Princesses (because, it turned out, the Princess concept didn’t even begin until 2001).

But within a few weeks of starting preschool Daisy suddenly knew every one of the Princess’s names and gown colors as if by osmosis. So Princess obsession marked her first real foray into mainstream culture. And what did that culture tell her about being a girl? Not that she was competent, strong, creative, or smart but that every little girl wants—or should want—to be the Fairest of Them All.

And so while you may say, well, what’s the big deal about Cinderella at three years old, you’ve then got the lip smackers collection at 4 years, Monster High Dolls at 6, America’s Top Model at 9… girls are put into this little pink box at ever-younger ages. So while I’d always been interested in teenage girls, I had always written about teenage girls, but I realized all those things we have concerns about, the risks linked to premature sexualization and obsession with appearance—depression, negative body image, eating disorders, poor sexual choices—do not just spring forth when a girl blows out the candles on her 13th birthday cake.

Right now, for instance, Daisy, who is 7, is really into Mad Libs, so we were at our local independent book store in Berkeley and what do they have? PINK Mad Libs. On pink paper. And the topics of the little stories were, I kid you not, “The Perfect Makeover,” “The Cutest Boy in Class,” “A Trip to the Mall…”


Can girls be convinced to look at Disney with a wary eye, or is this a lost cause?

Not when they’re little. A 3-year-old can’t understand your brilliant deconstruction of a sales pitch. The only thing that penetrates is PRINCESSES and TOOTHPASTE TUBE.

But just saying “no” all the time is a trap too, because it’s hard to convince your daughter that you’re trying to offer her more choices when you keep limiting what she can have. So it’s really important to provide her with equally fun alternatives that satisfy that preschooler need to assert your gender.

That means, I’m afraid, that I’m telling parents they have to do some work. I hate to do that, because I’m a mom and I’m exhausted and frankly, it would be a lot easier to just let her have the spa birthday party. But if it’s any comfort, I get a lot out of looking for books, movies, toys and such that we both can embrace. Plus, I’ve noticed this interesting thing just recently. The toys that kids are “supposed” to play with are time bound. They know EXACTLY when they’re supposed to grow out of Disney Princesses and after the stroke of midnight on that day, they will NOT touch those gowns. Same with Barbie or Bratz or any of that stuff.

But I got Daisy these Papo figurines of kings, queens, fairies, Joan of Arc — this whole array of characters. They were $5 each, cheaper than most Barbie or Disney Princess junk (and God knows, American Girl). And they aren’t licensed out as breakfast cereal. They just are what they are. So she doesn’t know when she’s supposed to grow out of them. Therefore, she has played with them every day since she was three. And she’s still going strong using her true imagination with them. Best $50 I ever spent.

Read the rest of this entry »

Our Daughters: Helping Girls to Be Honest in a Good Girl World

When the Truth Hurts: Helping Daughters Be Honest in a Good Girl World

I had just started a fifth grade class when a student began waving her hand and doing that “Oooh! Oooh! Oooh!” thing that I used to do when I couldn’t contain myself.*

“Okay,” she said, “what if, like, my friend asks me if I like the dress she was buying and I didn’t like it and I wanted to tell her but I was afraid she would get mad at me?”

This is the dreaded teaching moment when I want to stand up like a lounge performer, wave fondly and shout, “Thank you so much! Good night!”

But I had a whole class left to teach, and I had to deal with it. This is a question that can break your heart. It’s the moment when a girl announces her awareness of Good Girl pressure – the rules that tell girls they must be unfailingly nice to others at all costs, even at the expense of their own integrity.

This girl was perched at the crossroads of girlhood and womanhood – the girl in her wants to tell the truth, and the young woman knows that if she does, she might damage her friendship.

The question also brings to mind one of the most common questions parents asked me on my recent national tour for The Curse of the Good Girl: “So you want me to raise my daughter to speak her mind? If I do that, what’s going to happen to her? I mean, we’re still living on a planet where assertive women get called names.”

True story. So check out what I did in this class and let’s talk about how you deal with this. Facing those ten year olds, I didn’t try and pretend Good Girl rules don’t exist. I admitted that it was a hard question, and that I, too, often didn’t know what to say. Here’s what I did next:

Do the Cha Cha

First, I put the question in the girls’ hands and asked them to think through their choices. I call this doing the “Cha Cha” – an exercise where girls think about different choices and the possible outcomes of their choices. It works like this: If you make this Choice, what might Happen?

The first choice is telling the truth and saying, “I don’t really like the dress.” What might happen? The girls thought the friend might have gotten upset. The second choice is saying, “I think it’s great!” What might happen then? “Then I’d be lying,” one girl chirped. Nods all around.

Be Honest

I leveled with them about the Good Girl rules. “Sometimes, when a girl asks how she looks, and tells you that she wants you to be honest with her, she might be scared to hear the truth. She might be feeling insecure or worried about her looks. Because she’s feeling freaked out, being honest might end up hurting her feelings. Sometimes, a friend wants to be reassured just as much as she wants to hear the truth.

“For example,” I continued, “have you ever heard someone ask, “Do I look fat?’ What have you heard other women and girls say?” Note that I wasn’t asking girls what they say – just what they’ve heard. “Even if someone does look overweight, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if they really want to know the truth, or if they are feeling worried, afraid, or insecure.”

“Sometimes, the truth hurts. Honesty can hurt. If we don’t want someone to be hurt, we might feel like we have to lie. But then we’re not being true to ourselves. Is it possible that there is a way to answer the question where we don’t lie but we try not to hurt a friend’s feelings?”

Then we talked about different ways to answer the question without selling yourself out or launching a dressing room meltdown.

“If you like it, that’s what’s most important,” one girl suggested.
“I think it’s great for you,” another offered.
“You seem to really love it and that’s what counts.”
“It’s not my favorite, but it looks great on you.”

How do you know who you can be honest with, even if she says it’s okay to tell the truth? There isn’t a clear path to navigate Good Girl pressure; the answers often depend on the context. My approach is twofold: be straight with girls about what they’re facing but put them in charge of finding solutions. There is little to be gained by me — or anyone — telling them what to do and how to do it.

* This would be the behavior that consistently earned me a minus sign next to the report card line item that said, “Shows Growth in Self-Control.” I so would have failed the marshmallow test.

Rachel Simmons ♦ Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls

Rachel Simmons writes our monthly column, Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls.  Rachel is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator and coach, Rachel works internationally to develop strategies to address bullying and empower girls. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, Rachel currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and writes an advice blog for girls at TeenVogue.com. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her West Highland Terrier, Rosie, and teaches workshops for parents and girls in Northampton. Visit her website at www.rachelsimmons.com – Check out  Our Daughters: Raising Confident Girls the last Monday of every month.

Heroic Girlz Educational Project at Simon’s Rock

Heroic Girlz Educational Project Offers Free Teacher Training Workshop in Great Barrington

The Heroic Girlz Educational Project creators are offering a free Teacher Training Workshop at Simon’s Rock College in Great Barrington, MA, on Saturday April 10th, 2010 from 9:30 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.  Using the Heroic Girlz Curriculum Guide, Cindy L. Parrish, Meg Agnew, and Laura Yurko will facilitate writing, visual arts, movement and theater exercises, providing hands-on training in this unique and creative educational process for teachers, homeschool facilitators, parents, girl scout troupe leaders, after-school program directors, summer program leaders, etc.  Participants will gain a deeper understanding of why it is so important for girls of this age group to express themselves through the arts, relate to female mentors (living and ancestral) and maintain the strength inherent in having a strong voice throughout their adolescent years.


The Heroic Girlz Educational Project started in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains of New York in 2004 as a home school exercise for four 11-year-old girls.  Inspired by the story of Harriet Tubman, the girls began exploring the lives of four heroic American women: Louisa May Alcott, Amelia Bloomer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Earhart when these women were 11-years-old.  In this way, the girls could draw a parallel between themselves and these “great” women, imagining their own futures as they began their journey toward womanhood.  Through facilitated exercises in writing (with Cindy L. Parrish), visual arts (with Laura Yurko) and theater (with Meg Agnew), the girls also engaged in self-exploration at this important time in their lives.  Soon, the group assembled their research and discoveries into a play that was performed in over a half dozen venues.  In the summer of 2005, Cindy L. Parrish directed the girls in the short film, Heroic Girlz. The film has a number of awards and was an invited feature at the 2009 International Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations


To discover what they might become, four 11-year-old girls adopt the persona of four famous American women who meet in the afterlife to relive their pasts:


Today, the DVD containing Heroic Girlz and Making History -a documentary on the educational process – and The Heroic Girlz Curriculum Guide are available to all who would like to facilitate girls in a similar exploration.  With generous funding from the Brabson Library and Educational Foundation, the Workshop on April 10th is offered free of charge.  The workshop will culminate in a viewing of this award-winning film as one sample outcome of this educational process.  Participants will be provided with a copy of the Curriculum Guide. To register for the workshop call (518) 729-0200 or e-mail Meg Agnew at: megandmerlin@taconic.net.

Hardy Girls Healthy Women Protest American Apparel’s Best Bottom Contest

Megan Williams, Executive Director of Hardy Girls Healthy Women writes:

Hardy Girls Healthy Women (HGHW) is leading a campaign to get California-based clothing company American Apparel to pull their highly offensive and dangerous “Best Bottom Contest” ad campaign. American Apparel is looking for the best bottom in the world to be the “face” of their new ad campaign. They’re inviting girls (18yo & older) to upload pictures of their butts to the website wearing American Apparel underwear or body suits. Visitors to the site then have the option to judge the submissions with a score of 1-5 and add comments about the submissions.

Hardy Girls’ Executive Director Megan Williams notes “This campaign is not just offensive, but it’s dangerous. The objectification of girls’ and women’s bodies is a real concern in a country where 1 in 4 women is a victim of violence, and sexual harassment is rampant. This ad campaign invites girls to self-objectify, encouraging them to post pictures of just one body part and inviting others to comment and rate them. It’s unreal that American Apparel would launch this campaign on the heels of ‘sexting’ scandals where girls are being prosecuted for sending sexually explicit images of themselves via text and other forms of digital media.”

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Packaging Girlhood: Halloween & Girls

Your Daughter’s Halloween Costume: Tips for Dads

Rescuing Our Daughters From Marketers' SchemesThe search for your daughter or stepdaughter’s Halloween costume can be treacherous, filled with over-sexed and stereotyped “choices.” Here are some healthy ideas from Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D. and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., authors of Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes (St. Martin’s Press, 2006), to fight back and let her creativity sparkle!

  1. She can be anyone or anything on Halloween, so help her think outside the box (especially boxes of store-bought costumes.) Imagination and creativity can help girls break out of gender stereotypes… and are great practice for reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Engineering and Technology Workshops for Girls

Wow! That’s Engineering!

In order to encourage teen girls in grades 8-10 (but girls slightly outside age range are welcome) across the country to become involved with engineering and technology, the Society of Women Engineers has launched a new program, Wow! That’s Engineering! Volunteers from the Boston chapter of SWE are organizing an afternoon of workshops (Saturday May 2, 2009 from 12:00 PM – 3:30 PM. at the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Lowell, MA ) to show girls the field beyond the stereotypes. They will work on hands-on activities, meet women engineers and engineering students, and hear first-hand about these exciting careers.

The event will be free, but pre-registration is required due to limited space.
Questions? Email wow@sweboston.org

Dora the Streetwalker: Sexing-Up Dora the Explorer

Dora Falls into Marketer’s Tween-hood Trap

Sexing up Dora the Explorer

Dora the Streetwalker

She’s been a bilingual world explorer and a problem-solver extraordinaire.  She’s shouted, “Let’s go!” and set off with her compass, backpack, and sidekick monkey.  She’s been a brave, adventurous, resourceful girl.

Now, she’s being made over by Mattel and Nickelodeon to be a lipstick wearing ‘tween.  Marketers are giving Dora a complete makeover, and this time, her accessories include eye shadow rather than a map.

Hardy Girls Healthy Women have expressed that besides Dora’s makeover from kid to ‘tween, advocates for halting Dora’s makeover are concerned that the new ‘tween Dora’s ability to change her hair and eye-color transforms her Latina cultural identity into yet another accessory for marketers to sell.


Mattel and Nickelodeon recently released a statement in which they state “In the nine years she has been on television, Dora has become an important role model to many. The Latina heroine has connected with a generation of young boys and girls all around the world through her courageousness and sense of adventure. We at Nickelodeon and Mattel want to assure parents that none of that is changing.”  Click here to read the AP article “After Dora uproar, Nick and Mattel soothe moms.

Dora the Explorer

Hardy Girls Healthy Women has to say about Mattel and Nickelodeons statement: “The original Dora the Explorer was unique and beloved by both girls and boys because she was adventurous, smart, and loved the outdoors. Trading her compass, map, pet monkey, and sneakers for jewelry, a dress, and the big city, means Dora isn’t the same explorer anymore. The new ‘tween Dora fits right into the narrow mold that defines too many girls’ toys, and thus limits their imagination.” writes HGHW executive director, Megan Williams, in her most recent letter to execs at Mattel and Nick.

Read the four things Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes have to say about the new Dora in response to Mattel and Nikelodeon in their post, “Mattel Doesn’t get it! These Moms Are Not ‘Soothed.'”


For young girls, Dora was a good role model.  For that reason, Hardy Girls Healthy Women is launching a petition drive aimed at convincing Mattel to Let Go of Dora!  The “Let’s Go: No Makeover for Dora” campaign wants Mattel to recognize the truth that girls don’t need one more doll telling them the point of their lives is to attract boys.

You Did It: Scholastic Expels the Bratz From Schools

You Did It: Scholastic Expels the Bratz From Schools

Thanks to you, Scholastic, Inc. will no longer be promoting the highly sexualized Bratz brand in schools.

In April, 2007, we launched a letter-writing campaign urging Scholastic to stop promoting Bratz items at their book clubs and book fairs.  You flooded Scholastic with emails urging them to stop selling books such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash.

We were disappointed in Scholastic’s initial response. They claimed the Bratz books were important to reach “reluctant readers.” This claim seemed disingenuous, especially when the 2007-2008 Scholastic Bratz items included the Bratz: Rock Angels computer game and the Bratz Fashion Designer stencil set so elementary school students could design “the perfect purse.”

But we kept the pressure on. And in the end, more than 5,000 emails from CCFC members were too much to ignore. Scholastic has confirmed that they will no longer be selling Bratz Items in schools. We applaud Scholastic for this decision.

If you would like to thank Scholastic, you can do so by writing to:
Richard Robinson, CEO
Scholastic, Inc.
557 Broadway
New York, NY 10012
(212) 343-6100

Dads & Daughters: Women’s Basketball Championship

Women’s March Madness!
by Dads & Daughters

Dads & Daughters (pdf file)10 Tips for Dads & Daughters During the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship

  1. March Madness gets underway March 22nd for women’s college basketball and March 20th for the men (and the start of the WNBA season isn’t far behind!). This is an exciting time for dads to watch or listen to the women’s game with their daughters and stepdaughters. Here are some tips for fathers and stepfathers during tournament time.
  2. Remember that your daughter or stepdaughter hungers for your attention. Make popcorn and watch the tournament together for a great opportunity to talk about the game, or anything else on her mind! Women’s NCAA Division I games are on ESPN and ESPN2—the Women’s Final Four is April 6 and 8 in Tampa.
  3. Fill out brackets together (find them here.) Dads & Daughters member David Powers shares his story:
    My wife, daughters and I all fill out brackets and have a lot of fun tracking who won, who lost — and we even give prizes (for example, the winner picks where to have dinner next time we dine out). We learn about colleges they may not have known, talk about national (and sometimes international) geography, look at player profiles to see where they were from, what they were studying in school, etc. In short, a very low cost way to connect with your daughter!
  4. Celebrate these powerful women. Compliment a great shot, steal, or smart pass. Our daughters hear so often that men only care about women’s looks. Show your excitement for the game by commenting on players’ skills and physical capabilities. And if commercials objectify women (e.g., scantily clad women in beer commercials), call the station, the product manufacturer, and the NCAA to complain.
  5. Talk about your basketball days, if you played. Talk about how hard it is to master, while still incredibly fun for anyone to play. Ask her opinion on game situations as they arise. Then get interested together in other women’s sports, like golf, soccer and volleyball. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate Japanese Girl’s Day with a Mother/Daughter Tea

at the Children’s Art Museum

Kokeshi DollsHilltown Families and CAM present a special Mother/Daughter Tea this Friday, February 29th at 4pm, just prior to Japan’s National Girls Day at the Children’s Art Museum in Shelburne Falls, MA (same building as the Trolley Museum).

This Mother/Daughter Tea is a community celebration to honor happiness and health of our girls. Peach Blossom tea and symbolic snacks will be served. Participants are encouraged to dress festively and to bring a snack to share, especially snacks that are pink (implies peach flowers), white (implies snow), and green (implies new growth) foods, fruit, sweet rice cakes, and vegetable sushi.

Collectively, participants can create a display to honor girls with small objects, pictures or poems brought from home. All are welcome to add to the display and to offer a word or two about their contribution.

Japan’s National Girls Day is also know as the Japanese Doll Festival, or Hinamatsuri. Girls are welcomed to bring along their favorite doll. Our craft will be Kokeshi Dolls, traditional wooden Japanese dolls (pictured above). All ages are welcomed. Pre-registration is required ($). Click here reserve your spot, or call 413.625.2030.

Suggested Titles:

  • Japanese Celebrations: Cherry Blossoms, Lanterns And Stars!
    by Betty Reynolds
  • Tea Ceremony: Asian arts & crafts for creative kids
    by Shozo Sato, Alice Ogura Sato, Masturah Jeffrey (Illustrator)
  • Best-Loved Children’s Songs from Japan
    by Yoko Imoto
  • Girl’s Day in Hawaii with Yuki-chan
    by Tokie Ikeda Ching, Sets Arai (Illustrator)

Hilltown Girls Offered Free Martial Arts

Take our Daughters & Sons to Work Day – April 26th

Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work Day!

Take Our Daughters And Sons To Work is a national public education program that connects what children learn at school with the actual working world. By accompanying their parents and guardians to the workplace, girls and boys across the country discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life.

On Thursday it is also Eat Your Art Out Day in Northampton. The two events coinciding offer an excellent opportunity for kids to support their artistic community while discovering the balancing act of work and family. For lunch take your child to one of the supporting restaurants that supports the project.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrate Equal Pay Day with Your Daughter

What will your daughter’s “cost of living” be?

Women pay more just to live an ordinary life, according to two recent reports. Women pay much higher health insurance deductibles than men, reports a Harvard University study of nearly 33,000 people that projects that the trend will worsen. More employers are pushing employees into plans with high deductibles, and women use health services more frequently for routine exams such as mammograms, Pap tests, and pregnancy-related services. Also, the inflation rate for goods and services targeted at women (such as clothes, shoes, housekeeping, and appliances) is rising faster than it is for typical male products (such as men’s clothing, sporting goods, and auto parts), notes an economist in Business Week. The “female inflation rate” is 18 times higher than men’s.

Read the rest of this entry »

Local Moviemaking Program for Girls

Moviemaking Program Can Raise a Girls’ Self-Esteem

New research by Mount Holyoke professors has found increased self-esteem in adolescent females who participated in improvisational moviemaking designed to build confidence and character in girls ages 11 to 14.

ACT NOW! Inc., an Amherst, Massachusetts-based nonprofit founded by Nancy Fletcher in 2000, holds two- and five-day workshops using the MOVIExperience format, in which players brainstorm an original story, create characters, improvise the scenes in sequence on camera, and screen a professional-looking 20- to 40-minute movie immediately after the last scene is shot.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vegetarian Girls

More reasons to eat green

Vegetarian  CookbookTween and teen girls are the most likely group to become vegetarians, and a recent study linking early consumption of red meat and breast cancer may give girls yet another reason to go veggie. The Harvard University Medical School study of over 90,000 women found that the more red meat the women consumed in their 20s, 30s and 40s, the greater their risk for developing breast cancer fueled by hormones in the next 12 years. The correlation is likely due to growth hormones fed to animals as well as natural hormones in meat, or to substances produced by high-heat cooking processes that may be linked to cancers.

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Dads, Daughters & Sports


(c) 2007 Steve Harwood - All Rights Reserved.

With the Women’s Final Four just around the corner, Dads & Daughters offers advice on how to spend time with your daughter during the Women’s NCAA Basketball Championship season.

March Madness is underway in women’s college basketball (and the start of the WNBA season isn’t far behind!). This is an exciting time for dads to watch or listen to the women’s game with their daughters and stepdaughters. Here are some tips for fathers and stepfathers during tournament time:

Read the rest of this entry »

Has TV gender balance increased over the years?

Now You See ‘Em, Now You Don’t

When you were a kid, children’s movies and television didn’t have many females or characters of color. That’s all changed for today’s kids, right? Not.

Now You See ‘Em, Now You Don’t: Gender & Racial Disparity in TV for Children is a new report released today (03/21/07) that documents this persistent problem. The report draws on the most comprehensive content analysis ever conducted on children’s television and movies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scholastic VP responds to distribution of Bratz books in schools

Marketing the Sexualization of Young Girls


One of the most recent calls for action by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has encouraged concerned parents to tell Scholastic to stop distributing Bratz books in schools through their Book Clubs and School Book Fairs.

A recent report of the APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls had drawn attention to the proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development. This report explores the cognitive and emotional consequences, consequences for mental and physical health, and impact on development of a healthy sexual self-image. (Click here to read the report)

Books of The Bratz – a line of highly sexualized dolls for girls as young as four are – being marketed in schools by Scholastic, Inc. Scholastic promotes Bratz through its book fairs and book clubs, selling titles such as Lil’ Bratz Dancin Divas; Lil’ Bratz Catwalk Cuties; and Lil’ Bratz Beauty Sleepover Bash to a captive audience of young students.

Kyle Good, Vice President at Scholastic, has sent a prompt response to one concerned parent’s request to reconsider their distribution in schools:
Read the rest of this entry »

Girls vs. the Media

Check out from you local MA libraryWHAT’S A GIRL (AND PARENTS) TO DO?

Our young girls (and our larger population) are bombarded with media images of sexualized feminine esthetics. You see it everywhere: in line at the grocery store, billboards on the highway, songs on the radio, commercials on television, books, games, videos … what’s a girl to do?

As a parent, you are the most powerful tool our girls have to teach them how to interpret our media’s projection of images that portray girls as sexual objects. The remedy to this assault is to support and teach them how to value their own inner beauty and strengths.

It’s equally important for our young boys to be taught to respect and value the roles girls play in our society, as sisters, mothers, friends and teachers, rather than being brainwashed into the sexual objectification our media flashes before them.

Read the rest of this entry »

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