Help SPARK a Name for the Sexualization Summit To Ignite Change!

June 21, 2010 As the summer solstice kicks off, the energy is heating up over the buzz about the SPARK! summit challenging the sexualization of girls and women in media, and advocates are already been asking the ‘who what where when’ questions (alas, the ‘why’ is self-evident, from BabyGaga to daily drek d’jour)

SPARK! Ignites a flame of action bringing together teen girls with media professionals, thought leaders, funders, researchers and activists to serve as a national call to action and campaign for change far beyond ‘talking about it,’ and leaping into policy, research and media literacy activism by and for youth that are smack dab in the crossfire.

So, teens, what should ‘SPARK!’ stand for? I tossed in “Start Portraying All Real Kids” and “Stop Pornification: Ads Ravish Kids.” but I’m not the target market. So have at it. Hardy Girls Healthy Women have posted a voting poll on the acronym so that it resonates for outreach with YOUTH, so now’s your chance to toss out ideas and VOTE.

The event is slated for 10-22-10 at Hunter College limited to half teens, half adults (must be invited or accompanied by youth) and then it will open and scale into the larger virtual sphere with streamed media and ways to participate from afar…

The info site is not even live yet, but just yesterday documentary producers Dawn Valadez & Kristy Guevara-Flanagan from Going on 13 pinged me on Facebook, with “tell me more! How can we help?!”

Likewise, stellar body image experts like Jess Weiner and her Actionist (R) Network (Jess happens to be at the first ever G(irls) 20 Summit in Toronto right now, rockin’ 3.3 billion ways to change the world, see Girls and!) and our own Shaping Youth correspondent and child development advisor Dr. Robyn Silverman is eager to be in the loop of contribution too…

I have every confidence this summit has the promise to ‘SPARK!’ a seed of girl-driven expansion on a global scale for a backlash that’s been brewing for quite some time.

After all, in the name of public health, media needs to be clear about defining and depicting the huge chasm between ‘sexuality’ and ‘sexualization’ as it’s getting muddy out there and youth are being objectified and personified as parts instead of whole beings.

And yep, this body blitz is doing a lot of harm.

Who’s already onboard in the youth sphere?

Too many to count…Teen Voices, About-Face, Girls for Gender Equity, New Moon Girl Media, viBe Theater Experience and other girl serving orgs like Rachel Simmons/Girls Leadership Institute, National Coalition of Girls Schools, Girls Inc, Girl Scouts are just a few of the groundswell of young teens eager to be heard, joining forces with the broader coalition, which Shaping Youth is honored to be a part of as one of their ‘sister orgs.’

Who’s lighting the torch?

The SPARK! Summit core planning crew is led by The ASAP Initiative at Hunter/CUNY, Hardy Girls Healthy Women, TrueChild, the Women’s Media Center, Hunter College, and Ms. Foundation for Women. (Hunter College, NYC is the site of the 10-22-10 event!)

Wanna help? Attend? Volunteer? Start by voting for what SPARK! should stand for…

Even though it sometimes feels like we need to reach a tipping point of toxicity to reach critical mass and  move beyond media chatter and public discourse into active, hands-on social change, this movement in the making has roots firmly embedded in the groundwork of mutual mindshare…It’s exciting to bring so much collective knowledge within many organizations into one united voice…

As Beth Kanter might say in her new book “The Networked Nonprofit”-–this is about ‘fighting the fortress’ of institutional silos and tearing down walls to instead be like an organic porous ‘sponge’… creating a larger, more nourishing, beneficial environment where we can all absorb nutrients and spew out toxins to function as an entity for the greater good of us ALL.

As I wrote after our May convening in NYC of a couple dozen thought leaders plucked across multiple media channels to represent a wide array of voices, fresh strategies, and bringing our entire communities to the table (thanks to funding from the NoVo Foundation, I was even able to attend!) this has the prime potential to be a catalyst across advertising, media portrayal, public health and gender forces advocating for humanity on a global, interconnected scale. (after all, the US exports damage to the psyche abroad)

With policy and practice pros like the APA (Task Force on the Harm of Early Sexualization) the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, and generous supporters like the Ford Foundation in attendance at the initial conversation added to powerhouse clout of key media partners like The Women’s Media Center, parenting orgs, new media voices and corporate social responsibility allies, this could not only SPARK but literally set the whole pop culture zeitgeist aflame with a massive media mindshift.

So again, start by voting on the SPARK! name…

Soon SPARK! will launch a ‘save the date’ slate, sharing info on the new developments in girl-driven actions, how it will all work leading up to the summit, and giving girls the space and platform to hear their voices loud and clear on how all of these media messages are landing on THEM. Also watch for more as the movement Powered By Girls takes hold…

This “SPARK!” may turn out to be a firestorm.

I’m gonna help light the match.

Are you? Stay tuned…join in…sound off…this is gonna be fun.

Visual Credits: Spark photo from cool educational site, “Learning From” teaching tools that excite kids to spark their learning fires…



  1. Completely understand what your stance in this matter. Although I would disagree on some of the finer details, I think you did an awesome job explaining it. Sure beats having to research it on my own. Thanks

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