I May be a Sh*tty Feminist

My post calling out Goldie Blox for their, in my opinion, ingenuine marketing tactics ruffled a few feathers in the feminist world. There are many who believe that any attempt at changing the stereotypes is a step in the right direction. After watching part of the TED talk by Debbie Sterling, founder and CEO, I agree that she had good intentions. I just don’t think they were manifested by either the product nor the advertising campaign. I am not alone in my thinking. Besides the countless comments I have seen online regarding how the company claims to be shedding stereotypes for girls when in reality they are reinforcing the pastel/pink, princess/beauty pageant, toys for girls mentality, along with pitting girls who like pink and such against “smart girls” (their words), others are writing about the subject on their blogs. You can read some other thoughts on what I admittedly call pseudo-feminism, which is what I believe this to be – a company using the idea of feminism to sell a product (it all comes down to $$$) while conforming to the very stereotypes it claims to be sloughing off. Here are just a few:

The ads are popular, I admit, but I’m not about to begin jumping up and down. Perhaps there is a need for a gentle persuasion amoung our society to initiate change in order for girls to be equal to boys. I don’t think a pink-washed (or pastel-washed), cheaply made toy with a horribly written story is enough. I won’t be jumping on the bandwagon, and if people think I am a sh*tty feminist because of that, they are entitled to their opinions. I have children now, and I want them to be afforded the same opportunities regardless of their genders.

Do you remember this ad from LEGO when LEGOs were merely marketed to children rather than boys (and more recently their girls’ line)? Neither do I. It was before my time, which just tells me that the slow, placating movement for girls’ equality isn’t working. We are moving farther away from breaking out of the stereotype. Sure, there is a place for products like GoldieBlox, just as there is a place for dolls (both my sons and daughters have them), capes, playsilks, and more. There is also a place for women and men who want to applaud small changes in society. That doesn’t mean that those of us fighting for change on a bigger scale by calling out companies who claim to be doing something they aren’t, are somehow damaging the feminist cause of equality for all. There is a phrase that says “mild-mannered women seldom make history.” The fact is, women seldom make history. I’m not out to make history, though. I just want  to make certain that my children’s futures aren’t merely repeats of a discriminatory history. Forget the separte but equal cr*p.

So, consider me, or my brand of feminism, sh*tty if you like. I don’t care. I plan to continue calling out companies which put money over everything else. There is a need, and I have no intentions of being silent.

Goldie Blox: Enabling Stereotypes in the Name of Marketing

A new company, Goldie Blox, is taking the internet by storm with its new ad campaign marketing their STEM products to girls. With a disproportionately low number of women in STEM fields (making up only 11%), the campaign, with its girl power attitude and video set to Beastie Boys music seems applaudable….on the surface. I heard about the ad campaign from several friends who were claiming the product was a must have for anyone with daughters. I beg to disagree.

I set out to watch the video, excited about the prospect of a campaign to promote more women in STEM fields. As a woman, as a scientist, as a feminist, as a mother, this was something I could get behind. As I watched the ad, my excitement quickly faded and was replaced with, I will just say it, disgust. The ad was nothing more than a well done marketing campaign which managed not to fight stereotypes, but reinforce them.

Let’s look at some of the key points:

Finally! STEM kits for girls! All of the previous products on the market (there are a lot; we own quite a few of them), shouldn’t be played with by girls (heavy sarcasm). Does Goldie Blox believe they have managed to produce the one STEM product that girls can play with, discounting the fact that girls, and boys, can play with anything regardless of color? It isn’t the color of STEM kits that is limiting girls. It is the attitude from society, from consumers, and from….marketers who target ad campaigns for gender specificity.

“You think you know what we want” screams the ad campaign. How could marketers possibly know what girls want? Just wait. The marketers at Goldie Blox want to tell girls what they want…or more importantly, the people spending money on these girls – those important people in a girl’s life who generally hold the most influence over them.

Pink and Pretty is out. I’ll admit, I have never been a fan of the pink and pretty campaign set out by society to limit girls and women. That doesn’t mean that pink and purple, or even pretty, are evil. Telling girls that they shouldn’t like something is just as debilitating as telling them they should like something. It is even possible for a girl to like math, science and pink. Or, on the flip side, for a boy to like pink and purple (which is even less acceptable than a woman in a STEM field).

Setting Girls up for the Future. Goldie Blox claims their goal is to get every girl building and that they are going to “level the playing field.” They then go on to explain that because girls have strong verbal skills, it is necessary to go about getting them interested in math in science in a different way. This leaves me wanting to hit my head against a wall, one which I am fully capable of designing and building myself and then writing about, thank you very much. The company seems to really believe that girls and women are at a disadvantage in the STEM world because they think differently, and therefore lose interest quickly. Despite admitting that “for over a hundred years [building toys have] been considered boys’ toys.” I really don’t understand how they can miss the point. It isn’t that girls aren’t capable of thinking in terms of math and science without special help. It isn’t that colors of products are not appealing. It is the societal presuure on girls to only do what others tell them.

Goldie Blox is selling you something, and it is more than their pastel colored toys (did anyone else catch that after their spiel about girls not liking pink, they sell products that are pastel with a large percentage of pink and lavender?). Goldie Blox is selling consumers pseudo-feminism in the guise of marketing.

 

Celebrating Halloween with Less Consumerism

As Halloween approaches, I am sharing an older, previously published, post regarding Halloween and our consumerist society.

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As with many other holidays, companies have managed to turn Halloween into a consumerist

Photo by Yaxzone

product. Emphasis is placed on the purchase and distribution of mass amounts of candy, over-priced cheaply made costumes, and non-environmentally friendly packaging.

When we celebrate Halloween by taking our children trick-or-treating, it’s easy to fall into this mindset. In an attempt to place emphasis on other aspects of the holiday, many parents attempt to de-emphasize the candy. While it may seem that by donating a candy stash or trading in candy for other items we are avoiding mass consumerism, that is untrue.  When we take our children trick-or-treating and then trade the candy or throw it away, we are not only supporting consumerism in a marketing sense, but we are also setting an example of consumerist living to our children. It shows them that it is acceptable to solicit items with no intent to use them. It can produce a “give me” attitude of entitlement. Throwing food in the trash, regardless of nutritional value, shows acceptability of wasting resources. Sending candy to charities can send the message that those who benefit from charity are only worthy of unwanted items. Accepting candy produced by companies with questionable ethics still supports those companies. Our family trick-or-treats. Our children have complete control over their trick-or-treating. Not only do we not take away their candy or exert control over what they do with it, we also don’t limit how much they can collect. While other children are out from start to finish, gathering as much candy as they can, our children trick-or-treat for a little while, before telling us they are finished and asking us to drive them home.  Instead, our focus on Halloween is not consumerism – paying exhorbitant amounts for cheaply made costumes or collecting mass amounts of candy for trick-or-treating. Trick-or-treating on Halloween night is only one small way we celebrate.

  • Each October, we head to a local old-fashioned pumpkin patch. While the local custom is to go to a pumpkin themed attempt at an amusement park (consumerism once again), we go to a family run pumpkin patch that has pumpkins and some bales of hay for kids to jump in.  We make a day of it, buying reasonably priced pumpkins and supporting a family run business. We buy some pumpkins for carving and stock up on pie pumpkins. Later in the month, we roast and puree the pie pumpkins, freezing some for later use and making various pumpkin recipes.
  • We decorate our home. We have a few items we pull out each year, but we make the rest, focusing on inexpensive handmade items, and giving a purpose to some of the many, many wonderful art projects created by our children. We pull many of our decorations from nature or nature inspired crafts.
  • We make costumes. My children spend quit a bit of time contemplating what they want to dress up as. We work together to design and make their costumes.
  •  We attend Halloween and Fall themed programs. Many of our local libraries have free programs, including music concerts, story times, craft activities, and more. Nature centers not only have Fall and themed programs but also jack-o’lantern lit walks, hayrides, and more. Any fees support the center and educational programs rather than executives in corporate America. Historical centers offer old-fashioned Halloween fun with requests of canned goods to support local charities.
  • We celebrate with friends with parties, pumpkin carving, homemade trunk-or-treats, and costume wearing get-togethers.
  • We read books, pulling out some of our favorites and checking out others from the library. We read and tell scary stories by candlelight while sipping hot cocoa or apple cider.
  • We prepare for winter and discuss the true meaning of Samhain.

And then, as a culmination of all of our Halloween celebrations, as opposed to a commercially focused one day celebration, we take the kids trick-or-treating.

Authentic Parenting Blog Hop: Parenting in the Light of Your Own Childhood

APBC - Authentic ParentingKeeping with this month’s theme of switching things up, the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival, co-hosted by Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children and Laura at Authentic Parenting, is hosting a blog hop this month on a very important topic: parenting in the light of your own childhood. Our experiences, good and bad, shape who we are. We can choose to continue something or to make changes. We want everyone to speak up about how you have chosen to parent based on how you were parented. Tell us about how you are consciously and authentically parenting in relation to your own childhood experiences. We know this can be a touchy subject, so if you have a new post you would like hosted on another site, please e-mail us and we would be happy to find a blog to host you, anonymously or otherwise. By addressing issues of the past, we can choose to make a bright future. Simply add your post, new or old, to the convenient linky tool below before October 25, 2013.

We understand that many of these posts may touch on emotionally difficult subjects as we explore our own upbringing. However, as advocates of gentle and respectful parenting, we do ask that your posts not advocate in favor of violence toward others or non-gentle parenting practices.

 

Blog hops are a great way to generate blog traffic and build a supportive community. Your blog will receive links from many other blogs and you and your readers will have the opportunity to discover other blogs with similar goals in mind. Please join us as we embrace Authentic Parenting! We hope you will consider joining us every month as we discuss ways to bring authenticity into our lives and our parenting.

Want to help host this blog hop on your own blog? Grab the code and share everyone’s posts with your readers!

photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc


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Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children

Welcome to the July 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Learning About Diversity

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how they teach their children to embrace and respect the variety of people and cultures that surround us. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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When our first child was born, we lived in a wonderfully diverse and liberal area. He was born to a plethora of self-proclaimed uncles and aunties from all over the globe, of all different religions, races, languages, and experiences. What they had in common was a thirst for knowledge and open-mindedness. I knew that when we had friends over or when we visited with friends, my child would hear multiple languages, be exposed to a great understanding of diversity, and see that his skin was just one hue of many. Race didn’t matter. Everyone was equal.

Then we moved here. Suddenly, race did matter. For, as much as people may tell you that racism doesn’t exist in the Mid-West, it most assuredly does. (The truth is, it exists, at least in pockets, throughout the United States, a country forged through the discrimination and abuse of non-Caucasians.) Sometimes it is blatant. Sometimes it is subtle, but there is always an undercurrent. From extended relatives who mention the nice black lady who cut their hair, as though a person’s skin color has something to do with either their hair-cutting skills or how nice they are, to the people who blatantly deny that racial discrimination exists to the face of a woman who has just shared that her family has been racially profiled when out driving because they are an inter-racial family. It is there. It is there in the neighborhoods where people tend to stick with people of similar ethnicity because they know they won’t be discriminated against by others like them or whose socio-economic status, stagnant by discrimination, keeps them in neighborhoods which they would rather move from. Here, race matters.

Sure, race matters to the bigots who think the color of their skin makes them better than others, but race also matters to those of us who think it shouldn’t have to. We should never forget the atrocities in our history, held at the hands of those who claimed to be doing what was best for another group: the discrimination, the prejudice, the hatred. It matters because it still exists, and it matters because we can do something about it.

My children, despite their freckled whiteness, know something about discrimination. That happens when you are a non-Christian family in an area where the majority are, or at least identify with, Christians. To be fair, it is my husband and I who made the decision. We encourage our children to learn about different beliefs and decide for themselves what they believe, knowing that they may not have that maturity or may change their minds numerous times as they grow older. My children have seen the hatred expressed at women as they simply nurture their children by breastfeeding. They have heard the hatred of non -“white Christian males” during elections. They have experienced the ageism from others that we have all experienced as children.

We talk about prejudice and discrimination. We talk about the fear and hatred behind it. We talk about history, read books about it, and watch movies and documentaries. We talk…a lot, and we stand up to those who would put others down. We talk about the privileges of being in a majority, even though it definitely doesn’t win a popularity contest. We have been verbally attacked for our beliefs of equality. That won’t stop us.

We are raising the next generation with our children. Children who will grow up to fight for others, because they believe it is the right thing to do. Children who will grow up to make a difference. It isn’t minorities alone who make changes, otherwise the majority would continue to oppress. There would never be change. It takes people, banding together in what they know is right, to make real change, and I want my family to be a part of that. When we are all equal, we can look to the past and vow never to let that happen again. Until then, we will continue to make a difference.

photo credit: Chris JL via photopin cc

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon July 9 with all the carnival links.)

  • A gift for my daugther — Amanda, a special education teacher for students with multiple exceptionalities, discusses at My Life in a Nutshell how she will enrich her daughter’s life by educating her the amazing gifts her students will bring to the world.
  • The Beauty in Our Differences — Meegs at A New Day writes about her discussions with her daughter about how accepting ourselves and those around us, with all our beautiful differences and similarities, makes the world a better place.
  • Accepting Acceptance and Tolerating Tolerance — Destany at They Are All of Me examines the origins of and reasons behind present day social conformity.
  • Differencessustainablemum discusses what she feels to be the important skills for embracing diversity in her family home.
  • Turning Japanese — Erin Yuki at And Now, for Something Completely Different shares how she teaches her kiddos about Japanese culture, and offers ideas about “semi immersion” language learning.
  • Celebrating Diversity at the International House Cottages — Mommy at Playing for Peace discovers the cultures of the world with her family at local cultural festivals
  • Learning About Diversity by Honoring Your Child’s Multiple Heritages — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of truly knowing your roots and heritage and how to help children honor their multiple heritages.
  • People. PEOPLE! — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is trying to teach her children to use language that reflects respect for others, even when their language doesn’t seem to them to be disrespectful.
  • Just Call me Clarice Thomas — Lisa at The Squishable Baby knows that learning to understand others produces empathetic children and empathetic families.
  • Diversity of Families — Family can be much more then a blood relation. Jana at Jananas on why friends are so important for her little family of three.
  • Diverse Thoughts Tamed by Mutual Respect — Amy at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work thinks that diversity is indispensable to our vitality, but that all of our many differences require a different sort of perspective, one led by compassion and mutual respect.
  • Just Shut Up! — At Old New Legacy, Becky gives a few poignant examples in her life when listening, communication and friendship have helped her become more accepting of diversity.
  • The World is our Oyster — Mercedes at Project Procrastinot is thankful for the experiences that an expat lifestyle will provide for herself as well as for her children.
  • Children’s black & white views (no pun intended … kind of) — Lauren at Hobo Mama wonders how to guide her kids past a childish me vs. them view of the world without shutting down useful conversation.
  • Raising White Kids in a Multicultural World — Leanna at All Done Monkey offers her two cents on how to raise white children to be self-confident, contributing members of a colorful world. Unity in diversity, anyone?
  • Ramadan Star and Moon Craft — Celebrate Ramadan with this star and moon craft from Stephanie at InCultureParent, made out of recycled materials, including your kid’s art!
  • Race Matters: Discussing History, Discrimination, and Prejudice with Children — At Living Peacefully with Children, Mandy discusses how her family deals with the discrimination against others and how she and her husband are raising children who are making a difference.
  • The Difference is Me – Living as the Rainbow Generation — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle, guest posting at Natural Parents Network, is used to being the odd-one-out but walking an alternative path with children means digging deeper, answering lots of questions and opening to more love.
  • My daughter will never know same-sex marriage is not normal — Doña at Nurtured Mama realizes that the recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage will change the way she talks to her daughter about her own past.
  • Montessori-Inspired Respect for Diversity — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells about her multicultural family and shares Montessori-inspired ideas for encouraging respect for diversity.
  • EveryDay Diversity — Ana at Panda & Ananaso makes diversity a part of everyday living, focusing on raising of compassionate and respectful child.
  • Diversity as Part of Life — Even though Laura at Authentic Parenting thought she had diversity covered, she found out that some things are hard to control.
  • Inequity and Privilege — Jona is unpacking questions raised by a summit addressing inequity in breastfeeding support at Life, Intertwined.
  • 3 Ways to Teach Young Children About Diversity — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama recognizes her family’s place of privilege and shares how she is teaching her little ones about diversity in their suburban community.
  • Teaching diversity: tales from public school — A former public high school teacher and current public school parent, Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama values living in a diverse community.
  • 30 Ideas to Encourage Learning about Diversity While Traveling — Traveling with kids can bring any subject alive. Dionna at Code Name: Mama has come up with a variety of ways you can incorporate diversity education into your family travels (regardless of whether you homeschool). From couch surfing to transformative reading, celebrate diversity on your next trip!
  • Diversity, huh? — Jorje of Momma Jorje doesn’t do anything BIG to teach about diversity; it’s more about the little things.
  • Chosen and Loved — From Laura at Pug in the Kitchen: Color doesn’t matter. Ethnicity doesn’t matter. Love matters.
  • The One With The Bright Skin — Stefanie at Very Very Fine tries to recover from a graceless reponse to her son’s apparent prejudice.

Authentic Parenting May 2013 Blog Hop: Self Love

APBC - Authentic ParentingAs part of the Authentic Parenting Blog Carnival hosted by Living Peacefully with Children and Authentic Parenting, we invite you to participate in this months’ blog hop on self-love. We’ve heard it before, self love is the key to establish unconditional love with your children, to parent from a balanced place, and heal the hurts of yesterday. Link up your posts, old or new, on the topic of self-love.

Want to help host the blog hop? Grab the code here and add it to your blog!

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What You Didn’t Know About Labial Adhesions in Baby Girls

A silent moment in black and white When our first child was born, I was an informed parent. There was no way I was letting any doctor (or anyone else) retract his perfect, intact penis. At birth, and for quite a while after (sometimes until puberty), the foreskin is adhered to the glans of the penis. This is a way for the body to protect itself, and the foreskin should not be forcably retracted. I knew that many doctors are still unaware about how to handle intact penises, and I was prepared to protect my child.

However, throughout my life and three children, I had not heard about labial adhesions. It was during my fourth pregnancy that I finally read about labial adhesions in baby girls. Just as the foreskin is adhered to the glans in little boys, there are times when the inner labia of baby girls adheres, blocking the opening to the vagina, either partially or completely. One would think that in a country where intact girls are the norm, doctors would know how to handle something like this. However, I began to read stories about doctors recommending gentle pressure against the adhesion, using Q-Tips, vaseline (petroleum) products, and even the use of estrogen creams on baby girls. Usually, as this generally reoccurs in girls who have labial adhesions which are forcably separated, the estrogen use became cyclical until puberty. I was appalled.

So, I dug further. I couldn’t believe that something that is apparently quite common in girls and seemed to correspond with a similar phenomenon in intact boys, did not serve some purpose. Surface reading will tell you that labial adhesions occur in relation to some type of irritation. Digging deeper in the medical journals, I discovered that, just as with boys, separating labial adhesions is not a recommended treatment. The use of estrogen cream is not recommended. Placing petroleum products on an infant’s genitals is not recommended. The general consensus of those who have conducted research on this subject is that labial adhesions in little girls are a naturally occurring phenomenon, generally in relation to some irritant as the body’s way to protect itself. Parents should keep an eye on it and gently wipe well at diaper changes, but otherwise it should be left alone unless there is a problem.

Relieved to know that my gut instinct was right, I happily went on with my pregnancy and later gave birth to our fourth child, our second daughter. Fast forward about 3-4 months, and I noticed a labial adhesion. Glad that I had read about these before her birth, I kept an eye on it and continued to do so as the labial adhesion increased in size. While I now knew labial adhesions were perfectly normal, I was a bit nervous about the fact that it continued to grow longer. I also couldn’t determine what the irritant might be. We used gentle products, avoided soaps, didn’t give her bubble baths, and changed her diaper immediately after she voided. So, I hit the research again.

That was when I came across some more research that linked labial adhesions with food allergies. Everything clicked into place. We were (and are) in the midst of dealing with allergies, including a lot of food allergies, in our family. Our youngest child had the most immediate and observable reactions to various foods. It made sense that her body was protecting itself. So, we continued to take a wait and see approach.

The adhesions continued, stopping when they reached a certain point, and stayed for a while. I continued keeping an eye on it during diaper changes. Then, one day as I was folding laundry and she was having some naked time (a joke to anyone who knows this child and how she can strip off all clothes and diaper in about 1/2 second), I glanced over to check on her and saw that she was doing some self-exploration and that the labial adhesion was gone. It had served as protection for as long as she needed it and gone away when it was no longer needed. We didn’t try to force it to open, causing trauma, and so the labial adhesion hasn’t returned.

Our bodies are wondrous. They generally know what to do, if we only listen. Informing ourselves of what is normal (or a variation of normal), and searching out responsible, knowledgeable medical care when there is a true need, allows us to make informed choices for our families.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended as medical advice. Neither the author, nor Natural Parents Network, are medical doctors and do not assume any responsibility for medical decisions made by parents. This article is written for educational purposes only. The author and Natural Parents Network actively encourage all parents to do their own research and make informed choices about their family’s medical care.

 

Previously posted at Natural Parents Network.