Author Archives: Teen Voices Magazine

If You’re a Female Olympian, You Better Look Like One

By Julia Hunter, Editorial Intern

Art by Camisha Kelley, 17
Texas

The first women were allowed to compete in the Olympic Games in 1900.  At that time, out of 997 athletes, only 22 were women.  Additionally, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) limited their participation to the sports thought to be ‘feminine,’ such as croquet and golf.

Since then, Title IX has made sex discrimination in federally funded schools and sports illegal.  It does not apply to professional or Olympic sports, but the conversation and controversy about the role and rights of women in sports has affected the Olympic Games.  From 1900 to 2012, the IOC has tried to improve its policies to benefit female athletes.  In 1991, IOC members decided that henceforth, any new sport introduced in the Olympics had to include both men’s and women’s events.  Three years later, the Olympic Charter ordered that the IOC promote women in sports at all levels and act with a “strict application of the principle of equality of men and women.”  With all of this new policy, you might expect that the IOC would be an organization dedicated to addressing the interests of women and men equally.

However, if you look at the actual members of the IOC, you may wonder.  According to their own 2011 reports, the IOC has 110 board members, but only 19 are women.  Thus, less than 20 percent of the
This year, in preparing for the 2012 Olympics, the IOC is struggling with a very complex issue related to women’s inclusion in the Olympics:people making decisions about the Olympic Games are women. As much as the IOC professes to be fair and to support women’s interests, the reality is that they haven’t done much to ensure equal representation of women.

When should someone who identifies as a woman be allowed to participate in women’s athletic events?  When should she not?

Many people may remember the case of the South African runner, Caster Semenya, who won the gold medal in the women’s 800 meter race.  Her androgynous appearance made headlines, and a participant from Italy remarked, “These kind of people should not run with us. For me, she’s not a woman. She’s a man.”  Semenya was banned from competing for 11 months during ‘investigations,’ but she was allowed to keep her gold medal and will be back participating (as a woman) in the upcoming Olympic Games.  What changed?  According to a track and field manager at the University of Pretoria, which is located next to where Semenya trains, Semenya  did have hormone treatments.  Semenya declines to comment on the topic.  If Semenya received hormone treatments, they most likely aimed to reduce her testosterone level, a hormone produced, on average, in larger quantities in men than in women (although there is a great deal of variation between people of the same sex, as well as across the sexes).

The particular case of Caster Semenya has led the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) to write new standards for managing inter-sex athletes and to create a test to determine who should be categorized as a ‘woman’ for athletic purposes.  This idea might seem cutting edge, but in fact, it’s nothing new.  Until the 1960s, women were required to walk naked in front of a ‘panel of experts’ who assessed the appropriateness of their sexuality in a sort of warped beauty pageant.  Thankfully, this practice ended in 1968.  However, only four years ago, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, a sex-determination lab was set up in order to test “suspect” female athletes.

In trying to deal with the fact that gender is increasingly viewed more broadly, as a spectrum rather than as rigid, opposite categories of “male vs. female, the IOC is searching for the best solutions to allow the Olympics to be a fair event for everyone.  Their latest idea is to perform hormone testing on athletes, which requires evaluation of factors like back hair and breast size.  One endocrinologist employed by the IAAF, Dr. Myron Genel, says, “We’ll get it right.” That sounds reassuring, but in fact, he never indicates when exactly the criteria will be.

So what’s happening in the meantime? Well, the “flavor of the month” for femininity testing is judging a woman’s femininity by her testosterone levels.  Too much testosterone?  The response may be: “Well, sorry honey, you might have to sit out this year, or at least go through time-intensive and unpredictable hormone treatments.  If they affect your athletic performance and other aspects of your life, well, too bad.”

According to an article published in the New York Times, testosterone is one of the worst markers that the IAAF could have chosen to determine the sex of athletes.  Sure, on average, testosterone levels are different between men and women, but they also differ based on the time of day, age, and one’s level of athletic training.  Thus, this system seems somewhat problematic, considering that most of the women participating in the Olympics have been doing intense daily training for years, certainly enough to alter testosterone levels in their bodies!  Furthermore, medical science indicates that despite what testosterone levels might be present in your body, there’s no way of knowing how each person’s body responds to that testosterone.

In sum, it appears that scientists don’t yet have a clear-cut solution to offer the IOC, even if they’re determined to “get it right” one day.  With such a complicated issue, the IOC might consider listening to the athletes themselves.  Bruce Kidd, a former Olympian and professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto, says, “If the proclaimed human right of self-expression is to mean anything, surely it should protect the right to name one’s own gender.”  Unfortunately for Olympic athletes and their fans, that right still isn’t protected by the IOC.

The IOC and IAAF are trying their best to find a solution to a complex problem, but a decision about gender testing might best be held off until scientists, athletes, and the IOC come to an agreement on a test that really works without invading an athlete’s right to privacy and health.  In the meantime, in preparing for the 2012 Olympics, the IOC should think seriously about not only who they allow to compete, but who they allow to take part in these complicated decisions.  And maybe, when a woman qualifies to compete at a superior athletic level, she should more consistently be regarded with respect—not questions about her gender.

For more information, see the sources used in writing this blog:

www.olympic.org

“Olympic Games are Obsessed with Policing Femininity” www.feministing.com

Michele Norris Takes Us Beyond “The Grace of Silence”

By Janette Santos, Editorial Intern

Sometimes you attend an event that opens your eyes and sticks in your mind and heart. For us, this event was the 2012 Simmons Leadership Conference. Surrounded by powerful and inspiring women like Billie Jean King, Meg Whitman, and Jane McGonigal, it’s no wonder why this event empowered us to embrace our womanhood and continue our drive for success.  Earlier this year we wrote about the speech that Whitman gave at the conference and we published our interview with McGonigal. We could think of no better way to wrap up this series than by featuring a conference speaker near and dear to the Teen Voices mission: award-winning journalist Michele Norris.

Norris has led an extensive career, becoming one of the most honored voices in modern journalism, Currently the host of NPR’s flagship afternoon broadcast, All Things Considered, she has dabbled in every manner of media, interviewed personalities from Oscar winners to American presidents, and worked as a writer on such newspapers as The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Her work has earned her a plethora of awards including an Alfred I. Dupont-Columbia University Award for Excellence in Broadcasting, and the 1990 Livingston Award, as well as an Emmy and Peabody Award for her contribution to ABC News’ coverage of 9/11.

Norris recently released her first book, The Grace of Silence, a memoir that explores the concept of identity in America by asking the reader, “How well do you really know your parents?” While taking the reader through her own personal journey trying to answer this question for herself, she delves deeper into the racial legacy of American history during the Post-War period.

She told attendees at April’s conference that when writing this book, she initially wanted to research the role of race in America, until she realized that the topic of race hit closer to home than she’d initially thought. “The elders of my family seemed to have entered into a period of historic indigestion; the stories were just spilling out. ‘Pass the peas, and do you know what happened to me in 1940?’” It was only through this casual dinner talk that Norris learned that her own father had been shot in the leg by white police officers just after he was discharged from the military after World War II.

The story utterly flabbergasted her and made her recognize: “I needed to pay more attention to how the people in my family were talking about race, because I realized there was family history that was unknown to me. I realized that I didn’t know enough about the people that were closest to me. So, I changed course and started examining my own family history.”

It’s an amazing journey. Michele Norris takes her readers not only through this country’s long and sordid past of racial struggles, but also reveals interesting bits of history about her own family. In one tidbit she relates how her maternal grandmother was an “itinerant Aunt Jemima” who would tour the Midwest selling pancake mix to housewives.

Norris emphasized to the conference audience the absolute importance of really listening to your elders when they tell stories of your family’s history before it’s too late, because you never know what you’ll learn about the people close to you.

Suffice it to say, Michele Norris is an admirable woman whose career is inspirational for girls aspiring to journalism. A strong, vocal personality in modern media, her unyielding energy continues to carry her into new fields in the media.

Transitions and Dreams

By Jillian Martin, Editorial Intern

As summer approaches and the school year comes to an end, many of us hug our friends goodbye and we see them back at school in three months. However, for some, such as those with a graduation or a big move looming over their heads, these goodbye hugs may be permanent.

Whether you’re heading off to college in the fall, starting work at a new job, or moving to a new home, or simply hanging out for the summer, early June is a time of transition.  School ends, the weather changes, and you probably can’t help but feel a little bit scared as well as excited about the changes. Here at Teen Voices HQ, we like to use these times of transition and those feelings of anticipation to set goals. It doesn’t matter where you are in your journey through life, whether it is graduation time or right in the middle of your middle school years, hopes, dreams, and goals are important to articulate and achieve.

No dream is too big. Check out our article on Kathleen Hassan; the body prayer for dreaming and achieving that she shared at the Girl Up event at Mother Caroline Academy is really helpful. Simply close your eyes and think of your dream. Once you have that clear, you already have a big goal set. Now that you have your goal, write it down and post it up somewhere that you’ll see it every day. This visual aid will give you a daily reminder of something you’re working toward.

You can also take part in The Legacy Project’s “Share the Dream” video, which was inspired by a Texas school district. Students, teachers, and administrators all read from Dream: A Tale of Wonder, Wisdom and Wishes; now it’s your turn. Get a group together and read Dream. At the end, share your own dreams on camera and upload the video onto YouTube. Now the whole world can be inspired by your dream!  And now you’ll feel compelled to work toward it!

Having the dream is the easy part; the hard part is getting there. Break down the big picture: what are the baby steps you need to take to achieve your goal? Why are they important? How will they help you do what you want to do? Make a calendar and set dates for each of your mini goals. When you reach them, celebrate! You deserve it.

But when the going is slow or rough, you may need some inspiration. Here are some creative tips for setting goals and staying on track:

  1. Make a collage or “dream chest.” If your goal is to get into your top college choice, print out photos of the campus or put items into a chest that inspire you. If your goal is to become an actress, print out photos of your favorite stars as a reminder of the success you want to achieve.
  2. Make a “to-do” list. By making lists of tiny goals to achieve each day, you’ll learn to be super focused and it feels oh-so-good when you get to check them off! This process also instills the good habit of writing down everything you need to accomplish.
  3. Find a buddy. One of your friends is sure to have a dream of her/his own; maybe she/he shares your dream! Work together to encourage and inspire each other.

There are plenty of other ways to share your dreams, as well. Read our blog on Frank Warren and the PostSecret project.  And don’t forget to head on over to the Artist of the Month Contest page. This month’s theme is “Dreams”—so get out your pencils and paper, brush and canvas, or camera and tripod, and show us your interpretation of what it means to dream. You could win some great prizes, and I’ll be that’s on your dream list!

Texting and Driving: The New Drinking and Driving

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern

We’ve all heard about the dangers of drinking and driving, but did you know that texting and driving can be just as dangerous? How many times have you joked around with your friends about being unable to walk and text at the same time without bumping into others or tripping? If it’s difficult to walk and text it should be obvious that it is much more difficult to drive and text. Using a cell phone while driving, whether you are calling, talking, or texting, delays your reaction time the same amount as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit (University of Utah, 2009).

Driving is already hard enough when you’re new to being in the driver’s seat and on the road; adding distractions such as alcohol, phone calls, and/or texts does not make it any easier. Driving in bad weather (snow, rain, sleet, etc.) or in the dark creates especially challenging environments when all senses need to be fully alert. Although many teens believe that they are fully capable of staying alert when drinking and driving, or texting and driving, the number of accidents due to distractions is increasing (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Study and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Study, 2007).

The good news: The number of alcohol-related car crashes is decreasing.

The bad news: The number of young adult car crashes does not seem to be decreasing.

The problem: Texting and driving accidents are increasing, replacing the drinking-and-driving-related crashes.

Sitting in traffic is boring, yes, and maybe you “only text at stop lights,” but the temptation to answer a text while driving may be too much, and that’s where the problem lies. Even if you are the only one on the road, that doesn’t make it OK, because you can easily swerve off the road and get a little too friendly with a tree or telephone pole.

No one wants to listen to the “driving safety” speech parents and other adults give, but they need to. And this concern/article about texting isn’t your typical “be careful!” speech. This is a BIG problem—big enough to warrant a campaign, all in the name of texting and driving! Campaigns against drinking and driving have been around for many years, thanks to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), which has worked to stop drunk driving since the 1980s. MADD suggested a solution that’s become widespread: assign a “designated driver” if you want to drink heavily and/or find yourself unable to drive.

LIkewise, the new “Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts” campaign implores you to get a “designated texter”! If you are driving with a friend, there is no reason for you to be texting as well. Drinking and texting are two serious issues that young adults partake in while driving, and neither is safer than the other. With new distractions like cell phones, it is important to see the underlying message in both campaigns: Be safe!

According to a 2008 study at the Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University, “Brain power used while driving decreases by 40% when a driver listens to conversation or music.” Forty percent—and your eyes are still on the road for this! Imagine NOT looking at the road. Your peripherals might be useful when trying to find your friends at lunch, but they aren’t going to be as useful when driving, whether you are looking at your phone or inebriated.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re using a hand-held or hands-free cell phone; distractions of any kind can decrease your reaction time, and sometimes, a fraction of a second is all that matters. According to the Ad Council campaign, Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts.: “Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field.”

Did You Know?

  1. Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes) (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—NHTSA, 2009).
  2. The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers was the under-20 age group. 16% of all drivers younger than 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving (NHTSA, 2009).
  3. 22% of teens who drive while distracted say it makes driving less boring (AAA and Seventeenmagazine, 2010).
  4. 21% of teens who drive while distracted say they’re used to being connected to people all the time (AAA and Seventeenmagazine, 2010).
  5. While more than 90% of teen drivers say they don’t drink and drive, 9 out of 10 say they’ve seen passengers distracting the driver, or drivers using cell phones (National Teen Driver Survey, 2006).
  6. A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver. (Virgina Tech Transportation Institute—VTTI, 2009).
  7. 36% of teens say they have been involved in a near-crash because of their own or someone else’s distracted driving (Pew Research Center, 2010).

Next time you try to text “C U in 5!” to your friend, make sure you’re actually going to see them.

Stop the Wrecks. Stop the Texts.has several websites that you can check out for more information, including Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, and a campaign toolkit on their main site. Click to find out what you can do to spread the word!

Vote for Healthy: School Lunch Campaign

By Janette Santos, Editorial Intern

A lot of attention in the media is currently focused on the importance of healthy food for children and adolescents. Coverage ranges from Michelle Obama’s presidential initiative to lower childhood obesity in the nation from a staggering 20 percent to just 5 percent by 2030, to more local initiatives with new school regulations for serving healthier food. Since teens spend a great deal of time at school, healthier food in the cafeteria is an important change.

According to Sociedad Latina, a Boston-based organization working with Latino youth and families to end destructive cycles of poverty, health inequities, and lack of educational and professional opportunities among the Latino community, there is definitely much left to be desired in the average school cafeteria. For example, a recent crackdown in Cambridge Massachusetts for lax inspections in public school cafeterias yielded numerous health code violations, including animal droppings around the storage rooms of a cafeteria and a school freezer that was rusted and rotting.

While this situation may be extreme, it’s very common for the food offered in school cafeterias to be less than ideal in terms of being healthy. In response, youth activists at Sociedad Latina have taken on this issue and they are working to create healthier food options in school cafeterias in Boston public schools.  Vickie Miranda and Achly Esparra are two teen representatives for Sociedad’s School Lunch Campaign. According to Miranda, the School Lunch Campaign was launched with a mission focused on “eating healthy in schools because that’s where we spend most of our time, besides home. If we don’t eat [at school], we don’t have the energy to learn.”

Last year’s controversial finding by councilor-at-large John R. Connolly, that several Boston public schools had been storing foods past their expiration date,and serving them to students, was one of the catalysts that initially drove the Campaign.

Both Miranda and Vickie believe that most Boston Public School (BPS) students don’t even eat school lunch. They explained: “Some students skip lunch altogether and some leave school to go to Burger King or Subway to get food, and then come back to school.” Either way, they aren’t getting a good lunch.

Esparra’s role as a dancer is one of the reasons she feels that working on the Campaign is incredibly important. “I got involved because of my dancing. I wanted to learn more about eating healthy and all things that involve healthy habits…especially eating, because I love food!” Miranda said: “I got involved because I eat school lunch. I eat at school because I know I won’t be able to eat anything else during school hours. And for me, I want to eat healthy. And if the food at school isn’t healthy, meaning that the food that I eat most of the time isn’t healthy, then I’m not healthy.”

The girls would like to see more healthy and great-tasting foods in their cafeteria. Esparra noted that they “want healthy food that tastes good, not just healthy food that tastes awful.”  Miranda added, ”In my school we have fruit, such as oranges and apples, but I would prefer more variety of fruit. Like at one point we had grapes, but then they disappeared.”

You may wonder how a teen-led campaign facilitated change in public schools. First, the teens started talking about what they wanted to change, and how they thought they could make that change. From there, Esparra and Miranda passed out 300 surveys at schools and in the community that asked students directly what kind of food and changes they would like to see in their cafeterias.  More than 70 percent of the respondents were in favor of establishing a salad/fruit bar in their school. Esparra and Miranda, alongside their peers, then began having conversations with their school cafeteria managers and principals to build support. In the early fall, they presented their idea to expand the salad bars in high schools to the director of the food and nutrition services.

The Campaign has been very successful. It has established salad bars in two new high schools, with more planned for the future.  In fact, Miranda and Esparra have secured a commitment from the BPS director of food and nutrition services to establish salad bars in all BPS high schools.  Miranda believes that they are off to a good start, but said:  “There are millions of others schools, millions of other students, who are still not eating healthy, not eating while at school, or leaving school to eat.  It is really important to try to get healthy foods and to try and keep students in school and keep them awake in classes.” In addition, Esparra would like to more see more food prepared in the cafeteria, as opposed to microwave meals, because she believes that “cooking real food is also part of eating healthy.”

Miranda and Esparra attribute much of the success of the School Lunch Campaign to Sociedad Latina’s genuine concern for the health of young people.  And they feel it’s important for girls to be activists in their own communities because “it shows that we’re trying to do something—we’re trying to make a change [for the better.] When people see that a girl is doing something about [a problem], it makes them think that at least someone cares about what’s going on in the community.”

Miranda complemented the thought: “Since we’re teenagers, people think that we don’t take anything seriously.” Miranda often sees the ‘she’s-not-gonna-take-this-job-seriously-because-she’s-a-teenager’ mentality. She stated: “But then, people see what we do here and they see how we take it seriously, so they see that the stereotypes aren’t correct.”

Sociedad staff member Melissa Luna reflected:  “I think it’s very important for adults to act as allies for our young women and encourage their leadership and participation.  In most schools, students and their abilities are taken for granted.  Every youth has the potential to become a leader and make their school a better place.  These young women have take on this charge and created a positive change for both themselves and their peers.”

Esparra advises: If you want to inspire change in your own community, whether it’s in your school cafeteria or elsewhere, “find an interest…My interest is me; I want to be healthy; I want to be fit. I think that finding motivation is the first move, the first step that you need to take to move forward.”

So do some reflective thinking, girls, and decide what you want to change in your community, then figure out your first step.  By moving one step at a time, in collaboration with others, you too can change the negative stereotypes of teens—and create positive change in your community.  Go to it!

For more information on efforts to increase healthy lunches in schools, see “The Secret Life of Lunch: Teen Voices Goes Beyond the Mystery Meat” in the Spring/Summer 2012 issue of the Teen Voices print magazine (pp. 19-21).

For more information on Sociedad Latina and their School Lunch Campaign, see: http://sociedadlatinaschoollunch.blogspot.com/p/sociedad-latina-school-lunch-goals.html

The Deal with the Steal: The Politics of Plagiarism

By Liz Peters, Editorial Assistant
Art by Gracie Gralike, 19, Missouri

Children rarely like being labeled copy cats, and rightfully so.  From a young age, we are all taught that being yourself is worlds better than acting like somebody else. And if we are unique, what comes from us, even our school work, should be just as unique.

According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, plagiarism is taking the work someone else has done, and passing it off as your own. This process occurs most often  through a ‘copy and paste method’—from website to Microsoft Word in one quick motion. But even though what you might consider to be borrowing, common knowledge, or simply not a big deal, when you take someone’s ideas you’re messing with their intellectual property, which is protected by law.

There are several reasons  a girl might neglect her sense of fairness and/or get lazy and opt out of opportunities for originality in academia: reliance on the internet for analyses; hope of getting a better grade, a time crunch, feeling inferior to the subject, and/or compensating by using others’ knowledge as one’s own.

Avoid the Steal!  Building on the work of www.plagiarism.org (I’ve gotta be sure I cite my sources correctly, after all!), here are some tips to keep you legit:

1)      Site your sources….correctly!

2)      Give credit and use quotation marks where appropriate

3)      Manage your time well so that you will not feel rushed in completing an assignment, and thus less tempted to take the ‘easy way out’ and use someone else’s work

4)      Explore whether your school has anti-plagiarism software you can use to help prove to your teachers that your work is original and that other students have not stolen your work.  An increasing number of colleges and universities endorse the use of software that can detect plagiarism—either between students, as papers are archived, or from the internet—through program databases that compare with billions of websites! Turnitin and WriteCheck, which allows you to check your work for plagiarism and originality before handing it in, are examples. If you don’t have current experience with these yet, you may come across them in your future.

For more information on plagiarism, see:  www.plagarism.org.

For more information on intellectual property, see: http://www.hg.org/intell.html

Note:  Fact checking and citing sources correctly is something that we at Teen Voices take very seriously.  In fact, it’s a major portion of how our college-aged editorial interns spend their time here! They make sure that the feature articles produced by the teens in our program give proper credit for ideas and information.

A big ‘thank you!’ to plagiarism.org for aiding in the (original!) production of this piece!

Reasons Why I Will NOT Boycott Seventeen (Hint: It’s not why you’d think)

By Sarah Binning, Marketing and Editorial Coordinator
Art by Elsa Moseley, 15,Oklahoma

If you’re a feminist, teen girl, reader of Seventeen, or healthy media activist (or a friend/relative to any of the above), you’ve probably heard about the amazing group of teen girls who recently petitioned Seventeen. Their request? They want this teen-centered publication to print real photos of diverse girls—without photo editing or enhancement of the images. The campaign, started by SPARK bloggers Julia Bluhm and Izzy Labbe, led a group of teen activists to hold a mock photo shoot outside Seventeen’s New York office. Armed with posters reading: “The magazine is for me—make it look like me!” and “Teen girls against Photoshop!” the girls waited for a chance to speak with Ann Shoket, Seventeen’s editor-in-chief.

Last week, someone tweeted me the news about Seventeen’s response: @TeenVoices, Seventeen denies girl’s request to stop photoshopping. Boycott Sept. issue. Use #notbuyingSept17 hashtag. PLS. RT.

Was it true? Did Seventeen really deny 25,000 signatures (which has since grown to more than 70,000)? I immediately started searching for related news articles. My heart sank when I was finally able to find an article confirming that the tweet was indeed true. After retweeting the #NotBuyingItSept17 hashtag and after several conversations with colleagues, teens, and activists, I’ve reconsidered and decided I’m not going to boycott Seventeen

My decision isn’t for the reason you would think. It’s not because I believe Seventeen’s statements that their publication is diverse and they do not enhance their photographs. I’m choosing not to boycott Seventeen because:

  1. I’d rather see changes occur willingly. I want Seventeen to see the light. I want them to understand that girls worldwide are unhappy with the size-zero, light-skinned, zit-free, cookie-cutter models we see today in their magazine. We want to see real girls. Let’s open the door for continued conversations with Seventeen and brainstorm ways they can begin to create healthier media.
  2. There are so few magazines, and resources in general, focused on teen girls.  I don’t want to be divisive and undermine another girls’ publication. I’d rather educate them about the unhealthy side effects of this constant stream of negative media. Low self-esteem, eating disorders, and teen depression are just a few of the issues that girls face today. There are steps all publications can take toward creating healthier media. Example: In 2009, French Elle printed a “no-makeup” issue. And in recent news, Vogue said they’ll no longer employ underage or underweight models.
  3. Boycotts are generally short lived. If enough hundreds of thousands of people banned together, we could probably make a significant impact in Seventeen’s revenue. But for how long? If Seventeen can just hang in there for a few more weeks, they’ll find a way to smooth this over with some good PR. Eventually something else will stir up public attention. Society will move on to boycotting something (or someone) else.
  4. Seventeen is not unique.  Like most businesses, Seventeen is a company that financially supports itself through advertising. They’re always in a constant struggle to keep their advertisers happy. And the reality is that advertisers need girls to feel ugly and ashamed so that we’ll buy their products, which “guarantee” us beauty. This issue is larger than just one magazine. Seventeen isn’t the only publication that uses extensive makeup, lightening, and photo editing. The issue lies much deeper in the roots of our society’s standards. Objectifying women and making us feel poorly about our bodies on purpose is not okay.

I’m not saying I’m going to run out and buy a copy of Seventeen magazine. (I don’t, in fact, buy the magazine on a regular basis.) You may or may not want to yourself.  If you’re morally opposed to the content inside the publication, it’s okay if you make a personal decision not to purchase it. What I am saying is that rallying your sisters together for a full-fledge boycott is not a fix-all solution.

Instead, I pledge to:

  1. Sign the petition, and talk about it with the teen girls in my life. Unlike my initial gut reaction to jump on board with the boycott, signing the petition and becoming actively involved (i.e. sharing and discussing this issue) has allowed me to truly think through and understand my personal viewpoint about this issue. I’ve digested the information and issue in a much deeper way than I would have had I just signed on for a boycott.
  2. Raise my voice to make my concerns known! Even by writing this blog, I’m getting my thoughts and concerns into the open. You can do the same. You can even write an Op-Ed for your local newspaper (or even The New York Times). If we leverage public forums, like blogs, twitter and petitions, we can hold our ground for much longer than if we were to just boycott. We can spark discussions, conversations, and maintain our momentum on the issue, not to mention, garner the support of tens of thousands of people easily. Being vocal about the issue will keep this healthy media issue in the spotlight.
  3. Tweet about the petition, and spread the word about how others can get involved.
  4. Share articles about the amazing work Julia, Izzy, and other girls worldwide are doing to promote more real images of girls, and healthy media, in general!
  5. Promote alternative magazines that already portray real girls without photoshopping them, such as Teen Voices. Our girls are gorgeous—just the way they are! But we also know that they are more than just their pretty faces, so we focus on their ideas and experiences, not just their looks.
  6. Become involved with organizations that empower teen girls and support healthy media and education for girls. To name a few: Teen Voices, SPARK, MissRepresentation, GRLZ Radio, Strong Women Strong Girls, Proud2BMe.org, Girl Up, Girl Scouts, and She’s the First.
  7. Be a conscious consumer of media. When I look at an ad or watch a television show, I’m aware that these models and actresses are wearing makeup, and have their hair styled by professionals. I know the advertiser has a mission to sell me something, and I’m skeptical and analytical of their advertising strategies before deciding how I feel about their company and products.
  8. Promote acceptance of a wide variety of images of women’s body types.  Let girls and women see that just as there are a range of skin tones, there are many body types in the world, and many ways to be beautiful—au natural.  I rarely wear makeup, and have learned to embrace the fact that my thunder-thighs, big nose, and goofy ears are here to stay.
  9. Practice promoting positive body images by giving out compliments to friends, family, and even strangers about the ways they are already beautiful—without enhancements. And be sure to include compliments that don’t focus on their appearance at all. Thank those you love for being honest and trustworthy. Congratulate your colleagues for their organizational skills, or creative thinking. Because when all is said and done, it’s really inner beauty that matters most.

I’m sure that other traditional women’s and girls’ magazines and advertisers everywhere are thinking: “I’m glad this happened to Seventeen and not to us! What a press nightmare.” But I hope they’re all paying attention because Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and Abercrombie, you could be next. You need to be a part of this conversation too. We all do.

Listening with your Eyes: Deafness is a Culture, Not a Disability

By Raven Heroux, Editorial Intern
Photo by Cindie Andrie

When you think of culture, what do you think of? Do you think of exotic meals, holiday traditions, and foreign languages? Most people may not know this, but Deaf people have a culture all their own! They are a community of people celebrating their diversity in the same way other people celebrate their cultural diversity.

Lowercase “d” in “deaf” is reserved for the medical condition, or the ability or inability to hear on the wide spectrum of hearing. Capital “D” in Deaf is used for those individuals who are immersed within the culture; their primary language is sign language; and they communicate, live, and celebrate their deafness with other Deaf individuals.

“One of the biggest misconceptions about Deaf people is that we all sign and don’t speak, which couldn’t be further from the truth,” explained Sarah Honigfeld, a Deaf senior at Northeastern University (NEU). “Some sign only; some sign and speak; and some are bilingual—they know more than just ASL (American Sign Language) and English. It is important to ask Deaf persons how they prefer to communicate, rather than making assumptions.”

Monique DuBois, a hearing junior at NEU majoring in interpreting, explained how some people see deafness as a disability, and why she disagrees:  “Disability implies you’re unable to do something. Deaf people are a minority, with a language and lifestyle.”

DuBois’ classmate, Nicolette Hagman, said, “Deaf people can do everything except hear. It’s not hindering you in anyway.”

I met both DuBois and Hagman at NEU’s ASL program event, Deaf Deaf World. “Deaf Deaf World provides opportunities for hearing ASL students to not only practice their ability to sign, but also to experience what it feels like to be a minority in a completely Deaf world,” Honigfeld explained. “We set up scenarios similar to what a Deaf person would experience in the hearing world, such as trying to understand important announcements done in sign, or trying to communicate with different people who use a language different from their own.”

Honigfeld grew up deaf and has been immersing herself in the Deaf community in recent years. “Often, people are shocked to find out that I am Deaf when they first meet me, since I can speak well and can understand people well by lip reading,” Honigfeld said. “I have to educate my peers and co-workers about what it means to be Deaf and how to interact with Deaf people, even though we are not all the same. I have to remind people to speak a little more slowly and face me when they talk, so I can see their lips.”

Their advice for teens?

“Get uncomfortable!” DuBois said.

Hagman added, “Approach people outside of your culture. In the long run, you’ll benefit.”

Honigfeld advised teen girls to: “just be yourself and to be confident in the choices you make. So many people doubted me and my abilities because I am Deaf, but I ignored their comments and went with my gut. The most important thing was that I was confident in myself and put my best work into each task that I did, each class I took, and each job I worked.”

Whether or not you know sign language, you can attend many different types of Deaf events. Northeastern’s American Sign Language program is a great resource for students in the Boston area. There are many websites around the world that can help you out, including the Online Deaf Web Directory, Deaf Linx, and DeafSpot .

If you are Deaf, and/or looking to become an interpreter, here are some great resources:

Know of any Deaf events in your area? Share them with us, in the comments section below!

Women = Leaders: Impact and Innovation at the 33rd Annual Simmons Leadership Conference

Article and photos by Liz Peters, Editorial Intern

A crowd of over 3,000 women, with a few men sprinkled in, gathered on Thursday, April 5, at the Boston World Trade Center to celebrate, share, and inspire stories of female leadership.

Meg Whitman, president and CEO (chief executive officer) of Hewlett-Packard (better known to the public as the technology powerhouse “HP”), kicked off the day with tales of her own ascent to leadership and sage advice for other women. Whitman is ranked one of the Top Five Most Powerful Women by Fortune magazine.  She sites her mother, Margaret, as a big influence for her success. She explained that her mother’s “can-do” attitude and work ethic during World War II has motivated and even pushed her throughout her life.  Her mother went to college, something that she didn’t tell Whitman’s father until five years after they’d been married because it “never came up.” During the War, she became a mechanic and role model.

As for Meg, after attending college at Princeton University and receiving her masters in business at Harvard, Whitman worked for various companies, including Disney and Hasbro. At Hasbro, she was the general manager and syndicated the airing of Teletubbies from the U.S. to the U.K. (She admitted she found enjoyment in working with Mr. Potato Head!)  She landed a job at eBay in 1998. When Whitman flew across the country to California for the interview, she was greeted by a receptionist at the office. After she was hired, Whitman noticed the receptionist was gone; she later learned the woman had been hired for the day—that’s how small eBay was! At the time, the trading and sharing company was made up of 30 employees and was worth $4 million. As CEO, Whitman helped eBay grow into the 15,000-employee, $8 billion success it is today.

After running for governor of California, the third woman in 20 years to do so, Whitman landed her gig at HP in Sept. 2011. There, she contributes to the operation of cell phones, credit cards, and the running of the U.S. Navy! “It is the fabric of global society,” she said of the world’s biggest computer maker. Whitman is the second woman to lead HP; in 1999, Carly Fiorina was the first female CEO of the Fortune 20 Company—and one of the first female CEOs of any company this size. Today, female CEOs run companies such as the Pepsi Company, Rite Aid, Yahoo!, and Kraft Foods (mac and cheese, yum!), among other stellar organizations.

As Whitman spoke about the qualities of a leader, she stressed that no matter what, you must remain true to yourself and what you stand for. “Inaction presents a greater cost than making a mistake,” she said. Better to take a chance, ladies, and always follow your gut!

The Simmons conference included presentations by other leading ladies such as journalist Michelle Norris, Zipcar cofounder Robin Chase, video game innovator Jane McGonigal (watch for our upcoming interview with her!), and the first African-American female combat pilot, Vernice Armour.  Each spoke of the challenges and rewards of being female in their profession. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, who catapulted the movement for gender equality in sports by beating male tennis star Bobby Riggs in their epic 1973 match, closed the conference.

Overall, the conference was an inspiring event. In the words of Whitman, “The ceiling is where you put it!” Nothing can stop you but yourself, so get going!

Screen-Free Week 2012: Turn off the TV, and Turn On Life!

By Janette Santos, Editorial Intern

How many hours a day would you guess that you stare at a television, computer screen, video game, or cell phone? According to a 2010 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, on average, children aged 8-18 spends about seven and a half hours using entertainment media every day. And because so much of that time is spent using more than one medium at a time, it’s really more like 11 hours worth of media content. Furthermore, the average teenager in 7th -12th grade spends about an hour and a half every day just sending and receiving texts!  On average, Black and Hispanic children consume much more TV than white kids–black children watching almost six hours per day, Latino youth about five and a half hours per day, and white kids three and a half hours a day.

A down side to watching TV and using the computer is that you are not physically active (except maybe a little bit with games like Wii Sports). And especially for teens, this is not good. Approximately 12.5 million of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years are considered obese. Physical inactivity is a risk factor for not only obesity, but also Type 2 diabetes. Heavy media users also tend to perform poorly in school, usually getting fair or poor grades (mostly C’s or lower). In addition to that, getting wrapped up in screens can be detrimental to developing a well-rounded social life. TV, social media sites, and video games may be entertaining, but they are no substitute for interactions with real people.

Understandably though, with the irresistible lure of modern luxuries such as DVR-ing your favorite television shows (can you say, Once Upon A Time marathon?), updating your Facebook status, or even spending hours exploring the awesome Teen Voices website (ahem!), it can be hard to motivate yourself to get up off the couch and pursue a more physical or social activity such as taking a walk, riding your bike, or doing Double Dutch.

Luckily for all of us, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is sponsoring Screen-Free Week 2012! Started in 1996, the goal is to give children and families around the country a chance to turn off the screens they use for entertainment, and turn on life! For one whole week, you can use your creativity to think up great new ways to spend your free time, whether it be finally cracking open that book you’ve been meaning to read; taking a walk around your city; playing a game of soccer with your friends; swimming at the beach; going for a hike in the woods with your family; or even enjoying a jog through your neighborhood. The possibilities are endless. The fact that it’s spring will hopefully make it more appealing to go outside.

Another piece of good news is that YOU can help spread the word about Screen-Free Week and inspire others to start themselves on the path to a healthier, more active lifestyle by downloading an Organizer’s Kit at the Screen Free Week website.

So, get up off that couch, and get moving! And start talking! To find out more information about Screen Free Week, visit their website.