September 3rd, 2012
01:58 PM ET

From detention cells to the stage

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - It starts at the mall, with a girl in a pink dress, browsing alone.

"Why is she at the mall?" a teen behind her sputters. "She ain't got no money."

Mona Lisa hears it. It's not the first time she's been picked on. She argues a little, tries to ignore them, but they bump into her and call her names. She wants to run, wants to be strong, wants all this to just go away.

At home later, the phone rings: "I just wanted to tell you, you should kill yourself," a voice cackles. "You're ugly and nobody will ever love you."

After a day like this, Mona Lisa believes what she's hearing. She grabs a handful of pills and climbs out the window. With voices in her head yelling louder and louder, she jumps.

Actress Alexis Lee crumples to the floor. The jump isn't real, the dress is a costume, the play is fiction, at least at the moment. But Mona Lisa and Alexis aren't so different. At 17, Alexis has been bullied and teased, been made to feel ugly, like she's nothing. She moved to escape terrible situations, only to be delivered into worse circumstances. She's got scars from where she cut herself, memories from when she tried to kill herself.

"The only way to have some peace for me is to not be here," she remembers thinking.

Alexis didn't write the play, called "Deep Within." That work was done by Noemi, Sabrina and Velicia, girls who lived, at least for a little while, in a juvenile detention center in Georgia. They participated in Playmaking for Girls, a theater workshop created by Atlanta nonprofit Synchronicity Theatre to encourage incarcerated girls to tell their stories and find their own voices.

Alexis knows only their first names, but she knows kids in detention centers do not usually talk about bullying, or suicide, what they were feeling at their worst or how they're going to get better.

"The majority of them probably don't have that outlet to speak and express on how they feel based on what's been going on in their lives, who did them wrong, and this is their chance," Alexis says.

She knows because she's been there, too.

'Not a 30-second sound bite'

A few times a year, Rachel May and Susie Spear Purcell walk into a room of 20 girls who won't talk, won't make eye contact and can't be bothered with theater games or fairy tales. The directors have two days to cajole them to write short plays and act them out.

Their message is consistent: We care about you, and it's important for people to hear what you have to say. Your story matters.

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Filed under: Age • Girls • How we live • Social justice • Who we are
September 1st, 2012
01:32 PM ET

Florida's first female high school QB

(WSVN) - A 17-year-old senior is making history by becoming the first female in Florida to play quarterback on a football team.

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Filed under: Gender • Girls • Sports • Who we are
August 21st, 2012
11:23 AM ET

Celebration, surprise, humor after Augusta National admits first women

What do you think of Augusta National's decision? Tell CNN iReport here

By Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) - The offices of SPARK, a nationwide coalition of girls-only programs, were abuzz Monday as news spread about Augusta National's decision to allow female members for the first time in its 80-year history.

"Shock" was a common sentiment, the organization's executive director said, not because the famed Augusta, Georgia, club finally decided to open its doors to another gender, but because they hadn't done so until now.

"The girls honestly were pretty surprised that Augusta had been discriminating against women like this," said Dana Edell, referring to the teenagers that comprise much of SPARK's staff. "They are horrified that (the club) could legally and blatantly (exclude women)."

Augusta National Golf Club admits first female members

Most of these girls were in elementary school when women's rights activist Martha Burk first ratcheted up public pressure on what was then probably America's best known men's-only club. Yet the majority of those women's rights activists responding to Monday's news were well aware of Augusta National's history and that of the decade-long fight to force it to reverse its policy, not to mention the even longer campaign for gender equality.

For them, hearing former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina businesswoman Darla Moore can now hang out in Augusta's clubhouse with corporate and other leaders from around the Southeast and nation was cause for celebration.

Burk admitted that her first reaction, upon hearing of Augusta National chairman Billy Payne's statement, was "we won - and we did."

Read the full story

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Opinion:Why Paul Ryan is not 'bad' for women
Anita McBride says women have much to attract them to a Romney-Ryan ticket.
August 20th, 2012
09:13 AM ET

Opinion:Why Paul Ryan is not 'bad' for women

Editor's note: Anita McBride is an executive-in-residence at America University in Washington. She was first lady Laura Bush's chief of staff and worked in the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.

By Anita McBride, Special to CNN

(CNN) - When Mitt Romney picked Paul Ryan as his running mate, the media frenzy surrounding the announcement included claims that the choice was bad for women and that it would not attract women voters. Ryan's pro-life voting record was especially highlighted, and once again, the "war on women" came to the forefront and diverted attention from the ultimate women's issue in this election - our dire economic future.

It is misguided to think that women vote as a bloc. We are a diverse group, and it is nearly impossible for any candidate to appeal to all sides of the political spectrum. The reality is that women's top concerns are the same as men's, and like men, women are more likely to vote along party lines.

U.S. Rep. Ryan's addition to the Republican ticket ensures that the debate about the economy will be vigorous. For women, and all Americans, nothing can be more important.

Read Anita McBride's full column

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Summer camps try to solve Silicon Valley's gender gap
Shimme Siddika attends Girls Who Code, a New York summer camp introducing young women to the world of technology.
August 17th, 2012
09:00 AM ET

Summer camps try to solve Silicon Valley's gender gap

By Erin Kim @CNNMoneyTech

New York (CNNMoney) - Most school-aged girls spend July and August catching some Z's and sun. But for some girls, summer is all about learning HTML and developing mobile apps.

A growing handful of summer camps are popping up around the country with the mission of teaching young women core skills in technology - a field dominated by men.

Girls Who Code, an eight-week New York summer camp, immerses 20 high school girls in a tech training boot camp. Eight hours a day, Monday through Friday, the young women learn about a wide variety of tech topics from robotics to website design.

Guest speakers include an eBay executive, a venture capitalist, and a technology entrepreneur among some other in-the-know tech personalities. But participants don't spend all day in the classroom: They also take field trips to Facebook, Google, Twitter, the United Nations and Gilt.

For their final project, Girls Who Code students develop and present an app.

"All the field trips have been so interesting and I can always find myself relating to parts of the topics presented," said 15-year-old Mahlika George, who's heading into her junior year at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School.

Girls Who Code founder Reshma Saujani said the organization hopes to get more girls interested in technology and consider the field as a real career possibility.

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Opinion: Girls are taking over Comic Con
Take a good look, publishers. These ladies are buying comic books.
July 24th, 2012
06:31 PM ET

Opinion: Girls are taking over Comic Con

Editor's note: Rob Salkowitz is a business analyst and consultant specializing in the future of entertainment, media and technology. This is an excerpt from his latest book, "Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture" (McGraw-Hill, 2012) which focuses on the nerdy audience at the largest comic book trade show in the Western Hemisphere. Follow him @robsalk.

I don’t think it will come as a big shock that, for most of the history of comics fandom, conventions have not been distinguished by high numbers of females of any age. That began to change in the 1990s, when strong and emotionally authentic female characters like Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the cheerful Goth-girl personification of Death in Neil Gaiman’s popular "Sandman" series activated the recessive fan gene on the X chromosome.

The trend accelerated with the mainstream popularity of manga, which had developed numerous styles over the years to appeal to all genders and was sold in bookstores, beyond the boys-club direct market comics shops. The rise of the Internet poured gasoline on the fire, creating spaces for feminerds to come out of the woodwork and share their passions. Many of today’s best online comic and fantasy-genre news sites and discussion groups were started by, and remain powered by, women.

Today, there are increasing numbers of proud girl geeks of all ages; I count myself fortunate to be married to one. Crowds at conventions and even some comics stores now reflect a much more equal gender balance. As for the comics industry itself, not so much. But that’s a different conversation.

Read the full post on CNN's GeekOut! blog

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T-Rex: The Youngest Female Olympic boxer
At only 17, Claressa Shields has won two Junior Olympic championships.
July 20th, 2012
10:00 AM ET

T-Rex: The Youngest Female Olympic boxer

By Elizabeth I. Johnson, CNN

(CNN) –At 11, Claressa Shields decided she wanted to box, even with her father’s objections. At 17, she is the youngest female competing in the women’s boxing arena at the 2012 Olympics in London.

“She's a beast. She's physically and athletically the most exciting thing to happen to women's boxing in a long time,” photographer Zackary Canepari said. Along with fellow producers Drea Cooper and Sue Jaye Johnson, Canepari has documented the teenage boxer as she trains, competes and lives the life of a normal teenager.

The team has followed the young athlete, who is from Flint, Michigan, to Canada, China, Las Vegas, Colorado Springs and now to London.

“Following her is like following a rock star,” Canepari said. “My frequent flier miles are stacking up.”

Read the full post on CNN's photo blog

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July 6th, 2012
08:00 AM ET

Seventeen magazine vows not to alter images, to 'celebrate every kind of beauty'

By Greg Botelho, CNN

(CNN) - When teenage girls check out Seventeen magazine, they'll be getting the complete picture - no ifs, ands or Photoshopped butts about it.

That's the pledge the magazine's staff made in its latest edition, after a push led by a Maine 14-year-old to combat the practice of tweaking pictures and picking models whose appearance give teens an unrealistic perspective on what is beautiful.

"We vow to ... never change girls' body or face shapes. (Never have, never will)," the magazine states as part of its "Body Peace Treaty" from its August edition, a copy of which CNN obtained Thursday.

The treaty and accompanying note by editor-in-chief Ann Shoket promise that Seventeen will "celebrate every kind of beauty" and feature "real girls and models who are healthy," while vouching that the magazine always has done just that.

But the more than 84,000 people who signed a Change.org petition, started by teenager Julia Bluhm, clearly believed Seventeen and other publications didn't always present the full, unvarnished truth.

"Those 'pretty women' that we see in magazines are fake," the petition said, in requesting "one unaltered - real - photo spread per month." "They're often Photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life."

Retouching photographs is nothing new - especially in magazines and, increasingly, on the Internet. Adobe Photoshop and other digital image manipulation programs are widely employed by professionals and everyday users.

The petition claims that disseminating such altered images to impressionable teens can pose a real danger, helping to spawn a culture that touts unrealistic beauty and contributes to eating disorders, extreme dieting, depression and more.

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Opinion: Why are young women more ambitious than men?
A Pew poll reports that two-thirds of young women say that "being successful in a high-paying career" is an important life goal.
April 30th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Opinion: Why are young women more ambitious than men?

Editor's note: Kathleen Gerson, author of "The Unfinished Revolution: Coming of Age in a New Era of Gender, Work, and Family," is a professor of sociology and collegiate professor of arts and science at New York University. She is a 2011-2012 Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University.

By Kathleen Gerson, Special to CNN

(CNN) - In a headline that calls out for attention - "A Gender Reversal on Career Aspirations" - the Pew Research Center reports that two-thirds of young women now say "being successful in a high-paying career or profession" is one of the most important goals in their lives.

While it may not be surprising that these women express more ambition than their mothers and grandmothers, it is surprising when they also display more ambition than their male peers. Is this a sign, then, that we are witnessing "a gender reversal"? Or does it represent a kind of denial - on the part of young women and men - about the obstacles they will ultimately face at the workplace and in life?

In the same poll, marriage and parenthood remain important life goals for all young adults, with 86% of women and 82% of men listing marriage as "very important" or "one of the most important things" in life. Children are even more desired, with 95% of young women and 90% of young men placing "being a good parent" in these same categories.

Yet young people's actions, at least when it comes to family commitments, appear at odds with these stated aspirations.

Read Kathleen Gerson's full column

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'Fatshion' bloggers find beauty in all sizes
Designer Angela Zampell says her Mode Merr line is for "stylish women from xxs-xxxl."
April 2nd, 2012
10:30 AM ET

'Fatshion' bloggers find beauty in all sizes

Editor's note: This is the fifth part of a six-week series on the perceptions of beauty. Last week, we looked at body image issues among men. Next week, we'll look at beauty across cultures.

For more on beauty and self-acceptance, read Kat Kinsman's essay, "Learning to love my big nose."

By Kat Kinsman, CNN

(CNN) - Lesley Kinzel is not a size zero. She's not a size 6 or 16 either. She wears a U.S. size 26, has no plans to change that and she'd be more than happy to share her style advice with you.

Kinzel, a 35-year-old associate editor at xoJane.com and author of the upcoming "Two Whole Cakes," is part of an increasingly popular online movement that celebrates fashion for larger women - without a tent dress or body-camouflaging cardigan in sight. The authors of so-called "fatshion" blogs - with names like Fat Girls Like Nice Clothes Too, Manolo for the Big Girl, Curves to Kill and Thicker Than Your Average Girl - seek to send an empowering message to their plus-sized sisters: We're here, we're fat, we look just fabulous - and you can, too.

"Fat" is a loaded word, often wielded as a weapon, but Kinzel hopes to lessen its power to wound.

Read the full story

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Filed under: Community • Girls • How we look • Technology • Women
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