Positive Picks In Media & Marketing: Pigtail Pals, Redefining Girly

May 5, 2011 To prevent founder flameout and “battle fatigue” in the fight to win the hearts and mindshare of our children, I’ve decided to devote May to “spring forward” with media and marketing examples of companies, orgs, and projects who are POSITIVE influences and  “doing it right.”

Shaping Youth is shining the spotlight on indie entities we WISH would get more play ‘center stage’ rather than in the shadows.

Our first honoree, PigtailPals.com is celebrating their second year in business, and is second to none when it comes to advocating for girlhood in its many forms, tamping down sexualization and raunchy pop culture by “putting the child back in childhood” with their multicolor tees and product line. (patches/gear, school supplies, hats, apparel and as of summer ’11, a new BOYS line)

Spotlighting smaller entrepreneurs this month is our way of saying “Lift the curtain, mainstream media, be bold, and go backstage to where the real stars are!”

Point your lens toward worthy companies instead of the slimy antics of corporate coffers commanding attention by mining childhood for a buck on the backs of our children. Give your precious air time to the heroes not the villains. Give voice to those of us in the trenches fighting for the health and wellbeing of kids, mopping up the mess from the damage of mass marketing mayhem. Welcome to ‘day one’ of positive picks…

PigtailPals’ outspoken owner and entrepreneur Melissa Wardy splashed onto the scene not long AFTER I had written a series on “All Things Girl” opening new conversations about what’s missing in media and marketing coverage about girls these days (see links list at end).

For those of us who have been around for quite awhile, it felt like Melissa ‘came out of nowhere’ to champion change, and now it’s hard to envision a conversation in this plea for a mass media mindshift without her!

Melissa skyrocketed onto the social media arena packing a powerful punch about why we need to be “Redefining Girly” embracing smart, daring, adventurous beings rather than narrowcasting only in sparkly pink think and purple tulle.

She now plays an integral role across multiple platforms including Pigtail Pals on Twitter, on Facebook, on her blog, and online retail store, with an endearing mama bear growl and sharpshooter persona that’s often as colorful as her rainbow hued tees.

In fact, when I saw a 2011 list of “50 mompreneurs” making the rounds on Babble without her name on it, I scoffed at my hunch that these “best of” lists are just that…”Babble.”

Truth is, “lists” can often be made with money not mindshare, press agents and proliferation of media exposure, not necessarily substantive content.

It’s a media literacy  ‘sez who’ moment for me, as I consider key criteria for credibility being earned, not self-awarded or purchased…Especially with those ubiquitous badges, buttons and popularity polls plastered all over the web.

So it’s with great pleasure that we honor Pigtail Pals and Melissa Wardy as a definitive entrepreneur to kick off our series on POSITIVE media and marketing influences. (that’s her own Pigtail Pal, Amelia at far left with a gal pal showing off the new “Whimsy Bees” tees)

Pigtail Pals has added to the landscape of girls’ lives by painting with a brushstroke far beyond princesses and fairy fun to depict visual imagery of girls in varied careers, as pilots, doctors, carpenters, scientists…(and, er, caterpillar tamers, dinosaur washers and explorers of the sea but to name a few in this new ‘whimsy’ line!)

Her online community of devoted fans appear eager to snap up her words and wit as much as her products. (definitely the case for me, since I no longer ‘have a child that age’ but have still tucked some tees away in my personal ‘gift stash’)

Pigtail Pals earned MY respect early on with Melissa’s intelligent and hilarious comebacks to stereotyped media misrepresentations and her vehemence about girls not being treated as commodity products, despite the increasing proliferation of  “age compression” and its effect as we as a nation “sellout kids” by ‘selling down’ to younger ages and stages.

At left is the Pigtail Pals tee she donated to our first-ever all-girls teen team of Eco-Marathon racecar builders that Shaping Youth sponsored, hailing from Granite Falls High School in Washington State. (Pigtail Pals is based in Janesville, Wisconsin, and I’m in the SF Bay Area, so it shows you how fast online teams can align!)

It’s SO refreshing to see childhood put back in its rightful place of tree climbing, pondering cloud formations, and fort-building glee instead of imitating spike heeled come hither-wear and hypersexualized mass merchandising. In short…PigtailPals has succeeded in turning creativity and commerce into a celebration of play where imagination rules.

Finally, I should add that if YOU have favorite finds to be considered, send them my way as this is an open invitation to link lob your heart out and put some ideation behind ways to leverage digital media to market voices that matter.

It’s fitting that this happens to be Pigtail Pals OWN Birthday week, complete with prizes and goodies…

So here’s one of Melissa’s recent posts offering tips on how to handle irksome birthday presents that have vapid values you’d prefer folks leave at the door.

You’ll see why I consider her mission a ‘gift’ in itself, and am proud to have finally MET her face to face this past year as a fellow ‘actionist,’ colleague and friend.

Happy Birthday, Pigtail Pals. Here’s to many, MANY more years of reversing the damage of shock schlock culture, and bringing back childhood to our kids.

I’m blowing out the candles with sincere wishes for your continued success, on behalf of little girls everywhere, and a healthier humanity overall!

Stay tuned for more positive influences in media and marketing messages to kids from apps, games, and digital media to products and programs creating positive change.

About Melissa: Pigtail Pals was created by a mom with a young daughter after noticing something was missing from the messages and images of girlhood. With a motto to ‘Redefine Girly’, Pigtail Pals has set out to change the way we think about our girls, and offer apparel and gifts that shows girls as smart, daring, and adventurous.

Amy’s add-on: Melissa’s bold ability to speak her mind with quips and candor that cut through the clutter make me think she’d put media pundits in soundbite heaven…And since I’m camera shy, and prefer to remain behind the keyboard or in print, if I were to pick a passionate advocate to tackle the sexualization side of media issues front and center, she’d be a great ‘mom from the midwest’ adjunct to fabulous gal pals/author advocates like Peggy Orenstein who “tell it like it is” and raise a few eyebrows while doing it. Hear that, ‘big media?’ Go get her! –Amy Jussel

All Things Girl Series on Shaping Youth
By Amy Jussel

Empowering Girls Instead of Consuming Them

A Tee Party Kicks Off All Things Girl Week on Shaping Youth

Veteran’s Day: Women in the Military: MyVetwork

Interview with Girl Mogul Founder Andrea Stein

New Moon Girl Media (Update Coming ’11)

S.Y.’s Body Image Expert Dr. Robyn Silverman On Dove Forum

Global Women’s Leadership Network/Young Leaders Worldwide

GWLN Delegate Carrie Ellett on Girls For a Change

Motrin Mamas & Twitter Tirades; Marcom Blunders Redux

Twilight Teens, GirlChild Press, +Read Kiddo, Read!

Fem 2.0: Feminine Feminism

GLTR Girls: Girls Learn to Ride (wakeboards etc)

Doctor Jenn Pajama Parties, Neuroscience

What’s On Tweens’ Minds: Meet Denise Restauri of AllyKatzz

Girls Prescription for Self-Worth: Respect Rx (update ’11 coming)

The Girl Effect: A World Changing Media Message

Smart Girls at the Party.TV: SNL’s Amy Poehler

Media Musts to Wrap Up All Things Girl Week Part One

Seven Sensational Blogs About Girls: All Things Girl Week Part Two, Finale!



  1. Yes!! Melissa and Pigtail Pals is a wonderful choice to be honored here! She’s outspoken and bold in this fight against objectification and sexualization of children, but she does it with tact and real passion. Great choice!

  2. I love the “this is your captain speaking” t-shirt. Great stuff.

  3. I know, Gavin, that one’s a fave that I bought for a pilot gal pal who flies for UAL…She’s a marathon runner too, so she wears it as a conversation starter! 😉

  4. Amy,

    I’m so excited about this series. Not just because I’m looking forward to new resources, but I think this will be a well-deserved break for you. You are so willing to take on the tough issues (just like Melissa), that you must need some time to bask in the good stuff. Way to go! As a mom, I’m trying to remember how I muddled through without having like-minded mom advocates like you and Melissa in my corner!


  5. Ann, you are SO right, I’m breathing in heavy levels of polluted air in terms of my media/marketing (um, ok, universal!) environs right now, and if I don’t get my heart and lungs filled with some uplifting news, I find it will damage my lens of critical thinking and assessment of the worldview. (not to mention it’s doing toxic things to my psyche!) 😉

    Appreciate my ‘virtual pals’ out there advocating fully too, as it gives me much needed drive to push forward when the goin gets rough. Thank YOU for being out there in the sphere with eyes wide open and a shoulder to lean on.

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