Bring up the supergirls! – Readilearn

Source: Bring up the supergirls! – Readilearn

Next Tuesday 11 October is International Day of the Girl Child. It is a day for recognising the need to empower all girls, for it “is good not only for girls, but also for families, communities and society at large”.

This post honours International Day of the Girl Child on 11 October. The day was established to “to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face around the world.” The empowerment of girls is seen as “fundamental to breaking the intergenerational transmission of poverty, violence, exclusion and discrimination and to achieving equitable and sustainable development outcomes.”

This year theme is Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: A Global Girl Data Movement. While …recognize how girls’ progress is good not only for girls, but also for families, communities and society at large, we must also take this opportunity to consider how existing gaps in data on girls and young women, lack of systematic analysis, and limited use of existing data significantly constrain our ability to monitor and communicate the wellbeing and progress of nearly half of humanity.”

While recognising the gravity of situations faced by girls around the world, the focus of this post pales, but is significant nonetheless. Sometimes the changes we need to make start at home. Empowering our girls will enable them to empower others.

I recently listened to a TED talk Bring on the female superheroes by Christopher Bell, a media studies scholar and father to a 9-year-old daughter obsessed with Star Wars. If you have any concerns about gender stereotyping and gender equality, particularly with regards to toys and merchandising, have a listen. In less than the 16 minutes to view the video, Bell packs a powerful punch and takes a swipe at media corporations and merchandising for girls.

Read original article: Bring up the supergirls! – Readilearn

28 thoughts on “Bring up the supergirls! – Readilearn

  1. Bec Colvin

    This is of course an issue I care a lot about! Thanks for sharing the info. I also enjoyed the naming discussion in the comments. It is totally unfair women are expected to carry the burden of marital name changes! I am happy for those who choose to do it. But I certainly won’t. I like hyphens. There was an academic couple (I cited some of their work) who both hypenated their names – so they had the same surname, both hypenated. Maybe we could adopt the German practice of smishing together several worlds to make something new. It is funny how much we care about these things! But in so many ways these ‘issues’ are interesting proxies for other issues in society which are, perhaps, harder to “see” tangibly. Thanks for the food for thought

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Bec. I think your final statement tells a lot. These issues are part of broader concerns. I’m pleased they are of interest to you, and I know that you are doing your best to break down stereotypes. As far as hyphenated names go, I wonder what happens when two with hyphenated names meet up and want to join names. We could end up with very long names. Maybe they’d have to use initials! Or invent a name! 🙂

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  2. Annecdotist

    I wasn’t aware of the international day of the girl child, so great to learn about it here AND to come to it in exactly the right day. Empowering girls and women is something I’m passionate about and I support a charity called Womankind Worldwide that addresses poverty by targeting females.
    I agree with the speaker in the TED talk about the harmfulness of gendered toys and activities for children. But it never ceases to amaze me that people expect organisations whose sole purpose is to make money for their shareholders to conduct themselves ethically. The most disturbing thing about gendered toys is that it’s actually got WORSE as feminism has taken more of a hold and women are becoming more empowered in the workplace. But if companies can sell different toys to boys and girls they bring in more money – why should we expect them to change that?
    There are lots of ways that women collude in their (our) marginalisation. I’m not saying that’s our fault as it’s hard to go against the flow, but it’s worth considering. Since names in China have been raised in another comment, what about in the Western world where we are STILL seeing young women adopt their husbands’ name on marriage.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for adding your perspective on this Anne. I’m pleased you came to it on “the” day. I must check out the Womankind Worldwide organisation. It sounds very interesting. There are so many great organisations. I often wonder if it’s more effective to have many, or if it would be better if they all joined forces. I guess different organisations appeal to different people, so many is good from that point of view; but the combined administration expenses must be enormous.
      You are right of course, why should money-making corporations be expected to do anything ethical or for the betterment of humankind. How short-sighted are we to not see that?
      We do collude, I agree. We women are often our own worst enemies. There are so many different ways to be a woman.
      The name issue is interesting. There are many young people that now don’t marry and don’t take partner’s names. There are just as many who go overboard on the wedding and accept the change of name. I was happy to change my name at the time and probably still would. Maybe. I don’t know.
      My son’s family is interesting. His partner has kept her name. Their son has his (the dad’s) name and their daughter has her (the mum’s) name. I don’t think it was a decision re gender, just the way it happened in birth order. I think it will make for interesting times when trying to work out families at school. I think it’s better than hyphenated names though. I often wondered what would happen when two, both with hyphenated names, got together: Winston-Smith-Packham-Jones!

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      1. Annecdotist

        The naming issue was on my mind because of a couple young Olympians with consequently famous names suddenly appearing under a new one. Raises so many questions about what you mean. A friend of mine had wanted to do what your son’s family has done with the children’s names but chickened out. Interesting, talking a few years ago to her now-grown daughter I was surprised when she said that she hadn’t liked her parents having different names. Though I can understand the benefit of families having the same surname, it annoys me that it’s generally the woman who changes – and sometimes also the children when their mother separates from their father and marry someone else. Hyphenated is also weird and I find it hard to understand how a friend whose memory from my school days sends me cards (admittedly, very kind of her to send a card at all) with a hyphenated name. I don’t even know how she knows my husband’s surname.

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        1. Steven

          Oh I see the naming party has taken off here as well, only after just replying to Norah’s prompt on my below comment. I think Anne has nicely summarised some of the thoughts I had but was struggling to express and Norah has given some supporting information. Multiple options have been suggested between the two of you but nothing really sticks out as the definitive solution. I can provide nothing better myself – perhaps this is why society sticks with this archaic practice; nobody has found a better solution that will be accepted by all.

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          1. Norah Post author

            I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Finding something that suits all would be extremely difficult. I guess it’s up to individuals who feel strongly about it to make changes for themselves and get others to at least think about options. Thanks for raising the issue and offering some suggestions. It’s interesting, if complex.

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        2. Norah Post author

          I’m surprised the Olympians changed their names, professional names anyway. Sometimes, when women are in the spotlight before an opportunity to change their names arises, they continue to use their public names, even if they change their legal names.
          It’s great to talk about issues such as these. So often traditions are blindly accepted as “that’s how it’s always been”. That maybe so, but someone (probably a male) decided to establish the tradition in the first place, and the reasons weren’t always honorable, ethical, or even moral. One person I know invented a surname as he no longer wanted the association with his birth family. Ancestry may be more difficult to trace with a variety of family names. Would that matter? Maybe to historians?

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          1. Steven

            Indeed what a complex issue. My wife took on my surname and like most people it was pretty much without thought. The only exception was that she continued her maiden name for publishing purposes in academia, to which I had no objection and seemed logical to do. She is the only daughter and therefore for my in-laws they are (by name) the end of their line. We had one daughter and before knowing the gender of number two, were looking down that same road. I remember that thought had crossed my mind at the time and thinking it would be good to have a boy to avoid that, but I also remember thinking something to the effect of, “too bad” if it was the end – they would still be the next generation. I will share a secret here that I only kept to myself – in the days leading up to finding the gender, I had flipped over to hoping it would be another girl (and therefore accepted that I would be the end of the name for my parents). I guess that at that time, I realised that it is just a name and now my retrospective thoughts and views seem to confirm that. Well for some finality to my story, it turned out to be a boy!

            I like you other comment of your sons situation. There is some amount of logic to male retaining male surname and female retaining female surname in that it aims for a 50-50 split. The hyphenated joint surnames also have this appeal, but I don’t know how this works out down the road when those children have children and my gut feeling is that it is confusing. There is some genetic sense in the children taking on the mothers name (much like hospitals label/tag the description “child of mothers_name_here”), but I think this just brings us back to the same situation where names follow down one gender.

            The invented surname has some appeal as well, although I think like you suggest, historians may struggle. I don’t have a problem with it although I admit I do find it a little unusual as well. I imagine that historically this would have been considered a very radical action – effectively disowning your parents (and I guess in your example, it is something much like that). There probably needs to be public and social acceptance of this, something taught to new couples in order to make it a normal process.

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            1. Norah Post author

              Thanks, Steven. You have put a lot more thought into this issue, and into your reply. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and information about your own situation. That your wife kept her name for academic publishing does seem the sensible thing to do. Your family name does continue through your son though. I wonder for how many more generations.
              We had a bit of a discussion here this evening with a few others who called in. Of course we are only considering the name game from our own society’s perspective. It is not the same in every society. It was pointed out to me, whether correct or not I haven’t checked, that in Iceland daughters take the name of their mother and sons of their father. So my daughter would be Rebecca Norah’s Daughter (whatever their word is) and my son would be Robert Robert’s Son (son and hub both same given name – I wonder who insisted on that!). It’s an interesting way of doing it and different from ours.
              It made me think of the Vietnamese way of naming which I had explained to me once, but am not really sure of the details. Vietnamese don’t appear to have a given name, the way we do. They are referred to according to their role or position in the family, e.g. oldest sister, father’s sister, youngest brother etc. I know in some other Asian traditions the family name is placed first, rather than last.
              I wish I had time to research all the ways different societies name their children. I’m sure it would be fascinating. One day – when I’m retired and have nothing else to do!
              Thanks for stimulating some thought on this topic. 🙂

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              1. Steven

                Very interesting. It is good to know that not all cultures are exactly the same then. I quite like the even split of the Icelandic method. There is another option I had thought of today, which would happen to suit the Icelandic method well. Abandon the label that is “marriage”, that is, a couple may choose to live together but they can not be legally married. It would certainly solve the naming problem, as well as another “controversial” matter that our government struggles with.

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                1. Norah Post author

                  More good suggestions. I think many people are choosing the option you suggest. It seems funny that some choose to opt out and others fight for the “privilege”.

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  3. Steven

    Yet another interesting post. I vaguely recall when China implemented the one child policy and at that time I think it was somewhat internationally controversial. I think that for a country in its position (with such a large population) that it was probably also the “right” thing to do. However I do also remember that the policy caused the “value” of girls to be reduced to near worthlessness, presumably with couples more interested in preserving their family name rather than their genetic legacy. Incidentally, something needs to happen about family naming (but I don’t have an answer). I seem to recall baby girls being abandoned to orphanages and other more fatal practices resulting in a gender distribution biased towards boys. It is interesting how because of that biased distribution, that those minority (and now) women command some degree of social power. Perhaps Christopher Bell should study the Chinese media (and accounting for the obvious differences) compare that with what he has found in America media.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Steven. It’s interesting that you made the connection with China’s one child policy. Certainly in many other societies, girl children are even more undervalued than they are in ours.
      I’m interested in your comment re family naming, and wonder what aspect of family naming you are referring to, and why. I have a few ideas in mind, but I’m not sure if they are what you are thinking.
      I’m sure the Chinese media is greatly controlled. We think we have “free” press, but if it is controlled by only a couple of voices, as Chris Bell says, it is not really “free”. I think this is where education, especially critical thinking, is important.

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      1. Steven

        By family naming, I mean the concept of the wife adopting the husbands surname – that historical relic of the female being given away to the male. It is so entrenched into Western society (and presumably others, but not all) that it is accepted as a given and without thought (generally speaking). It is probably fair to say that most couples also have the aim of continuing that family name and in fairness, it is a symbolic representation of the family legacy so there is some degree of understanding that it is important. But is it so critical that one generation must pass it onto the next and do what they can to continue that name? I don’t know, although I admit it would be a shame to bring a family name to an end.

        Is it feasible to consider some alternatives? Perhaps one might be that a couple must choose a completely different family name from either of their surnames and that becomes the surname for their children. I guess that is probably possible now, but I have never heard of anyone doing this or anything like it.

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        1. Norah Post author

          It is a complex issue. I wonder what choices you and your partner made about a family name for yourselves and your children. Did you try to buck tradition and do something different?
          I think it is nice to have a name that signifies a family group. If the family actually likes each other!
          I have a friend who wanted to dissociate himself from his family and invented his own last name and changed it by deed poll. I thought that was pretty cool.
          It is good (possibly, or do I just accept it?) to hand names down through the generations. But what if there are no children? Then the name stops anyway. A childless friend of mine is the only son of an only son and only daughter. He really is the end of the line. My son is the only son (I also have a daughter), and has given his family name to his son. My son’s partner is an only child and she has given her family name to her daughter. They are a family with two family names. If she didn’t give her name to her daughter, that family name would not have continued either. I think there are probably lots of situations in which the family line stops.
          I think it could be a long time before the tradition is replaced by another. Even getting the marriage laws changed is difficult enough!

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  4. karenwrites19

    Thanks so much Norah for alerting me to International Day of the Girl Child. I intend to research the topic and present something for authors, parents and educators…
    cheers, Karen Tyrrell 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      You are welcome, Karen. I look forward to seeing what you present. Your book “Song Bird” has much to offer the theme. You’re off to a strong start. 🙂

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  5. thecontentedcrafter

    I’m a bit out of the loop on children’s toys in general Norah – not to mention the influx of superheroes in movies – though I’m trying hard to keep up. This TED talk was really scary to me – it’s horrifying that one corporation can so openly dismiss one half of the worlds population and openly practise gender discrimination, change story lines, alter perspectives and influence gender roles. And still sell the stuff! Time for a(nother) public uprising I see. 🙂 Really, purchasers need to use the one weapon they have – buying discrimination and the money in their pockets (or on their credit cards). My common sense rises up and tells me that despite these nice ‘World Days’ to celebrate something or other, they will never achieve anything lasting when those with the real power are the corporations who educate subtly and invasively and are never ultimately challenged by a passive public……. I wonder why the agenda is so anti female strength – can it be so very frightening to those corporative types? Hey-ho this weeks rant is done! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      A standing ovation for you, Pauline. You have said that so well. I’m impressed. I wish I had your ability to express it so succinctly. I think we consumers are often oblivious to what we are inadvertently supporting though – even in the supermarket. I go shopping with my ethical supermarket guide, but most of the time ethical choices are not even available. It’s very frustrating. So many other inequalities, such as those described by Chris Bell, go unnoticed. We are so swayed by media. It is scary. Thanks for the rant. Yours are always welcome and appreciated. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you very much for reading, commenting and sharing, Vivian. I’m pleased you enjoyed the talk. I was a little surprised and disturbed by what he had to say. It was quite challenging in places.

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