Archive for the ‘Cool and radical girls’ Category

There is a lot to love and admire about “Wreck-It Ralph.” In many ways, both conspicuously and more subversively, the movie challenges gender stereotypes. That said, the gender matrix– a sexist framework that dominates animated films made for children– remains intact. Watching “Wreck-It Ralph,” for me, is like reading the Greek Myths; there are strong, complex females to admire but they are only permitted to demonstrate their power within a firmly established patriarchy.

Vanellope von Schweetz is such a cool Minority Feisty. She is smart, funny, daring, talented, compassionate, and vulnerable. She kicks ass but also has a huge heart. Vanellope is voiced by one of my favorite comedians, Sarah Silverman, and let’s just say, those two have a lot in common. Icing on the cake: Vanellope saves Ralph’s life with her speed and smarts. The cross-gender friendship between Vanellope and Ralph is the heart of the movie.

Vanellope is not the only Minority Feisty to love in “Ralph.” Sargeant Calhoun, voiced by Jane Lynch, also plays a complex and cool role. She is a fierce military woman but also passionate with a strong moral fiber.

A third Minority Feisty is Moppet Girl who hangs out at the arcade. Though her gender is a minority in the arcade crowd (I know, I know, that’s how it is is the “real world”) she is there and delivers the key line in the plot. Moppet Girl tells the arcade owner that the Fix-It Felix game is broken. She is also the character who provides the plot bookend, giving a fist bump to Vanellope at the end of the movie when she returns to her rightful position as ruler. It is a rare scene in animation to see two females interacting with each other, expressing power and victory. To put that scene in perspective, the awesome Minority Feisty of “Puss in Boots,”  Kitty Softpaws, never meets any of the other 4 females in the movie.

More coolness: One of the crowd scenes– in Vanellope’s game, Sugar Rush– is female dominated. The trio of girls who actually get to speak in that crowd are a stereotype, the trifecta, of mean girls: one bitchy leader flanked by a pair of followers (as seen in “Mean Girls,” “Heathers” “Never Been Kissed,” and many more “chick flicks”.)

But still, females dominating a crowd scene– a crowd scene of race car drivers, no less– is nothing to sneeze at. Those cars may be made out of cookies and candy, the drivers may have names like Taffyta, reminiscent of “My Little Pony” but, still, progress noted.

There are still more depictions of female power in “Ralph.” A few weeks ago, I posted about “riding bitch:” how whether a female in kidworld is on a magic carpet (“Aladdin”) a dragon (“How to Train Your Dragon”) or a hippogriff (Harry Potter), she’s is almost always found behind the male. The message is: the boy leads, the girl is along for the ride. Not in this movie. In “Wreck-It Ralph” Sargeant Calhoun piloted some kind of motorized, flying surfboard and a space ship while Fix-it Felix rode shotgun. Not only was Felix in the passenger seat, but he gazed, admiringly at Calhoun as he watched her do her stuff. Calhoun was shown as attractive and powerful simultaneously. That, my friend, is almost never depicted. Vanellope, herself, becomes a race car driver. She is also shown in the driver’s seat with Ralph behind her. Ralph does teach her how to drive (when he doesn’t know how either) but her skills surpass his and he is shown admiring her for her talent. (I cannot find images on the web of Calhoun piloting with Fix-It Felix by her side or Vanellope driving with Ralph in the back. If you do, please send me the link.)

But here’s the gender matrix. Even breaking all these sexist barriers, Ralph is clearly the protagonist. The movie is named for him. He’s the hero. Fix-It Felix is the “good guy” to Ralph’s “bad guy.” The real bad guy, the villain of the movie, Turbo, is also male. Turbo masquerades as King Candy but when Vanellope is restored to her rightful role as ruler, she is “princess,” not “queen.” In an often used cliche in children’s movies trying to straddle the princess-empowerment image, Vanellope tears off her puffy, pink dress. Later, in  the movie, when she has to wear the dress to attend a wedding, she is uncomfortable and scratches her neck. (I actually appreciated that detail much more than the overused “rip off your princess-dress/ corset” cliche. Another awesome factor: the toys from the movie. As far as I can see, the Vanellope figure is shown in her regular clothes or driving her car, not wearing the princess outfit she hates in the movie, which is, unfortunately, how Disney sells Mulan.)

The Bad Guy Anon meetings were hilarious and creative. I was cracking up watching them but these scenes fortify the sexist matrix.

The whole thesis of the movie is about being a bad “guy.” There was only one female in the bad “guy” group and she didn’t get a single line. It is mostly that cast of characters that made the poster that is all over San Francisco.

The bad female is not on this poster, nor is Vanellope, Calhoun, and Moppet Girl. When I posted earlier about the sexist poster, “Wreck-It Ralph” fans responded with hundreds of angry comments on Reel Girl and all over the web. Their first complaint was that the movie features strong female characters. It does. But the male is still the lead. That is what this poster clearly shows. That is why the poster was created to look this way and why the film is titled for Ralph.

Also, the poster is its own media. Even if you don’t see the movie, your kids see the poster on buses and looming over them on the sides of buildings. And again, if 50% of posters around town featured females, there would be no problem with “Wreck-It Ralph.” But, “Wreck it Ralph” fits a pattern, echoed and repeated, where males star and females are sidelined or missing.

Commenters on that blog post also told me the movie is called “Sugar Rush” in Japan. I think that’s pretty cool, but it’s still not called “The Racer, Vanellope” and it’s the U.S. version that sets the cultural standards here. Also, once again, Ralph narrates, the movie is Ralph’s story. Vanellope is his friend.

Why is the gender of the protagonist so crucial? We are all the heroes in our own lives. Again and again, with these films, girls see that there is a limit, a ceiling, to their potential, and it is marked with a male. No matter how important they are or how big a role they get to play, there is a guy who gets more.

Reel Girl rates “Wreck-It Ralph ***HH*** Take your kids to see this movie!

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Check out this 8 yr. old girl, Sam Gordon, playing football. WOW

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From the AFP:

The 14-year-old Pakistani girl shot in the head by the Taleban was in a stable condition in a British hospital Tuesday as well-wishers from around the world left her messages of support.

Malala Yousafzai “remains stable”, according to doctors monitoring her at the specialist Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, central England, which treats British soldiers wounded in Afghanistan.

“She spent a second comfortable night at the hospital and continues to be cared for,” the hospital said.

Malala was shot on a school bus in the former Taleban stronghold of the Swat valley last week as a punishment for campaigning for the right of girls to an education, in an attack which outraged the world.

Malala’s story is getting international attention, but please remember that this kind of violence against girls and women happens around the world EVERY SINGLE DAY. Here’s just one story from today’s news that I pasted below. Yet, these crimes and human rights violations against girls and women rarely even make headlines. Please stop calling gender apartheid “a cultural issue.” Don’t be a passive bystander. Do something to stop the violence and donate money today, 100% of your donation will go to help women and girls around the world.

Afghan girl beheaded for refusing prostitution: police

Posted on 2012-10-17 21:14:32

HERAT: Afghan police have arrested four people who allegedly tried to force a woman into prostitution in western Afghanistan and beheaded her when she refused, officials said Wednesday.

Mah Gul, 20, was beheaded after her mother-in-law attempted to make her sleep with a man in her house in Herat province last week, provincial police chief Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada told AFP.

“We have arrested her mother-in-law, father-in-law, her husband and the man who killed her,” he said.

Gul was married to her husband four months ago and her mother-in-law had tried to force her into prostitution several times in the past, Sayedzada said.

The suspect, Najibullah, was paraded by police at a press conference where he said the mother-in-law lured him into killing Gul by telling him that she was a prostitute.

“It was around 2:00 am when Gul’s husband left for his bakery. I came down and with the help of her mother-in-law killed her with a knife,” he said.

Abdul Qader Rahimi, the regional director of the government-backed human rights commission in western Afghanistan, said violence against women had dramatically increased in the region recently.

“There is no doubt violence against women has increased. So far this year we have registered 100 cases of violence against women in the western region,” he said, adding that many cases go unreported.

“But at least in Gul’s case, we are glad the murderer has been arrested and brought to justice,” he said.

Last year, in a case that made international headlines, police rescued a teenage girl, Sahar Gul, who was beaten and locked up in a toilet for five months after she defied her in-laws who tried to force her into prostitution. (AFP)


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In 2013, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will host the Golden Globes. Here’s the NY Daily News sub headline:

“The comedic duo will be taking over for Ricky Gervais, who manned the hosting duties for three years.”

Not sure if that humor is intended, but this hosting gig is a huge victory for women. Fey and Poehler will become the first female duo ever to host this high profile awards show.

Tina Fey is a pioneer. She was the first female head writer ever of “Saturday Night Live,” a notoriously male dominated show that launched the career of many high profile male comedians from John Belushi to Adam Sandler. Fey’s brilliant book, Bossypants, was a best-seller. One of my favorite sections was her beautiful prayer for her daughter. Like Fey, Amy Poehler is a groundbreaker as well; she’s funny, smart, beautiful, a mom, and the star of her own show. Even cooler, both women are…FRIENDS.

Winning this hosting job helps to repudiate ridiculous but persistent myths about women, mainly: (1) Women aren’t funny (2) “Pretty” women aren’t funny (3) Women aren’t friends (4) Women can’t work together (5) Moms aren’t high-profile, breadwinners, funny, smart, or sexy.


Tina Fey’s prayer for her daughter:

First, Lord: No tattoos. May neither Chinese symbol for truth nor Winnie-the-Pooh holding the FSU logo stain her tender haunches.

May she be beautiful but not damaged, for it’s the damage that draws the creepy soccer coach’s eye, not the beauty.

When the Crystal Meth is offered, may she remember the parents who cut her grapes in half And stick with beer.

Guide her, protect her when crossing the street, stepping onto boats, swimming in the ocean, swimming in pools, walking near pools, standing on the subway platform, crossing 86th Street, stepping off of boats, using mall restrooms, getting on and off escalators, driving on country roads while arguing, leaning on large windows, walking in parking lots, riding Ferris wheels, roller-coasters, log flumes, or anything called “Hell Drop,” “Tower of Torture,” or “The Death Spiral Rock ‘N Zero G Roll featuring Aerosmith,” and standing on any kind of balcony ever, anywhere, at any age.

Lead her away from acting but not all the way to finance. Something where she can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes and not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it, Youdammit.

May she play the drums to the fiery rhythm of her own heart with the sinewy strength of her own arms, so she need not lie with drummers.

Grant her a rough patch from twelve to seventeen.Let her draw horses and be interested in Barbies for much too long, for childhood is short – a tiger flower blooming magenta for one day – And adulthood is long and dry-humping in cars will wait.

O Lord, break the Internet forever, that she may be spared the misspelled invective of her peers And the online marketing campaign for Rape Hostel V: Girls Just Wanna Get Stabbed.

And when she one day turns on me and calls me a Bitch in front of Hollister, Give me the strength, Lord, to yank her directly into a cab in front of her friends, for I will not have that shit. I will not have it.

And should she choose to be a mother one day, be my eyes, Lord, that I may see her, lying on a blanket on the floor at 4:50 A.M., all-at-once exhausted, bored, and in love with the little creature whose poop is leaking up its back. My mother did this for me once, she will realize as she cleans feces off her baby’s neck. “My mother did this for me.” And the delayed gratitude will wash over her as it does each generation and she will make a mental note to call me. And she will forget. But I’ll know, because I peeped it with your God eyes.



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Tired of sexed-up, “cute,” and endless princesses and rainbow fairies marketed to your daughters on Halloween?

A Mighty Girl has put together a great collection of awesome costumes.

My three year old is super- psyched to be Batgirl. We actually own this, but I bought a new one because ours is worn, ripped,  and missing parts.

(Of course, potential Batgirl enthusiasts would be helped along if there were multiple Batgirl movies and derivative toys, games, and clothing. As is stands now, most kids haven’t heard of her, though her existence makes perfect sense to a three year old. Sadly, an eight year old, not so much.)

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Title quote from Pigtail Pals.

Photo from 7Wonderlicious:

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While on vacation for a month, I read three absolutely incredible Young Adult books, all starring kick-ass heroines. I’m dying to tell you about them.

Besides Hunger Games, these three stories are the first YA books I’ve read since starting Reel Girl.

Because my three daughters are ages 3 – 9, and because I’m writing a Middle Grade novel, I’ve mostly stayed away from Young Adult books. I don’t have the time to read everything I’d like to (and I really enjoy reading books intended for 43 year olds as well!) But because I have never trusted the rating system of kids’ media– what is deemed “acceptable” or “good” for children and what is not– I decided to venture into YA territory on my own.

Here are my reviews:

Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

This book is gripping from start to finish. The story follows an intrepid and extremely likeable heroine, Daine, as she discovers her power and uses her magic to save her world. Daine starts out fearing her mysterious skills, her “difference,” but under the guidance of a mentor and a new community of friends and allies, she leans how to wield and tame her wild magic.

The only thing in this whole book that I feel could be inappropriate for young kids is a reference to Daine’s mom being raped. That reference describes bandits who murdered her mother and reads something like, “They would have passed by the house but my mother was pretty.” Otherwise, there is no sex in this book. I gave it to my almost nine year old daughter to read, and she loves it.

Like most girl-centered books for kids, this is a feminist story within the context of the patriarchy: it’s a narrative about the rare women who achieve, for example, who are able to become knights. There is more than one powerful female, which is great, but as usual, while reading, I longed for a magical world gender equality simply exists.

I don’t like this cover much. Daine looks naked and the image does nothing to communicate the magic or power of the book.

Wild Magic is mysterious and beautiful story.

Reel Girl rates Wild Magic ***HHH***

Graceling by Krsitin Cashore

This is my favorite of the three books I read. I could not put it down. The villain is one of the scariest and most compelling bad guys who I’ve ever read about.

This book is violent. Katsa, the heroine, like many in her land, is born with a “grace,” a special talent. Her particular talent is killing. Katsa’s grace is exploited by a power-hungry king who she must serve.

Graceling, like Wild Magic, is the story of how the heroine discovers the true meaning of her magic, how to own it and use it for good.

Though I adored this book, I don’t recommend it for Middle Grade readers. I don’t mind the violence. I’ve blogged about violence in kids’ media quite a bit but to quickly recap: Narratives are metaphors, magnifications of moments that, if successful, allow the reader to experience intense emotions.

Narratives raise the stakes so that experience can happen. We’ve all felt like we were “being attacked” or that “the world was caving in.” Narratives show us that actually happening. The story of David and Goliath is a metaphor, so  much so that it’s become part of our language; it’s much more than a story of murder.

In the same vein, to the individual, cleaning out a closet can be a monumental task. We are all the heroes of our own lives. To communicate how huge and overwhelming something so mundane really feels, you don’t write about someone cleaning her closet, you write about Psyche sorting seeds as a matter of life and death.

So this is why I don’t mind violence at all, our psyches are intense, as are the emotions of little kids (and grown-ups.) A good and successful narrative depicts that.

Sex, on the other hand, I mind a lot. I don’t think kids should read about sex before they are ready to, and Graceling is an intensely sexual tale. It’s really a love story between Katsa and another graceling, Po. I love Po. Love him!  His relationship with Katsa is so great because he is in awe of her power. He helps her to see it and develop it.

On some level, I suppose a little kid could read this story and totally miss the love affair, but I don’t recommend that. It would be leaving out so much. There are also references in the book to incest, more obtuse than the love story, but without getting that aspect of the tale, the reader misses how creepy the villain is.

Reel Girl rates Graceling ***HHH*** (not for MG Readers!)

A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

Wow, I wish this book was around when I was a kid.

Gemma Doyle is another heroine who fears her magic. This story, like the other two, shows how she comes to understand her power and use it. I loved reading about the secret society of powerful women (the Order) and the power they wield. Also, the setting is a boarding schools for girls in the Victorian Era. How can you resist that?

This book is also the story of an intense and complex mother-daughter relationship, something most teens can relate to.

Even more so than Wild Magic or Graceling, this book is very much about females struggling within the patriarchy. Again, the conflict is very well done, but also again, I long for kids to just be able to see females being strong without claiming the right to be as strong as boys. Can you imagine boys proudly claiming the reverse? It’s patronizing.

There is sex in this book. I don’t recommend it for MG readers.

I hate this cover. At best, we have the tired patriarchy/ corset metaphor; at worst, a “bodice-ripper.” Ugh.

Reel Girl rates A Great and Terrible Beauty ***HHH*** (one more time, not for MG readers!)

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