TrueChild Blog
 

9/22/2014 6:31:23 AM
Our work received the attention of The Columbus Dispatch providing TrueChild with its first mainstream media coverage!

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6/22/2014 4:59:01 PM
A new report from Women’s Funding Network, Public interest Projects and TrueChild calls to reinvigorate feminist and social justice philanthropy by grounding it in "gender transformative” approaches.
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6/22/2014 4:51:12 PM
TrueChild was featured in the Responsive Philanthropy Journal discussing the intersection of feminine norms, philanthropy, and educational outcomes.

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10/31/2013 3:09:23 PM
Join is and our partners for a unique webinar devoted to the impact of gender norms on young Black girls’ health and wellness.
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5/5/2013 10:19:02 PM
Another TrueChild post, on gender norms and girls in STEM, is featured by the Council on Foundations.

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3/20/2013 11:04:22 AM
TrueChild is featured as a guest blogger for the Council on Foundations.

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12/13/2012 7:41:54 PM
Straight kids who are gender non-conforming face harassment and abuse from homophobic or genderphobic parents.
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6/22/2012 5:43:20 PM
USAID has created the perfect web-portal for sharing intellectual collateral on gender norms. 
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3/30/2012 1:53:16 PM
American Airlines announces support for our work for the 10th consecutive year.

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3/30/2012 1:52:14 PM
Dr. Scyatta Wallace (St John's U) work focuses on gender norms' impact on Black and Hispanic youth, especially girls.
 


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3/15/2012 8:55:26 PM
The Mayor's Office of GLBT Affairs has provided support to develop a model curriculum to combat fatal assaults on LGBTQ youth of color.

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12/8/2011 8:00:36 AM
Dr. Scyatta Wallace (St John's U) is a TrueChild Expert whose work focuses on gender norms' impact on Black and Hispanic youth.
 

 

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9/15/2011 12:46:28 PM

We've done gender trainings for the Office on Women's Health at the Dept of Health & Human Service for the past year. I'm proud to share with you that...


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7/28/2011 10:53:47 PM
Science, technology, engineering and math: for many students, especially young women, achievement in the "STEM" subjects will be the key to high growth rate, higher paying jobs and career advancement in the knowledge economy
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6/14/2011 11:59:09 AM
Kirk sometimes played with girls' toys, stroked dolls' long hair, and generally worried his parents. They took him to a psychiatrist, who prescribed and oversaw a steady regime of behavior modification. (Read the CNN story here)
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5/3/2011 10:36:53 AM

By now we've all seen (or at least heard about) the ad for J.Crew's Essie nail polish, featuring Creative Director Jenna Lyons holding her son's feet after apparently painting his toenails hot pink. The two are leaning in towards one another, smiling and laughing, obviously sharing a moment of delight and fun.

Into this simple moment, some reactionary commentators have read a plethora of evils: "psychological sterilization," "celebrating transgender children" (apparently a bad thing), and so on.

This is one of those cultural moments when you realize that probably no one mouthing these silly things actually believes what he or she is saying.


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1/13/2011 9:13:53 AM

Tired of how the media treats women (i.e. like Barbie dolls)? So are we. That's why Jennifer Siebel Newsom's new documentary, Miss Representation, couldn't come at a better time...


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12/7/2010 10:43:39 AM
I recently penned an article for the homepage of The Advocate about kids who are still dying because of their gender identity or expression. Please click the link to read the full article online.
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10/18/2010 11:43:05 AM
"The choice: gay or guy. Many guys think being gay means not being a guy." Dr. Michael Kimmel, one of the nation's leading experts on masculinity, has an op-ed up on heartbreaking suicide of Rutgers freshman Tyler Clementi and other gay teen suicics that notes: Anti-gay sentiments become a shorthand method of gender policing....

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9/7/2010 10:51:32 AM
Are programs and policies directed at improving adolescent sexual health ignoring research on gender? 
 
 

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8/16/2010 1:00:05 PM

Outgoing, assertive, active girls turn self-conscious, uncertain and introverted in middle-school. Why? 


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7/27/2010 12:50:58 PM
The groundbreaking work on gender+repro health isn't domestic, it's international -- organizations pushing the gender analysis in a wide variety of countries and environments outside the US.
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5/27/2010 12:24:38 PM

For three decades researchers have known that internalized gender norms and teen sexual behavior are strongly linked, because in sexual situations gender codes define how kids will act. This is especially true for those who are relatively inexperienced -- and thus most at risk for unhealthy behaviors. These kids are mostly likely to believe in and follow popular, stereotypic gender presentations for how boys and girls act in sexual situations because they don't know better. For them, these primitive scripts are reality. 

 

 


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4/8/2010 11:57:20 AM

For a long time we've known that girls are still behind boys when it comes to math and science -- particularly the physical sciences. Now the AAUW (formerly the American Association of University Women) has released a comprehensive new report that documents this problem, "Why So Few."

TrueChild was invited to be part of the news conference: you can view it here, and also download a copy of the report.

The direction of the findings has been pretty clear for some time. Girls can and do perform as well as boys in math and science early on. But once they hit grades 5-9, right around adolescence, there's a noticeable drop-off in interest in science, technology, engineering and match (so-called "STEM"). They do a lot less outside of school too -- playing with chemistry sets or joining groups that engage with science.

By the time kids can exercise choice over what courses they take -- the last years of high school through the end of college -- there's a marked drop in participation as well.

Women are doing better in "helping sciences" like biology, but even in newer fields like computers, they make up a fraction of the students and often perform noticeably worse.

This phenomenon of fewer and fewer girls left in the field is so common it's even got a name: "the leaky pipeline."

What's interesting is that although we've looked long and hard at external barriers -- unfriendly classroom environments, lack of adult role models, parents who think science isn't or girls -- we haven't looked at all at internalized feminine norms. Which -- given that all this starts just when girls hit puberty -- would seem to be a prime candidate.

That's why TrueChild has just submitted its first grants to study the effects of internalized norms on girls and STEM. We think that as they enter puberty, girls have to make a choice between opting out of femininity and opting out of STEM. In fact, that's just the way Dr. Janet Stemwedel, who blogs about girls and science, put it in her post here.

We think we have a pretty strong case to make, and this is exciting – and pretty untouched – area of inquiry.

The big national coalitions that support equity in STEM, like the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and the National Girls Collaborative Project (NGCP), think so too, and they've signed on as partners in this project. So have many of the top researchers in the field.

In the meantime, here are some hints to help you keep your daughter interested in math and science, or help your son realize STEM is also a "girls' thing."

  • Don't talk about science as something for boys only.
  • Do point out all the TV and movie scientists who are (always) male and ask your child why they think that might be.
  • Do offer examples of women in your child's life who are into math or science -- a vet, an aunt, etc.
  • Do offer to engage your daughter in activities that involve tools, batteries, or computers.
  • Do help your daughter develop computer literacy through popular social networking sites (and monitor her for safe use of them).
  • Do talk to your daughter's teacher about making sure to call on girls during math and science.
  • Don't assume that just because your daughter likes pink dresses and princess playthings she won't also find math or science interesting.
  • Do take advantage of Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work and point out the technology parts of your job.
  • Do encourage your daughter to take optional math and science courses or AP classes.
  • Do encourage your daughter with gifts that engage her in technology, like portable video cameras or portable electronic games.

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3/12/2010 2:40:51 PM

The New York Times ran two interesting articles last week under the rubric "The Female Factor” about women in academia. Both are refreshingly positive, which is not to say uncritical or utopian, regarding the prospects for equity for female students and professors in higher learning.

Tamar Lewin's article on women at Harvard starts by recapitulating the embarrassing, painful episode of 2005, when then-president Larry Summers postulated that women's underrepresentation in the sciences may be due to "the different availability of aptitude at the high end” at the bell curve—that is to say, there aren't as many smart women as smart men, and this is genetically determined.

Summers resigned, and since then there has been a boom in women professors offered tenure. And despite the resistance of some older faculty, by and large they report feeling appreciated for their intellectual contributions, not their sex.

Katrin Bennhold files her story from Paris, where a "quiet revolution that has seen women across the developed world catch up with men in the work force and in education” has left one well regarded lab with 21 women and four men. Across the European Union, women researchers are expanding their ranks twice as quickly as men, and even Barbie has gotten into science and technology.

Both articles hint at elements of backlash: Lewin quotes Ann Pearson, the first women tenured in Harvard's earth and planetary sciences department, recounting being ignored by a male colleague during a panel discussion. And Bennhold points out that in computer science "the percentage of female graduates from American universities peaked in the mid-1980s at more than 40 percent and has since dropped to half that.” But across the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) landscape, the future looks brighter than it has in a while.

P.S. TrueChild is submitting our first research proposals on the effect of internalized feminine norms (Femininity Ideology) on adolescent girls' interest in science and math, so stay tuned!


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2/3/2010 4:02:09 PM

According to the New York Times, Axe grooming products -- deodorants, shampoos, hair gel, and that infamous body spray -- are becoming the "in thing" among tween and pre-teen boys. Along with macho-branded Old Spice Swagger, and "Magnetic Attraction Enhancing Body Wash by Dial," they have become staples of many boys' bedrooms, bathrooms, and backpacks. As one 11-year-old said, "I feel confident when I wear Axe."

So just how has Axe managed to reshape tween boyhood in its sci-fi-stylized bottles' image? It's not just the product, obviously. It's a pop culture that unanimously depicts desirable males as muscular, hunky, confident. (See here and here for research on this.) Simple manhood is no longer enough. Products like Axe let boys -- who are increasingly anxious about projecting masculinity in a competitive environment -- feel confident.

It doesn't help that tween boys are stuck in an awkward stage: girls are on their way out of puberty while they're just entering it, leaving them ungainly, awkward, and still trying to master masculinity at a time when girls are into makeup, hair gels and body waxes and wondering why their too-slow boyfriends don't just get with it when it comes to cosmetic products.

So in the arms race to be seen as cool, masculine, older and attractive to girls, boys are looking anxiously for help, and cosmetics marketers are happy to oblige, often with tongue-in-cheek commercials that promise masculinity by also making too-cool fun of it. If the signifiers of pop-culture masculinity -- muscular body, sexual conquests, high-powered job -- aren't readily available to 12-year-olds in the Gender Product Wars, at least they can buy something that puts a little more spring in their step -- while covering up the smell of skipping shower after gym class.


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12/2/2009 1:26:17 PM

Groundspark (formerly Women's Educational Media) has come out with a powerful new educational documentary, Straightlaced: How Gender's Got Us All Tied Up. (Full disclosure: we had the opportunity to give feedback on parts of the early version of the film.)

As with their other documentaries (It's Elementary and That's a Family), Straightlaced mainly features kids, alone, talking directly to the camera without prompting and telling their stories in their own, sometimes eloquent, sometimes halting, words.

And what stories they are:

  • A football star who goes to hug a friend after an emotional win and is pushed away and told, "I'm no fag."
  • A young Asian woman talking about racially tinged gender expectations that she be thin, pretty, passive and smart.
  • A young Latino who is attracted to a bright colored shirt while shopping but tells the camera, "If I wear that to school, I'd be killed."

There are dozens of these stories. After awhile, you get a real feel for these kids. You start to see beyond who's gay and who's straight, who's of color and who's white, and you start to see how the gender system affects each and every one of them, in their most intimate decisions, every school day. That's probably Groundspark's intent.

Many of us have observed how when kids finish puberty, learning, conforming to and policing pretty rigid gender role expectations for masculinity and femininity can suddenly seem like the most important thing in the world. Researchers have dubbed this common phenomenon "gender intensification," and it's certainly on high display in this firm. More than a few of these teens talk about their fear of harassment, ostracism, ridicule or even attack.

High school is like a pressure cooker when it comes to fulfilling gender roles. Straightlaced may be the first film to document what life is really like for teens who try to live up to masculine and feminine ideals, want to live up to them, or sometimes simply refuse them altogether. Check out the YouTube trailer here, or embedded below.


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11/9/2009 9:44:50 AM
Images courtesy Sociological Images
 
My daughter is just starting to get caught up in the "Princess Plague." We keep pushing her towards Tinkerbell, who has wings, wand and powers, but the princesses keep creeping in.

It's not all Disney, of course, but it mostly is. Their princess line -- which can now outfit your daughter head to toe and every single item in her bedroom -- comprises over 2,000 items and is a billion-dollar business. According to the backstory Disney puts out on it they launched it without market testing and was so wildly popular it just took off.

Perhaps that means that these white-bread, cookie-cutter, 18-inch-waisted femmes call out to something biologically inbred in many daughters that cannot be denied. That's Disney's line, anyway.

But I think three points are important here.

First, even if it's true, it's not true of all girls. These things ways sort out on a bell curve, and there are plenty of daughters who would respond to or even prefer assertive and active images of female power.

These are the girls who have made Dora the Explorer a runaway hit in two languages, and they are legion. Yet the industry continues to ignore Dora's success, and treat it as an anomaly.

Aside: The prevailing wisdom is also that boys won't watch girls' shows. Which is why all the TV shows and movies for kids feature male leads. Yet Dora proves the rule is wrong again: her audience is evenly split between boys and girls. Apparently boys don't mind watching girls at all, as long as they're active, assertive girls in action.

Second, there are many girls out there who simply tomboys, or gay. For them, the princess plague is a double whammy. They are not only bombarded with the passive, pink princesses, but they don't see themselves represented anywhere.

What is it like to watch show after show and movie after movie and never, ever see a single girl who looks like you or reminds you of yourself? To see girl after girl who is a success! who wins! not because of anything she does, but because she can attract a boy to rescue her. It must be painful, off-putting, isolating.

For that matter, what is it like for the chubby girls, or the girls who are -- in the old verbiage -- "plain," who have to see being a real girl equated with wasp-waisted femininity, beauty and the attention of boys.

The problem is, media companies like Disney imagine themselves in the entertainment business. But for little kids, they're now also in the education business.

Kids spend more time today with media than in a classroom or with their parents. And it's increasingly a key source -- not just for entertainment, as it was when I was growing up -- but for socialization.

I was lucky if my family went to the movies once every month or so, and I got to watch cartoon shows when they were on -- weekend mornings.

My daughter can watch movies whenever she wants on HBO Family, and there are at least six cable channels devoted to showing kids' TV 24 hours a day. We try to minimize it, but it does sneak in. And many of the shows are appalling. I grew up on Disney (Mickey Mouse Club with Annette and Jimmy, anyone?) and it saddens me that there are shows on the Disney channel I literally have to lock out.

And it's not just daughters. The whole princess thing isn't lost on boys either. They may not buy it, but they're certainly aware of it. They're learning what kind of girls are considered attractive, and which ones are really feminine and which not. Is it any wonder that over two-thirds of girls are already worried about their weight -- or actively dieting -- by the time they're in third grade?

So write Disney. Tell them Walt wouldn't approve. You can email them using the form at http://sdsmail.org.Teach your daughter some "gender literacy." Here are a couple of great links:

And while you're at it, sit your son down, and tell him that not all girls are like these princess, nor should they be. There are strong, smart, brave girls, and when he grows up they'll be waiting for him. And they're a lot more interesting than some sleeping beauty who expects him to do all the work, do all the thinking, and probably schlep out the garbage every night!
 

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10/28/2009 10:37:39 AM
Last week we brought you tips from the authors of the new Packaging Boyhood about picking Halloween costumes for your son. Here's another take on the subject from the folks at the Onion: How to Pick Masculine Halloween Costumes for Your Effeminate Son. Nice to see them taking on the hyper-masculinity kick with young boys. And very funny, too. Enjoy!

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10/21/2009 11:21:10 AM
The new Ralph Lauren ad -- the one whose seemingly inept Photoshopping was revealed on boingboing last month, much to the chagrin of Lauren and his lawyers -- has provoked the usual calls of outrage from women's advocates and other progressives worried about women's health and girls' self-image (discussed yesterday by the New York Times's Ethicist). As no doubt they should.
 

The image works on a number of levels. It not only promotes anorexia, but by making the head so much larger than the body, it also mimics the proportions of toddlers -- along the lines of the big-headed Bratz dolls. So it's pushing anorexic plus toddler sexuality. Not an easy trick to pull off.
 

In fac, the ads are actually so far out in left field, they almost read as an ironic comment on the trend towards idolizing unreal female bodies that they're just become the best new exemplar of. Is this supposed to be something attractive, they ask, or a comment on what you, the viewer, are learning to find attractive?
 

I don't think the answer is important. What is is that we have crossed a Rubicon in women's advertising. Photoshopping fashion photos is old hat among major labels, but turning out deformed bodies is something entirely new.
 

We are now marketing disfigured body images to young women, who are the primary audience for such ads. And they are using the growing outrage about such images as a marketing tool to buy more attention at discount rates, as people like me blog about it.
 

I can assure you Ralph Lauren is not doing this because it loses them money. They are doing it because they tested it and it works.

So rather than produce the requisite outrage upon which this publicity stunt depends for its success, I'd like to comment on what I think is happening and what we need to do about it.
 

First, I think it's clear that for this image to work at all with young women, we can safely assume that the self-images of many must be profoundly distorted. If there was ever any argument about that, ads like this should end it.
 

Second, I think we need to realize (if we haven't already) that we need relinquish our old ideas of fashion advertising as a necessary evil that necessarily puts an unrealistically beautiful face on its products, and begin to evaluate it as a predatory evil that increasingly puts a distorted fase on its products to alter young women's perception of themselves and create buying behavior.
 

All of us who are parents, or who care about the young people in our lives, need to take a moment to teach them some "gender literacy" about the images that are being relentlessly marketed to them.
 

There are lots of sources for this. You can find a quick list for how to do it on our site under "Prepare Your Child." The material is based on a longer discussion of technique from the book Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daugthers from Marketers' Schemes.
 

This is a battle. Each of us needs to become "gender warriors" in the struggle to protect the young women in our lives.
 

So hold your ourage. Resist that impulse to write a letter. Just sit down with your daughter or niece instead. Have a talk. Pass on what you see. It will only take a minute. The 7 steps are in our article. Do it today.
 
P.S. The model with the long hair? She was fired shortly after the shoot. At 5’4” her weight was 120, and Lauren decided she wasn’t skinny enough for them. Art imitates life.

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10/16/2009 10:30:47 AM

Parents are rightly concerned about "too sexy too soon" Halloween costumes for little girls, but does anyone ask, "What about the boys?" The search for boys' costumes can be treacherous too and just as filled with over-hyped and stereotyped "choices." These healthy ideas from Drs. Lyn Mikel Brown, Sharon Lamb, and Mark Tappan (authors of Packaging Boyhood: Saving Our Sons from Superheroes, Slackers, and Other Marketing Stereotypes, out now from St. Martin's Press) and fatherhood expert The Dad Man, Joe Kelly, can help parents fight back.

1. Help him think outside the scary ninja, fighter, superhero box that equates being a boy with full-throttle, over-the-top aggression. Imagination and creativity help boys break out of gender stereotypes, increase their resiliency, and provide great practice for reality.

2. Encourage him to be anyone or anything for Halloween--and the rest of his life. Help him to be inspired by real men doing fun, clever, cool things that go beyond showboating, super powers, wielding big weapons, or seeking revenge.

3. Listen to his ideas and encourage all the possibilities. Don’t assume he buys into the message that he must be some version of Super Scary Special Forces Ninja Bounty Hunter Fighter World Saving Man. Let his costume choice surprise you!

4. Discuss and work on Halloween costumes together. It's a great learning and bonding experience. Hey, boys enjoy a little sewing, too. Help him recall the best costumes he ever saw, and share some favorites from your childhood.

5. Add his own twist to action and adventure, and have his character do something other than control, dominate, look tough, and fight. Help him imagine an action hero who plays the ukelele, scales mountains, sings, or goes on eco-adventures.
 

6. Sit down and let your son create his own character and story. He can raid the family closets or dress up box to become the wildest, funniest, or coolest character ever! And he can keep using homemade costumes to play the part of great characters all winter long.

7. Tap his love for scary stories and the history of Halloween; help him go "traditional" and be Frankenstein, a ghost, or a skeleton. Avoid those pumped up costumes with the fake muscles sewn in. Use your own imagination and create a fun backstory to go with the scary, ugly, and awful look.

8. Draw on his favorite book or character. Reread the book with him to plan what he'll need to Clancy of Clancy The Courageous Cow, Ron or Hagrid from the Harry Potter adventures, or Bilbo Baggins.


9. Is your son an athlete, a history buff, into science or music? Halloween is a chance to act out the activities he loves. The list is endless. He could be Jackie Robinson, Joshua Chamberlain, Albert Einstein, Albert Pujols, or Bono. And don't rule out famous women--remember, it's about what he loves to DO. His Jane Goodall can carry a stuffed gorilla; his Van Gogh can wear a bandage on his ear. Once you start brainstorming, ideas will flood in.

10. Halloween is all about being what you aren't for a night. Help him try on new roles and be whatever wild and crazy identity captivates him in the moment. Teach him that it's false advertising when stores label police officer, marine, and firefighter costumes as "for boys" or cats, colorful butterflies, singers, and dancers "for girls." Halloween is a day of imagination--a perfect opportunity to show him that he can be anyone and anything! Take this opportunity to widen his world when all those marketers out there are pressing him to narrow it.
Packaging Boyhood is an eye-opening look at the narrow version of boyhood that media and marketers sell to our sons--and what parents can do about it. Buy it today and be ready for trick-or-treating on the 31st!

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10/14/2009 1:34:44 PM
Neuroscientist Lise Eliot's new book, Pink Brain, Blue Brain, says that boys' and girls' brains are mostly the same, but that years of differential treatment mold brains in ways that may impair kids. The upshot: parents and teachers need to treat all kids more equitably if their brains are to reach their full potential. Emily Bazelon reviewed it in the Washington Post on Sunday; read her take at News You Can Use.
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9/28/2009 1:25:20 PM

Coming to the aisles of a toy-store near you: a new baby doll that breastfeeds.
 

The doll "Bebe Gloton" -- Spanish for "Baby Glutton" -- comes with a halter top for children to wear. When sensors in the baby's mouth come in contact with sensors in the halter, it makes gurgling and sucking sounds. You can watch it online here.
 

The doll is in good company.
 

Baby Alive Newborn Pat-N-Burp teaches girls to bottle-feed babies and then burp them afterwards.
 

Gotta Go Doll teaches little girls to potty train babies by saying "I really have to go!" and singing "Pee-pee in the potty" while she goes in her own private potty (included).
 

Baby Alive Wets 'N Wiggles drinks, cries and then pees pretend urine. The promo even notes "Watch out for surprises she likes to get her mommy wet." Little girls can learn to change wet diapers and clean wet bottoms (three diapers and washcloth included, soap extra).
 

Girls get gender stereotypes from both sides with these dolls, all of which are of course female. Perhaps the newborn boy dolls are already so self-reliant they change their own diapers and clean themselves before going out and buying some action figures.
 

Three-to-five year old girls are inundated with so many dolls that teach them the joys of motherhood and the basic biological facts of baby care. And once they get a little older (like six) the Bratz dolls pick up, teaching them to be the sexy, sassy, made-up and short-skirted boy-magnets that children's marketers prize so much, because they buy, buy, buy.
 

You have to wonder whose needs we're fulfilling with these dolls anyway. Does any four-year-old really cry out on Christmas Day, "Mommy, what I really wanted was a doll that messes in its panties and wets all over me."
 

As the worried mother of a three-year old daughter, I can't help but wonder where the dolls are that will one day teach them to be strong, or independent, or assertive. All skills they will need in the home or the workplace.
 

Maybe what they really need is a doll that teaches them how to get their spouses more involved in newborn care. That doll would teach them to say, "Honey, I'm going to get some sleep, will you change the diaper this time?" Or "She really needs a bottle, will you get it?"
 

Better yet, how about one that teaches them to ask for a raise, to what male employees are making: "I need pay parity here or I walk... to my lawyer!"
 

Seriously, it's depressing when you realize we keep proliferating all these dolls that teach maternal-ness to little girls but almost no girl action figures that teach anything else.
 

It's not that motherhood isn't important. Learning to care for others, especially babies, is a critical part of learning to be fully human. But do we really need our daughters to start practicing it from ages three to five -- the ages these dolls are pitched to? Is it really the most important thing we think they need to learn to survive and thrive in this world?
 

After all, they're going to have a lifetime of people expecting them to be caretakers and caregivers and not much else. Maybe a little vacation time on the front end wouldn't be such a bad thing.
 

In fact, there's more and more research showing that girls who internalize narrow, limited ideals of femininity as defined by things like attracting a father and getting pregnant have lower self-image, more sexual partners, early sex, lower condom use and, well, generally much less sexual health on just about every measure as teens. Which to say, balance is critical in teaching girls about what we expect of them as women.
 

Maybe what I need to find for my daughter is a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger that completes its battle mission, wets its uniform, and then cries out, "I need to go potty! That's Papa-Oscar-Tango-Tango-Yankee: POTTY!" But I'm not holding my breath... or wetting myself.


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9/24/2009 11:47:54 AM

Nipple Tassel Toddler Tee

It comes from a site that sells lots of wacky, marginally offensive stuff. But this one clearly "jumped the shark" as we say in Entertainment Land. A bunch of new books dissect how we're hyper-sexualizing our girls earlier and earlier, but this is way past ridiculous. Kind of the toddler version of the notorious "Good To Go" tee-shirt. Hey campers, can you spell E-A-R-L-Y S-E-X-U-A-L E-X-P-E-R-I-E-N-C-E?


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9/24/2009 11:13:26 AM

Pole-Dancing Doll

Well, at least she's wearing some clothes. Were the marketers missing the resonances here -- or just hedging their bets against the outrage. Either way, it's a very uncomfortable image. Chris Rock says his main job as a father is "keepin' my baby Off The Pole." Well, his job just got a little harder. This is kind of the flip side of the Breastfeeding Doll.


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9/18/2009 3:35:13 PM

Jeffrey Zaslow of the Wall Street Journal interviewed 4th graders from Illinois in 1986 and again as adults over 20 years later about dieting and eating habits. He found that the diet and thin trend is worse now than it was back then, and how being thin and dieting can lead to negative self esteem issues for young girls. http://tinyurl.com/mun3ct


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9/14/2009 12:41:44 PM
"Boy's" toys played with girl style...Blogger "mummytiff" questions is there a "right way" to play like a boy or girl or do gender stereotypes even exist? http://tinyurl.com/luu9bz
 

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9/11/2009 11:41:44 AM

A new African-American "Cuddly Doll" has been pulled off Costco shelves after people complained that it was wearing a hat named "Lil Monkey." References to apes and monkeys as racist and demeaning epithets for Black people goes back at least two hundred years, so you have to wonder who was sitting in on the marketing meetings and said, "Yeah, this is a great idea. Little girls will love it." My guess is it wasn't a person of color! Here it is with a close-up picture. http://www.inquisitr.com/33078/lil-monkey-doll-pulled-from-costco-shelves-for-obvious-reasons/


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9/10/2009 12:00:00 AM

Kay Steiger blogs about Technorati's recent study of bloggers based on gender, age, and income among other things. 34% of women blog compared to 66% of men. Both female and male bloggers also tend to be older with only 9% of active female bloggers between the ages of 18 and 24. Which begs the question: are men more opinionated than women? http://tinyurl.com/qpflck


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9/9/2009 10:54:29 AM

The 7th Annual Altered Barbie Exhibition in SF challenges gender stereotypes with art and film, creating new Barbies that debunk the blonde, stick thin model, deconstruct gender ideals and deprogram kids. More fun than political, but make no mistake, there is a Barbie here for everyone. Check it out online at www.contracostatimes.com/theater-and-arts/ci_13271047.


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7/14/2009 8:54:29 AM

Today I read a great piece on Wired.com: http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2009/07/games-for-tweens/ about new video games for girls that are considered to be wholesome because they do not embody the violence that exists in many of the video games designed for boys. The author of the piece very wisely pointed out that these games - aimed at tween girls - can be equally harmful in that they provide girls with some of their first experiences with fashion, make-up, popularity and boys. The influence these games can have on girls can be extremely detrimental as they continue to suggest that these are the topics girls should be interested in and that beauty and popularity are critical aspects of the life of an American tween.

Now, as you may know, I am the mom of two boys, one who is nearly a tween, but I am not clueless about the lives of preteen and teen girls in our culture. I realize that most girls believe being popular is critical for their existence in life. However, as parents, and as a society, we must try to undermine that thinking and give girls (and boys) the confidence to believe that they can think for themselves. All that being said, being a parent, being a part of TrueChild and having once been a tween girl myself, I can tell you that these seemingly benign games are anything but that. The messages conveyed are just as dangerous and impactful as every act of violence in Grand Theft Auto, as the author suggests. The games reviewed in the piece include The Clique: Diss and Make Up based on a bestselling series of books. This one aims to teach girls to be social climbers. The article also looked at Dreamer Series: Top Model which teaches girls how to become a top model. Come on! Are these really the topics our girls should be focused on?

Again, I am not naive that there are plenty of girls who aspire to be beautiful, be popular, have boyfriends, etc. I really have no issue with that. However, why can't they have those aspirations but also be smart and interested in things beyond popularity and boyfriends. Maybe they might be interested in Legos or racing games or -- heaven forbid -- sports. We need to provide options like these that are appealing to girls and we, as parents, need to encourage our daughters to be more well-rounded. There is absolutely no benefit to reinforcing the idea that girls are about princesses, beauty, fashion, boys and nothing more. There are plenty of ways for game manufacturers to look at broader subject matter and make it appealing to girls.

Let's remember, the media has such a huge influence on what girls like and what they find cool. If there were better options, they might be considered cool too.


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6/29/2009 11:14:35 AM
What is going on with Fisher-Price? The once brand-leader in early childhood development toys seems to be making an explicit effort to reinforce outdated stereotypes. This week we learned about some new toys released by Fisher-Price, including:
 
 
 
These toys seem so deliberately stereotypic and one can only wonder who is actually working on R&D at Fisher-Price and how these products are getting greenlit.
 
First, let's take a look at the Animalville Community Helpers. While preschool curricula has been a bit more deliberate about showing some type of gender diversity when it comes to featuring community helpers, it appears that Fisher-Price has gone out of its way to reinforce gender stereotypes in the roles these helpers play. Here is a rundown of the characters in the series:
  • Mayor Linus King -- the male lion mayor
  • Dr. Duck -- the male duck doctor
  • Rita Letta -- the female kangaroo letter carrier
  • Chef Penny Pasta -- female octopus chef
  • Miss L. Afina -- female elephant teacher
  • Myles Landon -- male pig pilot
  • Speeder Rabbit -- male rabbit race car driver
  • Holly Holstein -- female cow ice cream server
  • Captain Shep Barker -- male dog police officer
  • Eileen Down -- female giraffe crossing guard
  • Billy Goatly -- male goat student
  • Dale-Mation -- male dalmatian firefighter
  • Carin Gosling -- female duck nurse
  • Tressa Locke -- female poodle salon assistant

It does not escape one's notice that not only do the males dominate the community (8 males to 7 females) but also the men run the community (the mayor), protect the community (the police officer and firefighter) and run businesses in the community (the salon owner). The women teach, cook and assist.

Turning our attention to the Laugh & Play toys -- one of Fisher-Price's infant development lines. The My Pretty Learning Purse is an attempt to both offer infants the opportunity to have a purse like mommy's -- filled with all the same stuff you might see in her purse -- as well as to create a toy akin to one of infants' most favorite non-toy toys -- mommy's purse. Babies often get a great deal of amusement from searching through their mommy's bag and playing with its contents -- keys, cellphone, wallet, etc. When my own kids were little, I often kept them entertained for long periods of time by letting them hold my keys or dangling the keys in front of their eyes. My kids, too, loved going through my bag to see what they could discover. However, was it really necessary for Fisher-Price to produce a toy? Well, I am sure they had no doubt that there would be a market for this toy because of its dual purpose. In fact, when reading the reviews on Amazon.com, it is clear that moms and grandmoms agreed that this was a great first purse for their little girls and it was so cute for them to have a bag like mommy's. Again, I ask, is this really necessary?

The My Learning Tools tool bag is clearly the "male" counterpart to the purse. It looks very similar except that it is brown and features tools rather than purse contents. And, while Fisher-Price does not expressly indicate that the purse is for girls and the tool bag is for boys, the marketing photos on their website clearly suggest the gender appropriateness for the toys. The reality is that either of these toys would be appropriate for either boys or girls and there is nothing inherent in the toys that should suggest otherwise. No infant girl needs to be toting around a purse (and most infants cannot walk or carry a purse, anyway) so the suggestion that the toy is meant to be a used as a girl's purse is ridiculous.

The bottom line is that this is just a further indication that, for the most part, children's toy manufacturers and other developers of children's culture are overtly reinforcing the gender stereotypes that threaten to harm children and limit their future possibilities.

Look for TrueChild's toy reviews in November. We will be taking a very close look at how toys are impacted by stereotypes and what this means for kids.


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6/19/2009 2:51:01 PM

In a world where young girls face an onslaught each day of images and messages encouraging them to either stop eating (Barbie) or become a hooker (Bratz dolls), it hardly seems appropriate that their supplemental lessons should be grounded in how to be a better hostess. Yet this is the vision of one Wonny Song, a vice president of a music and arts school in Montreal, Canada. Created for girls between 10 and 14, the camp teaches the young ladies to improve their posture, voice, table manners, conversation skills, wardrobe choices, makeup application, hostessing skills and music appreciation. Marc McCreavy, an industrial designer and interior decorator, will teach the girls how to host events and decorate a table. "It's important to learn about appropriate topics of conversation and appropriate attire," he said.

Are they serious? I can't help but think this is more a gay man's fantasy of how hosting should be performed in our time than any real experience for life. Just because the art of being a geisha girl can be complex and demanding at times does not mean it is a good career choice for Japanese girls. The same is true here. Get real, guys. I believe Mr. Song may have seen too many 1950s-era Hitchcock films where the stunningly beautiful in white gloves stayed beautiful and remarkably clean even while climbing Mount Rushmore or bravely facing down dust on trains.

Young girls need something, but it isn't a makeover. They need the courage, strength and support to bust out of the pink glass box that envelopes them each day. Most of these girls will be working throughout their adulthood and would be far better served by engaging in activities that will develop applied skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, innovation and knowledge of foreign languages and culture. These are skills they will actually need in their adult lives. Girls, even at Mr. Song's school, need to be taught how not to be ensnared by silly and unrealistic stereotypes from another era -- and perhaps a group of them could kidnap Mr. Song and set out to find the Outward Bound office.


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6/15/2009 10:18:58 AM

Every fourth item she sees in stories for her own 2-year-old daughter has "Little Princess" on it, notes Jean Twenge at San Diego State University. But this may no longer harbingers a cute Cinderella-type trend that tops out once girls reach their tweens.

Lifelong princess-hood goes beyond parents making their little girls feel loved and secure to feeling privileged and entitled and the center of the known universe.

According to Twenge, college women are developing narcissistic traits at four times the rate of college men. This is not a great trend.

Princess-hood has always had serious drawbacks.
"Special" can be good. Passively waiting for your prince, obsessing about a mate who will rescue you from boredom and make your life worth living again, having no career aspirations beyond settling down happily ever after in Wonder-Wonder land, and understanding yourself as a bauble to be presented and admired -- for your demureness, vulnerability, thin-ness and beauty -- is not.
That's always been the unhealthy side of Princess-hood.

But girls face enough free-floating discrimination growing up, and nearly anything that can help armor them against that can be a good thing. Princess-hood can have its upside.

But there's a fine line between feeling special and loved, and so entitled the sun rises and sets on you. The princess thing was not intended to be a lifestyle choice for adult women. This new report says it might be on its way to becoming one.


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6/12/2009 10:59:10 AM

If Clare Gould's review over in our Hot Topics section is any indication, Steve Biddulph's Raising Boys is a disappointing throwback that challenges everything we think we know about boys from authors like William Pollack (Real Boys): i.e. that boys too can be warm, sensitive, feeling, caring and.... well, you know the rest.

But Biddulph seems to want to stand all that on its head and tell us that boys are really all red-blooded males after all, and all that mushy stuff just hurts their real masculinity. Boys really are from Mars.

The most interesting part of the review was Biddulph's claim that women who have found sensitive men are bored by them, and cruising construction sites looking for (wait for it...) real men. "Real men" here being defined by the kind of sweaty masculinity that sensitive guys just don't have and can't get. He's about one step here from defining all such men as pink sweater wearing interior decorators.

I don't think for a moment that all boys share a basic, elemental soul that can be captured by either sweaty muscularity or sensitive emotionality.
"Women who have found sensitive men are bored by them, and cruising construction sites looking for (wait for it...) real men. "Real men" here being defined by the kind of sweaty masculinity that sensitive guys just don't have and can't get. "

One of the problems with the current argument over boys is that they tend to be overly simplistic, assuming we are all referencing some sort of uber-Boy who really exists.

In reality, boys' personalities are more messy, diverse and complex than we give them credit for. The answer is not more overly simplistic approaches to masculinity, but creating the kind of environments where all boys can explore each part themselves, whether that means climbing trees or learning ballet, yelling because they're winning or crying because they feel hurt, trouncing the enemy with action figures or baking clay cookies in a play stove.

What we need here is less verbiage about what we know boys are, and more about creating the kinds of environments where they can find that out for themselves.


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6/8/2009 7:05:22 AM
This weekend I took my two boys to see Up and the movie delivered all we have come to expect from a Disney Pixar movie -- in 3D, no less! After the movie was done and we were riding home in the car talking about all of the high notes, sad notes, low notes and the parts where my 5-year-old said he had to cover his eyes, I began to think about the movie from my adult perspective. And, what I began to think about was the lack of female characters in the movie. Besides Ellie, who was featured primarily as a plot point after her brief appearance in the first 5 minutes of the movie and Kevin (who is actually a female bird who does not exhibit any female characteristics), there were no significant female characters in the movie. It was decidedly male.

By now, many have seen the NPR "Monkey See" column from last week responding to the announcement that Pixar's 13th film would finally feature a female lead (a princess, naturally). That being noted, I was brought back to the unpleasant reality that the 10 Pixar movies have all featured male leads with an occasional female dropped in for good measure (Dory in Finding Nemo, Helen and Violet in The Incredibles, Sally in Cars, Eve in Wall-E.) These female characters have been, in most part, supporting roles to the main lead male characters. In fact, Pixar has four movies in the works and of those, only the one has a female lead.

I am continually frustrated when I see the lack of female representation in these animated films and television shows. It seems inconceivable to me that the creators of these works could not find a way to work in females into lead roles. Did Nemo have to be a male? Would it have been less interesting or funny if Russell in Up was a girl? I mean, he was a boy scout seeking out his last merit badge. Isn't that the primary concept behind Nickelodeon's The Mighty B (a female-driven animated comedy)? The plot works for The Mighty B and is hilariously funny. Why couldn't they have featured a girl in that role? It is not as if anything about Russell's character was determinately male. He did not perform any acts or offer character traits that would have fallen short if he was a girl. He was an annoyingly persistent 8-year-old boy scout who is equal parts naive and bold. He is a replica of Amy Poehler's divine Bessie. Perhaps Disney should have taken a cue from Nickelodeon there.

As the mother of two boys I am continually frustrated that they are not provided with opportunities to step outside of their "boy zone" to see some great girls. They love The Mighty B and cannot get enough of iCarly. And, while Hannah Montana is decidedly "girlie" to them, they manage to sit through endless episodes of it when they are hanging out with their female friends. It seems to me that it is time for these filmmakers (and television creators) to start thinking about diversity and stop running scared from the idea that boys will not watch girls in a movie or television show. Boys have endless options of male characters to watch, identify with, aspire to. Not only do my sons need to see more images of girls in a multitude of roles and portrayals but their female friends deserve to have the same options when it comes to offerings of characters to watch, identify with, aspire to.

How can we ever imagine a world where women can represent more than 17% of Congress or -- let's dream here -- become President when we cannot even come up with an equal number of female lead characters in the movies and on TV.

Come on. We can do better for our kids.


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5/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
Elizabeth & Twinsby Elizabeth Birch, President & Parent

Welcome to TrueChild! As the mother of two 10-year-old twins -- a boy and a girl -- I'm as concerned as you about the media my children view. But like all parents, I am stretched between work, school dropoffs, sports events and birthday parties. There is not a minute to spare.
 
Like many parents, in the tug of war between my voice and the 24/7 barrage of messages showered on my kids, I feel I cannot win.
 
This is why we created TrueChild. TrueChild imagines a world where boys and girls can break through stereotypes and live and grow to reach their full potential. We stand by as the media seems to invite little girls to be too sexy, too soon or disappear into a day dream of pretty princess pink. We seem to be living in a time of camouflage-diapered babies for our boys. It seems every toy is some variation on war. We can do better than this for our children.
 
Most important, now we know. The research has made clear that these narrow, limiting "ideals" are linked to problems such as eating disorders, bullying, early sexual activity and academic underachievement -- problems that surface in the tween and teen years.

That's why we made sure our new website has all the tools and information, in one simple place. Our Report Cards help you make an even more informed choice for your child's Our Research Briefs highlight the latest research and summarize it in plain English, along with the best recommendations we can find about how to counter the effects of media stereotypes.

And we've engaged a host of national experts like Dr. Michael Kimmel (Guyland), Jean Kilbourne (So Sexy So Soon) and others to help us all pick through and understand the facts. You can find links to all their books in our "More Cool Stuff" section...
 
Most important, TrueChild is your community. You tell us what you think and need and we will work hard to make it work for you.

I hope you enjoy the new site and become a part of our TrueChild community. Together, we can change children's culture for the better. We only have to shift it a few degrees, and we'll make things better for millions of children everywhere.
 
 
 


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