athena and her loom: crafting for change

Sometimes I get in a serious crafting mood, like if I don’t make something with my hands soon, my overloaded brain will collapse. This happens when I’ve been spending too much time on work that’s based on analysis, problem-solving, and decision-making, when my eyes are bugging out from typing and reading spreadsheets or marginalia, and when my neck is nearly frozen from stress and intense focus. My brain feels like it’s made up of all hard lines and sharp edges that will keep filling up my skull like Tetris pieces until my head explodes.

Because I wrote my undergraduate thesis on goddess archetypes in the novels of Toni Morrison and Alice Walker (and, clearly, am a little bit of a dork), I like to think of this kind of experience as my Athena problem. The Greek goddess of wisdom and war, Athena appears to be all about the mind and the shield, and she even sprang fully formed and covered in armor from the head of Zeus. So when I feel her dragging her sword around in my head, I have to subdue her before she busts out with that Gorgon-covered shield and I’m stuck with her battles forever.

What most people don’t know, however, is that she’s also the goddess of weaving. Yep, wisdom, war, and weaving. She invented the horse-driven chariot but also the loom, which is a reminder that one shouldn’t just be an archetype but a well-rounded, multi-dimensional person. So I subdue her by pulling out her spinning wheel, and next thing I know the armor’s hidden under a pile of warm, smelly wool and she’s humming along to her tapping foot.

The Triumph of Minerva: March, from the Room of the Months, detail of the weavers, Francesco del Cossa

The Triumph of Minerva: March, from the Room of the Months, detail of the weavers, Francesco del Cossa

I taught myself to knit from a book about ten years ago when feminists were starting to reclaim the crafts of their grandmothers as a way to redefine what had always been seen as “women’s work.” I’d never really been into crafting before that; it was easy to write it off as an old-fashioned activity for housewives or something. But crafts like knitting were real work. Women knitted and sewed to provide clothing for their families, and they often stitched in groups, where they would support, empower, and inspire each other. If only someone would unearth an old text describing the cultural revolutions that sprouted in stitching circles. For some, of course, crafting was, and is, a livelihood.

I was the laziest knitter for a long time, making only simple projects and leaving them half-finished on a shelf for months. But then I discovered what an antidote knitting is to over-thinking, so now I dig my hands into soft skeins of yarn in many colors and feel sufficiently soothed. There’s something very zen about knitting: the measured click of bamboo needles, slow unraveling of a ball of yarn, trance-like feeling of falling into a pattern.

Pinterest has helped me branch out into other crafts. I’ve fashioned beaded bracelets and necklaces with rope, embroidery floss, and hex nuts. I’ve found new uses for the fabric scraps and triangles left over from my great grandmother’s quilting bin. I’ve recycled old seed catalogues by decoupaging magnets and boxes. I’m a little obsessed with Pinterest. I get ravenous for ideas on how to craft with random things found around my house and in my yard, and it makes me feel very self-sustainable and accomplished. Also, as a writer who has written so much that no one will ever see, it’s a relief to finish a project that’s meant to be shared, and it’s particularly satisfying in an ever-pixelated world.

In fact, crafting is very much about community. I love feeling more connected to history, to the women who came before me, to a handmade life. Crafting, especially with materials found in nature or repurposed from thrift stores or your home, can be a good antidote to corporate industry and overconsumption. There’s a book called In Her Hands: Craftswomen Changing the World, which chronicles the stories of women in twelve countries who turned their lives around by making and selling traditional handicrafts. Then there’s Knitting Behind Bars, which started knitting circles with male prisoners in Maryland, a project that transformed how the men saw themselves and each other. Reading about it will fill your crusty, old heart with joy.

I propose we draw up a new Athena. Perhaps she’s got a skein of yarn attached to her belt or a pair of needles stuffed in the Gorgon’s mouth. We need some way to remember that sometimes she takes off her armor and settles down with a mug of nettle tea and a basket of wool. Sometimes she drops her sword and just crafts the revolution.


for further exploration: music, art, film, and creative solutions

The latest on Pussy Riot: Formerly imprisoned members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina are coming to New York to talk about political prisoners for an Amnesty International event. Despite Putin’s attempts to silence them, Tolokonnikova and Alekhina remain unwavering in their commitment to social change. Journalist Masha Gessen’s recently published book Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot is at the top of my must-read list.

More riot grrrls: Dazed has an excellent A-Z guide to the women who stomped through the 90s, from Allison Wolfe to zines. Love it. (That’s an expression of my love and a demand for yours.)

Art I’m into right now: Lindsay Bottos offers a clever, artistic response to gendered online harassment. ONOMOllywood, an exhibition from photographers Antoine Tempé and Omar Victor Diop, features iconic film shots re-imagined in Dakar and Abidjan. (It’s sort of an ad campaign for a hotel chain.) The photographs Ibi Ibrahim will soon be showing in the Art14 London Art Fair are a sex-positive response to conservative Islam.

From 6 minutes to 24 hours: Tired of being expected to play a terrorist, Iranian-American actor Jemilah King made a short displaying Hollywood’s narrow view and her much broader abilities. If you’ve got more time, the Global Lives Project curates a collection of films that “faithfully capture 24 continuous hours in the life of individuals from around the world.” It’s a work in progress devoted to cultivating empathy, and there’s a two-week unit for educators to use.

Creativity in places you aren’t looking for it but should be: Women’s World Summit Foundation is seeking nominations for the 2014 Prize for Women’s Creativity in Rural Life, emphasizing sustainable development, household food security, and peace. 


expanding the “beloved community”

446px-Martin_Luther_King_Jr_NYWTS_4Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in the US, so I want to point you to some excellent creative work being done to change power relations in different parts of the world. King was adamant about recognizing how injustices around the world are connected, reminding us that the “destiny of the United States is tied up with the destiny of India and every other nation.”

No matter where you are in the world, decide today to make your work less insular. Find similar groups in other countries, explore art from a different continent, and notice how the same themes resonate. Paying attention to what people are doing on the ground thousands of miles away can change the way you see your community, your work, and the world.

First, reconciliation through music! Drumming is traditionally a male activity in Rwanda, but twenty women, both Hutu and Tutsi, came together to form Ingoma Nshya, a powerful drum ensemble spreading a message of healing. These are women who lived through the Rwandan genocide, and they came to the group  with no musical background. Now they play all over the world and have even performed in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo several times.

Next, Mary Sibande is a South African artist working in Johannesburg. Her mixed media installations feature Sophie, Sibande’s alter ego, a domestic worker whose fantasy world reveals the queen inside. In numerous countries, women of color are seen primarily as domestic workers, but Sophie shows us layers and depths that cannot be ignored. Full of life and energy, Sibande’s work demands attention, and Sophie’s shocking blue dress stays with me, as though printed right on the brain. I love them all, but particularly Her Majesty Queen Sophie and I’m a Lady.

Finally, New York-based artist Mickalene Thomas‘s paintings explore female identity and redefine beauty. Her colorful, pulsing work makes me want to dance, and, in fact, she did the cover art for Solange’s EP True. She’s inspired by the kind of women she grew up around, especially her mother, saying, “It’s what I know and what I respect—someone who believes in herself and stands her ground, who doesn’t act according to what society deems as acceptable and expresses herself, her sexuality, her femininity.” Thomas uses the afro to represent that kind of empowered energy and rhinestones to question beauty standards. I love her 2008 album; A Moment’s Pleasure Number 2 and Tamika Sur Une Chaise Longue are standouts.

So whose work are you celebrating today? What other artists, writers, musicians, actors, dancers, crafters, and the like infuse their work with themes of justice, equality, freedom, peace, and love? How are you growing your beloved community?

 


for further exploration: los muxes, street harassment, and frieze

Jesusa by Nicola Ókin Frioli

Jesusa by Nicola Ókin Frioli

It’s that time where we take a look at a few things we should learn more about, so let’s have at it.

I am obsessed with this collection of photographs from Nicola Ókin Frioli. Los muxes, gay men in the Mexican town of Juchitán, are beloved by the community. Families consider them a blessing, a good luck charm. They drink, work, and legislate in traditional Oaxacan dress: flower-embroidered blouses, brightly colored skirts, and scarves wound through long hair. Yet another reason I should figure out how to retire to Oaxaca.

When the subject of street harassment comes up, people usually argue about how best to deal with it. I’ve tried ignoring it, yelling back, giving the finger, and looking straight at them to ask why they think it’s okay to talk to women that way. David Cross has a hilarious joke about what these men might be thinking when they holler at us, but what I really want to direct you to are two women’s artistic responses to street harassment. In City of Brotherly Love, Hannah Price photographed Philadelphia men just after they harassed her. She captures an interesting moment; some guys look uncomfortable with the lens on them, while others don’t seem to care. Likewise, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh captioned her drawings of women with the things she wanted to tell harassers and then hung the posters around Brooklyn. They sparked a community conversation as people scribbled their thoughts in the blank spots.

Finally, Frieze Week–with two major art fairs and countless gallery openings–just happened in London, and it highlighted more African artists than the city had ever seen. Included as a Frieze Master was feminist artist Nil Yalter. Yalter’s photographs, drawings, paintings, and installations typically focus on aspects of the lives of women and immigrants.


celebrating transgender art

It seems like stories of transgender folks are appearing in the news more and more. Recently, students at Marina High School in Huntington Beach, California, crowned Cassidy Lynn Campbell as their first transgender homecoming queen, which was great news that was inevitably followed by bullying and criticism.

Before that, Army Pvt. Bradley Manning bravely became Chelsea Manning. Many journalists and media outlets respectfully followed AP style guidelines by using Manning’s new name and female pronouns, which made for a good lesson for the general public, but Fox News, to no one’s surprise, refused to make the change and even ridiculed Manning’s gender identity.

In the past few months, Jamaican trans teenager Dwayne Jones was beaten, stabbed, and shot to death by a mob in Montego Bay; 21-year-old Islan Nettles was out with other trans folks in Harlem, New York, when a group of men beat her to death; a trans woman was stripped naked and thrown off a bridge in Mexico City; and Diamond Williams, a transgender woman in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was killed and dismembered, her body parts left in a field.

I understand that a lot of people have lived their entire lives thinking of gender as a fixed fact of life instead of a fluid social construct. That doesn’t excuse violence, but it explains some of the ignorance we keep seeing. The presence of out gays and lesbians in pop culture has helped to normalize homosexuality and strengthen equality efforts such as legalized gay marriage, so I’m crossing my fingers that as transgender folks become more visible–through everything from reality shows to Pulitzer Prize-winning novels–the rest of the world will continue to loosen their heternormative restraints.

Even for those who happily identify as their assigned sex, the performance of it can be exhausting. Haven’t you ever wanted, even for a moment, to break free from the confines of your manhood or womanhood?

I’ve decided to dedicate this week’s post to highlighting transgender artists and gender-bending art. If you want to understand why people struggle with their assigned sex and work to create their own gender identities, this list is an excellent start.

Artists

Musicians

Filmmakers and Theatre Artists

  • Iizuka Kashou: writer/director of Our Future, a Japanese coming-of-age film centered on an 18-year-old girl who explores her masculinity after her parents separate
  • Andrea James and Calpernia Addams of Deep Stealth Productions:  produced comedic shorts Transproofed and Casting Pearls as well as the first all-transgender Vagina Monologues, prepped Felicity Huffman for her role in Transamerica
  • D’Lo: analyzes South Asian and immigrant experiences of non-traditional gender identity and sexuality through comedy, leads community workshops, recent work: D’FunQT (one-person show)

Films

  • Ma Vie En Rose (Belgium, 1997): Seven-year-old Ludovic prefers dresses, which his family initially finds endearing until they discover there’s more to it than fashion and others don’t respond as kindly in this comedy drama.
  • Beautiful Boxer (Thailand, 2003): This drama tells the true story of Nong Thoom, a successful Muay Thai fighter and trans woman.
  • Tomboy (France, 2011): A little girl is mistakenly identified as a boy, and she goes along with it, feeling perhaps that it’s not a mistake after all.
  • Breakfast on Pluto (Ireland, 2005): Based on the novel by Patrick McCabe, this film follows a trans woman’s youth in 1940s Ireland, right next to the border of Northern Ireland and the busy and violent IRA.

Novels

  • Sacred Country: Rose Tremain’s prize-winning novel is set in rural England, where we find Mary Ward, the child of poor farmers, who discovers at six that she doesn’t want to be a girl.
  • Middlesex: Jeffrey Eugenides’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel follows the struggles of Cal, an intersex child raised as a girl in a fairly traditional Greek American family, who finally manages to define his own identity as an adult.
  • Cereus Blooms at Night: Shani Mootoo’s acclaimed debut explores gender identity in a fictional Carribean country through Tyler, a nurse who cares for Mala, an older woman suspected of killing her father.
  • Annabel: Kathleen Winter’s debut novel reminds us of the limitations of gender through an intersex child raised as Wayne, who loves hunting in the desolate Labrador countryside with his father but has a shadow self he calls “Annabel.”

for further exploration: frida’s love letters, playwright amy wheeler, feminist comics, artist larissa sansour

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Badass Frida Kahlo in a family photo

A few things you should know about before you take this day any further:

  • Frida Kahlo is one of my ultimates. Every move the woman made was pure art–paintings, clothing, homes, relationships, politics. Given the amount of physical and emotional trauma she faced, it’s amazing that she insisted on seeing life through so much color instead of turning to darkness. It turns out that she could have been a damn fine poet too.  Somehow I had no idea that there were facsimiles of her diaries floating around (see The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait, but, look, I hate to link to Amazon, so see if you can find it somewhere else). From this book, Brainpickings offers a few images of Frida’s letters to her husbandDiego Rivera, and they are divine. Here’s a peak [capitalization hers]:

“Nothing compares to your hands, nothing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mirror of the night. the violent flash of lightning. the dampness of the earth. The hollow of your armpits is my shelter. my fingers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-fountain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.”

Reminds me of Pablo Neruda. Did they inspire each other? Someone research this and write a lovely essay on it.

 

“I believe creative work is the way. Stories connect us and cause us to experience empathy, to imagine what it feels like to see the world through someone else’s eyes, or walk in their shoes. And this is key: we have to understand and believe that we are deeply, irrevocably connected; that we are more alike than we are different from each other, and that our interconnectedness is our strongest asset as animals on the planet.”

 

  • Warning bells go off in my head and my belly immediately begins stoking dragon fire whenever I hear, “I’m a feminist, but….” Comics are safer than dragon fire, however, so feast your eyes on The Big Feminist BUT: Comics about Women, Men and the Ifs, Ands & Buts of Feminism. I’m not going to pretend not to notice that the afterward comes from the controversial Hugo Schwyzer, but don’t let it stop you from at least taking a look. It’s poignant and clever.

 

“The issue of women’s rights is not only necessary to address for its own sake, but also because it opens a magnitude of questions as to how we perceive reality and why it is important to question the very system by which our humanity is constructed and by how we perceive things.


indignadas: women, art, and protest

Indignadas: June 2013. Turkey María María Acha-Kutscher

Indignadas: June 2013, Turkey
María María Acha-Kutscher

The Woman in Red. She’s become the symbol of protests in Turkey, and the image is fitting: approximately half of the protestors in Turkey are female. And much of what they oppose is Prime Minister Erdoğan’s attempts to exclude women from public spaces by failing to address violence against women, declaring that women should have three children, and promoting abortion restrictions. What better response than to fill these spaces with women who refuse to leave?

Women were instrumental in Egypt’s protests, and they faced frequent sexual harassment and assault–the most chilling approach to keeping women from the public sphere. Look at gender-based violence as a cultural problem, it’s clear that intimate partner violence reflects the idea of women as property, while street harassment and assault serve to keep women from public spaces, to reassert male ownership of the public sphere. Still, Egyptian women continue to fill Tahrir Square, protesting with their voices and their bodies.

And their art. Art has always been central to protest, from creative chants and protest songs that unite marchers and amplify their voices to papier-mâché puppets and performance art calling attention to the protestors’ message. Of course, protest also inspires art that captures the moment and goes beyond the street.

Indignadas (Outraged Women) is a series of images of women in public protests. The first stage focused on Spain, while the second stage, which began this June, expands the project to record the acts of women from around the world. María María Acha-Kutscher, a Peruvian artist based in Spain, turns photographs from witnesses into drawings.

In her own words, “[t]he aim of Indignadas series is to make visible, claim and place the woman at the center of this social struggle. A memory register to remind future generations that social changes throughout history were made by women and men together.”

Indignadas: 25s 2012. Alrededores del Congreso, Madrid María María Acha-Kutscher

Indignadas: 25s 2012. Alrededores del Congreso, Madrid
María María Acha-Kutscher

What makes this project truly stand out is Acha-Kutscher’s insistence on women’s bodies as “support for the political message” instead of objects for the male gaze. This conscious attempt to reconsider women’s bodies in art and in the public sphere reflects a critical understanding of the way that women protest with their bodies by simply existing in public spaces.

Women and girls are so often told where not to go. We are blamed when attacked in certain areas because we were in places not meant for us. But by being present in those places, we claim them. On Sunday, July 1, 2013, more than two years after the Arab Spring, at least 46 women protestors were sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square. Men keep attacking them, but women keep appearing, linking arms, and raising their voices.

They know that avoiding these public spaces does not necessarily make women safer. It only exacerbates the problem, completely turning the public sphere over to men and keeping women confined. These protestors act on behalf of all women, risking their own physical safety to demand real and lasting bodily integrity.

Their sacrifice should not be forgotten. You can contribute photographs to Indignadas by sending images along with the date and location to  mariamaria@antimuseo.org. Minimum size (horizontal or vertical): 450X650 pixels. Maximum size (horizontal or vertica): 750X950 pixels.

Indignadas: June 2013. Brazil María María Acha-Kutscher

Indignadas: June 2013, Brazil
María María Acha-Kutscher


creativity through chaos: ana molina hita

I have a very special post this week from Ana Molina Hita, a teacher and musician in Madrid. I came across Milagros, a band Ana formed with girls she teaches, on Kathleen Hanna‘s blog, and I was hooked. I contacted Ana, and she turned out to be clever, warm, funny, passionate, and engaging. She’s the kind of teacher kids dream of. In addition to Milagros, Ana started another project to nurture her students’ self-expression through writing. Please check out both of these inspiring and lovely projects. I promise you will love them.

Ana offers us her ideas on creativity and education. Take it away, Ana!

Milagros

Milagros

We often forget music is a language. Everybody seems to know the importance of learning different languages in order to travel, or what is even worse, in order to get a better job so we can get a better life, whatever.

In the last 30 years, we have faced a lot of changes in society. but, apart from this fever with foreign languages that, at least in Spain, is such a failure, nothing has really changed at school. Nowadays we learn Spanish and maths in the same way our parents did. There’s a hierarchy of subjects  that offends the principle of diversity and the principle of enjoying learning. We are facing a global crisis and we need solutions and people able to find those solutions. Here is the important point where creativity has massive significance because creativity is the process through which we create something in response to what we need.

Working on creativity at school doesn’t mean that everyone may be an artist. Most people relate creativity with music and art, but it has to do with life, with the will of kids to live. Creativity is an important tool for living better. Anyone can be creative. Everyone has skills or interests that can make their lives better. Helping kids to find those interests and skills should be our main goal at school.

To find what we like doing is such a blessing.

As a teacher, there’s a moment you realize you are not taking care of your pupils’ will to live. That’s when  you have to stop and wonder what is wrong.

I’m afraid the whole thing is wrong. That takes me to the pessimistic view where I’ve finally landed. But when it seems you can do nothing about it, at least you can try to spend quality time with your pupils whenever you are able.

The Writing Project I’ve been developing throughout my last 5 years at school is basically based on chaos. I just let my pupils write anything that crosses their minds in a little notebook. The less you tell them what to do, the more they write. It is important not to force them. They will write the day someone tells them they are good at it.

They like writing when they realize nobody is gonna mark their writings or judge them. They can tell you how fat their uncle is with the same passion they tell you they’re heartbroken.

I don’t know how pure my pupils are (I guess 100%), but I’m pretty sure their writings are pure as gold. As a friend of mine once said, it’s like watching raining. And funny as hell.

We cannot pretend to instill love for literature in our children if they don’t love language, and they won’t be able to love language if they can’t even use language when teachers come into the classroom. To love language, we have to enjoy using it. And I can prove school is not the place where children are most allowed to use it (I’m afraid I tell them to shut up around 24 times every 24 hours).

Politicians and their education laws do not help at all. They insist on keeping things the way they are. They use education to keep culture always the same. We teach the way others taught us. This way teaching becomes a process of symbolic reproduction.

They make us believe they are improving education by changing the name of certain subjects and the way we evaluate students. We should stop changing the way we evaluate our students as if that was the most important part of the process. The most important part of the process is the process itself.

As Sir Ken Robinson says, what pushes a child to not stop walking is not the goal of going walking everywhere. It’s just his/her nature to keep on trying. And same happens to learning.

Education is the place where learning happens. Kids can do nothing but learning. And it seems we are not making the best of this fact.

Milagros is within a Creativity Project. It’s not only about music. It’s about the will to live that children possess. It is about finding tools, interests and habits that could make our lives better.

I´ll never know if it works, but meanwhile we´re having fun.

Ana Molina Hita is a school teacher and musician from Madrid. She teaches music to kids from 8 to 13 in a public school where kids come from all over the world. Apart from Milagros, she  plays in a pop band called Hola a Todo el Mundo.

Even though she claims that the essence of creativity and the essence of schooling are contradictions in terms, she believes there’s a need to incorporate creativity into our educational system, despite the system.

Check out Ana’s many projects:

http://chericann.tumblr.com/
http://milagros.bandcamp.com/
https://soundcloud.com/holaatodoelmundo
milagros

girls creating culture through STEM

Here’s a chronological list of things I wanted to be when I grew up: astronaut, surgeon, marine biologist, fashion designer, singer, actress, writer.

When I was twelve, my science teacher, an awesome woman who saw something in me and did her best to nurture it, recommended me for a camp at Miami University for kids who were “gifted and talented” in math and science. Anyone who knows me now likely finds this laughable, but it’s true that I once excelled in those subjects. I was even pulled out of fourth-grade math for one-on-one enrichment (i.e., logic problems) because I needed more of a challenge.

At that point in my life, math and science camp was one of the best things to ever happen to me. I got to live in a dorm with girls from around Ohio, girls who knew nothing about my life in Cincinnati, so I could be whatever I wanted. I thought our resident assistant, a college student herself, was the coolest person in the world. With my new friends, I shook my skinny butt in the dorm hallway to Sir-Mix-a-Lot, wandered around the leafy campus like I was in a movie, scribbled down equations, and engaged in some pretty cool science experiments.

And then I came back home, entered junior high, and forgot I ever cared about science and math. My friends were all smart, but suddenly the only things that mattered were gossip, clothes, and boys. Cheerleading, which I tried out for while plainly saying to the judges, “I can’t do this.” And musical theatre. It became very cool to be able to sing because then maybe you could become famous or something.

I ended up immersing myself in theatre and music. It may be that I was drawn to them over math and science, but what’s more likely is that I was more comfortable with a script, a body mic, and a pair of jazz shoes. I was told in so many ways by society that the arts were a fine things for both girls and boys to explore, whereas math and science was the realm of boys. Theatre did a lot for my self-esteem and self-expression, whereas math competitions and science fairs seemed like ways to make me feel unworthy and incapable. I felt safe with language, creativity, and performance.

By the time I saw the connections between these subjects when I made a rather pitiful attempt at music theory, I had developed the idea that my brain just didn’t work that way, that I wasn’t cut out for math and science. Pretty odd for someone once considered “gifted and talented” in those very subjects.

But this story plays out over and over again in schools around the world. Girls typically turn away from STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) around the same age I did. In Australia, the gender disparity today is greater than it was in the 1980s, which was the very decade in which I racked up my math and science achievements but kept my pull-ups in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge to seven so as not to embarrass Kevin Zinke, who had managed 10. (Along with the notion that girls should not beat boys at their own games, I possessed freakish upper-body strength as a child.)

AAUW’s 2010 study “Why So Few?” reveals that girls underrate their skills in these subjects:

[G]irls assess their mathematical ability lower than do boys with equivalent past mathematical achievement. At the same time, girls hold themselves to a higher standard in subjects like math, where boys are considered to excel. Because of this, girls are less likely to believe that they will succeed in a STEM field, and, therefore, are less likely to express interest in a STEM career.

[G]ender differences in self-confidence in STEM subjects begin in middle school and increase in high school and college, with girls reporting less confidence than boys do in their math and science abilities. In part, boys develop greater confidence in STEM through experience developing relevant skills.

So how could someone have changed my mind about math and science even after the damage was done? By telling me that men still control all the fields that make up entertainment and that this is partly because they make up the vast majority of music producers, sound engineers, film producers, film directors and editors, technical directors, composers, designers, game developers, etc., etc. Cyndi Lauper just won the Tony Award for best score (Kinky Boots), and she was the first woman to do so. It only took 67 years of Tony Awards.

There are some innovative programs out there that are trying to increase girls’ participation in STEM by drawing on their interests in creativity, performance, and entertainment–turning girls into creators of culture instead of simply consumers, actors instead of objects. If it draws them further into math and science, maybe we’ll also gain more research on women’s health and more creative ideas for dealing with global warming, saving honeybees, or promoting sustainable infrastructure.

Gender Amplified supports women music producers by motivating girls through workshops like “Turntablism 101” and “Music Production on Smart Phones.” Rock It: Science, a partnership between Girls Rock! Seattle and the Pacific Science Center “teaches girls the underlying physics of sound and music as well as audio engineering concepts..in the context of writing music and creative expression.”

Nevin Erönde, a sound engineer, and Andrea Hasselager, a copywriter and interactive designer, created Game Girl Workshop, teaching Palestinian girls how to develop video games. Black Girls CODE offers the National STEM Video Game Challenge, “Build a Webpage in a Day,” and iPod film school. And Girls Scouts in Los Angeles can now work toward a video game design patch!

Reel Girls supports girl-created media through instruction and mentoring. Check out their award-winning videos!  Columbia Public Schools, Stephens College, and Columbia Access Television have come together to offer Citizen Jane Summer Film Academy, which helps girls create short films that are aired on local television.

Ah, to be twelve all over again. I’d take all the workshops I could afford. And do fifteen pull-ups.


for further exploration: a play on foreign aid, a graphic novel on palestinian non-violence, and a trans/genderqueer poetry collection

Just a short post today to direct you to a few cool things:

  • Award-winning Ugandan playwright Deborah Asiimwe‘s new show Cooking Oil centers around the murder of an East African girl who was illegally selling cooking oil to pay for school. From Cooking Oil’s website: “Layering traditional and contemporary music, dance, chant, and images and material of aid, this production playfully interrogates in/dependence and the gaze at a suffering Other.” The play just had its US premiere over the weekend.
  • Written in Arabic, Irene Nasser‘s new graphic novel tells the story of the nonviolent resistance of Palestinian residents in the West Bank village of Budrus. A fifteen-year-old girl named Iltizam began protesting alongside the village boys, participated in their fathers’ strategy talks, and encouraged the girls at school to join her in peaceful demonstrations to replant trees pulled up by bulldozers. If you can’t read Arabic, you might take a look at Julia Bacha’s award-winning documentary on Budrus and Iltizam’s mother, Ayed Morar, who organized the action while her daughter galvanized the community.
  • Nightboat Books has published the “first-ever collection of poetry by trans and genderqueer writers.” Edited by TC Tolbert and Tim Trace Peterson, Troubling the Line: Trans and Genderqueer Poetry and Poetics boasts 55 diverse poets along with their individual “poetic statements.”