Author Archives: Teen Voices Magazine

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Teen Voices need your help. Because of a recent decrease in funding, they’re at a crisis. The organization must raise $300,000 by August 1. Yes, it’s that bad.

For nearly 25 years, girls and young women in Boston and beyond have counted on Teen Voices to provide a positive, girl-friendly space to grow as writers and leaders. Teen Voices is not going down without a fight.

Their girl-generated magazine is the only publication of its kind. Thousands of girls around the globe count on Teen Voices to publish their work and offer honest, positive stories that address real issues in their lives.

The good news is their magazine and our afterschool program are stronger than ever. They’ve produced two excellent issues in the past year and over 225 online articles—including interviews with inspiring girls in action and powerful leading ladies like Donna Brazile, Jennifer Buffett, and Maria Hinojosa. And let’s not forget to mention the waiting list for their afterschool and summer journalism program. Their Boston-based teens consistently show growth in perseverance, social efficacy, and acceptance of others.

With a strong and dedicated staff and an army of passionate teens and volunteers, they are poised to take Teen Voices to the next level in 2013, reaching many more girls worldwide. With a vision to increase our web traffic tenfold—they hope to become the go-to place for smart girl media. Teen Voices has plans—and even a grant!—to make teenvoices.com an interactive, smartphone-friendly forum for girls to amplify their voices.

It’s all within reach.

But right now, they need funds to get around this challenging corner and move their organization to a stronger future.  With your help, Teen Voices can partner and transform to amplify the voices of girls.  Whether you can afford $5, $50 or $5,000, every donation brings Teen Voices closer.

You can send a safe and secure contribution through this PayPal link.

Or mail a check to:

Teen Voices
80 Summer St, Suite 400
Boston MA 02110

We need your donations by August 1!

Please forward this message to every person you know who believes that girls can change the world. And thank you for investing in the power of teen girls’ voices!

For updates on our campaign, like “Teen Voices Magazine” on Facebook and join the conversation on Twitter @teenvoices #notwithoutafight

To read our latest and greatest girl-generated media, visit www.teenvoices.com.

A Right to Her Own Image: Lifting Soccer’s Hijab Ban

By Alison Lanier, Editorial Intern

The freedom to dress how you want is a big part of building your own healthy, confident sense of self. But professional women soccer players who choose to follow conventions of Muslim modesty have historically faced a challenge.  For many years, they were banned from wearing their head coverings while playing their sport. It is only recently that these Muslim athletes won a victory—the International Football Association Board, soccer’s rule-making body, granted Muslim women the right to wear head coverings, or hijabs, while playing their sport. In March 2012, the International Football Association Board, or IFAB, voted unanimously to overturn the ban on hijabs and it is expected to ratify the ruling this month.

The hijab is a type of head-covering which wraps around the head, covering a woman’s hair and sometimes her chin and neck as well. Hijab is also the general name for the principle of modesty prescribed for Muslim women. In general, the idea is that the women practice hijab in front of any male who they could potentially marry. Thus, they are not required to wear a hijab in front of family (husband, brother, father, etc.) in private. However, they are expected to maintain modesty in public places. These conventions are open to many different, personalized interpretations and are practiced many diverse ways by Muslim women.

Islamic conventions of modesty for women can be confusing for non-Muslim people. With overwhelming media voices telling us that body confidence for a woman comes from her image as a physically beautiful female, some westerners have condemned hijabs as effacing or degrading women. The most complete body covering, the burqa, conceals everything except a woman’s eyes, masking her expression and making it challenging to know if she is smiling, furious, or miserable.

Many proponents for lifting the ban on hijabs in professional sports claim that the ban had more to do with cultural discomfort than real concerns about safety. The ban was based on the idea that the hijabs were a handicap to players, which prompted vocal internet protests that the “hijab is not a disability.” Floods of images swamped the Internet showing hijab-wearing athletes head-butting soccer balls, weight-lifting, fencing, surfing, and playing rugby. (Click here to see examples.) This passionate response is supported by the fact that there is no record of a hijab-related injury in professional soccer.

Since it was put in place in 2007, the ban itself has had serious, prohibitive effects on women’s teams who choose to cover their heads. In 2011, Iran’s female soccer team was disqualified from their Olympic qualifying game because hijabs were worn by the team; their chance to compete in the 2012 London games was thereby destroyed.

Thankfully, these women are no longer being asked to check their religion and their identity at the door; they now have the freedom to participate in their sport in a way that feels comfortable and respectful.

Surely, this is a victory for ALL women—and athletes!

Wandering the World Wide Web

By Nisreen Galloway, Editorial Intern

Photo by Anh Ðào Kolbe for Teen Voices

Have you ever found yourself sitting down at the computer and before you realize it, you’ve spent more than 20 minutes just on Facebook?  According to a 2011 survey by the Pew Research Center, 80% of teens use the internet for social media, with girls ages 12-17 using it the most. Social media can be a great way to build and keep in touch with friends both near and far, but it’s not the only thing on the Internet! Entertainment, news, and culture are all a part of the world wide web. Since we can all access the world with just a click, there are plenty of opportunities we can take advantage of on our home screens. Whether it’s inspiration in the form of artwork or learning how to make your own pillowcases, there are lots of safe, fun, and enlightening things do online.  Here are a few suggestions.

News
www.news.nick.com

For an easy way to grab the news and stay up to date on current events that you care about, check out Nick News. Originally a television show, this website is updated weekly with national and global news that incorporates the voices and viewpoints of teens. It offers both videos and articles so you can experience and learn about the news in a digestible format. It also has video links where Linda Ellerbee, the host, discusses current world events with teen panelists. On this site you can gain insight into what’s going on in the world and you can form your own opinion about national and international issues. As important, you may see someone you think is worthy to look up to as a strong, powerful female role model!

Other news-oriented sites to check out: www.timeforkids.com/news

DIY
www.craftgawker.com

Through sunshine and rain, finding online do-it-yourself (DIY) activities is a great way to get creative and use your hands to make something entirely unique. Craft Gawker compiles different blogs with tons of DIY tutorials and projects. The website is mainly images of finished projects; it is easy to use—simply click on something you like to find a step-by-step tutorial on how to create your own. Recycle earrings missing a match, make a funky ring, or grab those t-shirts you don’t wear anymore and make a new scarf.  With these tutorials, you can be green and create something unique that reflects your own sense of style and creativity.

Other creative art sites to check out: www.psimadethis.com

Blogs
www.rookiemag.com

As social media becomes ever more popular, so do online blogs. Even our own Girl Talk that you’re reading now is a great way to hear other people’s perspectives and thoughts. While some people choose to write about their passions for food or fashion, others create pages that speak to individual beauty and empowerment. One blog we really like is Rookie magazine, a teen-focused fashion and lifestyle blog started by 16-year-old Tavi Gevinson.  Her online blog is funny and it’s a fun place to read about the perspectives of other teens on school, growing up, and fashion. From Tumblr to WordPress, blogs are a fresh way to make your voice known to the world while exploring some new perspectives.

Other blogs to check out: www.neverseconds.blogspot.com

Videos
www.tedxteen.com

If your favorite part of class is when you get to watch a movie, then TED talks might become your new favorite place on the web. TED is a conference of intellectuals in Technology, Entertainment, and Design where people of all different backgrounds give lectures on innovative ideas and offer thought-provoking questions. While both women and men give lectures on really cool ideas, their visual aids beg viewers to follow along. TED also offers a section specifically sectored for teen viewers. Whether you choose to check out the original www.TED.com or www.TEDxTeen.com, you will be opening yourself up to a host of new theories, ideas, and some really unique people.

Other video sites to check out: www.youtube.com

Though these websites are just suggestions, there are plenty of other things to do online besides social media. Let us know what your favorite sites are!

** Note:  Even if you’re not using social media online, it’s important to make sure you follow through with internet safety procedures and you have your parent’s permission to go to the specific online sites you want to visit.**

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!