Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Intergenerational Feature Story

Have you ever wondered what it would be like as a girl living in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s or 70’s ? Well you might be able to find out easier than you think! New Moon is looking for girls to interview their mothers and grandmothers to find out what they did differently growing up! Below you will find some ideas and guidelines for writing the story.

For the January/February 2008 issue of New Moon “Through the Looking Glass (Coming of Age)” issue, we would like to do a feature story called a “Glimpse in the Past”. This feature will be about the things that were different when your grandmother and your mother were growing up. It could cover anything from dating to driving, to crazy fun stories, or more serious topics like what happened when they got their first period. The Girls Editorial Board will pick what stories they would like to see in the issue. This feature should also be in interview form, so you ask a question and they answer it!

You can use these questions as a starting base or to help you organize your interviews:

o Your name, age, where you live/ Your mothers name, age, where she lived at your age/ Your grandmothers name, age, where she lived when she was your age.
o What were the major differences in your mother/grandmother’s lives when they were your age (for example: we have the internet, cell phones, etc.)
o Do they have any crazy/fun stories that they may have done at your age?
o What advice can your mother/grandmother give to girls your age?
o What do you depend on in your life, and how does that differ from what they depended on? (example: you might depend more on email, they might have depended more on letters etc.)
o What would you like to be when you grow up, what does your mother do, and what did your grandmother do for a career?
* Please feel free to make new questions, have fun and make it interesting!!!!
* You should keep the interview around 300 words or so (but don’t worry if it is more!)
* We should receive your interview by August 6th!
* If you have any questions please email me at: editintern@newmoon.org

Hopefully hear from you soon!
Marisa McKie
Editorial Intern
New Moon Publishing
218-728-5507, ext: 22

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gendercide: "Honor" Killings in Jordan

Dua Khalil; stoned to death for being seen with a man from a different religion. Muqadas Bibi and her younger sisters; throats slit by their stepfather after Muqadas leaves her abusive husband. Dalia; stabbed by her father 12 times because she fell in love with a man of a different religion. All of these women were killed in the name of "honor". "Honor" killing means that a woman is killed when she "taints" family honor. When this happens tribal custom dictates that the only way to cleanse the family is to kill her. "90% of the cases that occur are based on just rumour and suspicion. So 90% of the women that are killed are still virgins at the time of death," says Norma Khouri (see * below) who wrote a book to commemorate her friend who was a victim of honor killings.

In Jordan, about 20 to 25 honor killings occur each year; accounting for 1/3 of all violent killings in the country! This number, however, doesn't include all the women who go into hiding or flee their country to escape, fearing for their lives. Currently Jordan's laws protects the killings; "A husband or a close blood relative who kills a woman caught in a situation highly suspicious of adultery will be totally exempt from sentence. (Article 340 of the criminal code)". Even if the relative is charged, they face only 3 months to 2 years in prison. "If you rob a house you get a higher sentence than for killing a woman!" said Mion Nagi a woman journalist from Jordan (picture on the right).

There is a Jordanian Women's Union that was established back in 1945 to assist women and educate them. The 10 branches of the Union focus on teaching women to read and write and also to help them understand their legal rights. Nadia Shamroukh (who runs the Union) said, "You can't separate social, political, and economic issues for women, because we believe women's rights are part of human rights." In recent years the Union's primary focus has been to raise awareness on honor killings. But no one has been more efficient at than the journalist Rana Husseini. Rana was just starting off as a journalist at the Jordan Times when she read about a 16-year-old girl who was shot by her brother. Back in the 90's it was taboo to write about honor killings. Facing public ignorance and the media's silence, Husseini decided to keep writing about the crimes. "I wanted to be their voice," she said. For her work Husseini received the Reebok Human Rights Award. Now most newspapers are reporting on honor killings, domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual abuse. Even the government is now acknowledging that the murders are happening. And while the "official" number of murders is different than those reported by Rana, she says it is a step forward. "At least the government acknowledges the problem," Rana said, "This is an important success, because then you can push them to find solutions."

While I chose to write exclusively on Jordan, it is not the only country that has reported "honor" killings; Brazil, Ecuador, Italy, Sweden, and Britain have also have these killings. The United Nations estimates that, throughout the world, 5 thousand woman are killed annually due to honor killings.

To read more about other countries and their problems with "honor" killings or to find out more about gendercide click here.
*I must make a correction. The book written by Norma Khouri, as I mentioned above, is fraudulent. I would normally just overwrite it, but I'm afraid a lot of people have already read this article. Thanks to the reader to clued me into this fact. You can read an article about the fraud here.

Peace, friends.

Friday, July 27, 2007

We are girls; not adults.

Teen models. For years the battle to keep them off the catwalk hasn't been successful. But now, London's Fashion Week said that it will not let girls under 16 onto the catwalk. However, they didn't say that 'underweight' models would be banned. Back on July 11 a panel of experts for the Model Health Inquiry set out to investigate health problems in 17 and 18 year old models. "There was also strongly expressed concern that it is profoundly inappropriate that girls under 16 under the age of consent should be portrayed as adult women. The risk of sexualising these children was high and designers could risk charges of sexual exploitation," said Baroness Kingsmill a member of the Model Health Inquiry. The Inquiry board is now calling for more research to be conducted on eating disorder in the young models. They also want a Union to be formed to protect underage models. The British Fashion Council said that it will accept the Inquiry's recommendations in September (the month London Fashion Week is held ) when they are published. While this is definitely good news, will it be enough? Girls have been exploited for so long; trying to fit into an adult profession. A few studies might not have the power to totally prevent young girls from getting on the catwalk, but maybe this little event will snowball into more secure laws protecting these girls.

You can read the full article here.

Click here if you want to learn more about eating disorder misconceptions.

Here are some tidbits I found about models:

Peace, friends.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Clinton Cleavage? Who cares?

Recently, I got an email that one of the New Moon staff had sent out and it had this article attached to it. The article (called Hillary Clinton's Tentative Dip Into New Neckline Territory) was published in the Washington Post; a newspaper I thought was above the cutting remarks it bestowed on Clinton. At this point, it doesn't matter who the article was referring to. I'm not complaining because it's Hilary Clinton; what I am saying is that the things this journalist assumed about women are totally wrong. "Showing cleavage is a request to be engaged in a particular way. It doesn't necessarily mean that a woman is asking to be objectified, but it does suggest a certain confidence and physical ease," says Robin Givhan, author of the article. Right. Are you suggesting that all women that wear tanktops have "confidence and physical ease"? It just made me mad that this should even be worth writing; let alone published. Why are we wasting space that could be used for valuable news? "I can’t believe they’re serious about this – it almost feels like the article is a “trap” – just to register how much outrage there is out here. And there is plenty around," Paulette Warren (New Moon's Chief Marketing Officer) wrote.
Apparently, Ms. magazine is calling for action. "...it was reassuring to see how many people are scoffing at this article. Still, that doesn't stop the fact that it made it to publication and that alone means a lot of people along the line have given it tacit approval. It's pretty disgusting," writes Lacey Louwagie (New Moon's Acting Manager Editor) in response. You can take action against the article by 1) sending this email to the editor from Ms. magazine 2) (if you don't like form letters) make your own email and send it to letters@washpost.com or 3) write a letter to the editor at: Letters to the Editor The Washington Post 1150 15 St. NW Washington, DC 20071.
Okay, rant over.
Peace, friends.

Calling All Inventors!

Who likes playing with toys? (Come on, admit it!) Wouldn't it be cool if you invented your own toy? This fall TOYchallenge will be holding it's national (District of Columbia and Canada included) competition where kids from 5th to 8th grade use engineering, design and science to create a new toy or game. You do have to work in a team of 3 to 6 members (50% have to be girls. Very good rule...) and there has to be a team leader over the age of 18. Other than that, your imagination is the limit to what you can create. All the information, like rules and timelines, can be found on their website.

The cool part about this competition? The program is founded by Sally Ride Science. Sally Ride was the first American women in space when she went up with the Challenger STS-7 back in 1983. She is now an advocate for improving science education and getting girls engaged in science. Her website has some awesome resources for any girl interested in space, invention and science. It also has links for science camps and other programs besides the TOYchallenge. Check it out!

Peace, friends.

A Childhood Lost

I would have probably never read Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi unless my English teacher hadn’t assigned it. (It’s not too often that I wander into the graphic novel section in the library.) Most of the time we fear reading books given to us by teachers. ‘Will I understand it? Will it be drop-dead boring? Will it have gum from the previous user stuck on page 103?’ (Okay, maybe we don’t ALL fear that...) The point is, I hardly expected this book to change my life. But it did. As, I am sure, it will change yours.

It’s a world that is hard for any of us to imagine; growing up in your country as it goes through a revolution. Young Marjane (or, as in the book, Marji) is living in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. Some of us might have learned about the Revolution in school, but most of the time all we hear are the cold-cut, dry facts. That’s perhaps why it was so interesting to peek into a young girl’s life and see what she saw, feel as she felt and learn from her experiences. The Middle East is a complex area of the world where everything seems backwards and it’s hard for anyone who doesn’t live there to comprehend what is considered normal. (Sometimes the story got confusing simply because it was hard keeping up with all the political changes Iran went through. If you get stuck, I suggest rereading that part or asking your parents about the Islamic Revolution.)

The story starts with Marjane when she was 10 years old back in 1980. At first, her 10-year-old-self doesn’t seem to fully grasp what is happening to her country, but, then again, nobody seemed to. Marjane and her friends made jokes about political leaders and invented games to play with their veils. But soon girls and boys were separated into different schools. (“We found ourselves veiled and separated from our friends.” – Marjane) Slowly-but-surely small changes where becoming big changes and the restraints put on the citizens were getting harder to ignore.
Through the book we see her grow from a youthful girl who wanted to be a prophet to a pre-teen that questions if God even exists. She hears of deaths in the media and watches as many of her friends leave the country. To say the least, Marjane is lost; just trying to find a way to keep her head above the water as everything she’s ever known is thrown it doubt.

One time, Marjane sees her parents going out to protest and decides to go with Mehri (a girl that works for her family) to a rally. “We had demonstrated on the very day we shouldn’t have: on “Black Friday.” That day there were so many killed in one of the neighborhoods that a rumor spread that Israeli soldiers were responsible for the slaughter.” – Marjane.

As we read Marjane’s story it is easy to see that she is an activist. She learns to speak her mind (though probably not always to her advantage) and stand up for what she believes is right. And while her views are still forming and moving away from outside influence, she still has a powerful sense of justice. And Marjane goes out and learns on her own; determined to understand the confusing turns her country was taking almost every day. (“Cadaver, cancer, death, murderer...laughter?....I realized then that I didn’t understand anything. I read all the books I could.” – Marjane.) Many of her classmates didn’t have the same reaction as Marjane and simply watched as events way above them took place.

Still, despite her advanced comprehension of what was happening she still took ideas from the media; which was being censored to air only certain views. She, with some of her classmates, heard that a boy named Ramin had a father who “killed a million people”. So it was “my idea to put nails between our fingers like American brass knuckles and to attack Ramin,” Marjane said. Even though Marjane learns how to peacefully demonstrate, she still has moments when her first instinct is to fight. “My blood was boiling. I was ready to defend my country against these Arabs who kept attacking us. I wanted to fight,” Marjane said about the second Arab invasion.

Marjane’s story is riveting and eye-opening. It gives us a glimpse into a life we can’t even imagine unless we’ve lived it. A lot of reviews I’ve read call it short and “...conveys neither the emotional depth of Maus nor the virtuosity of Joe Sacco's journalistic comics." - Joy Press, The Village Voice. Personally, I think that to judge this book against any other is just ridiculous. Maus is powerful in it’s unique way just as Persepolis is when it stands by itself. The depth of Marjane’s emotional journey is truly extraordinary. This book isn’t a light read, and at times it made me cry, but it is “one of the freshest and most original memoirs of our day. (Satrapi’s) is a voice calling out to the rest of us, reminding us to embrace this child’s fervent desire that human dignity reign supreme.” – Los Angeles Times.

In a lot of ways I admire Marjane Satrapi. She grew up during an extremely difficult time in her country and yet was able to take that experience and teach the world. The Revolution very well could have crushed her spirit, but instead it made her stronger and more outspoken. Many of her opinions during the book are naive and childish, but that’s the point; she was a child. She tried to grow up faster because, perhaps, she was hoping that things would make sense as an adult.

I must put a disclaimer on this book. I wouldn’t recommend it for girls under 12 because it does deal with some hard topics like war, torture and questioning faith. For others of you, if you do not like reading about the effects that revolutions have on children, I would stay away. But in my opinion, anyone old enough and who can read, should read this book. If you liked this book I suggest reading Maus by Art Spiegelman (another graphic novel), A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah and Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return by Marjane Satrapi (I recommend this book for 14 and older; it does deal with more adult issues than the first.)

(Many of you might be wondering about the whole ‘graphic novel’ reference I made in the first paragraph. Yes, Persepolis is a graphic novel, but that is part of it’s power. Marjane was able to take just black and white and create an incredible story. I know some of you won’t like the format no matter what, but I still encourage you to give it a try.)

“...this old and great civilization has been discussed mostly in connection with fundamentalism, fanaticism, and terrorism. As an Iranian who has lived more than half of my life in Iran, I know that this image is far from the truth. This is why writing Persepolis was so important to me. I believe that an entire nation should not be judged by the wrongdoings of a few extremists. I also don’t want those Iranians who lost their lives in prisons defending freedom, who died in the war against Iraq, who suffered under various repressive regimes, or who were forced to leave their families and flee their homeland to be forgotten. One can forgive but one should never forget.” – Marjane Satrapi

War and revolution; it hurts everyone. It hurts the people who fight in it. It hurts the friends, lovers, and spouses left behind. And it hurts the children; the truly innocent. They are thrust into a world where nothing seems to make sense and the place they call home is no longer safe. That is one casualty of war that is never listed on TV, like the many soldiers who have lost their lives; a childhood lost.
Peace, friends.

Monday, July 23, 2007

This is one small step for a woman, one giant leap for womankind.

India beat us to it. On Saturday, Indian legislators elected it's first-ever female president; Pratibha Patil. As America waits to see if Hilary Clinton will become the first female president of the U.S., India will have Patil sworn in on Wednesday. In India the role of 'president' is pretty much a ceremonial post. But that didn't make a difference to the women who showed up outside her home to set off fireworks and beat drums when the news got out. While only 68% (Outlook magazine) of women approve of her presidency, none are complaining at the impact it will make for them. There has been a few Indian women of power (Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister in 1966), but overall, fewer than 10% of politicians in the lower house of Parliament (Lok Sabha) are women.

In India, girls are seen as burdens because families will eventually have to pay a very large dowry to the groom's family. As a result the girls are not well educated and they don't get proper medical care when they're sick. An international group estimated that as many as 10 million female fetuses have been aborted in the country over the last two decades!

So far, many countries have had women in powerful political roles. (To see a list click here.) Whether the title is president or prime minister, the United States is certainly behind. For now, until, perhaps, in 2008, we can only watch as India joins the growing number of countries with female presidents.

For an article about Pratibha Patil click here.

Pratibha Patil:

  • Born December 19, 1934
  • Deputy minister for education in 1967
  • A full cabinet minister for the state in 1972-1978
  • Elected to the Rajya Sabha as a Congress candidate in 1985
  • Most recently a governor the northern state of Rajasthan

Check out Natalia's post on Pratibha Patil.

Peace, friends.

Friday, July 20, 2007

"Let Them be Hermiones"

Oh Potter fans! Yes, tonight is the night that the long awaited seventh book will be released. We know (because it's been written practically everywhere) that J.K. Rowling is worth more than the Queen of England. Many of us admire her for coming so far from her days as a struggling single-mom. I've always liked her clever writing and unique characters. What I never quite realized was that she had such strong opinions about girls. If you visit her website, click on 'extra stuff' and read 'for girls only, probably...' under miscellaneous, you will be in for a treat. While the information is probably nothing new of most of us, it still made me glad to see that someone with so much influence feels this way. I love that she feels this strongly about body image. She talks about how a ridiculously skinny girl "needs help" but instead we stick her on a magazine cover. J.K. Rowling asks "I mean, is 'fat' really the worst thing a human being can be?"
Alright, I know this is supposed to be a story about J.K. Rowling, but I just want to say to all you girls reading this, 'you are not alone'. I am not skinny and I never will be. (In the media's definition). I know a lot of girls out there struggle with bullying and harassment just because you are different. Be strong sisters. Things like that don't matter in the end. Never forget that history remembers the people that made a difference and not the people who had the skinniest waist line. And J.K. Rowling is on your side. She says, "I'm not in the business of being judged on my looks, what with being a writer and earning my living by using my brain..." And just look at what J.K. Rowling has accomplished using her brain. Yeah, there are hard days. I suppose even models have those. But in the end, girls, be proud of who you are and show them what you can do. "Let my girls be Hermiones," says J.K. Rowling, referring to her daughters, "rather than Pansy Parkinsons. Let them never be Stupid Girls. Rant over."
If you want to share your frustrations about body image or your own personal experiences please send them in. The best thing for girls, is to know they are not alone.
See you all on Monday and have fun reading "Deathly Hallows" this weekend!
Peace, friends.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Hey all you girls who like to make a difference! I found some really great websites that can help you take action and learn about global issues. First, there's a website from the Peace Corps geared towards kids. There are some great features that explain what the Peace Corp is, what making a difference means, food and fun in other countries and stories of kids who took action. I enjoyed clicking on various countries and learning how to greet people in different languages. The site provided a unique insight to how volunteers prepare for their trips and the places they go. The only down side to this site is that there aren't a lot of suggestions on how you can take action. Also, only countries where the Peace Corp is involved are highlighted. For a more in depth look, I suggest going to the regular Peace Corp site.
If your interested in human rights go to the Amnesty International website. This is a great organization that does a lot for people around the world. If you don't already have an Amnesty International program at your school, I highly recommend that you start one. You can find help on the website and find resources already in your community. There is something that everyone can do.
Once you join/start that Amnesty International program *wink, wink* you can partner up with Save Darfur to fundraise for their fall campaign; Dollars for Darfur. (It was started by two high school student who wanted to make a difference; Nick Anderson & Ana Slavin. They've earned over $200,000 dollars for Darfur!) I know a lot of you care deeply about the genocide in Darfur and this is a great way to get your high school or group involved. (Don't be fooled when the website says the contest stopped on April 30th. That was their first fundraiser campaign and, because it went so well, they plan to do another one in the fall. Just sign up and you'll get emails informing you of all the dates.)
Another great site to look at is the United Nations. There isn't a lot of "take action" links, but the website has so much useful information. Like the Amnesty International site, you can look at numerous global issues and topics. This is a site packed with information, but don't get overwhelmed. I suggest following the links at the top of the page in yellow. (Peace and Security, Economic and Social Development, Human Rights, Humanitarian Affairs, and International Law.)
Lastly, check out Day of Silence's website. This is a one day event that your school can participate in that occurs in early April. There are a lot of ideas on the website that can make the event a great success (like making T-shirts or having a "Breaking the Silence" party afterwards). Talk to your administrators about starting the Day of Silence at your school.

Do you know any websites that help you take positive action? Send them in so other girls can make a difference too!
Peace, friends.

Still Second Class

Have you ever dreamed of being an actress? Ever wish you could see your movie go right to number one? Well you would definitely be changing history if you did. According to Newsweek no movie about a woman has been number one in the box office for 40 years. Okay, what's up with that? The report says it has a lot to do with technology and how 63% of box office revenue now comes from other countries where explosions sell better than talking. "There used to be a variety of roles for women. Not just leading roles but character roles. They're not there anymore because movies aren't dialogue-driven, and that's what female relationships are based on."- Frances McDormand.
Yes, actresses earn big paychecks, but often times it's for a supporting role in a male-driven blockbuster. It seems that Hollywood's solution is to "have female protagonists as male." The accepted genres for women (like romantic comedies) never do well anymore. It's not a surprise; we have seen the same story a hundred times. So why doesn't anyone write new and exciting roles for women? Well, like almost every business, it's job is to make money. And "when Hollywood looks into the eyes of a women, what it sees is a loss leader." Women have achieved so much, but it seems, in Hollywood, we still have a long way to go.
I encourage all of you to read the full article by David Ansen and Sean Smith.
Peace, friends.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Female Judges

In Maldive (a small island in the Indian Ocean) the president has appointed Aisha Shujoon Mohamed and Huzaifa Mohamed as the country's first women judges. They will be serving on the Civil Court and the Family Court. It all started with the suggestion of UN Special Rapporteur Leandro Despouy (basically he's the expert on human right's for the United Nations)that to the President of Maldive should appoint women judges to begin a movement for gender equality.

In the past Maldive has been criticized by human rights and women's rights groups activists for their abusive treatment of prisoners and unwarranted arrests. Last year in March the government adopted "Roadmap for the Reform Agenda" hoping to more aggressively protect human rights.

It is expected that in the next week a third female judge will begin her duties.

Peace, friends.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Debbie Reber on Dream Jobs

When I was little, I wanted to be an author, an astronaut, a marine biologist, a Peace Corps volunteer, a business owner, a travel guide, a professional rock climber, a photo journalist, a potter, a teacher, a professor...

You get the picture. Who of us, after all, hasn’t wanted to be something different every day?

Maybe you know what you want to be when you grow up, or maybe you have no idea. Either way, author Debbie Reber (that's her on the left) and creator of the blog http://www.smartgirlsknow.com/ is here to save the day! She recently wrote a book called In Their shoes: Extraodinary Women Describe their Amazing Careers to give girls the real deal on their dream jobs. If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a firefighter, an Olympic athlete, or a Hollywood screenwriter (or any of a few dozen other careers), this is the book for you!

Debbie wrote In Their Shoes, she says, to show girls the possibilities of what they can do in life. She says, “My hope is that girls will see that there is no single way to be successful. Being fulfilled in what you do is ultimately the key to happiness, and it has nothing to do with anyone else’s expectations of us. It's all about figuring out who we are, what we are passionate about, and then following our hearts.”

For In Their Shoes, Debbie interviewed fifty different women on their life and work. She profiles women like forensic scientist Joanne Sgueglia, CARE Mozambique aid worker Michelle Carter, yoga instructor Miriam Kramer, and video game programmer Kelly McCarthy. In addition to sharing an interview with each woman she profiles, she explains the facts about the career (what the job is, where you work, how you get into the job, how much money you make, how you dress, and how stressful the job is). She shares a schedule for the woman’s typical day, gives a timeline of how the woman got to where she is today, and gives background information on five related careers. In Their Shoes is an amazing resource, and a great inspiration!

New Moon spoke with Debbie about In Their Shoes, dream jobs, and the real world.

New Moon: Congratulations on such an incredible, savvy book! What feedback have you received from girls since it hit shelves in April?

Debbie Reber: The feedback has been great. Many girls (and women of all ages, too!) tell me that they flip open the book to a random career profile and get sucked in to reading about something they never even thought they'd be interested in. And just about everyone who reads the book says they find it incredibly inspirational, which makes me happy since that was my goal all along!

What inspired you to interview dozens of women on their life and work?

I saw a movie in high school that set my career dreams in motion, so I spent years pursuing a career [in broadcast news]. But didn't have a true sense of the work itself, the lifestyle, how to pay my dues, and how long it would take for me to "make it" in that field. When I finally got started working in broadcast news, it wasn't at all what I expected. So I wrote this book because I wanted to give girls REAL information about what different careers and lifestyles are like. That way, they can make smart choices about what careers feel most like them in every way.

You wrote In Their Shoes to give the real deal on work life and careers to... Younger teens that have no idea what they want to do with their lives (but love the fantasies)? Or older teens and young women who are already making decisions about their future paths?

Both. I'm a big believer in information. Sometimes it's just a matter of being aware that a certain career or industry exists. For younger teens, this book is all about opening their eyes to possibilities they may not have known existed. For the older teens who have an idea of what they want to do, this book provides them with 50 mentors...real-life women who are succeeding [at their work]. Even if [the women] aren’t doing the exact career someone is interested in, there is still a lot that can be learned from each woman's journey and the advice she gives.

You interviewed some pretty high-flying women. I was excited to find interviews with women I had already heard of (Grey's Anatomy producer Shonda Rhimes, US Senator Barbara Boxer, 'actionist' Jessica Weiner, co-host Melissa Block of NPR's All Things Considered, CEO Missy Park of women's clothing company Title 9 Sports, among others), as well as so many other amazing women. How did you score interviews with such incredibly talented and busy women?

It wasn't always easy. I had my dream list of women, many of whom ended up in the book, but it was just little old me picking up the phone or sending an email explaining the project and asking if they'd like to be a part of it. Usually, once women found out what the book was about and that the goal was to inspire and inform the career women of tomorrow, they were happy to share their insights. But once women agreed to participate, it was still sometimes challenging getting on their busy schedules. Luckily, I started writing the book early enough that I was able to plan some of the interviews a few months in advance.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in interviewing this broad range of women?

Every woman made her job sound so interesting, mostly because they were all so passionate about what they did. I also found it incredible that most of the women, even the busiest, most high-profile women, have families with young children. While they all admitted there were plenty of challenges trying to balance their work and family life, they also all had found unique ways to make it work, which I thought was really cool.

Both you and your interviewees dispense plenty of advice to readers on everything from the importance of personal journaling to effective networking. What is the main piece of wisdom you hope girls will gain from reading In Their Shoes?

Two things. Number one: You can do anything you set your mind to if you are passionate about it and are willing to take it one step at a time. Number two: You shouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself to figure it all out now. If you are open to learning and growing from every experience you have, then you can't make a wrong turn. You'll eventually end up exactly where you should be. Many of the women in the book didn't follow straight, linear career paths (myself included)...but life is about the journey, not the destination!

With this book under your belt, you must be a goldmine for career-related information. Knowing what you now know, if you could choose any career (regardless of 'practical' details like pay, education, and knowledge), what would you pick?

As a fulltime writer, I'm already doing my dream job! BUT...I think the career that held the most intrigue and interest for me was TV Show Creator, based on my interview with [creator and executive producer] Shonda Rhimes of Grey's Anatomy.

What do you wish you had known as a teen about the work world?

How little money you make in the beginning of your career.

You include information on over 200 jobs. Are there any careers that you didn't get to include that you wish you had?

Hmmm... maybe an astronaut?

The large majority of the women you profile have college degrees-even the yoga instructor! Is a four-year college education the only route for girls to take if they want to be economically self-sufficient and successful?

Definitely not. There are tons of great careers out there that don't require a college degree, including some of the ones I profiled in my book (entrepreneur, firefighter, screenwriter, fitness instructor, real estate agent, chef, etc). But I do believe that having a college degree will open up many more doors for you and provide you with more opportunities down the road, especially if you choose to do a career shift later on in your life.

You have a short section on women in the workforce, where you touch on issues like the pay gap. I noticed, however, the pay gap-along with other issues, like gender-based discrimination and sexual harassment, and a lack of women in many leadership positions-came up very little in interviews, if at all. Even though only 10 Fortune 500 companies are run by women, and only 16 of 100 U.S. Senators are women, this issue wasn't addressed in your interview with either an ad exec or Senator Barbara Boxer. Was this a conscious decision on your part?

That's a good question. I tried to let the women I interview guide the flow and have it truly reflect her experience. So there are cases where the women made reference to the gender disparities in their careers (such as the firefighter) and that then became part of the profile, but I didn't push the issue if it didn't naturally come forth during the interview process. A lot could have been said about the inequities in the workforce throughout the book, but then I guess that would have made In Their Shoes a different book altogether.

You profiled a librarian, a magazine editor, a radio journalist, and a screenwriter, but not an author like yourself. Can you share the real deal on freelancing and book-writing? What's a typical day like? What do you most (or least) enjoy about your work?

Freelancing and book writing is a dream job in that I get to work from home with my dog lying under my desk and my refrigerator stocked with Diet Coke. I can run and nap when I want to and I never have to worry about asking my boss for vacation time. I can pick and choose the projects I work on, which is great, and I also love that I never know what new and exciting jobs might pop up from one day to the next. Oh yeah, and I don't have to "dress" for work, which is generally a good thing, although sometimes I have to remind myself that showering is probably best for everyone involved, so I try to at least look "presentable" every day. On the flip side, I don't have anyone to chat with about last night's "So You Think You Can Dance" at the water cooler, and it can get fairly lonely. Financially, it can get stressful, since I have no steady paycheck, and sometimes the companies I'm freelancing for don't pay me on time.

Here’s my typical day:
7:00am - wake up to the sound of my two-year-old son singing or yelling from his room 7:15am - 8:30am - answer emails and surf the web
8:30am - 9:30am - eat breakfast, pack my son's lunch, and drop him off at preschool
9:30 am - 12:30pm - work... usually writing, phone meetings, researching, and emailing
12:30pm - 1:00pm - lunch with my husband and dog (my husband works from home too!) 1:00pm - 2:00pm - pick up son from preschool and put him down for a nap
2:00pm - 4:30pm - more work: writing and research
4:30pm - 5:30pm - exercise...run, swim, or bike (I'm training for a triathlon!)
5:30pm - 6:30pm - hang out with my son, play, go to park, etc.
6:30pm - 7:30pm - dinner with family
7:30pm - 8:00pm - put son to bed
8:00pm - 10:00pm - work some more
10:00pm - 11:00pm - watch some TIVO'd programming on TV
11:00pm - 12:00am - read in bed (usually work-related material)
12:00am - lights out!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lookin' for Links...

Hi, girls! Thanks to those of you who have already taken the New Moon News blog survey (see below)--it's been great to read your feedback!

You might notice that the blog looks a little different today. That's because we've decided to start linking our blogs to other blogs, because we want to:
a) make our blog more interesting
b) provide more resources to girls
c) expand our audience

Check out the links and tell us what you think! We're still on the lookout for more girl-friendly blogs (especially blogs written by girls). Do you have a blog that you like to read? Do you write a blog yourself?

Email blog@newmoon.org, or leave a comment, and we'll add a link to your blog!

We Want to Hear From YOU!

Hello to all of our dedicated readers! We just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for reading our blog--you rock!

After two years (yes, two years!) of "publishing" the New Moon News blog, we would like to hear from you about the blog. We want to learn why you like it and what you'd like to see done differently. We've created a survey, and we would love for you to take it! It only takes about 5 minutes. Click here to take the survey.

Of course, you can *always* email blog@newmoon.org to share feedback on our posts (or just the blog in general) and ideas for future blog posts.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Once Upon A...

"Once Upon a Quinceañera" sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? But that's how you might describe a Quinceañera. The Quinceañera, or Quince Años, is a coming-of-age celebration gaining popularity among Latina girls celebrating their 15th birthday in the U.S. The tiara, the prom dress, the court of honor, the symbolic doll...perhaps all that's missing from the fairy tale is the magic wand.

Here’s how Julia Alvarez describes the fairy tale in her forthcoming book Once Upon a Quinceañera:

You are dressed in a long, pale pink gown, not sleek and diva-ish, but princessy, with a puffy skirt of tulle and lace that makes you look like you’re floating on air when you appear at the top of the stairs. Your court of fourteen couples has preceded you, and now they line up on the dance flour, forming a walkway through which you will pass to sit on a swing with garlanded ropes, cradling your last doll in your arms…

What's wrong with this picture? Unfortunately, the Quinceañera fairy tale isn't made to last. As Julia Alvarez explains in this wonderful new book, coming of age in the U.S. is no fairy tale for most Latina girls. And there’s a dark side to the Quinceañera tradition: the sexist stereotypes it enforces, the thousands of dollars families spend on the lavish parties (before they file for bankruptcy), the “supersize” materialism (instead of more legitimate values or morals) it enforces.

When I heard that Julia Alvarez, the author of the lovely novel Before We Were Free (along with many other books), was writing a book on Quinceañeras, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. A year after having my own non-traditional Quinceañera, I’m still fascinated by the fairy-tale mentality traditional Quinceañeras represent. When an advance copy arrived at New Moon for us to review (the book won’t hit the shelves until next month), I started reading right away.

The book’s advance praise is telling: Mary Pipher, author of the landmark Reviving Ophelia, calls it “a thorough, thoughtful, and important book,” while pioneering journalist María Hinojosa states, “[This] is not just a book for Latinas. It is for all of us.” Author Vendela Vida agrees: “Once Upon a Quinceañera is a book for anyone who is a teenager…or, for that matter, anyone who was once a teenager themselves.”

My own verdict? It’s a definite must-read. Julia Alvarez does a fantastic job of portraying a bicultural custom steeped in both old world nostalgia and American values (hence the “supersizing” of the Quinceañera tradition). While she never actually makes up her mind herself about whether the Quinceañera does more harm than good, she paints a fascinating picture of a very unique custom. She explains, “this book has been an attempt to [educate ourselves] through the lens of one tradition, the Quinceañera: to review and understand this evolving ritual with all its contradictions, demystifying its ideology, dusting off the glitter that is sprayed over the ritual in order to be sold back to us by an aggressive consumer market as the genuine article, handing it down in as clear and conscionable a form as possible.”

Indeed, one of the most interesting aspects of the tradition is its contradictions. Juxtaposed with the Latina experience of coming of age in the U.S., the Quinceañera, a rite many girls have mistakenly termed their “right of passage,” is full of contradictions. While it might promise a “happily ever after” story, life for many Latina teens is anything but. Latina girls face higher rates of teen pregnancy, suicide attempts, and substance abuse than any other group, according to the National Coalition of Hispanic Health and Human Services Organizations. There is so much beyond the “pink fantasy” of the Quinceañera: poverty and class pressures, family struggles, gangs, sex, drugs.

Meanwhile, 2004 Census data revealed that 22% of Latinas lived below the poverty line, yet Quince Girl magazine found that the average Quinceañera event cost $5,000. And if you think that’s a lot of money, Alvarez mentions that some Quinceañeras become Broadway productions at $180,000 a pop.

Julia Alvarez explores the Quinceañera from so many angles and so many lenses, although she focuses on the culture and economics of the Quinceañera. She attends several Quinceañeras, but interestingly enough, chooses to feature a Queens Quinceañera that she describes as a “headache”—it seems that anything that could go wrong with the event, goes wrong.

In illustrating the national trend of the Quinceañera, she talks to people involved in many aspects of the Quinceañera event (the priest, the parents, the photographer, the caterer, the event planner). She even interviews people like Isabella Martínez Wall, creator of the website http://www.bellaquinceañera.com/, who believes every American girl (not just Latinas!) should have a Quinceañera because of the community-building and support network it gives girls. She also explores the tradition’s interesting (if ambiguous) roots: the Aztec and Maya indigenous roots that have only recently become hip; the real Eurocentric foundations of the tradition (if you were wondering where the “court” of honor comes from, that would be the royal courts of Europe).

Not yet a teen herself when her family fled to New York City from the Dominican Republic, Julia Alvarez knows very well what it means to be bicultural, to grow up torn between two languages, two cultures, two identities. That view permeates Once Upon a Quinceañera, and although the author’s frequent autobiographical vignettes do become a tad distracting, she does create a wonderful intimacy and a very real empathy for what Latina girls experience as their fifteenth birthday approaches: the clash between the desire to ‘fit in’ to American culture and the cultural ties that bind.

Despite Julia Alvarez’s detailed account of the Quinceañera custom, Once Upon a Quinceañera is really more about how we transmit wisdom and tradition from one generation to the next than the ritual itself. That’s why I recommend Once Upon a Quinceañera. Regardless of your age or culture, reading this book will give you an interesting opportunity to think about how we treat the passage from girl to woman, generation after generation.

P.S. New Moon’s January/February 2008 issue is themed “Through the Looking Glass: Coming of Age,” and we’re including a feature on different coming of age customs around the world. We would love to feature the Quinceañera tradition! Did you, or a girl you know, have a Quinceañera? Or are you a Latina girl who would like to write a short paragraph describing the tradition? Email blog@newmoon.org, and we’ll give you details about what to write!

'What Kills One Woman Every Minute of the Day?'

Don't mean to start off the day with too much of a downer of a post, but I'd been meaning to share this for a while...
Kudos to Newsweek for some hard-hitting journalism on women's health (something that the mainstream media doesn't touch too often, unless they're politicizing the abortion debate). Newsweek ran an article in their last issue with the title "What Kills One Woman Every Minute of the Day?" Your choices:

A. Heart Attack
C. Childbirth
The answer? Childbirth, aka "the leading killer of women" (Newsweek's words, not mine). To many of us living in industrialized countries, this might come as a surprise. While just 1 in 30,000 women die in childbirth in Sweden, 1 in 7 Afghan women die in childbirth. On average, a whopping 1 in 16 women die in the developing world while giving birth. Yet rates of maternal mortality (how many women per 100,000 die giving birth) are one of the best measures of the overall health of a society. What does that say, then, about global health issues?
The saddest part is that it's often so simple to prevent maternal death in childbirth--antibiotics and medications can make a huge difference.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Hillary Clinton: Girls Respond!

Over a week ago, we asked blog readers to weigh in on the current debate over Senator Hillary Clinton’s run for the presidency. We wanted to know what girls think about the huge spotlight the media is shining on her gender. We had also heard from many girls who weren’t sure what it means to have a woman running—As girls and women, do we automatically support Hillary, because she’s a woman? As Courtney E. Martin, the author who we interviewed last week, wrote in a great article for AlterNet, “Does Being a Feminist Mean Voting for Hillary?

According to the responses we got, yes and no. Most of you said something along the lines of these comments: “I am quite happy that there is a women running for president—but really, I'm not going to go all nutso for her just because she is female” and the more plainly stated “I think a persons’ gender shouldn't matter at all when it comes to politics.” Others celebrated just having a serious woman candidate for the first time in many years. “To tell you the truth,” one girl said, “I feel so great that a woman is running for president. It makes me so proud.”

Here’s what we asked readers:
If you support Hillary, is it because she’s a woman, or do you support her regardless of her gender? What role does gender play in your political decisions?

When New Moon surveyed girls on politics earlier this year, we found that 73% said you’d definitely vote for a woman for president. Would you vote for Hillary?

If you could vote for ANY woman for President (not necessarily a politician), who would you choose?

We never anticipated that we’d receive over twenty thoughtful, animated responses from girls across the U.S. (and even from other countries!) Many girls had really interesting comments to share on the role gender plays in politics, but most of them also told us whether they support Hillary (if you’re curious, many girls hadn’t yet decided, but of those that did, girls were split half-and-half between supporting and opposing Hillary).

You can read some of the comments we got on the blog, but we also wanted to share some of the longer responses we received by email.

Some of the most interesting responses we received related to gender. Like the anonymous comments we shared above, many girls said that gender isn’t a huge factor in their decisions.

Ada, 11, said, “I am a big supporter of women's rights, and I really want a female president. But I want a female president that is also great in politics, and I wouldn't vote for a politician that I didn't think was. You have to have a balance.” Karinn, also 11, stated, “Gender only plays a 5% role in my views; the rest is based on the politician’s issues, opinions and plans.”

Fourteen-year-old Candace, who supports Hillary, says that gender shouldn’t matter at all: “I believe a woman can run this country. Any person can if they are smart, know what to do, and are willing to learn.”

Oh, and about that ‘do we support her just because she’s a woman’ question? It’s a pretty hot topic right now, especially among feminist thinkers. Lisa Jervis, founder of Bitch magazine, has written about the idea she calls "femmenism,” which she describes as “the mistaken belief ... that female leadership is inherently different from male; that having more women in positions of power, authority, or visibility will automatically lead to, or can be equated with, feminist social change; that women are uniquely equipped as a force for action on a given issue; and that isolating feminist work as solely pertaining to women is necessary or even useful.”

In other words, being a woman doesn’t mean a politician will be supportive of women’s issues. Lisa mentions certain women like Condoleezza Rice, who stood by the Bush Administration during Abu Ghraib and countless other scandals, and Ann Coulter, who is fond of using homophobic insults to describe certain Democrats.

On the other hand, The White House Project, an organization devoted to bringing women into politics, all the way up to the Presidency, argues that a significant number of women in leadership positions—no matter which issues they support—will make the world a better place. The more women in power, the better the world will be, they believe.

Many girls responded to the ‘do we support Hillary just because she’s a woman’ question. Eleven-year-old Lillian told us no: “Just because she is a woman doesn't mean she automatically should have support.” Other girls called for gender equality in politics. Dagny, 13, wrote, “I am totally into having a woman president. I think that would be so cool! But I think the voters should treat Hillary as any possible president-to-be, regardless whether she's male or female.”

Hannah, also 13, added: “I do not think that it is fair that Hillary receives extra publicity because of her sex, although I know that this will be a deciding factor in many U.S. citizens’ votes. People tend to vote for people like them, and current women voters have only had one female candidate before, Shirley Chisholm, in 1972.”

If gender doesn’t (or shouldn’t) matter, then what does? Most girls told us the issues a politician supports or opposes matter most, echoing a recent poll that found that 63% of young women voters say the most important factor is in choosing which candidate they support is the candidate’s support of the issues she cares about.

Eleven-year-old Nathalie said, “I think most people are voting for Hillary because she is a woman. I like the fact that she is a woman running for president, but I don't like her political opinions. I don't think I would vote for her if I could vote.” Some of the strongest responses we received cited Hillary’s stance on the war. Here’s what girls said:

The biggest reason I do not think that Hillary should deserve the title of President is her view on the War in Iraq. First, she voted that we should go to war in Iraq, which was completely wrong in the first place. Now, she is campaigning against the war. As President, when you make a decision, you should stick with it. Hillary's cover-up story is that we have done our job in Iraq, and we need to get out. In my opinion, we never had a job to do in Iraq.
—Lillian, age 11

[I don’t support Hillary.] Why not? Though strong, Hillary is not as strong a candidate as Nancy Pelosi. The main reason that I wouldn't vote for her is that she supports the Iraq War. I don't want another president who supports that inhumane crime.
—Hannah, age 12

I do support Hillary, mainly because I like her line of thinking, her views, and her anti-quitting attitude. I would vote for Hillary because I am very fond of her plans to bring our troops back from Iraq on a January First [2008] basis. I also appreciate her caring, sympathy and sincerity to those without healthcare. If I could choose any woman to be President, I would still choose Hillary Clinton. She is a strong person, an awesome politician and a wonderfully kind person!
—Karinn, age 11

We also asked girls who they would vote for if they could vote for any woman, politician or not. Twelve-year-old Katie said, “If I could choose a celebrity to be president I would choose Oprah. A politician, and I would choose Hillary.” Hannah, also 12, responded: “Woman I want for president? Easy—Nancy Pelosi. Never have I seen such a strong woman politician with such honest views and above all, amazing decisions. As a girl from the VERY far left, I think that Nancy Pelosi would be a great candidate for president. She would lead the country to peace, and that’s [the issue at] the top of my list.”

Thanks, girls, for your great responses! We loved reading them, and we’re so happy to have the opportunity to get this important conversation started. Keep writing!


Want to hear what more girls told us about Hillary? Read on.

I believe that Hillary Clinton is an amazing woman, but more importantly, I think she should be President because of her spirit and beliefs. Clinton knows politics, and she knows what it is like to be President; after all, her husband was. She knows and understands people, and she is right on. Senator Clinton supports gay rights, abortion for rape victims, wants to withdraw from Iraq, and would put a better focus on Global Warming and schools—all issues that affect us.
—Ada, age 11

Hilary Rodham Clinton is a debate. She gets much attention just because she's a woman, but there is also a group of people that listen (gender barriers aside) to what she has to say. She is a Democrat and against the war in Iraq, and has a Democratic view on most things. As for me, I support her as a woman and appreciate the gender barriers she's trying to break. But, politically, I think that she could be a little bit stronger in her views and not count on the people who she thinks will vote for her just because she's a woman.
—Gabrielle, age 11

I think that she is a good woman and would make a good president. Women may get in fights but most often resolve it themselves. Why can't men do that? The War on Terror has been going on for at least four years so it makes me wonder why President Bush can’t do that. Still, many other people think that someone else should be President, but is it not a good time for change.
—Elisabeth, age 11

Yes, I would vote for Hillary Clinton regardless of her gender. I think she is intelligent and well-informed. The only reason I wouldn’t vote for her is because I wanted to be the first women president. ; )
—Katie, age 12

As we mentioned, our blog’s readers were pretty split over their support of Hillary. Curious about what adults think? The most recent poll numbers we could obtain (a July 3 Newsweek poll) say that support for Hillary is higher than ever: Fifty-six percent of people said they would support Hillary when asked, “Suppose the race for the Democratic Party's presidential nomination next year comes down to a choice between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Who would you most like to see nominated?” Thirty-three percent said they supported Barack Obama, and eleven percent reported that they were still undecided.

Interestingly enough, more adult Americans say they would vote for a woman president than girls we polled. Earlier this year, we conducted an online survey of over 1,000 girls, and found that 73% said you'd definitely vote for a woman for president, and another 25% said “maybe.” [LINK] But according to the Times Union/Siena College First Woman President poll, 66% percent of Americans think the U.S. is ready for a woman president and 81% would vote for one.

More promising news: A poll of adults conducted by GfKRoper Public Affairs found Americans believe that a woman president would be as good as or better than a man at leading on the issues of foreign policy (78%), homeland security (77%) and the economy (88%).

And still more good news: A CosmoGIRL!/White House Project poll from just a few weeks ago found that young voters today are ‘very’ to ‘somewhat comfortable’ with a woman being president (88%), and 73% say they are ready for a woman president. Interestingly, 69% would be more likely to vote on Election Day if a woman is on the presidential ballot, yet 69% would vote for who they find to be the best candidate, regardless of gender. Sounds like good news all around!

Facts from The White House Project and American Women Presidents on Women and the Presidency:

Out of over 180 countries, only 11 have elected women heads of state.

In every election since 1980, US women have voted in higher rates than men.

16% of members of national parliaments worldwide are women.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull became the first woman to run for the US Presidency when she announced her bid in 1872. A decade later, Belva Ann Lockwood ran twice with the Equal Rights Party.

In 1964, Margaret Chase Smith became the first US woman nominated by a major political party for President.

On the one-hundredth anniversary of Woodhull’s historic 1872 campaign, Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm (New York), Patsy Mink (Hawaii), and Abzug (New York) simultaneously became the first Democratic women to run for U.S. president in 1972. Chisholm’s strong primary showing won her 152 delegate votes or five percent of the delegate votes cast at the Democratic National Convention—an unprecedented historic victory for women on the 100th anniversary of the campaign to elect women to the US Presidency.

Since 1972, several other women have thrown their hats in the ring, including Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro (D-NY), Republican Elizabeth Dole, and Democrat Carol Moseley Braun. Feminist activist and environmentalist Winona LaDuke is also worth noting—she ran for Vice President twice, in 1996 and again in 2000!

Friday, July 06, 2007

Chill Out and Read this Weekend!

Happy weekend, blog readers! If you're looking for some good weekend reading, try Daughter of Venice, by Donna Jo Napoli. Marlena, 12, calls it the novel's leading lady a "courageous, ambitious, intelligent, and adventurous character who shows us that girls can be just as strong as boys and achieve their dreams." Read on for Marlena's fascinating review!

Did you know that in Venice, Italy in1592, girls and women didn’t have most of the rights, freedoms, and opportunities that we have today? In Daughter of Venice, 14-year-old Donata Moncenigo yearns to do what only boys were allowed to do -- explore the streets and canals of Venice, receive an education, have a future career, and gain experience about foreign people and places. There is little hope for Donata’s future -- if she is lucky enough she’ll get married, and if she is not able to, she must enter a convent, a house for Christian nuns. Donata thinks this is extremely unfair, and decides to do something that will prove she can do anything just as well as a boy. Intrigued by the maps of canals and the stories her brothers tell her about their adventures, Donata disguises herself in boys’ clothes and sneaks out of her family’s palazzo to have adventures of her own.

She soon has a job, an enemy, and the adventures she’d been eager for. But all this comes with more problems. There is always the constant threat of her secret being discovered. At home, her twin Laura does her chores, as well as her own, and pretends to be Donata when she practices the violin so the family won’t suspect Donata is missing. Donata actually isn’t good at the violin and Laura is very talented at it. Their parents believe that Donata is improving musically and are also pleased that she performs her chores diligently. As a result, they decide that Donata will get married -- to the man Laura wants as a husband! Laura is miserable, and Donata feels incredibly guilty. She needs to find a way to change her parents’ decision before it’s too late. Besides creating more problems, Donata’s adventures give her the courage to ask her father to allow her to attend her brothers’ lessons with their tutor. She also proves her intelligence by joining in the conversations about government and business at dinner, which only boys and men were expected to do.

In Donata’s culture at that time, girls married very young, around the age of sixteen. Only the eldest daughter married, and if she was lucky, the second-oldest daughter might marry also. Any younger sisters had to be sent away to live in convents. In convents, nuns did work for charity and taught music lessons. But they could rarely leave the convents and had less freedom than when they were kids. Many of these girls did not want to enter convents. Donata’s situation is uncommon, since she had a twin sister. They are lucky enough to be the second oldest sisters in the family. Only one of them will marry, both of them will marry, or none of them will marry and instead live in a convent for the rest of their lives. Donata and Laura do not want to live in a convent, so their only hope is to get married.

In Daughter of Venice, the author describes the scenes and sounds of Venice beautifully. When I read the book, I could actually imagine I was standing amidst the busy crowds or watching small waves lap the sides of a gondola. Some parts of the story illustrate the Venetian government’s prejudice of Jewish people at the time, as well as other social classes. Donata comes from a wealthy noble family, the highest social class in Venice. Noblemen hold government offices and have the most privileges. Below that are citizens, who can vote but cannot be part of the government; and even poorer and less-respected are the plain people, who cannot vote. By exploring Venice, Donata met a lot of poorer people. She even made friends with a Jewish man, who offered her work.

I enjoyed reading Daughter of Venice because it was exciting, interesting, and well-written. Just when you think a problem will be solved, a new conflict arises! Donata is a courageous, ambitious, intelligent, and adventurous character who shows us that girls can be just as strong as boys and achieve their dreams.

On Paris

"I'm claustrophobic and my cell is really small. I was going a little crazy...but I'm getting used to it."

--Paris Hilton, from prison, as quoted by Newsweek, July 2

So, is she getting used to the cell, or getting used to being crazy? We'll leave it to you, dear readers, to decide.

New Moon isn't exactly fond of celebrity journalism, so I was reluctant to post this article from Wiretap (an online magazine) on Paris Hilton. I rationalized the decision with the fact that the article is really more about prison reform, not Paris--and New Moon's September/October issue, "The Great Debate," features a great article with both sides of the prison debate. So, this is much less about Paris, and more about reforming the prison system (an issue that has long been a target of feminist activism).

Here's an article that does a nice job of illustrating one side of the debate:

"Prison abolition and Paris Hilton" - http://www.wiretapmag.org/blogs/wiretap/43156/

Give it a read, then share your thoughts with us!

India: On the Road to a Woman President?

With all the talk of Hillary Clinton* as a possible future President of the US, it seems some of us have forgotten that other women are going for the top offices in their own countries! While Michelle Bachelet, Portia Simpson-Miller, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and other women have shows the world that women are more than capable of the Presidency, we still have so few women who have successfully risen to the top. That's why I was so excited to hear about Pratibha Patil (left), who is campaigning in India to become the first woman president in the republic's 60-year history.

Earlier this month, 50,000 women rallied to kick off Pratibha's campaign. At the rally, Pratibha called herself an advocate of women’s rights and expressed gratitude to her supporters, saying, "It is a moving experience for me to see such a vast number of women expressing their solidarity with me on this historic occasion."

Once in office, Pratibha will push for 33 percent of Parliamentary seats to be reserved for women, according to the newspaper The Hindu. Currently, one in six members of Parliament are women.

Though Pratibha's campaign is still in the early stages, it holds a promising future. Pratibha has received backing from India's ruling party, the United Progressive Alliance. On July 19, members of Parliament will vote to select the president -- a largely ceremonial role in India -- for the next five years.

The coming weeks promise to be exciting for the women of India--and women worldwide.

*Read the blog on Monday for reader's opinions on Hillary Clinton!

35 Years of Title IX

Last month, women and girls across the country celebrated the 35th anniversary of the landmark law called Title IX, which read, "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." Written by Congresswoman Patsy Mink, who wrote the law as a response to her experiences with discrimination in college.

Title IX was controversial, but also revolutionary. Says New Moon founder Nancy Gruver: "Title IX, which outlawed gender discrimination in education...[is] a somewhat invisible thing that has brought more positive change in gender equity for girls and young women than anything else I can think of, leading to massive change in our society."

A common myth about Title IX is that it only applied to athletics; Title IX also affected issues like math and science education, sexual harassment in schools, standardized testing, and education opportunities for pregnant teens. But Title IX proved most revolutionary in sports: over the last 30 years, Title IX has helped increase girls' participation in high school sports 800%, and women's participation in intercollegiate sports 400%! Women also have gained more opportunities to compete at elite levels through competitions like the Olympics, World Championships and professional leagues.

As girls, we've grown up in a world where sports are a regular part of our lives (although we still face plenty of sexism). But here's what the pre-Title IX world looked like:

"Things were different. The primary physical activities for girls were cheerleading and square-dancing. Only 1 in 27 girls played high school sports. There were virtually no college scholarships for female athletes. And female college athletes received only 2% of overall athletic budgets."

Unfortunately, Title IX has been under attack in recent years. But it's still so important. According to http://www.titleix.info/:

Girls make up only about 42% of high school and college varsity athletes, even though they represent more than 50% of the student population.

Each year, male athletes receive $137 million more than female athletes in college athletic scholarships at NCAA member institutions.

Women in Division I colleges are over 50% of the student body, but receive only 32% of athletic recruiting dollars and 36% of athletic operating budgets.

In 2001-02, only 44% of coaches of women's teams were women. In 1972, the number was over 90%.

Unfortunately, the Department of Education issued a new Title IX policy that threatens to reverse the progress that women and girls have made in sports on March 17, 2005: Title IX is under attack. Do you think girls and women deserve better? Visit http://www.savetitleix.com/ to sign a petition to the Secretary of Education and take action!

You can also check out some cool Title IX-related stuff:

Then tell us: Do you play sports? What do you wish was different about the girls and women in sports?

P.S. What do you think of this: Last month, Rags to Riches became the first filly in more than a century to win the Belmont Stakes, the prestigious annual horse race in Elmont, N.Y. The last time a filly beat the boys at the Belmont was when Tanya surged to victory in 1905.

Both genders of horses race together. What about humans? Do you support single-sex sports, or do you think girls and guys should play sports together?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

State of the World's Children

What do 17-year-old Doly of Bangladesh, 13-year-old Mulu of Ethiopia, and 14-year-old Fatna of Chad have in common? [click on the links girls' names to watch short movies about their lives!]

They’re all girls profiled in The State of the World’s Children 2007, an annual report created by UNICEF. This year, the report focuses on gender equality. According to UNICEF, eliminating gender discrimination and empowering women does a lot to help children—so the report focuses on ensuring that women and girls have equal opportunities in education, government, and economics.

Like previous years' reports, this year’s paints a grim picture for girls worldwide. Here’s a UNICEF summary:

Despite progress in women’s status in recent decades, the lives of millions of girls and women are overshadowed by discrimination, disempowerment and poverty. Girls and women are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS and women in most places earn less than men for equal work. Millions of women throughout the world are subject to physical and sexual violence, with little recourse to justice. As a result of discrimination, girls are less likely to attend school; nearly one out of every five girls who enroll in primary school in developing countries does not complete a primary education. Education levels among women, says the report, correlate with improved outcomes for child survival and development.

It’s a sad report, but it’s also touching to read stories like those of a girl in Africa who’s trying to become her village’s first girl to graduate from high school, or a girl who fought to safe her own life after being abducted.

Click here to read the report—you’re in for a fascinating ride. The report, and UNICEF’s webpage about its findings, is telling. For example, take these statistics on discrimination against women in different parts of the world:

In the Middle East and North Africa, UNICEF found that over 80% of men who responded to their survey agreed that men make better political leaders than women do. In Asia, that number was closer to 60%. But that’s still way too high!
And here are more facts:

The total number of female heads of state or government in the world is 14 out of 192 UN Member States (countries that belong to the United Nations).

Women and children account for 80% of civilian casualties during armed conflict (i.e. war).

In Cameroon, women who earn money typically spend 74% of it on food for their families, while men only spend about 22%.

One out of every 16 sub-Saharan African women will die as a result of pregnancy or childbirth, compared to just 1 out of every 4,000 in industrialized countries.

While more than 80 per cent of Latin American countries have specific legislation against domestic violence, this is true of less than 5 per cent of countries in Eastern Europe, Africa and East Asia and the Pacific.
After reading the report, check out UNICEF's cool website for kids and teens: Voices of Youth. See their explanation on why gender equality benefits everyone, learn how to take action to make a difference, and view the beautiful winning photos from their photo contest on portraits of inspirational women.