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Kim wins again! The Australian Open! Her first time!

How cool is that?

Kim Clijsters celebrates win with her daughter

After beating Li Na (3-6, 6-3, 6-3) Clijsters wiped tears from her eyes. So this week, we saw her laugh and cry. Just a few days ago, after winning an earlier match, Clijsters was unable to stop smiling when she publicly confronted courtside reporter Todd Woodbridge for sending a nasty text message about her which implied that she was fat. Clijsters is an awesome player and a very, cool woman who skillfully knows how to come out a winner in all kinds of situations.

Read more about why Clijsters is ReelGirl’s Star of the Week.

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Just after tennis player Kim Clijsters beat her opponent in the Australian open, she scored a major victory for the women of the world.

After the game, when Clijsters went on camera with courtside interviewer Todd Woodbridge, she confronted him about a nasty text message he sent about her.

“You thought I was pregnant?” she said in front of 38,000 people, many more watching on TV. “I’m not.” Clijsters turned to the audience. “Let me say what was written in the message– she looks really grumpy and her boobs are bigger.”

Wow! Outside of bad reality TV, I’ve never seen a woman on camera directly confront a man for calling her fat! Not only that, when Clijsters was speaking she seemed happy, victorious, and beautiful. Instead of being humiliated by a guy making fun of her body, Clijsters turned the shame where it belonged, on the one who made the comment instead of the recipient and that is a huge win for women.

Whether you happen to be Hillary Clinton or a high school student, having someone make fun of your appearance, or even just the threat of it, has been an effective way to keep females quiet and in their place. The ‘ugly feminist’ and ‘dumb beauty queen’ are caricatures, flip sides of the same coin, both images relentlessly telling women: you can’t be strong and pretty, so make your choice. And, by the way girls, here’s a hint on which way you should go– women get power in our culture by being attractive to men, so if you risk trying to get powerful some other way, you may lose your power!

Another cool thing about this story– it was another female player who got the text from Woodbridge and exposed it to Clijsters. No catfight here. Most likely, not the reaction Woodbridge was expecting. What would happen if women refused to call each other fat? So often, we are are the ones acting out on our training to keep each other down by judging and rating each others appearances. Our competitive drives get funneled into socially acceptable and non-threatening to men stakes like beauty, boys, and popularity.

By calling out a ‘mean guy’ for his nasty gossip, Clijsters shook up stereotypes about women and men, also teaching us all a lesson: don’t trashtalk! Another cool thing about her– when she was actually pregnant, she ‘retired’ from tennis only to successfully return to competition a year later, showing the world that moms can be tennis stars.

Sometimes a victory speech isn’t just a victory speech. Here’s to hoping more women get the mike and change the world.

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Thank you Peggy Orenstein for writing the brilliant book Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Every parent should read this new, excellent analysis of the ubiquitous princess kid-culture and its various mutations in the world of grown-up women.

 

Orenstein, a NY Times journalist, mom, and writer takes on and deconstructs two (so annoying!) messages every parent hears if she dares to challenge the monarchy of these frothy creatures.

Myth number one: we’re just giving girls what they want!

Orenstein responds with a brief history of marketing and information on child brain development– some major points paraphrased here:

Pink Children were not color-coded until early twentieth century. Before that, babies wore all white, because to get clothing clean, it had to be boiled. Boys and girls also used to all wear dresses. When nursery colors were introduced, pink was more masculine, a pastel version of the red, which was associated with strength. Blue was like the Virgin Mary and symbolized innocence, thus the girl color. When the color switched is vague. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Alice in Wonderland all wear blue. Sleeping Beauty’s gown was switched to pink to differentiate her from Cinderella.

Baby doll In an 1898 survey, less than 25% of girls said dolls were their favorite toy. “President Theodore Roosevelt… obsessed with declining birth rates among white, Anglo-Saxon women, began waging a campaign against ‘race-suicide.’ When women ‘feared motherhood,” he warned, our nation trembled on the ‘brink of doom.’ Baby dolls were seen as a way to revive the flagging maternal instinct of girls, to remind them of their patriotic duty to conceive; within a few years, dolls were ubiquitous, synonymous with girlhood itself. Miniature brooms, dustpans, and stoves tutored these same young ladies in the skills of homemaking…”

Princess When Orenstein herself was a kid, being called a Princess, specifically Jewish-American, was the worst insult a kid (and her family) could get. How had a generation transformed this word into a coveted compliment?

Disney Princesses as a group brand did not exist until 2000. Disney hired Andy Mooney from Nike. He went to a Disney on Ice show and saw little girls in homemade princess costumes. Disney had never marketed characters outside of a movie release and never princesses from different movies together. Roy Disney was against it, and that’s why, still, even on pull-ups, you won’t see the princesses looking at each other. (How’s that for a model for girls in groups or female friendships?) Princesses are now marketed to girls ages 2 – 6. Mooney began the campaign by envisioning a girl’s room and thinking about a princess fantasy: what kind of clock would a princess have? What type of bedding? Dora and Mattel followed suit with Dora and Barbie princess versions and then along came everyone else.

Toddler Clothing manufacturers in the 1930s counseled department stores that in order to increase sales they should create a ‘third stepping stone’ between infant wear and older kids clothing

Tween Coined in the mid-1980s as a marketing contrivance (originally included kids 8 – 15)

More on tweens, toddlers, girls and boys: if there is micro-segmentation of products by age and gender, people buy more stuff. If kids need a pink bat and a blue bat, you double your sales. Orenstein writes: “Splitting kids and adults, or for that matter, penguins, into ever tinier categories has proved a surefire way to boost profits. So where there was once a big group called kids we now have toddlers, pre-schoolers, tweens, young-adolescents and older adolescents, each with their own developmental and marketing profile…One of the easiest ways to segment the market is to magnify gender differences or invent them where they did not previously exist.”

SeoWoo and Her Pink Things by JeongMee Yoonhttp://www.jeongmeeyoon.com/aw_pinkblue.htm SeoWoo and Her Pink Things by JeongMee Yoon 

One major fallout of gendering every plaything? “Segregated toys discourage cross-sex friendships.” Boys and girls stop playing together. Orenstein writes about the long-term effects: “This is a public health issue. It becomes detrimental to relationships, to psychological health and well-being, when boys and girls don’t learn how to talk to one another…Part of the reason we have the divorce rates we do, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking behaviors, sexual harassment is because the lack of ability to communicate between men and women.”

Orenstein argues: “Eliminating divorce or domestic violence may be an ambitious mandate for a pre-school curriculum, but its not without basis: young children who have friends of the opposite sex have a more positive transition into dating as teenagers and sustain their romantic relationships better.”

Myth #2: that princess stuff is just a phase– she’ll grow out of it!

Princesses are marketed to girls 2 – 6 years old; there’s something very creepy and dangerous about making these kids victims of billion dollar industries. Kids brains are literally being formed, they’re malleable. So this little phase is helping to create a brain that lasts forever.

Scientists have pretty much moved on from the anachronistic, simplistic debate of nature versus nurture. It’s now understood that nature and nurture form and create each other in an endless loop. Your experiences influence your wiring.

For example, small kids can make all kinds of sounds to learn languages. Lise Eliot, author of Pink Brain, Blue Brain is quoted by Orenstein: “Babies are born ready to absorb the sounds, grammar, and intonation of any language, but then the brain wires it up only to perceive and produce a specific language. After puberty, its possible to learn another language but far more difficult. I think of gender differences similarly. The ones that exist become amplified by the two different cultures that boys and girls are immersed in from birth. This contributes to the way their emotional and cognitive circuits get wired.”

“It’s not that pink is intrinsically bad, it is such a tiny slice of the rainbow,” Orenstein writes. To grow brains, kids need more, varied experiences, not fewer.

Phases don’t vanish, they mutate.

Orenstein’s book traces how the real life Disney stars/ girl princesses (i.e. Lindsay Lohan, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Hilary Duff, Miley Cyrus etc) attempt to make their transitions from girl-princesses into adult ones; or more crassly, from virgin to whore. Orenstein writes it’s impossible to commodify one end of the spectrum and not the other, and there are so few models of healthy female sexuality out there. She writes, “Our daughters may not be faced with the decision of whether to strip for Maxim, but they will have to figure out how to become sexual beings without being objectified or stigmatized.” All that early training for girls to focus incessantly on their appearance lasts a lifetime. What happens when these girls try to grow up? Orenstein writes girls learn, “Look sexy, but don’t feel sexual, to provoke desire in others without experiencing it themselves.”

How does this emphasis on dressing up and attention for appearance affect kids as they grow? Stephen Hinshaw, quoted from his book The Triple Bind, explains, “Girls pushed to be sexy too soon can’t really understand what they’re doing…they may never learn to connect their performance to erotic feelings or intimacy. They learn how to act desirable, but not to desire, undermining, rather than promoting, healthy sexuality.”

The basic message I got from this book: the issue is not pink or princesses, but to give your kid more experiences not less. Remember– many colors in the rainbow!

(1) Encourage and reinforce cross-gender play. If your daughter is playing with a boy, acknowledge it, reinforce what they’re doing. You are the biggest influence in your kid’s life, you’re not ‘just another person.’ Talk to your kids pre-school teachers and administrators about encouraging cross-gender play. There is lots in this book about how teachers are not trained in this area at all and miss opportunities to help brains grow.

(2) Remember, your kid is not a small adult. She has a different brain. Help that brain grow! If your son picks up a My Little Pony, buy it for him instead of yet another car. It won’t make him gay! It will make him smart!

(3) Your kids are watching you! Again, they are not just little people with fully formed minds. If you criticize your appearance (or another woman’s), how you treat your partner, how you eat, she takes note.

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What a magical night! What an awesome team! What a beautiful city! Matt Cain– what a star! Edgar Renteria– what defense! Bruce Bochy totally outmanaged that team. He was brilliant.

Here are some of my photos from Game 2. My favorite one is the two bald heads: Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff.

My husband, Dan, caught a ball, impressing Mary Hart, from “Entertainment Tonight,” behind him (pretty hilarious since we’ve been known to argue at home– ET versus sports.)

And the best thing of all, arriving a little nervous, but becoming a happy fan. GO GIANTS!

Were you there? Tell me about it. Not just these games, but any memories of  being a Giants fan. I’m collecting comments for a book. Thank you!

Nervous before the game
 

Dan catches a ball
Happy fans

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Just back from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, the free three day music festival in Golden Gate Park. Patti Smith is one of the all time best performers I’ve ever seen. She is a total rockstar, swaggering on stage like Mick Jagger or Jim Morrison, so in control of everything, with her callbacks and clapping, she played the audience like an instrument. When she covers songs you think you know well, they sound like nothing you’ve heard before; she slows it all down, savoring every word. Her “Play With Fire” was intense and beautiful with two stanzas of her own lyrics inserted in the middle. If anyone recorded it (I saw you all!) please post. Smith told everyone how lucky we were to live here and then she recited the prayer of St. Francis, reminding the audience to “Be happy, work hard, love one another.” Listening to her under the swaying eucalyptus, the fog wisping in around us, was a great San Francisco moment.

Elvis Costello and his band the Sugarcanes may have been my favorite this year, probably the tightest band I saw. They had great energy.

Emmylou Harris closes the show ever year and her voice is so incredibly pretty. Yesterday, when I saw Guy Clark I thought his lyrics and voice are just as beautiful as hers. Yesterday, I also saw Richard Thompson who was rocking out more than expected and great. I heard Joan Baez sing “Diamonds and Rust” which is one of my favorite songs. She also did her hilarious Bob Dylan imitation. After Baez, I saw the incredible Gillian Welch who amazes me everytime she performs.

Right as Elvis Costello was finishing playing, about six miles away in one of America’s most beautiful ballparks, the Giants won the NL West pennant. When the announcer gleefully told the audience about the victory, many already knew because they’d been clutching radios to their ears, reciting the score to each other inbetween sets all afternoon.

Shivering in the dark and fog, we got in our warm car. To avoid traffic after Saturday night’s turtle pace, we drove home along the Great Highway. After passing by dense hills of red and green succulents, suddenly there was the foamy ocean, white and bright as a light, my husband saying, “I can’t believe this is right here!” Back in Potrero Hill with the stunning view of downtown and the Bay, we could see all the lights of traffic crossing the bridge, everyone traveling home; we were grateful to be already there.

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As we all know, California is in financial crisis, and California schools from elementary to university level are suffering. Arts and athletics programs are being cut, and women’s teams are especially vulnerable. This is a tragic situation for women, resonating far beyond sports. Being on a team is a crucial part of an education; students learn basic leadership skills, discipline, confidence, ethics, how to work with others– basic life skills that serve them throughout their lives and careers.

Women’s sports are always the first to go, because they generate less revenue then men’s sports do. Obviously, its a viscous circle. Only when more money is invested in training young female players, providing them with the best equipment and practice spaces, launching PR campaigns to inspire players and audiences, will women athletes finally get the kind of coaching, leagues, and PR they deserve. And only then can women’s leagues reach their capabilities and get real opportunities to bring in large revenue streams. We need to stop tossing off a deeply entrenched catch-22 with the line, “No one cares about women’s sports.”

Darcy Ward cares very much. She’s a varsity rower at UC Davis on full athletic scholarship. She’s also a pre-med student. Here’s her team’s story:

To Whom It May Concern,

When our Women’s Varsity Team at UC Davis was told that our program was at stake for being cut from the University, we believed it was our obligation to share our passion for this sport in hopes to salvage it. We contact you out of pure love, and solidarity. We believe our story should be heard as a call-to-action. The decision will be made in early April and we must act now.

Before 1973, the idea of female rowers was unheard of. These stereotypes lead women to work through discrimination to prove that women are allowed to participate in sports. Women’s participation in sports is possible now because of law Title 9 that mandates college athlete must have equal number of females as males which rowing helped create. Since that time, UC Davis has built one of the most competitive female rowing teams on the west coast. The program has been around for thirty-three years and has excelled beyond its expectation by moving into a new level of competition-Division 1. The women’s rowing team competes in the Western Intercollegiate Rowing Association and San Diego Crew Classic, two of the most prestigious races in the country. What makes our team so special?

Women's crewRowing News

Women’s crew

Our coach enforces us to believe we are strong and before we take out our boats we say “My name is_________ and I am a strong female rower.” Her name is Carissa Adams and believes women deserve the greatest opportunities in life. Our mission statement says, “Each day we strive to go beyond our expectations. We rise to the challenge with confidence, pride, and positive attitudes. We empower and engage one another through a network of trust, support, improvement, and respect. We work as a team on and off the water.” There are 60 strong women rowers who never stop trying, constantly work together and encouraging one another to just keep striving for more. The sport of rowing teaches women to become strong and smart leaders for the future, by working as a team and conquering unbelievable goals while balancing the rigorous academia of college. We need to keep building strong females in our society.

Here are a few women out of many on our team with unique stories.

Becca loves rowing because it gives her not only a physical outlet, but she loves the way it forces you to connect to the other eight women in the boat. Eight women have to be able to move in synchronies with each other, and the product is so rewarding: a beautifully set boat, the single noise of every single oar feathering at the exact same time, and just the feel and run of the boat. That’s why she loves rowing. She is a strong female rower.

Caleigh is a 4’11” coxswain, the voice and brain of the boat. On a 5’8″ average rowing team, she has learned how to make her small body transform into a strong and confident voice on and off the water. She is a strong female rower.

Brittani started rowing her freshman year as a walk on. Now she is a third year rower, stroke seat of the V8, and captain of this team. Rowing has been the hardest thing that she has ever done, and she can say that she is a better person for it. She has never felt so strong and capable before (physically and mentally). She has also met a group of amazing women that have become trustworthy teammates and life long friends. She is dedicated to this team and proud to be a part of its legacy. She rows for her teammates and herself. She is a strong female rower.

Emily who is 5’3 was discriminated because of her size. Coaches thought she was unable to compete against the “stereotypical” rower. Now she competes in the (V8) varsity eight keeping up with the Big dogs. She is a strong female rower

Brittney and Brooke are twins who dropped out of high school. They were at a disadvantage in society because their parents didn’t have the tools to support them to achieve going to college. They entered a community college with nothing to lose and everything to gain. Now they row here at UC Davis because of the discipline, the opportunity, and the chance to create a new way of life. They are strong female rowers.

Maggie never gives up. In high school she rowed for years and no one believed that she could reach her potential, but she never quit. Finally, during her third year of rowing, she found the power within her and became the varsity stroke. The stroke is the leader of the boat. She sets the pace and stroke for all seven women behind her and each rower trusts and looks up to the stroke. Now when she looks back, she never thought she would be rowing for NCAA division one. She is a strong female rower.

Jessica has become more self-confident, more driven and more focused than she ever was before joining rowing. Upon joining the Women’s Rowing Team at UC Davis, she was greeted with friendly faces and a warm yet, extremely competitive nature. This past year she has made new friends, pushed herself harder both mentally and physically than ever before and; in turn, discovered a new family that she would do anything for. She is a strong female rower.

Robyn is a Pisces who was born to love the water. Her parents sailed the world, fell in love, and upon Robyn’s arrival her parents give up their sea legs for land legs to support their new family. Now, she enjoys rowing more than any other water sport and appreciates its international community of athletes and supporters. She is a strong female rower.

Paige started rowing with her mom for fun and then tried out for the local team. As she continued in the sport, she fell in love and she learned to be more disciplined in every aspect of her life and how to approach a challenge. Rowing is unique because as a team and a boat you must all strive for the same goal. Today, she can’t imagine her life without rowing. Rowing has taken her further in life than she has ever imagined because of the opportunities and experiences it has given her. She is a strong female rower.

Danielle joined college homesick and overwhelmed, even contemplating dropping out. However, one day she was approached by rowers who asked her to Row! Her confidence to pursue sports in college was challenged. Beyond what she expected, joining the women’s rowing team allowed her to truly reach potential. The team became her family and she gained a sense of confidence she has never had before. Each day she is finding new ways to push herself to bigger and better things, learning not to settle for mediocre. Thanks to this team, this sport, she has learned to be dedicated to things bigger than just herself. She is a strong female rower.

The UC system is in a huge financial crisis. The UC Davis chancellor has just mandated the athletic department cut up to 12 sports. This means the UC Davis women’s rowing team is at stake for being cut. We have potential to save our team, keeping the opportunities alive for people that come after us.

Now the crisis begins.

The women’s rowing program at UC Davis has a long-standing 30-year plus track record of athletic excellence and a strong tradition of producing accomplished women who have become valuable assets to their communities throughout the U.S. and the world. The women’s rowing program also reflects well on the university putting it in a class that is equally attractive to prospective students and parents as many of the Ivy League colleges and Universities who offer strong programs in women’s rowing, and it will continue to help attract many talented young women long into the future.

There is no obligation to this letter, but I feel that you support the core of what women’s rowing at Davis strives for everyday. If we raise enough money our team can be saved and the potential for future women to develop into powerful and passionate people through rowing at UC Davis. Please donate to save UC Davis women’s rowing so that our future generations have the opportunity to achieve great things. Here is a video on Youtube that will give you a sense of the passion we have for rowing at UC Davis:

Here is the website where you can donate risk free and all the donations go to the UC Davis Rowing Fund must be used for rowing. If the program is cut, the University will return your donations.

Sincerely,

The UC Davis Women’s Rowing Team

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Winners Never Quit


This book is by famed soccer player, Mia Hamm. It’s about her childhood when she spent her days playing soccer with her family. “Tap, tap, tap. Her toes kept the ball exactly where she wanted it. She’d kick the ball straight into the net. Goal! Everybody on her team would cheer.”

But then Mia has a bad day, and she doesn’t score any goals; there’s no cheering for her. Her older brother puts his arm arund her and says, “Better luck next time.” But Mia says “I quit,” and storms off the field.

The next day when she shows up to play, her brother won’t let her. “Sorry, Mia. Quitters can’t play on my team.” Mia is forced on the sidelines, just watching. The next day she is allowed to play again, and when she doesn’t make the goal “she feels tears in her eyes.” She hears whispering that she’s going to quit, but she realizes she loves playing soccer even more than she hates losing, and she keeps playing. “Maybe she’d score a goal, maybe she wouldn’t.”

Obviously the message here is that its not whether you win or lose, its how you play the game. But its shown as a real life story, in a way kids can understand; Mia has intense emotions readers witness her learning how to deal with.

I feel like Mia wrote this book just for my daugter Lucy who is incredibly athletic at everything she tries– soccer, T-ball, basketball, air hockey (she didn’t inherit this from me.) At six years old, it is kind of rare to see a kid so aggressive, not wandering off the field or playing house in the goal. Lucy just keeps going after that ball. I obviously want to encourage her passion and skill. But she does cry when she doesn’t play well and says things like, “I’m terrible, I’m the worst.” And when she gets mad, she cheats.

I don’t understand her drive and skill because I wasn’t into sports as a kid. So I especially value this book, because it shows girls that competition is OK, which is something I wish I’d learned in sports and way beyond. I think it’s crucial to teach girls how to compete openly and ethically for victories that matter, so they don’t funnel those drives into backhanded ambitions too often focused on beauty, boys, and popularity, the venues through which girls have historically been allowed to win power.

Humans are competitive. Girls, too often aren’t taught how to deal with that, or even told that to engage in competition is bad. You’ve got to be especially wary where I live, in San Francisco, where many “progressive” schools believe every kid should be in the school play, on the team etc. I get this up to point, but learning to play fair, to want to win, that it feels good  when you do, are important lessons, key to helping girls grow into successful women.

At the end of the book, there are several photographs of Mia Hamm winning trophies, being carried by her teammates, and action shots of her playing soccer as a kid. I love all this imagery, illustrated and real, of a girl displaying her amazing skills and enjoying winning.

Thank you Mia Hamm!

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