October 14th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Thursday, October 11 marked the first International Day of the Girl Child, an effort by the United Nations and civil society to raise awareness about the importance of educating girls as an effective strategy for addressing many of our world’s problems. Sadly, October 11 also was the day when 14-year old Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban for wanting to go to school. That’s the bad news.
The good news is that the incident has prompted many individuals and organizations to rally behind the cause for female education. Soroptimist has recognized the importance of improving access to education for women and girls for decades. It’s nice to know we are at the forefront of a global movement to help women and girls live their dreams, take control of their own lives and live according to their own values. Read more about how Malala’s attack has helped advance our mission to improve female access to education here.
August 14th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
I once read that the average age that a girl is lured into prostitution in the United States is 11 years old. When I share that fact with people in an effort to raise awareness about human trafficking–yes, it is happening throughout our country, and no, the victims are not necessarily women and girls from outside the US–I am usually met with stares of disbelief. “Really?” they say. “How is that possible?”
Here’s how that is possible. An 19-year old woman has been accused of recruiting minor girls from her own school to be prostitutes for her pimp so they could make “huge sums of money” for various things they wanted to buy.
The 19-year old “lead prostitute” is likely a victim herself, forced to recruit by her pimp gang member. Although it’s sure hard to see her that way right now, as a victim, the reality is that she was once an innocent little girl herself. She is someone’s daughter, perhaps someone’s sister.
All of this is one more reason that we have to work harder to debunk the myth of prostitution as a “noble profession,” with the glamor of “Pretty Woman,” and the high salaries of corporate America. This prostitution ring started in a school in Riverside County, California. But it just as easily could be happening in a school in your town. Perhaps it’s time to have a conversation with school leaders about how to ensure our schools are safe from traffickers, just as we want them to be safe from other forms of violence.
May 20th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Today I came across a little video of a little girl named Riley expressing frustration that “all the girls have to buy pink stuff.” She doesn’t understand why girl toys tend to be pink when there are so many other wonderful colors available. Of course, the reason is that we learn at a very young age through the media (and sometimes our own parents) that pink is for girls and blue is for boys. The video was part of a blog that looked at the history of the gender gap as manifested by the evolution and gender-based marketing of LEGO toys. Initially LEGO bricks were marketed as toys for both boys and girls. But beginning in the 1970′s LEGO produced its first female themed set, entitled “Homemaker.” In addition to the LEGO story, the blog gives some great references for learning about the gender gap in other aspects of society, and actions you can take to tell companies to stop marketing based on gender.
May 3rd, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Julia Bluhm is 14. But already, she is making a difference in raising awareness of how the media negatively impacts girls’ perceptions of their bodies and consequently their own beauty. How did she do this? Julia started an online petition asking Seventeen magazine to publish at least a few photos per month in the magazine that are not modified with Photoshop. Yesterday, she hand delivered 25,000 signatures to the editor of Seventeen, demonstrating that she’s not alone in thinking the media should show what women and girls really look like, instead of using altered images that distort our perceptions of what constitutes “beauty.”
Violet Richardson Ward, Soroptimist’s first club president (circa 1921) probably would be horrified at the media images girls are exposed to these days. But I know she’d be proud of Julia’s passion for awareness, advocacy and action.
March 21st, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Love/Social and MissRepresentation.org have produced a wonderful and powerful video about the impact of media on girls. Must see viewing for all girls–and their parents, too.
And I am absolutely thrilled that Jennifer Siebel Newsom (the Director of the film “MissRepresentation” is going to be a keynote speaker at the SIA Convention in Hawaii–and that we’ll get a chance to watch a screening of MissRepresentation as one of the Convention workshops!!!
For more information about the SIA Convention and other workshops, visit www.soroptimist.org
February 28th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Women’s History Month will begin on Thursday. Sheheroes.org, an inspiring website featuring stories about extraordinary women from various careers, provides some excellent suggestions for celebrating it. One of them is to talk to teachers at your local school to find out whether there are any lesson plans for Women’s History Month, and if not, to offer to do a program in partnership with the school.
Sadly, “most girls grow up knowing very little about the Women’s Suffrage movement, and what a long hard battle those women fought so we could simply step in a voting booth,” according to the site. The good news is that we can do something about it. After all, how can we expect children to celebrate Women’s History Month (and International Women’s Day on March 8), if we don’t celebrate it ourselves?
For more suggestions to raise awareness of the contributions of women this coming month, visit:
You go, girls!
January 28th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Essays and stories about teenage foster girls always catch my eye. This one is a powerful story–about a girl who was born poor, was raped (along with her mother), was ultimately placed in the foster care system, and has managed to educate and make something of herself in spite of it all. It’s long–and sometimes the language is a little rough. But it’s worth reading every word to get to one very powerful point at the very end.
I don’t know about you, but after reading this, the Occupy Movement is starting to make more sense to me.
January 8th, 2012 . by Cathy Standiford
Luann is one of my favorite comic strips. Lately she’s been skeptical that a Quill, cute exchange student from Australia, could be more interested in her than the school’s model/cheerleader/beauty queen Tiffany. The last couple of days the strip has drawn attention to the different definitions of “beauty.” Finally, Luann talks her to mom about it.
Sadly, girls are more likely to believe the media. Thanks to Luann creator Greg Evans for drawing attention to the impact of media on girls’ self esteem and their perceptions of whether or not they are beautiful just the way they are.
I can’t wait to see what happens to Luann next!
December 5th, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford
Never doubt the power of recognition to spur a girl into leadership. My Soroptimist club received an email the other day from our 2009-10 Violet Richardson Award honoree, thanking us for inspiring her to continue her volunteer efforts–and letting us know that she’s helping others apply for the award this year. Some excerpts from her email:
I’m currently a junior…and I just want to thank you for the great opportunity that has given me a lot over the past 2 years. After receiving the [Violet Richardson] award I was happy to donate $500 to my 2 organizations, and they were thrilled! I’m also honored to represent the Garden Grove Soroptimists by helping other girls apply. I’ve advocated this scholarship at many Girl Scout meetings to encourage others to apply, and the girls at [my high school] as well. This scholarship has been the catalyst in motivating me to seek other great community opportunities… and I’m so excited for college in 2 years! …I’m sorry it’s taken me this long to send an email…but I was just reminded of your great support when my friend just asked me about my experience earning this award, and she’s excited to turn in an application. I’m thrilled to be a role model to other young women on behalf of Soroptimist International of Garden Grove. I hope many girls receive the same gratification and awesome experiences that I have earned myself.
The Soroptimist Violet Richardson Award honors teenage girls for their volunteer efforts. Like our Women’s Opportunity Award, it is nice to know that our recognition matters to them–long after the award ceremony is over.
November 1st, 2011 . by Cathy Standiford
A film about how the media shapes the image of women and girls generated lots of buzz at the Sundance Film Festival. And based on the trailer, it’s worth seeing.
View it for yourself here:
My Soroptimist club is looking at hosting this film as a kind of community forum. Maybe yours should too.
For more information, visit the Miss Representation website at: http://missrepresentation.org