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.


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


Changing our Sexually Toxic Environment

2 11 2010

Cordelia Anderson

If you read this blog regularly, you know that Cordelia Anderson recently spoke about our “sexually toxic environment” as part of a discussion here in Hamilton during Child Abuse Prevention Month (October). Her insights and revelations about “porn culture” and what we must do to reverse the hijacking of our sexuality fired up those who were fortunate enough to be present – and I hope that lasts! In the meantime, I took to heart Cordelia’s message about doing what we can, in our own circles of influence, to rid ourselves of the overly sexual (“hypersexualized”) danger zone in which we (and youngsters) live.

While traveling, I now request a “porn free” room when I make hotel reservations. This means insisting on a room that doesn’t have pay-per-view pornography or has blocked the availability of it during my stay. Families as well as individuals can do this easily…and the more who do, the more likely we are to find greater availability of these rooms.

While shopping, I no longer turn away and ignore inappropriate or offensive merchandise. I recently pointed out to a shopkeeper that a particularly sexual t-shirt had no place on display in a store selling children’s clothing. In another, I complained about a line of merchandise called “Porn for Women” that was prominently displayed in the gift shop of a heritage site (go figure). In both cases, I elected to shop elsewhere and let them know why this was my decision.

These individual efforts do pay off. After complaining about a rubber tag for sale in a local dollar store (“On Myspace I’m Legal”) – displayed next to Dora The Explorer and other kids’ items – the store not only removed it from their inventory but also invited me to write to their head office and explain why it’s unacceptable. Pointing out the inappropriateness of sexualized merchandise can lead to an “aha” moment for sales clerks, store managers, buyers and distributors. Community-minded corporations will often respond when made aware of merchandise that might otherwise have slipped through their radar.

There are a host of things we can do, each of us, to change our environment so that these hypersexualized examples are not considered “normal”. First and foremost, remember that money talks. Spend it strategically. If you don’t think dolls for young girls should be dressed in feather boas and miniskirts, don’t buy them. And let store staff know why you won’t spend your money on these items. If you don’t think the lyrics to certain songs are healthy for the sexuality of our young people, point that out to them. Explain what’s degrading or objectifying about the words, and offer empowering messages instead.

Simply starting a conversation can be enough to get the ball rolling. How do you feel about the mainstream TV line-up including shows like “Pimp My Ride”? What about the results you get when you search for “porn” on Google? For an interesting comparison, Cordelia Anderson suggests trying that search and then searching for “healthy sexuality” and seeing the difference in results (and the time it takes).

October was Child Abuse Prevention Month. November is the month set aside to talk about woman abuse and to raise awareness about the problem. If we only address these issues once a year, we can pretty much give up on making any inroads. If we continue to let media and merchandisers degrade and objectify women, we won’t get very far either. So speak up, engage others, and spend strategically. It will take all of us to make a difference in what “normal” consists of and whether messages about healthy sexuality are available to young people.

“The need for change bulldozed road down the center of my mind”.

Maya Angelou

From Dr. Seuss to Porn

20 10 2010

Parent Evening

The Community Child Abuse Council of Canada presents a special evening for parents on Monday, October 25 as part of its Child Abuse Prevention Month activities. The free evening event features Cordelia Anderson, a recognized expert in child maltreatment. Anderson will engage parents, caregivers and foster parents in a dialogue about what she calls our “sexually toxic” society and how to help children navigate this potentially dangerous landscape.

Pre-registration is required: call (905) 523-1020 ext. 14 or visit the Council’s web site: for more information.

On Tuesday, October 26 Cordelia Anderson will be the featured speaker at an all-day symposium for professionals. The focus of the day includes the sexual development of children and the impact of today’s cultural norms and sexually permissive media. For full information visit or call the Council: (905) 523-1020 ext. 14. Registration fee is $75.00 per person and space is limited.