Archive for Politics

The Story of Stuff

I just watched The Story of Stuff, a powerful online movie about the real costs of our consumer driven culture. Narrated by activist Annie Leonard, The Story of Stuff tells the story about “all our stuff—where it comes from and where it goes when we throw it away.” Leonard examines the real costs of extraction, production, distribution, consumption and disposal, and she isolates the moment in history where she says the trend of consumption mania began.

The 20-minute film definitely makes you think differently about the “things” in our lives, and reminds us that there is a cost to everything we purchase, beyond the money out of our wallet. The true cost is society, our natural resources, and the planet.

Watch the teaser below for a clip from the film, or go to The Story of Stuff’s website to watch the whole thing!

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Happy Birthday Nelson Mandela!

Nelson MandelaToday is former South African president Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday! In honor of his birthday, today has been declared Mandela Day in South Africa, and the former president has called on his fans and supporters around the world to spend time time “doing good” today.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid, the institutionalized racial segregation in South Africa which lasted from 1948 – 1994. Mandela was released from prison when apartheid ended and became the president for one term in 1999.

Mandela Day organizers are encouraging people around the world to devote at least a minute for each of the 67 years Mandela campaigned against apartheid to community service.

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When I was a teenager, I watched the movie Cry Freedom (1987) starring Denzel Washington which tells the story of Steven Biko, an anti-apartheid activist who was killed in police custody in 1977 for standing up for his beliefs. The movie made a huge impact on me when I watched it, and has stayed with me today. I highly recommend netflixing it!

To find out more about the work Nelson Mandela is doing today, visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

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Honoring Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the RiveterEver seen this image before? If you don’t recognize her, this is cultural icon Rosie the Riveter, who represents the women who took on previously male-dominated jobs during World War II. The woman’s image here is based on a real woman, Rosalie Kunert, who passed away last week at the age of 86.

Rosalie Kunert played an important role in redefining how women were perceived by proving that women could do “men’s work.” According to this obituary, Rosalie was proud of being a pioneer in creating an entirely new image of women in American society and setting the stage for future generations.

In her memory, Smart Girls Know would like to acknowledge Rosalie and all the other “riveters” who were bold, strong, and fearless in going where no women had gone before and who played a crucial role in opening doors and creating more work opportunities for women everywhere.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to highlight a camp created in Rosie the Riveter’s honor, Rosie’s Girls. Rosie’s Girls is a three week camp for girls entering 6th-8th grades that encourages participants to develop and strengthen their capacities and confidence and helps them expand their perception of the range of educational and career options that are attainable in an atmosphere that is fun, supportive and positive.

Camps are located in Vermont, Ohio, South Carolina, and California. To find out more, visit the camp’s website here.

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Plastic Surgery and Teens

Teen Plastic SurgeryUSA Today just ran an article called Cosmetic Surgeries: What Children Will Do to Look Normal that talks about the growing trend of teenagers getting plastic surgery to improve their appearance.

In 2008, more than 160,000 children under 18 years old had cosmetic surgery, and I’m not just talking about those who had true physical abnormalities like cleft palates or the occasional nose job. Cosmetic surgeries on teens today include everything from breast implants and liposuction on ankles and calves to highly controversial procedures like what’s known as “Asian eye” surgery to widen the appearance of eyes in people of Asian descent.

The article quotes plastic surgeon Gerald Pitman, who says, “The kids I see, their desire is almost uniformly to be normal, non-deviant. Kids don’t want to stand out in a negative way.”

Is it just me or is this growing trend of teens wanting to look “uniformly normal” make Scott Westerfield’s hit a little too close to home?

While I embrace the idea that we can all create the life and reality we want, the truth is, there is nothing “real” about plastic surgery. When People Magazine’s “Most Beautiful People” issue is full of people who became beautiful under the knife, one has to wonder where these standards of beauty are coming from in the first place?

My biggest concern with the fact that increasing numbers of teens are going down the plastic surgery route is the fact that once you make the choice to start altering your body, you can’t go back. Here’s a quote from the article from one teen who regretted her decision to have breast implants at such a young age:

Heather Locke says being a flat-chested cheerleader from Dallas was stressful at the time, so at 17, with her mother’s blessing, she had her breasts augmented — from a 34A to a 34D bra size. “Now, looking back, I realize boobs aren’t that big of a deal,” says Locke, 23, “At that point in time, I thought that is what boys found very attractive, but now I know guys could care less. I am not unhappy, but I should have waited until I was older.”

Is it true that someone with a large nose might find themselves having more self-confidence after they’ve had a nose job? Yes. But this fact points to a bigger problem of our self-esteem being rooted in physical attributes instead of the things that make us truly unique and wonderful, like our values, our passions, our talents, our visions, and our personalities.

For more on this controversial topic, read the full article here. And to read about one girl’s struggle to find beauty in herself despite her disfiguring port wine stain birthmark, read Justina Chen Headley’s fantastic novel, .

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MTV Wants You to Volunteer

All For GoodI’m a self-professed volunteer addict, so I was excited to hear that MTV has just joined forces with Huffington Post, Google, Craigslist, YouTube, FanFeedr, and UCLA to create a search engine that will allow people to search for volunteer opportunities to participate in.

The initiative, called All For Good, came about as a result of President Obama’s call for Americans to find ways to do good and volunteer for the organization of their choice.

For its part, MTV just launched, a site that brings volunteer opportunities directly to young people. The network is airing a series of on-air PSAs in the hopes of getting viewers to the site and encouraging them to find a way to give back to the community and lend their time to make a difference. MTV will also be creating a series of viral Web videos, featuring celebrities and artists sharing their experiences in volunteerism and discussing the benefits of integrating civil service into their lifestyle.

I love it!

Let me know if you use the site to pinpoint a volunteer opportunity near you!

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Who Needs “Wife Camp?”

I just read an article online about a new camp in Montreal for 10-14 year old girls. This camp isn’t teaching girls how to be better soccer players or musicians, or even give girls a chance to take important and safe risks so they can gain confidence and create a strong self-esteem foundation.

Rather, Makeover Camp at the Lambda School of Music and Fine Arts is all about teaching young girls social refinement and how to be “ladies.” As in, “improve their posture, voice, table manners, conversation skills, wardrobe choices, makeup application, hostessing skills and music appreciation.” According to the camp’s website, their mission is “instilling confidence, social etiquette and grace in an atmosphere of fun and friendship.”

From the article:

“We see a lot of young ladies who can benefit from a makeover program,” said Angela Chan, director of Lambda and co-creator of the camp. “They need to develop their presence.” Marc McCreavy, an industrial designer and interior decorator, will teach the girls how to host events and decorate a table. “It’s important to learn about appropriate topics of conversation and appropriate attire,” he said.

Seriously? No wonder critics are dubbing Makeover Camp “Wife Camp.” I mean, did we just flash back to 1950?

While the creators of the camp insist their purpose is to instill confidence in young girls by teaching them how to be “appropriate,” this is a serious disconnect for me. To even teach young girls that there are certain ways to “be” and “act” seems like it would make girls feel less confident in simply being their imperfect, creative, wonderful selves.

If we really want to set girls up for success, why not focus on teaching them how to follow their passions, speak their minds, and know they are perfect just as they are? Now that’s one camp I would have liked to attend when I was younger…

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Girls Inc. Celebrates Girls’ Rights Week!

Girls' Rights WeekGirls Inc, the national nonprofit organization that helps girls be strong, smart, and bold, is celebrating Girls’ Rights Week, and that means they want you to think about this question: If all girls had their rights, how would the world be different? So, maybe you’re wondering what girls’ rights I’m referring to? Here’s the Girls Inc. Bill of Rights in support of gender equality:

  • Girls have the right to be themselves and to resist gender stereotypes
  • Girls have the right to express themselves with originality and enthusiasm
  • Girls have the right to take risks, to strive freely, and to take pride in success
  • Girls have the right to accept and appreciate their bodies
  • Girls have the right to have confidence in themselves and be safe in the world
  • Girls have the right to prepare for interesting work and economic independence

Here’s my answer to the question. If all girls had these rights, there would be less poverty, less war, less torture, more compassion, more passion, more understanding. Genocide would end, centuries-old conflicts would cease, and global warming would be stopped. Oh yeah, and girls would get to grow up feeling good about themselves, and know they have the power within them to create they life they want.

What do you think the world would look like if all girls had these rights?

Visit the Girls Inc. website to watch video clips of how other girls answered the question. And to read an interview with the fearless woman at the helm of Girls Inc, Executive Director Joyce Roche, check out my book In Their Shoes: Extraordinary Women Describe Their Amazing Careers!

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Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work DayIt’s one of my most favorite days of the year…Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, created by the Ms. Foundation for Women. Started more than 16 years ago, the day was originally focused on girls and exposing them to the many possibilities they had for their career futures.

In 2003, the day was expanded to include boys, with an aim of showing young people the value of their education, helping them discover the power and possibilities associated with a balanced work and family life, and providing them an opportunity to share how they envision the future and begin steps toward their end goals in a hands-on and interactive environment is key to their achieving success.

Whether you are teen, parent, mentor, or educator, visit the official website’s activity center. Here you’ll find a lot of great resources on careers, as well as a cool activity book you can download.

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In Their ShoesIf participating in this special day has sparked in you an interest in pursuing a particular career path or just exploring what else is available to you, check out my book , in which I profile 50 women doing very cool careers. You can read a sample chapter, as well as download some of my original audio interviews at my website here!

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Happy Earth Day!

Earth Day 2009Earth Day was first celebrated in 1970 when 20 million Americans demonstrated for a healthy, sustainable environment. On that day, groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.

Today, millions upon millions will celebrate Earth Day around the world to draw attention to global climate problems. This year’s event also marks the beginning of The Green Generation Campaign which hopes to enlist people everywhere to work towards the following:

  • A carbon-free future based on renewable energy that will end our common dependency on fossil fuels, including coal.
  • An individual’s commitment to responsible, sustainable consumption.
  • Creation of a new green economy that lifts people out of poverty by creating millions of quality green jobs and transforms the global education system into a green one.

As I look back at the personal goals I set for reducing my own carbon footprint on Earth Day 2008, I’m happy to report my family and I have done pretty well sticking to them, and then some. I’m all about reusable canvas bags, I walk, bike, or use public transportation whenever possible, shop almost exclusively at thrift and consignment shops, and am super water conscious when it comes to teeth brushing, dishes, and showers. My home city of Seattle has also improved their recycling and compost guidelines, so we’re now able to recycle most every form for plastic, paper, and food waste.

But there’s still more I can do. So today, I’m recommitting to being more conscientious about the electricity use in my house by investing in environmentally friendly power strips (to make sure my computers and other gizmos aren’t sucking energy while they’re off), plant my own vegetable garden, and volunteer once a month with my family for an organization involved in environmental clean up.

What are you going to do this year to reduce your personal carbon footprint?

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Day of Silence

Today, students across the country are participating in the “Day of Silence,” a project of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). The “Day of Silence” is a student-led day of action where concerned students, from middle school to college, take some form of a vow of silence to bring attention to the name-calling, bullying and harassment – or the silencing – experienced by GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender) students and their friends.

Here are some statistics provided to me by the GLBT youth online social networking site that point out the bleak reality for GLBT students:

  • Over 80% of GLBT teens report severe feelings of isolation, having no one to talk to, and being distanced from friends and family because of their sexual orientation.
  • 37% of GLBT youth, grades 9-12, have attempted suicide (they are 2 to 3 times likely than straight youth) often because they feel they have no where to turn to share their story and believe they are alone in their struggle.
  • Four out of five GLBT teens claim they don’t have a single adult they feel comfortable opening up to about their sexuality.

So what is the Day of Silence all about? Here are 4 truths from the Day of Silence website about why the day exists and what participating in in means:

  1. The Day of Silence’s purpose is to bring attention to anti-GLBT name-calling, bullying and harassment: The goal is to make schools safer for all students, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression (nearly 9 out of 10 LGBT students experience harassment at school).
  2. Hundreds of thousands of students of all beliefs, backgrounds and sexual orientations participate in the Day of Silence: Anti-GLBT bullying and harassment affects all students.
  3. Day of Silence participants encourage schools to implement proven solutions to address anti-GLBT name-calling, bullying and harassment.
  4. The day is a positive educational experience: The Day of Silence is an opportunity for students to work toward improving school climate for all students.

Since I’m not a student anymore, I can’t participate in the classroom, but I can show my support through Smart Girls Know, which is why I’m posting this blog. But what can you do to show your support for the Day of Silence? Here are some suggestions from the Day of Silence blog:

  • Be silent
  • Talk
  • Wear red
  • Wear rainbow
  • Wear any color
  • Tweet the Silence
  • Silence your tweets
  • Blog the silence
  • Silence your blog
  • Whatever you do, be respectful, especially of others who are observing the Day of Silence, but bring attention to the issues of anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harrasment in schools.

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