GoldieBlox – engineering for little girls

14 02 2014

Debbie Sterling, an engineer from Stanford, found few women in her university class and decided young girls needed more encouragement to experiment with engineering and innovative design concepts. Her research led to the revelation that 87% of the world’s engineers are males, and to the development of a combination storybook and toy building set designed specifically for little girls – Goldie Blox. Her original crowdfunding launch successfully reached its $150,000 target in less than 5 days (watch the launch video here: and GoldieBlox is now a series. The first building set, incorporating a belt drive, is available online and at select Target and ToysRUs stores along with #2  (wheel and axle) and #3 (hinge) in the series. goldieblox

For more about GoldieBlox, check out the web site:

Thanks, Debbie, for recognizing the need to cheer on young inventors, and for tapping into young female minds with something more than pink packaging.

Play On!

18 08 2013

Strong kids = Strong families = Strong nation. That simple but powerful mission is behind Canadian Tire’s new campaign to bring play back to childhood. It is an inspiring and  welcome partnership to get youngsters active again with the help of influential athletes and players of all types. It reminds us about our longtime “passion for play” while pointing out that “play doesn’t come out to play as much anymore”. Nostalgic and iconic images of children at play are appearing on the company’s TV commercials, and supporters of the campaign are posting their own videos and photos online showing how and where Canadians play.

-we-all-play-for-canada-Confidence. Creativity. Strength. These qualities, cited as goals of the campaign, are ones we can all encourage in children of all ages. “A country without strong children cannot stay strong”, says the campaign. No argument here.

Play on!

Happy International Women’s Day!

8 03 2013

Borrowing from another excellent message distributed today by Miss Representation (, here’s a reminder to think about change as we celebrate women and girls in all their potential…

toddlers and tiaras

Today is International Women’s Day, so let’s take this collective moment to pledge to end the oppression of women worldwide – in all its forms. Let’s pledge to end not only the overt violence directed at women daily, but the institutional sexism holding us back and the destructive representations of women in the media which contribute to that same culture of negating women and denying them their equal seat at the tables of power. After all, as long as the media hypersexualizes and objectifies women, they normalize treating women as second-class citizens and objects for the male gaze, which further contributes to violence against women.

Katy Couric

We encourage you to spend this special day not only supporting those organizations creating change in the treatment of women globally, but thinking personally about how you can make an impact on the lives of women and girls everywhere. Each of us can play a small part in transforming the way our culture views, values, and treats women and girls.

This Valentine’s Day, spread the love and spread the word

8 02 2013

www.missrepresentation.orgLast Sunday, during the biggest media event of the year, supporters of Miss Representation came together to put sexism in advertising in the spotlight and make it a topic of conversation. As a result, over 4 million people heard or saw their critiques of Super Bowl commercials and their message was picked up by numerous major news outlets, including CNN and National Public Radio (NPR). As a result, countless thousands have been inspired to be more aware of the representations of gender they consume daily. That’s what I love about Miss Representation – they’re continually bringing solid information to new audiences what are then able to decide for themselves about the values that are important to them.

Go Daddy alone received more than 7,500 tweets in just 5 hours concerning their stereotypical and demeaning Super Bowl ad. This was accomplished by thousands of individuals deciding to take a break from watching the big game to use their consumer voice to let advertisers know: when it comes to using sexism to sell, we’re #NotBuyingIt! (that’s the Miss Representation campaign, by the way).

And it works. After Teleflora’s highly offensive and degrading Super Bowl commercial, which implied that women would exchange sex with any man who could afford a few flowers, hundreds of folks took to Twitter to express their dismay and disgust. In a show of the increasing ability of social media to create real change, Harrod’s in London removed two children’s books from their children’s reading room after users on Twitter, with the help of the #NotBuyingIt hashtag, let the store know that the items promoted gender stereotypes.

Next Thursday, on Valentine’s Day, Miss Representation is helping to coordinate another effort aimed at showing what we’re capable of when we band together under a common cause. On February 14th, Eve Ensler’s V-Day organization is organizing one billion women, and those who love them, to rise up and demand an end to violence against women.obr_logo-web

“Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.”

The worldwide event, One Billion Rising, is being held in cities and towns across the globe, and will feature performances, dances and women speaking out against violence in unity. To find out more, go to – and if you haven’t already become familiar with Miss Representation, visit their site at

The Valentine’s Day, spread the love and spread the word – 1 billion women violated is an atrocity. 1 billion women dancing is a revolution.

You can’t be what you can’t see

23 10 2011

Here’s an exciting and worthy project aimed at empowering young women and changing the portrayal of young girls in the media…MissRepresentation addresses this in several important ways. If you’ve looked closely at a young girl lately you may have noticed the jeans, the makeup, the hair…much of it a predictable response to perceieved expectations that, for many, go hand in hand with being young and female in our society. Too many young girls spend tremendous effort and money trying to live up to something they’ll never achieve — and who wants them to? The potential cost of these misguided priorities is substantial – their confidence, their time, and a distraction away from the other skills or hobbies or attributes they could be pursuing. In fact, some young girls are literally dying to live up to “an image.”

Driven by the message delivered in the film Miss Representation, a documentary that premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, the project is “a call-to-action campaign that seeks to empower women and girls to challenge limiting labels in order to realize their potential”. Among its goals are the eradication of gender stereotypes and the creation of lasting cultural and sociological change. The project includes an educational curriculum, film screenings, and an action agenda with options for supporting the campaign.

Check out the details at


Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood

8 04 2011

McDonald's ad, Austria

 Regular readers will know that I have talked about this topic often – the commercialization of childhood and the inappropriate (and damaging) marketing of everything under the sun to kids. More often than not the messages are highly sexualized, exploiting the very innocence that ought to be protected.

Here are two resources you may find interesting. It’s nice to share other voices and reassuring to know others are ranting about this too. their mission is “to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy”. Check out their Parents’ Bill of Rights and campaign to get salespeople out of schools.

Our nation is in the grips of a commercial hysteria. Sometimes it seems like everything is for sale. At Commercial Alert, we stand up for the idea that some things are too important to be for sale. Not our children. Not our health. Not our minds. Not our schools. Not our values. Not the integrity of our governments. Not for sale. Period. national organization (U.S.) devoted to limiting the impact of commercial culture on children – their mission is “to reclaim childhood from corporate marketers”. Good resources and attention to diverse issues (from obesity to violence) along with clout in their advocacy efforts – they have successfully battled Disney, Scholastic Inc. (Bratz), McDonald’s and Hasbro. 

The commercialization of childhood is the link between many of the most serious problems facing children, and society, today.  Childhood obesity, eating disorders, youth violence, sexualization, family stress, underage alcohol and tobacco use, rampant materialism, and the erosion of children’s creative play, are all exacerbated by advertising and marketing.  When children adopt the values that dominate commercial culture—dependence on the things we buy for life satisfaction, a “me first” attitude, conformity, impulse buying, and unthinking brand loyalty—the health of democracy and sustainability of our planet are threatened.  CCFC works for the rights of children to grow up—and the freedom for parents to raise them—without being undermined by commercial interests.

CCFC is active in the Toronto area where a recent campaign helped stop the installation of digital monitors in area highschools (along with their ad content)…anyone involved with CCFC in Hamilton???


Sad Day to be a Girl

18 03 2011

Maybe it’s the warmer weather, or the peek of colour from crocus blooms in my garden today, but I started off with such a cheery disposition…then the media barrage began. First I read that this coming Sunday, March 20th, is the first International Anti-Street Harassment Day. Apparently a day is needed to remind us that catcalls, leers, sexual innuendo and whistles (aka street harassment) are inappropriate. I would like to think offensive behaviour is just that, offensive. Should be out of bounds each and every day. Activists would likely say I’m naive. I can’t fault their efforts to educate, and I recognize that this offensive harassment is often trivialized. According to street harassment “includes sexually explicit comments, catcalls, groping, leering, stalking and assault, and more than 80 per cent of women have encountered it”. Learning that grim statistic makes me think a day set aside to expose the offenders isn’t such a bad idea (sad, but necessary).

Moving on with my day, I next discovered that Mattel Inc. has launched a new Barbie, called Clawdeen Wolf. This new doll’s purpose is…are you ready?…to help teach young girls about plucking and shaving. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m picking on Mattel here, but seriously…there are just too many issues here not to raise a few red flags. First, Clawdeen is clad in a micromini skirt, baring her navel, and is a ridiculous but no-longer-surprising size 2. It gets worse. The Globe & Mail reports that she boasts of being “a fierce fashionista with a confident no-nonsense attitude” and that shaving and plucking her “freaky flaws” is “a full-time job” (she’s a werewolf’s daughter, according to Mattel’s Monster High web site). Does Mattel think that the little girls who will actually play with this Barbie are in need of shaving guidance? More to the point, does Mattel see body hair as “a freaky flaw” and intend for young girls to see it that way too? Yes, Clawdeen is a toy. But she’s obviously marketed to young girls, and as toys go this is but another example of being off the mark in so many ways. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…manufacturers need to hear from us when they so blatantly target children with messages that are sexualized and age inappropriate. Parents will no doubt be the most influential censors where purchases are concerned, but in the spirit of “it takes a village” (and recognizing that parents need all the help they can get) we should be all be offended, and vocally so. The Globe & Mail reports that Clawdeen is already a big seller, quoting a Toys ‘R’ Us spokesperson saying that Clawdeen is “the most popular fashion doll that we have today” and a Mattel spokesperson (defending the doll), saying she is “all about celebrating your imperfections and accepting the imperfections of others.”

Yes, it started out as a nice (almost spring) day. But it has turned out to be a sad day to be a girl.