Brave Girls Want: A Movement, Not a Moment.

Sept. 11, 2013 Grand Finale Tally for IndieGoGo campaign ended at 11:59PT: $26,673

Sept. 9, 2013 Today marks the triumph of a grassroots groundswell over colossal corporate branding, with the tipping point to “take back the media” coming from individuals, en masse!

Tomorrow, the Brave Girls Invade Times Square campaign will be featured as the IndieGoGo crowdfunding platform’s ‘campaign of the day’ as it’ is now officially fully funded and in forward motion!

Congratulations especially to brave and maverick co-founders Melissa Wardy of Pigtail Pals and Ballcap Buddies and Inês Almeida of Toward the Stars, along with the entire team, as we get ready to showcase the mighty voices of many small entities in a collective rebel yell for corporate social responsibility. Admittedly, as a creative director I was both baffled and a bit peeved that large sponsors and bigwig organizations didn’t ‘latch on’ to the Brave Girls Want mission as a smart, cost effective ‘media buy,’ but in retrospect, that’s made this effort all the more authentic and worthwhile.

After all, it’s easy to toss a truckload of money into an overnight branding sensation which is often not much more than a media-created hypefest, rather than focus on those doing the work in the trenches advocating for kids day in and day out, minus the fabricated PR press puffery.

This is thankfully the ‘real deal,’ with indie voices spanning the globe to put public health over profiteering on the backs of children, and none other than Brenda Chapman co-director of Brave supporting the effort as our biggest sponsor.

The core values of Brave Girls continue the call for change which began with the messed up Merida merchandising makeover, when Disney turned the adventurous ‘shero’ into a sparkly princess and over 254,000 supporters signed on to ‘Keep Merida Brave.’

Since then, Brave Girls Want has grown in scope and fervor as parents, youth, and strong, healthy girls began to use social media’s positive power productively to sound off using the hashtag #BraveGirlsWant and express what we want to SEE in the media mix.

The billboard in Times Square idea was the visionary voice of our two-co-founders spear-heading the effort, turning a massive centralized hub into a Howard Beale Network moment of ordinary people ready to put their words and their wallets into a ‘pile on’ for change!

We’re all going to need massive amounts of help to scale this groundswell globally, so don’t start humming Barry Manilow’s “Looks Like We Made It” on the IndieGoGo campaign…keep the momentum building for the next steps…

My Top 5 Reasons to Support Brave Girls

1.     This is not a ‘one off’ billboard project, this is a movement of passionistas.

Initially, I held back as a ‘founding member’ and chose to be a ‘partner’ for three reasons:

a.) Girl-centric organizations should lead the way (Shaping’s focus is boys too)

b.) I have corporate baggage being an outspoken critic of many behemoths targeting kids, and didn’t want to be a liability

c.) The International Day of the Girl Times Square billboard felt like it could be mistaken for a media moment vs a sustainable movement and I’m thrilled to say I was proven wrong on all 3 points!

Beyond the stellar leadership of the co-founders, Melissa Wardy and Ines Almeida, the core crew of colleagues have devoted countless years (often their entire careers) to making the world a healthier place, not just for girls…for humanity.

The river runs deep with contacts and alliances that have yet to be tapped beyond this fast and fabulous churn-n-burn to make it happen in Times Square by 9-11 for the 10-11 launch date.

The plans are global, the movement is in motion and the excitement is palpable. Come aboard!


2.    Brave Girls Want a call for corporate responsibility with what’s produced in the first place!

Brave Girls Alliance made it clear early on that this is NOT just a conversation about pink and blue pigeon-holing, princess preferences, sparkle silos, or gender neutral toy aisles…

The toy and retail industry has been complicit in manufacturing vapid values, and hyper-sexualized, objectified merchandise to the mass market with limited availability of healthier selections.

Once upon a time ‘Barbie’ was the biggest body image ‘issue’ out there…but today’s toy industry complicity brought forward Bratz, then all the spindly clones thereafter from Monster High and Bratzillas to NoviStars and hyper-sexualized Winks. (just TRY to find a non-toxic cue in this 10 dolls so sexy so soon slideshow, sigh)

This billboard campaign is a clarion call to diversify and not only convey “let kids play freely” like we once were able to sans amped up ‘gender coding’ but also about corporate accountability to callout those producing public health problems in a tweaked (twerked?) cynical distortion of ‘what sells’ to begin with!

Seems industry only ‘hears and heeds’ when there’s mega-media clout as a force to be reckoned with. Time to be a part of that force field…

3.    The Brave Girls Alliance calls out the huge ‘then and now’ chasm, and the ‘dumbing down’ of products.

We’ve all talked about how gendered messages weren’t always as amped and ramped as they are now, and sometimes we need to ‘show and tell’ just how wild it’s gotten and call for a ‘market correction.’

Look no further than the Lego ads of yesteryear compared with the fluffy ‘Friends’ versions for girls today…But when consumers callout the craziness, things CAN change, as evidenced by the first ever female Lego scientist that premiered this week, and the BGW project asking for more Lego gender parity in play in the name of neuroscience and brain plasticity!

Marketing has HUGE behavioral, persuasive, and embedded cues targeting kids, and whether it’s misogynistic misfires in comics and videogames or bullying and swapping roles in virtual worlds to see how it feels to role play a different gender, MMORPGs we need to ‘level the playing field’ by thinking about the media messages attached and ask whether “open play” is really accessible and open at all for 21st century girls.

At the risk of sounding like a digital dinosaur, we used to play family board games overseas, like Stratego or Risk. Note the peaceful, non-hawkish family of four, both genders, in the vintage game above…Now fast forward to the 2013 version at left.

I highly doubt today’s girls would ever even SEE this game in the toys aisles, much less get the geopolitical knowledge bump I did back then, as the marketing shifted from skill, strategy and intellectual gamesmanship to war, siege, and clearly testosterone level red.

That’s too bad, cause they’re cool games, which gave ME a strong edge in both history AND geography class.

These are the kind of marketing driven repercussions folks need to look at when they’re scratching their heads trying to figure out why ‘more girls don’t pursue STEM careers’ not to mention ongoing behavior absurdity like this week’s TechCrunch Disrupt Conference sophomoric sexist slop making women AND girls in the audience squirm. (oh, and by the way, don’t get me started in the prior packaging of Stratego where there’s a token sexed up ‘spy’ as a female figure on the box cover too, sigh…these are the ambient cues landing on kids instructing them of their societal ‘worth.’)

4.    Brave Girls Want to let toys be toys and let kids be kids.

This week the “Let Toys Be Toys” victory of removing boys/girls toy aisles within the  Toys R Us in the U.K. prompted much media scrutiny in the US as many called for a similar upending of segmented profiteering.

Rebecca Hains of our Brave Girls Alliance represented the team on Fox and Friends with brilliant, matter of fact eloquence, bringing up an example of a chemistry set toy,

“We don’t say, ‘hey, these are jobs for men and these are jobs for women,’ why would we say, ‘These are toys for boys and toys for girls,’ when toys are really kids’ work?”

Boom! On point, whip smart, concise, germane, and beautifully deflecting any opportunity to pit two opposing ‘sides’ of an issue with rants for ratings…This was the most refreshing, respectful media ‘debate’ conducted with civility and candor and not even a whiff of sensationalized bullying or outrage baiting.

The Brave Girls Alliance DOES want more diversity, equality, gender portrayals and such, but all too often media turns values into sound bites, over-emphasizing portrayals in a lop-sided way that looks like forced and strained tokenism.

Again, it’s not just about ‘pink think’ or ‘gender neutral’products and clothes, or ‘one of every color’ diversity in catalog ads…

It’s a call for an expansion of what childhood looks like, reflecting multi-dimensional characters and storylines with complexity, and an interesting sense of self not just vapid values and empty vessels to monetize with boring formulaic templates. Is that so hard to bring to market?

5.    Brave Girls Want to point out the problem AND be a part of the solution.

Finally, The Brave Girls Alliance gave me a poignant gift of Windex to my cloudy critical thinking bias, wrongly assuming everyone could SEE the problem clearly.

Even with Merida and the Brave merchandising debacle some young parents AND kids didn’t see the nuance or ‘the big deal’ being fully immersed in ‘that’s just what they do’ non-plussed resignation to ‘beauty above all’ market positioning. As Rebecca Hains’ sums well,

“If you want to know if water is wet don’t ask a fish.”

I had a similar blind spot swimming in a different pool…

After writing about these issues nonstop for seven years, I was ready to hopscotch to framing these issues as a public health problem that pediatricians and purveyors of policy should be taking on, particularly given the APA Task Force findings of the sexualization of girls.

But here’s the thing, some people are just now putting their toe in the water, much less deep diving the full impact of this immersion.

Until it impacts people personally, with their own children, firsthand, awareness can be sketchy at best.

The educational component of raising awareness FIRST to launch a global billboard campaign, with “I can do this” empowerment of personal engagement is pivotal to success and can’t be leapfrogged…so thanks for the unfogging of the swim goggles, partners.

It takes patience and energy to bring full focus to each point of a many-pronged project, and sometimes we overlook the obvious. In fact, William Lipscomb’s quote hanging right in front of me says,

“If your position is everywhere, your momentum is zero.

The Brave Girls Invade Times Square billboard is just the first position, and wow, that momentum is a force field FAR from zero…

It’s goosebumps inducing, spine-tingling, “it’s about freakin’ time” style excitement…First stop Times Square October 11, 2013, then onward for more global good!

Join us won’t you? And this time, bring a sponsor or two. We could use a helping hand.

48 hours left

Funded, but focused on next steps, still time to join in the fun!

Campaign closes Sept. 11, 2013, 11:59PT

Times Square Debut: Oct. 11, 2013

International Day of the Girl

“Over the course of 7 days, curated tweets and messages will be displayed on a billboard on Times Square. We will take up 4 minutes per hour from 6 am to 2 am. This will enable us to display 40 messages/tweets per hour. Constructive, proactive and very inspiring messages being displayed in one of the centers of the world to millions and millions of people with suggestions for media and toys creators, retailers and big corporations.”

Related Reading on Sexualization of Children by Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth

Public Health: Domestic Violence at the Grammys, Too Short of a Memory

The Bro Code: Media, Masculinity and Misogynistic Misfires

Bratzillaz, Novi Stars and Monster High, Same Sexualized Snorefest

Ground Hog Day: Super Bowl Sexism Keeps Popping Up: The Impact on Kids

Girl Caught: New Moon Girls Slams Sexualization of Kids, Calls Out Harm

Kids, Media, and Intimacy/Relationships: The Hottie Factor

Vogue Cadeaux: Children ARE Gifts, Not To Be Bought or Sold

Bottom Feeders Like American Apparel Need Whacked in The Assets

Vamp Tramp Toys: A Monster Problem (Mattel)

Tips From the Trenches: Re-Imagining Youth Activism

Body Blitz: APA Shows Harm of Early Sexualization

Steamed About Sexualization? Healthy Media for Youth Act: Pt1

Healthy Youth Media Act: Can Change Be Legislated? Pt2

Teen Girls: Ready for a Rebel Yell to Spark Change?

Toxic Messaging: K-Mart/Alloy Episodic Back to School

Girls Are Not Candies, Tweens Are Not Teens, Thongs Are Not Undies

Baiting Outrage: Using Hooks With Media Mindfulness

Sexualization Summit to Spark Change!

Spark Ignites a Summit of Powerhouses, Geena Davis & More

The Girl Revolution: Empowering Girls Vs. Consuming Them

New Moon Girl Media Community Online

Girls Prescription for Self-Worth: Respect Rx

Raising Girls Amidst Meat Marketing: Carl’s Jr, Burger King Raunch

Taking Aim at Target: Think That V is a Coinkydink?

When It’s Not Hip to Be Square, Sexist Spongebob & Burger Shots

Sexed Up M&Ms Sell Fashionably Decadent Premium Sleaze

Mama’s Got A Brand New Bag…Er…Face. Nose. Belly.

Body Image: Tips for Teens (Both Genders!) To Survive the Media Morass

What Sells: Infants As Fashion Statements & Joke Props?

So Sexy So Soon, Shaping Youth Talks to Jean Kilbourne

Beyonce’s Dereon Divas: PopTarts and Sesame Streetwalkers?

Sexist Undies: Slimy Santa Innuendo Gets the Heave Ho-Ho-Ho!

Bratz Movie Seeps Bratitude Into Kid Culture

Where My Dogs At? A Misogynistic Misfire-MTV2

Pussycat Dolls Vamp for Lame TV-the ‘F’ Word is Feminist? Hardly.

Celeb Pop Culture and Media’s Tipping Point of Toxicity

Hollywood Walk of Lame—Victoria’s Secret Models ‘Earn’ Star? For WHAT?

Mommy, Why Are Her Legs Spread Like That?

Shaping Youth Is In the L.A. Times (Miley Mess

Kids Are A Captive Audience With Ambient Advertising

Race, Gender, Sexism: Pop Culture Cues & Kids (3-part series)

Commodification of Kids: The Backlash Has Begun

Shaping Youth Through Ambient Advertising

Manga Makeovers And Other Body Image Cartoon Capers

Facelifts for Kiddie Characters?

Gender, Race & Sexism: Shaping Youth Through Pop Culture Cues

Girls As Boy Toys Takes an Even More Toxic Turn

Preteen Tips/How to Say it To Girls

America the Beautiful: See it. Support it.

Childhood Matters Radio Show: Raising Strong, Healthy Girls Today

Related Resources on Gender, Stereotypes & Early Sexualization

APA Task Force on the Early Sexualization of Children (full 72pp pdf)

Miss Representation Education Curriculum

Miss Representation Resources and Stats/Facts

Resource List from So Sexy So Soon

Fact Sheet on Sexualizing Childhood

Stats & resources on sexualization “Sex on TV4″ Program for the study of media & health

Sexual Teens, Sexual Media: Investigating Media’s Influence on Adolescent Sexuality Jane Brown et al (Eds)

Girls Shape the Future: Study/Girls Inc: Early Predictors of Girls’ Adolescent Sexual Activity (summary: 8 pp pdf)

Packaging Girlhood, Hardy Girls, Healthy Women etc.

So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne

Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes (Also see Packaging Boyhood; S.Y. Board Advisers:
Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown)

Coming Soon: Jan. 1, 2014:

Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping & Sexualizing of Girlhood From Birth to Tween by Melissa Atkins Wardy (Amy Jussel, Shaping Youth is honored to be a contributor in the book too!) 



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