1. 20:23 29th Oct 2012

    Notes: 6

    look at this feedback (don’t just look. Read it.)

    Dear Tom,
    This was a formidable article.  I was just commenting to my wife on Friday how trampy ALL of the women / girls looked when their male counterparts were dressed quite normally – doctor (full costume) / tramp nurse (virtually no costume).
    Please commend the author as this is a very well written piece, on an important topic for girls’ self-esteem.  I have two daughters, 11 and 15 who are both confronting this issue now.  Luckily they are both confident, non-conformist, and above all creative.
    That was about the Halloween article I’m so plEASED
  2. Unedited Halloween article

    Halloween is the favourite day of so many children. Colourful costumes, pumpkin carving, and dumping a pillowcase of treats onto the floor to sort them are all fond memories associated with October 31st. So… what happens when you grow up?

    Most kids stop trick-or-treating around the age of 13. The years after that, they may stay home to pass out candy to other kids. In later years, they might go to school dances or their friends’ parties. All’s still fun, but something changes drastically.

    The next time you’re at a store that sells Halloween costumes, look at the men’s costumes. Then, take a look at the costumes made for women. Notice a difference?

    Halloween costumes for women have become so sexualized that it’s embarrassing. Little Bo Peep costume? Little too much “peep”, not enough “bo”. Little Red Riding Hood costume? I’m fairly sure that Little Red Riding Hood didn’t wear fishnet stockings or a corset. 

    In fact, at this point, a Victoria’s Secret catalogue and the Women’s Costume section on the Party City website have an alarming amount of things in common.

    The most unfair part is that the costumes intended for males are generally more in the Halloween spirit, and also more comfortable.

    The gender expectations and sexualization actually begin early. Compare a boy’s Cookie Monster costume to a girl’s. For the boys, the Party City website sells a full body costume with a hood that has big Cookie Monster eyes attached to it. But the girls’ costume for the same character is a short dress with a cookie pattern and a hat.

    It’s appalling to grow up and suddenly be expected to either dress like a tramp to have fun on Halloween, or just not do anything at all. What kind of a position does that put girls in?

    Right from the beginning, girls have been told to be fairies or princesses. Maybe not directly, but even television programmes’ Halloween episodes show girls dressed in gowns with wands and tiaras. What if a girl wants to be Spiderman for Halloween? She wouldn’t be able to find a costume for that in the girls’ section at any store. 

    The sword is double sided. A boy would never find a fairy costume in the boys’ section, which would tell his subconscious that being male and dressing as a fairy for Halloween is unacceptable. This is how gender expectations form.

    Stores should abolish the “girl”, “boy”, “men”, “women” labels and just have one big store of costumes. 

    The point is, don’t be afraid to dress however you want on Halloween. If you’re a girl who wants to go as Iron Man, or a boy who wants to go as a fairy, then do it! Also, don’t be afraid you’re “too old” for Halloween. Heck, I was fifteen last year and went in a full clown costume. I even trick-or-treated. 

    Halloween is not about conforming to expectations. Stay in the spirit, and most importantly, have fun!

  3. Changing expectations on Halloween

    Published on October 25th, 2012

    Original Link

    Halloween is the favourite day of so many children. Colourful costumes, pumpkin carving, and dumping a pillowcase of treats onto the floor to sort them all, are fond memories associated with Oct. 31. So… what happens when you grow up?

    Most kids stop trick-or-treating around the age of 13.

    The years after that, they may stay home to pass out candy to other kids. In later years, they might go to school dances or their friends’ parties.

    All still fun, but something changes drastically.

    The next time you’re at a store that sells Halloween costumes, look at the men’s costumes. Then, take a look at the costumes for women. Notice a difference?

    Halloween costumes for women have become so sexualized that it’s embarrassing. Little Bo Peep costume? Little too much “peep,” not enough “bo.” Little Red Riding Hood costume? I’m fairly sure that she didn’t wear fishnet stockings or a corset.

    In fact, at this point, a lingerie catalogue and the women’s Halloween costume section have an alarming amount of things in common.

    Costumes intended for males are generally more in the Halloween spirit, and also more comfortable.

    The gender expectations and sexualization on Halloween actually begin early.

    Compare a young boy’s costume to a girl’s for a similar television character. For the boys, there may be a full-body costume with a hood while the girl’s version is a short dress and hat.

    It’s appalling to grow up and suddenly run into stereotypes.

    Right from the beginning, girls are encouraged to be fairies or princesses, dressed in gowns with wands and tiaras.

    Boys, too, are encouraged to don stereotypical costumes.

    This is how gender expectations form. Stores should abolish the “girls/women,” “boys/men” labels and just have one big store of costumes.

    Don’t be afraid to dress how you want on Halloween.

    And, don’t be afraid if you’re “too old” for Halloween.

    Heck, I was 15 years old last year and went in a full clown costume. I even trick-or-treated.

    Halloween is not about conforming to expectations. Stay in the spirit, and most importantly, have fun.

  4. Disney needs to rethink the message it’s sending to pre-teens

    Published on October 11th, 2012

    Original Link

    The first time I saw the video for the song Fashion is my Kryptonite, I was actually at a loss for words. The song’s two singers — Bella Thorne and Zendaya Coleman, stars of Disney Channel’s Shake It Up! — are beautiful and talented and seem very sweet, but this song they were told to sing takes away any reputable qualities about them.

    I feel silly for over-analyzing a Disney song, but these girls sing about being “up in the club” and how style is in their veins, “cause fashion’s what they breathe.

    What? I’m assuming when they say “up in the club” they mean Club Penguin, because these girls are definitely not old enough to get into a real club.

    Anyways, most of the song continues like that — senseless, inane lyrics — and it’s only giving the impression that fashion is the most important thing in their lives.

    Now, that wouldn’t be a big deal if they actually had careers with anything to do with fashion. It also wouldn’t matter much if they weren’t about 15 years old.

    Bella and Zendaya’s fan base largely consists of little girls and this song is such a bad influence on those kids that I’m cringing at the thought of how many nine-year-old girls care about their clothes even more now.

    Remember when Disney would push the envelope? A season three episode of That’s So Raven from a while ago called True Colours confronted racism in the world. It was inspiring, good-hearted and brave.

    Another episode from the show’s second season called That’s So Not Raven was about a picture of Raven being altered so she looked thinner for a magazine cover.

    Since then, there hasn’t been another question-forming, self-observing episode of any Disney show, even with so many opportunities having risen.

    In fact, the episodes of Disney shows are getting more and more vapid as the years pass.

    The show Shake it Up! had an episode called Party it Up!, in which a female character, ostensibly a model, said to the girls: “I could just eat you up… well, if I ate.”

    A joke about an eating disorder is shocking to hear in a show produced by the same company who once used to tell children everywhere to embrace their bodies.

    It wasn’t the first time the Walt Disney Company made a joke about eating disorders.

    An episode of Sonny with a Chance had made a reference to bulimia, also in a skit about a fashion model.

    If the Raven Baxter character was still around to see the newer Disney shows, I’m sure her first words would be “Ya, nasty.”

    The point is the Walt Disney Company is a global phenomenon and easily one of the most impressionable and memorable parts of the lives of recent generations.

    They have the power to be spectacular, and to shape young minds — but the only thing they’ve been shaping for the last seven or eight years are the eyebrows of pre-teen actors.

  5. New School Year Brings Promise of a Fresh Start

    Published on Thursday, September 6th, 2012

    Original Link

    The first day of school is a day dreaded by many people. It marks another year of seemingly never-ending math classes, unavoidable routine, nerve-racking presentations and great pressure.

    This day jars the relaxed feeling that teenagers everywhere had kept up at home all summer — waking up at noon (or even later), watching television all day (probably re-runs), eating unhealthy foods (in ungodly amounts) while sprawled on the couch and best of all: avoiding work.

    Before they know it, half of summer is already over… then two-thirds… then three-quarters… then, somehow, it’s the last week of summer vacation and everyone begins to panic.

    None of their summer whims were fulfilled and none of the summer goals they’d made for themselves were met.

    Many people are pessimistic when it comes to the end of the summer, not realizing that the start of school is actually an incredible opportunity.

    The new school year is a fresh start.

    Your slate has been wiped clean. The bad grades, drama within your circle of friends, rumours, embarrassing mishaps — all those things, and everything else, are gone.

    The year is starting fresh and so should the rest of us.

    Humans are a lot like the products we see on shelves at stores.

    We are made, labelled, and have a set amount of shelf life before we start to mould and eventually expire.

    While we are still in the process of being made, we go through the long assembly line that is school, which lasts for the first quarter, or even longer, of our lives.

    At the end, it smacks a big label onto our fronts — physician, artist, actor, teacher, journalist, drop-out, etc. — and puts us onto the path (or should I say, shelf) that is most suitable for us.

    There, we live with other products just like us until we reach our “best-before” dates.

    Labels are something that happen during school.

    Being labelled is virtually unavoidable. Perhaps this is the reason that our education becomes a burden on us.

    School begins to precede the foulest of things on the list of things we hate the most.

    The jolt that comes from being pulled out of weeks of summer vacation and put back at a wooden desk and decided social standing for almost eight hours a day — well, that is almost never a good feeling.

    The truth is, we probably can’t escape the labeling, but we can stop it from affecting our lives.

    Being negative about school really isn’t going to do anything for you or anyone around you.

    As annoying as it is to hear this repeatedly, school is in fact an important factor in the making of our lives.

    It does matter.

    However, you decide whether it will be easy or difficult for you.

    The first day (or week) of school doesn’t have to be the first day of a long chore — it can be the first day of you becoming something really, really awesome.

  6. Exam time returns, and brings with it anxiety

    Published on Thursday, June 21st, 2012

    Original Link

    It’s every student’s least favourite time of year again — exam time. A thick cloud of anxiety hangs above the school, as people in every grade study for exams and race to finish their culminating projects.

    For the second time this year, students are frantically trying to recapitulate their studies with their friends and peers.

    I am a bit more relaxed this time around because I don’t have exams for my weaker subjects to stress about, but I feel all the pressure of exams because my friends cannot stop worrying.

    Several of them have math and physics exams and have been worried for weeks now, even though exams aren’t until the end of June.

    Everyone is short-tempered and sensitive and sleep-deprived.

    For many students, the time cannot go by any slower.

    It discourages them to know that they are going to have to again go through what they are dealing with twice in the coming year.

    Even though I don’t quite have any difficult exams to worry about, I do find myself buried under the several different and strenuous summative projects I have due soon.

    The difficulty of juggling four very important projects at the same time is something I am only just realizing, and it is denting my excitement for the next school year.

    I believe that some students set themselves up for stress — and I’m one of these people.

    I feel completely confident right up until a few days before the exam when I realize that I actually haven’t tried very hard and do need to study intensively for my exams.

    I do my best not to complain, because — let’s be honest — who wants to hear about somebody else’s stress when they’ve already got their own?

    I try to make a plan for myself.

    Make a schedule for yourself and stick to it.

    Figure out your most important priority and tackle that first.

    Leave yourself the easiest things for the end.

    Set aside at least half an hour a day for yourself to relax during the days that you are working and studying.

    Watch a mindless television show, listen to some good music, draw, read, go for a run, take a nap — do whatever relieves your stress.

    Overworking your mind never churns out a pretty outcome.

    Most of all, try to remain positive.

    Exams aren’t enthralling for anyone, and extra negativity might just send someone off the edge.

    Also, remember that once these exams are over, you have a break — a long, well-deserved break from all the craziness that comes with the last month of high school.

    It’s so strange to think that we are aged just 14-18, but are already feeling such incredible pressure.

    But look at the bigger picture.

    High school exams are indeed the gateway into college, university, an apprenticeship or a job right out of school, but everyone must remember to simply breathe and calm down because there are always second chances.

    Don’t worry so much about your future.

    You will be perfectly fine.

    In the wise words of American author John Green: “Every year, many, many stupid people graduate from college. And if they can do it, so can you.”

  7. Kids These Days!

    Published in October 2011

    It was after school. I stood in the long checkout line at the convenience store, behind two girls who were younger than me. They were probably about ten or eleven years old. I listened as one of them droned on and on about her day. She talked about how she had dropped her IPhone in a puddle. “I’ll have to get a new one - again!” she said. She pulled a damp cell phone out of the pocket of her expensive, brand name jacket and my jaw unhinged itself involuntarily as my mouth dropped. 

    This prepubescent, four foot nine girl has an IPhone?! I couldn’t believe my eyes. Why in the world would a girl in the fifth or sixth grade need such an expensive smart-phone? What was she going to do with it? Play Angry Birds? Temple Run? What were her parents thinking? The girl then began to talk about how she had flirted with a ‘cute boy’ in her class and now they were ‘dating’. I choked on a laugh as I remembered how awkward all the kids in my class were in grade five and six. What does a relationship between two elementary school children consist of, anyways? Sharing animal crackers and holding hands behind the portables? Drinking juice from the same juice-box? 

    "He added me on Facebook last night. He’s so cute, but his eyes are so far apart.", the girl said, about her new ‘beau’. What a brat. I shook my head, disappointed. Here you are Shailee - fifteen years old, you have a Nokia and no boy-friend. You should be ashamed. I stifled a laugh and ended the sarcastic thoughts in my head. 

    "Oh, and today, my teacher gave me a D on the test.", the girl said.

    "No way!" Her friend whined.
    "I know! I hate her."

    I listened against my will as the girl used absolutely foul and crude terms - some that I’m sure she didn’t even know the meanings of - to describe how much she hated her science teacher. Never once did she stop to think that maybe the ‘D’ had come from not studying; instead, she jumped to the conclusion that her teacher was out to get her. Finally, the two girls made it up to the cashier, paid for their bottles of soda and left.

    I was puzzled. Why would the girls be allowed to get cellphones without a purpose for them? Why are they so spoiled? Do their parents know what goes on in their lives outside of the home?

    It continues to perplex me; this generation of children and teenagers. Their lives are expensive clothes, social networking and technology, dating, and parties. In my opinion, we have become a generation dependent upon material things, which in the long run isn’t a good quality. Is it so bad that I have some clothes from Wal-Mart? Is it so uncool that I still love Disney channel? Why is it so important to have a boy-friend? Is it bad that I would stay at home and watch a movie with my parents on Friday, rather than going out and getting drunk?

    Every day, I scroll through my Facebook news feed and see pathetic photos and other posts that expose a lot of things about the people that I know. From what I see, the path they are headed down is leading to a dead end. Why does everyone want to grow up so fast? Why is everyone wasting their precious youth? There is no fountain of rejuvenation that will make you young again, my friends. Embrace a simpler life and grow up slowly. I promise you will not resent it.

  8. Going in One Direction

    Published on April 19th, 2012

    Original Link

    A boy-band is taking over the world. Louis Tomlinson, 20, Harry Styles, 18, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Zayn Malik, all 19, are five boys from England and Ireland who make up One Direction.

    They auditioned separately as solo acts for the popular U.K. talent show The X-Factor. They didn’t make it as soloists, but were put together as a group and finished third in the seventh season of the show. Noticing the boys’ talent and their effect on the people that watched them, show creator Simon Cowell signed the group to Sony Music Entertainment.

    In their short time together as a band, the boys have stolen hearts and broken records. Their first single, What Makes You Beautiful, was released in September 2011 and became a No. 1 hit in the U.K.

    Upon releasing their debut album Up All Night, One Direction went on a U.K. tour, which sold out in minutes. The album was the fastest-selling debut album on the 2011 U.K. Albums Chart.

    One Direction quickly gained popularity internationally via their fans (called ‘Directioners’) spreading the word on the Internet.

    Girls (and boys) everywhere fell for their great voices, looks and charm. The group went on U.S. and Canadian tours, opening for fellow boy-band Big Time Rush — the group is planning a summer tour as well.

    The five boys would all have been in college right now had they not been put together as a group on X-Factor, living their lives as normal teenagers, not knowing of each other’s existence.

    One Direction has had a wonderful career so far — winning a Brit award for Best Single; landing a spot on the popular TV show iCarly, as well as Saturday Night Live; selling out Madison Square Garden in 60 seconds (a record); and having more than 160 million views for their three music videos.

    The band has inspired thousands of blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages. One Direction is expected to be the most popular boy-band in history, which is easy to see as the boys have nothing but talent, dedication, love for their music, and faces that make people swoon. They are a perfect boy-band.

  9. Controversy Over Kony 2012 Video Turns to Viewer Apathy

    Published on April 5th, 2012

    Original Link

    A couple of weeks ago, a video went viral on the Internet. It was a thirty-minute video centered on a Ugandan warlord named Joseph Kony.

    The video was made by a charitable organization called Invisible Children.

    The purpose of the video was to inform people about the horrible things that Kony does.

    He abducts children, forcing the boys to wield guns and fight in the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The girls are forced to become sex slaves.

    What Kony has been doing in Central Africa has been going on for years but has not received the attention it deserves.

    The message of the video was to ‘make Kony famous’.

    If thousands of people were to demand that something be done about the situation, then government involvement would be forced to take action.

    The video was well made.

    It showed the point of view of children who were refugees of the LRA, harnessed the cuteness of campaign founder Jason Russell’s young son, Gavin, and pushed the idea of covering major cities with posters of Kony overnight on April 20.

    Celebrities such as Rihanna and policy makers such as Stephen Harper were targeted in the video as well; the former to use their celebrity status to make Kony famous, and the latter to do something about the situation.

    It was a strong message that pulled on the heartstrings of almost everyone who watched it.

    People became determined to ‘make Kony famous’, by posting about it everywhere on the Internet.

    The hashtag ‘#Uganda’ was a trending topic on Twitter for two days. People changed their profile pictures on Facebook to banners that proclaimed the slogan ‘Kony 2012’.

    Other people were skeptical.

    Ugandans were outraged by the video because it made the country look helpless.

    The Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi himself made a video to tell the world that Joseph Kony and the LRA had not been in Uganda since 2006.

    Uganda was in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

    Mbabazi said that he was happy that Uganda was getting so much attention but that people were incorrect to think that the country was feeble. He assured that the country was modern and developing.

    Later, Invisible Children’s poor financial plan was revealed with 43 per cent of donations used for advertising/awareness and 20 per cent was used for salaries, leaving 37 per cent for programs in Africa to help people.

    Another flaw in the campaign was a major one — capturing Kony isn’t going to wipe out the LRA.

    The Lord’s Resistance Army has split up into smaller groups all over Central Africa.

    The campaign received a lot of negative criticism.

    Apathy has already taken place and many people have stopped talking about the Kony 2012 campaign, which is a shame.

    Even if Invisible Children didn’t cut it, Kony is still out there and children are still being forced to kill their own friends and family.

  10. Spreading the Love Without Breaking the Bank

    Published on February 10th, 2012

    Original Link

    Love is a powerful word. Millions of love stories have been told, some are waiting to be heard, and even more are waiting to happen.

    Many of these stories revolve around Valentine’s Day, which is observed on Feb. 14.

    Traditionally, it is a day that lovers express their deep affection to each other — most of the time it’s through simple gestures such as flowers or hand-written ‘Valentines’.

    Since Valentine’s Day is known for being the most romantic day of the year, many people choose the day to take those big steps in their lives, such as proposing to their partner.

    In general, it is a day for people to truly emphasize their love.

    It certainly has come a long way and changed significantly since it was established officially by Pope Gelasius I in the year 496 A.D.

    With the ever-expanding reach of the Internet, exchanging Valentines has turned electronic.

    According to the U.S. Greeting Card Association, an estimated  10.5 million electronic Valentines were sent in 2010.

    For some reason, thousands of coloured pixels sent over e-mail doesn’t seem as sincere as actual words to me.

    Valentine’s Day has also quickly become a holiday on which people might feel forced to purchase gifts for their loved ones, because of the commercial component that has become so intertwined with the day.

    Many stores have deals on chocolates and other sweets leading up to Valentine’s Day.

    They also sell other things such as stuffed animals, bath and body creams and gels, and mass-produced greeting cards, all usually revolving around the colours red and pink.

    Ads for limited-edition versions of popular candy and chocolates are seen during commercial breaks prior to Valentine’s Day.

    Suddenly, just like birthdays, Mother’s and Father’s days, and many other holidays, Valentine’s has lost its meaning and become a  commercial holiday.

    People are anxious to see what their partner has purchased for them — who sometimes go to great lengths to make sure the gifts they are going to give are just as valuable as the ones they are receiving.

    The point of Valentine’s Day is to take it as an opportunity to let someone know that you love him or her.

    This can be done with a simple hand-written note or even just a few words from the heart to your special person.

    It’s that easy to make someone happy and let them know they are loved.

    Money doesn’t have to go into that, and stores don’t have to exploit you.

    Words can be just as sincere as an expensive gift, and just as kind and caring — sometimes they can be even more powerful than any physical gift.

    So this Valentine’s Day, let your special someone know that you care about them.

    Spread the love — without having to break the bank.