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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


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

curlew Fri 11-Oct-13 11:39:26

And why have we (Mumsnet collectively or individually) not marked International Day of the Girl in some way?

VeeVandTeaDrinkYourBlood Fri 11-Oct-13 12:06:03

Yes to all that (great post btw) I help in the school library and this week a 6yo boy asked for a cookbook. All the cookbooks were "cupcakes for princesses" "baking for girl" or generally covered in pink sparkly shit. A girl wants a science book and they are filled with facts about the male scientists who changed the world. Years ago I didn't understand how ingrained these gender roles were.

Keep up the good work

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 11-Oct-13 12:37:14

I love this as an idea, you being 'online mentors'. smile

Keep up the good work.

MmeLindor. Fri 11-Oct-13 12:57:52

That is really sad - particularly at the moment, when baking is so popular. My kids adore GBBO and the kids version is fabulous too.

I suppose inviting me to do a guest blog was in some way marking the day, but maybe MNHQ would like to work with Jump! Mag next year to do more.

VeeVandTeaDrinkYourBlood Fri 11-Oct-13 14:06:39

I can't see newest posts. How odd.

MmeLindor. Fri 11-Oct-13 14:54:02

I've asked MNHQ to have a look - if you flip the thread they are visible.

VeeVandTeaDrinkYourBlood Fri 11-Oct-13 14:58:50

Yes they are. How strange...

mumsdotravel Fri 11-Oct-13 15:48:04

Well said Lynn and well done for your fab magazine.

timidviper Fri 11-Oct-13 16:54:52

I feel almost like there are 2 different worlds here, parallel but never the twain shall meet.
Here we are trying to mentor and educate our sons and daughters to an awareness of gender equality using examples like Malala and yet the media send us an overwhelming onslaught of it's not cool to be clever, pink, princesses, WAGs, etc. You had only to watch this week's Educating Yorkshire to see the effects on young people, particularly girls. I am tired of the glorification of the "Haha, how fick am I?" Z listers that set such a bad example to young people who may not have role models or parents to encourage them to do better

MmeLindor. Fri 11-Oct-13 17:16:33

Thanks, Mumsdotravel.

I am in Germany this week so missed Educating Yorkshire, but have read many tweets about it. Will catch up when I get home.

I agree that it is sad that 'slebs' are our kids' role models.

nicename Fri 11-Oct-13 20:20:19

Helena Kennedy was my role model when I was a child. Sadly I didn't become a lawyer!

CogitoErgoMum Fri 11-Oct-13 21:07:52

There was a phone-in earlier this week on the Jermey Vine show on radio 2: who is the better role Model: Miley or Malala. Interesting!

On another note, as a mother of boys, I am often left wondering who the good role models for them are (outside our family and friends). And what do the magazines available to them tell them how 'real men' should behave towards themselves, and women. Perhaps this could be your next project Lynn.

scallopsrgreat Fri 11-Oct-13 21:38:43

The new ideas sound great Lynn and congratulations on the success of Jump! mag. I've read loads of great articles on there.

MmeLindor. Fri 11-Oct-13 21:44:01

I don't think that girls have to go to to the same career as their role model, but seeing a successful woman lawyer would make one think 'What else could I be?'

Funnily enough, we have changed the focus of the magazine recently to be more boy-inclusive. I've come to realise that boys are damaged just as much by the pink/blue stereotypes that about.

Boys don't cry.

Boys are tough.

Boys don't show emotions

Boys will be boys

This is the reason that we are now 'Jump! Mag for Preteens' rather than 'Jump! Mag for Girls'. I think that boys would benefit from the messages we are sendin and might be turned off if it is seen as a magazine for girls.

We will be doing more on this topic in coming months.

CogitoErgoMum Fri 11-Oct-13 21:48:06

The focus to all preteens sounds great. Looking forward to having a look. Thank you - there is hope!!!

VeeVandTeaDrinkYourBlood Fri 11-Oct-13 22:48:47

Lynn, I'm really chuffed (as mother to a feral boy) that you are trying to include them as well. Boys have as much to do with feminism as girls. they have so many stereotypes pushed at them, and are called girls as if that's an insult. I have sat down with him a few times and looked through Jump! (he likes it, btw) and he has certainly absorbed some of my rants ideals (remember the newsagent bollocking wink) but sometimes I feel like I'm pushing against so much!

Sorry, thats a v boy-centric post.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 00:59:45

Oh wow, are you really using the plight of Malala Yousafzai and her school friends to highlight the fact that you believe girls of this country having a limited choice of magazine to read and to promote your emagazine?

Here, let me plug this to highlight what she wants to, the right of every child in the world to an education.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 12-Oct-13 01:11:47

The 'plight' of Malala?

You realize she is a fantastic, inspiring young woman who nearly won a Nobel Prize today?!

Women all around the world should be provided with good opportunities. I for one am proud to see a magazine in the UK making a start in providing some mentoring.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 01:19:57

Yes I do. And I realise why. Because she was more afraid of not being educated than she was of men with weapons who thought she shouldn't. And when she is talking about children of the world not being educated she is not talking about the choice of leisure reading.

The children of this country have access to education. Even the poorest amongst us have access to public libraries.

There is a 'plight' of Malala. She had to risk her life to go to school at all. She should not have been used to promote this.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 12-Oct-13 01:54:33

I think it is quite patronizing to pretend she is a passive victim, as you do when you refer to her 'plight'.

If you read what she has to say, you will see that, even though she's only 16, she knows how important education is and she doesn't discriminate.

You are sadly mistaken if you really imagine that all children in the UK have access to libraries - you do realize that some children don't actually learn to read? And that many children who do learn to read are encouraged only to read books that tell them how to be a nice, passive type of person?

It is vital that we educate all girls to understand how much women can do. Malala is a brilliant role model for this, but it is limiting her impact to pretend she could only influence her own home country.

MrsDeVere Sat 12-Oct-13 12:36:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NoYeastInMyMuffin Sat 12-Oct-13 12:43:19

But malala is a great example of what needs to change. We all encounter misogyny in different ways, For one woman its the way she is groped in a club, for another it's being unable to return to work after having children because the women are expected to be the homemakers, for another its being forcefed the belief that women and girls are inferior, and for another it's being unable to get the education they deserve. they are all different symptoms of the same thing.

LRDtheFeministDragon Sat 12-Oct-13 12:53:22

Yes, fair enough I agree MrsDeVere, I just think that she shouldn't be trotted out as an example of some poor girl in a faraway country.

I think the implication that girls in the UK couldn't care about her, and she wouldn't be interested in girls anywhere but her home country, is just bonkers.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 13:12:36

No, that wasn't the implication actually. I have made sure my DD is very aware of her and what happened in her country, and is happening in other countries, because of the fear of education.

She is a role model, and has already in my opinion made her place in world history because she has made religious extremists afraid of her, and she has done that peacefully.

She makes me thankful that my daughters have just the same opportunities in education as their male counterparts, and girls in this country are doing a good job of taking that. And so is she, in this country.

She makes me think of all the many inequalities in the world, caused by poverty, ignorance and fear, which are stopping children in the world in 2013 from learning to read and write. This makes me angry. This drives me to make sure my daughter knows it is happening and compare and contrast it to her own life and opportunities.

It also makes me thankful I am able to take her freely to the Coop without having to pass by dead bodies strung up as a way of instilling fear, and that I am able to buy her whatever magazine she wants to read.

And the fact that her choice may be influenced by marketeers is in no way comparable to it being influenced by a religious extremist with a gun.

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