MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Fri 11-Oct-13 11:36:58

Malala is a fantastic role model for girls - but why aren't there more?

This week, Malala Yousafzai won the EU Sakharov prize for human rights. Here MN blogger Lynn Schreiber, who last year launched Jump! Mag, an online magazine which seeks to broaden the role models offered to girls in the mainstream media, explains why Malala's example is so important.

Lynn Schreiber

Salt and Caramel

Posted on: Fri 11-Oct-13 11:36:58

(141 comments )

Lead photo

Malala Yousafazi speaks at the United Nations.

Happy International Day of the Girl! We would have loved to have been able to congratulate Malala Yousafzai on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but unfortunately it was not to be.

But this is no way diminishes her extraordinary achievement. Threats from the Taliban couldn’t stop her writing - nor did the appalling, cowardly attack on her and her school friends. Standing tall at the UN earlier this year, she spoke powerfully and movingly for the rights of girls to an education. The fact that she was considered for the Nobel Prize for Peace – taking her place alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Shirin Ebadi – is, I hope, testament to the fact that global equality for women and girls is edging closer. What a fantastic role model she is to our girls - and to our boys.

And heaven knows they need it.

From a young age, children are given the message that girls like pink, dressing up, make-up and hairstyles, princesses and horses. Boys are pushed towards cars, tractors, planes and adventure. Campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys have been successful in highlighting how damaging this is for children – but the media landscape in which our daughters are growing up presents just as many challenges to those of us who want our children to be whatever they want to be.

Our girls are bombarded with images of seemingly perfect celebrities, and feel pressured that they don’t live up to the images portrayed. They are as yet unaware that this perfection is only achievable with the assistance of a team of stylists, flattering lighting and photoshop to smooth the skin and vanish blemishes.

It's time to give all girls the confidence to stand up and speak up, and to know that their voice will be heard.


In March 2012, I started a thread on Mumsnet asking if anyone would like to contribute to a preteen magazine for girls. The idea was that the magazine would offer an alternative to magazines like Girls & Co, Go Girl and Hello Kitty, which offer such a narrow range of options for girls to aspire to. This magazine would focus on fun articles and creative craft ideas, personal and school/career advice, insights into careers that they may not have considered, articles about children around the world and interactive content, some of it written by their peers. We wanted to feature female role models – not celebrities, but sportswomen, archaeologists, engineers, counsellors and councillors.

With the assistance of dozens of Mumsnetters, Jump! Mag was born.

In the year since, we’ve published over 200 articles on a wide range of topics, hosted two writing competitions (the second is currently underway) and featured over 60 articles written by our young readers – everything from being a vegetarian to coping with bullies to what it is really like to live on a boat.

In the coming weeks we’ll be launching a Kickstarter crowd-funding project to develop the magazine further – so do keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter for announcements. The new Jump! Mag will be a unique online magazine for preteens - a one-stop-shop to inspire and entertain kids, in a safe, girl-positive environment.

We’ll feature games and interactive stories, news and reviews, peer-to-peer counselling, advice on bullying and health and using social media safely – and we’ll be working with other organisations to inform our readers about science, technology, engineering and mathematics – traditionally subjects that are not promoted to girls.

Our hope is that we can be online mentors, guiding the way for thousands of girls around the world, showing them that there are fascinating careers that they might not even know about- and opening up the world for them by showing that there are many more roles available to them than the ones they see in the other girls' magazines on the newsagent's shelf.

In a world that celebrates the bravery of Malala Yousafzai - a girl who is determined to speak out about what she wants to be - we think it's time to give all girls the confidence to stand up and speak up, and to know that their voice will be heard.

By Lynn Schreiber

Twitter: @LynnCSchreiber

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:20:18

And I repeat, Lynn was ASKED by MNHQ to do this. Do you get as upset about the other advertising on the site?

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 23:22:00

I'd like to know what anyone else is doing to encourage the young girls of the future before they get pissy about it'

Well, my MP (who happens to be a woman) has visited the children of DD2s junior school to congratulate them on their achievements and talk to them about their concerns. She did not limit this to the girls though.

The mayor of our local council (who happens to be a man) visited DD2s infant school to present them with a Green Flag Award. He told the children, in a way which obviously struck such a cord that DD2 who usually will tell me nothing which occurred in school, that he attended the school. He made DD2 feel like she could be mayor, and she is only 5 and so didn't properly understand his position but only understood that he was An Important Person - and she could be one too!

Bloody amazing role models, for girls and boys, popping up in schools. This is happening without campaigning in this country today.

I feel such unpublicised little visits to children to make them feel listened to and special are a real tangable labour of love, accessible to all. You wouldn't know they happened if the children didn't mention them.

I appreciate those role models myself.

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 23:23:49

Upset?

Oh my dear Porto, you are conflating me having a different opinion to you with me being 'upset'. Fear not! I'm not upset, I just disagree with you.

But you forgot the passive aggressive smiley, here, have mine smile

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:32:38

Um, I am a bit hmm at anyone who has been on MN a while who could be funny about this and start talking about PA. Lynn has done absolutely nothing wrong.

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 23:35:28

You are as entitled to your hmm faces as I am to mine, porto.

hmm hmm

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:35:37

Growlithe - so you mean you haven't done anything then...?

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 23:38:26

"Um, I am a bit hmm at anyone who has been on MN a while who could be funny about this"

I really did want to start a "really, so you think MN is a homogeneous groupthink?" kind of post here, but I'm off to bed now so won't be around to discuss how marvellously in tune with each other we all are.

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:42:53

Fuck, you lot are amazingly rude. So Lynn goes out of her way to create a a magazine for girls. She is well known to MNHQ. She makes no money from this and when MNHQ want to do something for International Day of the Girl, they contact her and encourage her to post. MNHQ ASKED FOR THIS POST And certain posters come out of the woodwork to slag her off.

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:43:58

mystic, um you sound nice

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 23:52:44

Porto well we understand that our greatest influence can be with our own two DDs, and so we encourage them to be the best that they can be. We don't do this because they are girls and therefore must need more encouragement. We do it because they are our children. And so, within our family unit, we are all able to input into decisions that we can understand, that will affect us and that we feel strongly about.

And now DD1 is getting older, we explain in a way she will understand (and believe me she has an impressive sense of justice for a person who has never had to fight for justice) issues that are outside our control but that will affect our lives and the lives of others, both locally and globally.

And of course that only affects two girls. But quite powerfully I reckon.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 23:56:53

I too did not realise I couldn't express disagreement with a poster who was well known to MNHQ and was invited to post. hmm

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:58:59

And you disagree on what point?

Growlithe Sun 13-Oct-13 00:57:31

Happy International Day of the Girl! We would have loved to have been able to congratulate Malala Yousafzai on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but unfortunately it was not to be.

But this is no way diminishes her extraordinary achievement. Threats from the Taliban couldn’t stop her writing - nor did the appalling, cowardly attack on her and her school friends. Standing tall at the UN earlier this year, she spoke powerfully and movingly for the rights of girls to an education. The fact that she was considered for the Nobel Prize for Peace – taking her place alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Shirin Ebadi – is, I hope, testament to the fact that global equality for women and girls is edging closer. What a fantastic role model she is to our girls - and to our boys.

All good so far

And heaven knows they need it.

Hang on, who are you talking about here? Children of the world, or children specifically of our country. No matter, everyone could do with this kind of role model.

From a young age, children are given the message that girls like pink, dressing up, make-up and hairstyles, princesses and horses. Boys are pushed towards cars, tractors, planes and adventure.

Are they? Everywhere? Always?

Campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys have been successful in highlighting how damaging this is for children – but the media landscape in which our daughters are growing up presents just as many challenges to those of us who want our children to be whatever they want to be.

Is the media landscape in which our daughters are growing up fixed? Do we all read the same things, watch the same things, interpret things in the same way?

Our girls are bombarded with images of seemingly perfect celebrities, and feel pressured that they don’t live up to the images portrayed. They are as yet unaware that this perfection is only achievable with the assistance of a team of stylists, flattering lighting and photoshop to smooth the skin and vanish blemishes.

Is just grown ups who can understand the power of photoshop, stylists, flattering lighting? Or do you think that today's more IT savvy children can more easily understand how those in celebrity magazines can look differently to their own grown ups - who are parents, teachers, sports coaches - all different shapes and sizes. Remember - the OP is saying 'heaven knows they need it' when talking about Malala as a role model. For this? Really? I think a quick play round with a few body shapes in PSHE would hit the spot here. Does that happen? If not can we target that as a campaign?

"It's time to give all girls the confidence to stand up and speak up, and to know that their voice will be heard."

I would argue, having a girl in Y5 and a girl in Y1, this is already happening in our country. I would be behind any campaign that would give both girls and boys this confidence throughout the world.

In March 2012, I started a thread on Mumsnet asking if anyone would like to contribute to a preteen magazine for girls. The idea was that the magazine would offer an alternative to magazines like Girls & Co, Go Girl and Hello Kitty, which offer such a narrow range of options for girls to aspire to. This magazine would focus on fun articles and creative craft ideas, personal and school/career advice, insights into careers that they may not have considered, articles about children around the world and interactive content, some of it written by their peers. We wanted to feature female role models – not celebrities, but sportswomen, archaeologists, engineers, counsellors and councillors.

With the assistance of dozens of Mumsnetters, Jump! Mag was born.

In the year since, we’ve published over 200 articles on a wide range of topics, hosted two writing competitions (the second is currently underway) and featured over 60 articles written by our young readers – everything from being a vegetarian to coping with bullies to what it is really like to live on a boat.

Hmm, looks like a plug, smells like a plug, what is it? Oh remember those 'girls toys' 'boys toys' you hated? Well it seems this site took the 'girls rights' sign down at exactly the same time as Toys R Us.

In the coming weeks we’ll be launching a Kickstarter crowd-funding project to develop the magazine further – so do keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter for announcements. The new Jump! Mag will be a unique online magazine for preteens - a one-stop-shop to inspire and entertain kids, in a safe, girl-positive environment.

They want money.

* feature games and interactive stories, news and reviews, peer-to-peer counselling, advice on bullying and health and using social media safely – and we’ll be working with other organisations to inform our readers about science, technology, engineering and mathematics – traditionally subjects that are not promoted to girls.*

So does school (IME - even personally except for the social media stuff which wasn't invented, and the technology stuff was much more basic in the 80s but atill accessible to all - even in the predominantly working class comprehensive I went to).

Our hope is that we can be online mentors, guiding the way for thousands of girls around the world, showing them that there are fascinating careers that they might not even know about- and opening up the world for them by showing that there are many more roles available to them than the ones they see in the other girls' magazines on the newsagent's shelf.

Basic question, does anyone base their career choice around something they read as a preteen? Or do they do what most people do and see what happens through what is now KS3 and even KS4 before making firm decisions? Makes sense to me.

In a world that celebrates the bravery of Malala Yousafzai - a girl who is determined to speak out about what she wants to be - we think it's time to give all girls the confidence to stand up and speak up, and to know that their voice will be heard.

That woud be education then.

SconeRhymesWithGone Sun 13-Oct-13 01:20:18

I have just read the full thread and looked at the Jump site for the first time. The magazine is a really worthwhile endeavor, and I hope it can spread to the US; we need this sort of antidote to so much of the media drivel that is thrown at girls these days.

I have tremendous respect and admiration for Malala; she is a figure of Rosa Parks proportions. I see nothing exploitive about Lynn's post at all; in fact, the opposite. She honors Malala and makes the very salient point that girls do not have enough positive role models and are subject to much media content that encourages superficiality and conformity to disempowering gender stereotypes. That she wants to help correct that imbalance, in part by publishing a non-profit magazine that seeks to address it, I can only admire.

Growlithe Sun 13-Oct-13 02:01:49

Well, after Scone posted I had another look at the mag.

I love history so went with that. I saw the Margaret Thatcher article so because I grew up in Liverpool in the late 70s early 80s I felt I could comment.

I have to say that article looked like it was lifted from the DM. I would have hoped for a more balanced view of very recent history. I am stunned by the right wing slant on this particular article, because I would have expected a neutral view from this magazine given it's aims.

LynnCSchreiber Sun 13-Oct-13 09:37:39

I'll be back later after I've had breakfast with my long suffering husband who I ignored for two days while in holiday last week as I was researching and writing this post.

I just want to say that I wrote the Thatcher article and I couldn't stand the woman. The whole point of the magazine is to allow preteens to develop their own opinions. I was as neutral as I could be, because I was trying not to let my own opinions show.

The young people who write for us are allowed to express a political opinion. The adult writers are not.

LynnCSchreiber Sun 13-Oct-13 09:45:44

Oh, and thanks for picking my post apart Grow. That made me feel real good about myself.

I didn't make all this up. I have been researching this for over a year and there are hundreds of studies about girls and education.

Sierra753 Sun 13-Oct-13 10:02:17

Message deleted by Mumsnet for breaking our Talk Guidelines. Replies may also be deleted.

KateSMumsnet (MNHQ) Sun 13-Oct-13 10:38:31

Morning everyone, thanks to those who brought this thread to our attention.

As other posters have said upthread, we asked Lynn to write this post as an active and contributing member of our Bloggers Network, and we're very happy with her work.

Growlithe Sun 13-Oct-13 10:47:18

Lynn I was asked what point I disagreed with, that was the clearest way I felt I could answer that.

GoshAnneGorilla Sun 13-Oct-13 11:06:06

Lljkk - "I'm so glad Malala didn't win the Nobel Prize. She is still a product of her culture"

What on earth? Is this because she has the temerity to still be Muslim and wear a headscarf? Or are there other ways in which she is not "Western" or "Progressive" enough?

Would she have to completely disavow her country and religion for her to be a "suitable" Nobel Prize winner?

I've read some offensive crap on here of late, but that takes the biscuit.

LynnCSchreiber Sun 13-Oct-13 12:39:55

Ok, am back. To answer some of the questions/accusations

Grow
One of the groups we are hoping to work with organises such visits to schools by inspiring women, and mentoring between professional women and girls from deprived areas. They told me that when they took a group of young girls in to the City of London, the girls asked them why the women were wearing suits, and what they were doing there. Don't assume that because your own experience is positive, that this is being done all over the country.

While it is fantastic that you are a wonderful role model for your children, many children around the country don't have the same advantages that your children do.

The report I referenced in the OP was explained here, and states

-Almost half of girls from a working-class background had a profound fear of failure that was seriously affecting their chances at school and work, it says.

The report, called Staying On, recommends improvements to careers advice, increasing the educational maintenance allowance for pupils from poorer homes in education between 16 and 19 to more than the current £30 a week, and improving work experience options.-

I can give anecdotal evidence of this - my daughter came home from school recently to tell me that she had a 'career quiz', which told her that suitable careers for her would be 'journalist, salesperson, gardener'. Funnily enough, that is EXACTLY the same advice I was given 25 years ago. DD is reasonably good at writing, but her real talent lies in her creativity, and her drawing. This was not reflected in the advice given. And there are hundreds of new professions around that didn't exist when I was at school.

One of the things I am trying to do on Jump! Mag is to show a variety of unusual and interesting professions, so that preteens can see that there is a lot more out there.

I strongly object to your comment about me taking the 'girls' sign down due to any kind of pressure or outside influence, or because I thought it would make more money. I changed from 'Jump! Mag for Girls' to 'Jump! Mag for Preteens' in order to make it more accessible for boys. I think that the message the magazine is sending, is a good one for boys and girls, and that if it says 'for girls' on it, then boys will be less likely to read it. I had been considering it for a long time, and in discussions with many other people, made the decision about a month ago.

I am not saying that schools don't offer kids much of what we provide, but they do it in a different way. You could say the same about National Geographic - why offer that, if they could learn the same in school or by going to the library?

Yes, I want money. I want money to pay for a site redesign, so that all the other stuff works.

I want money to pay for the development of teaching guides - by a qualified teacher, who until now has worked in an Ofsted Outstanding school and is currently on maternity leave.

I want money to pay for the informative and educational articles that until now have been donated by talented and experienced writers.

I want money to develop fun games and apps, so that our readers can have fun on the site, and it isn't all worthy and educational, and boring.

I want money to pay two talented cartoonists to create a weekly comic strip.

I want money to enable me to earn a living. Isn't that a good role model for my own children?

Why should I not make money from this venture? It is all very well to expect people to give their time and experience for nothing, but this means that only those with trust funds or wealthy husbands will be able to contribute long term to such a project. What kind of role model is that to my daughter?

I am getting defensive and snarky about this, and I didn't want to be. Part of that is being told that my site is as right wing as the Daily Mail, I will admit. On the basis of ONE article.

How can you compare a site which celebrates girls, with a newspaper that delights in pointing out the flaws of women, real or imagined? A newspaper which in it's 'Sidebar of Shame' talks of preteen girls being 'leggy' and 'provocative', while gleefully pointing out muffin tops, side boobs, and unshaved legs/armpits.

This is a project to which I have devoted over a year of my life, and I am doing it for two reasons.

One, to provide myself with an independent income, and to take some of the burden of being the sole earner off my husband's shoulders.

Two, to provide a magazine for preteens that they enjoy reading and taking part in.

You might think that I am all chuffed at the hits that I have received from this thread, but you are seriously overestimating the 'power of mumsnet'. I have received 10 hits from this thread today, which is nice to have but absolutely nothing compared to the hits I get from Social Media, and from the our subscribers.

To give you some kind of context to those ten hits - I have already had 5 hits from blog today. Talk about an excellent role model for our girls - she is fabulous.

At the end of the day, Jump! Mag is not for everyone. That is ok, and I totally accept that, but I won't sit back and be painted as a right wing, greedy person who is trying to capitalise on the work of Malala Yousaifza. I am trying to support what she is working towards, ie education for girls and boys around the world.

I just wanted to jump in and make the same point.

I teach in HE. I am quite new to it, and it has really shocked me how many stories I hear about women who didn't feel there were the same career options open to them as men, and how many young women get to university and suddenly hit a massive wave of misogyny they are not equipped to deal with. A lot of those young women were told by their parents or their schools that sexism is not really a problem any more, or is only something that happens in other countries. They struggle hugely when they realize this isn't so. And in fact, some of them don't realize it. They think the problem is themselves. sad

It is really horrible.

I think what Lynn is doing is a brilliant way to counter all of that, and we do need it.

LynnCSchreiber Sun 13-Oct-13 12:53:01

Thanks, LRD, and to those who have written nice things about me, and Jump! Mag. I do appreciate it.

thanks

NoYeastInMyMuffin Sun 13-Oct-13 14:21:34

Lynn, I think that the accusations aimed at you are hugely unfair. As an example, when I told DS about Thatcher, I was very careful not to let my own (very left wing) political beliefs colour his views. Children should make up their own minds based on their own moral compass.

Where were the complaints about the threads about B&Q? Or M&S? Or Pampers?

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