Makeovers, Manicures and Consumption: Girls Have Had ENOUGH Already

In response to the deep unease felt by many LFN members, the May letter of the month is aimed at the Girlation event being held at the Natural History Museum on 17 May 2009. This page provides a bit of background, template letters, and at the bottom, we’ve provided a couple of links to resources of another vision of empowerment for girls.

Background

Girlation is an event for ‘young ladies’ organised by U4U (‘a celebration of u’), an organisation which is run by London ‘entrepreneur’ Ila Panik. It describes itself as a: “club built upon four pillars: fitness, kindness, culture and environment. Participation includes weekly meetings, team activities, building small enterprises, accessing professional coaching and making new friends. It is a fresh, fun and quality community for teens!”

Aimed at 11 to 18-year olds, it includes a ‘high heel boot camp’, and an emphasis on manicures, makeovers and consumption. We find it worrying that it is selling itself as an ‘empowering’ event for ‘young ladies’ in this time of anorexia, pornification and beauty pressures and is actually sponsored by those very sources that construct versions of femininity that promote this culture.

It appears to be a cunningly disguised commercial ploy to get young women to spend money. Apparently young women are to be encouraged to be ‘incubators of compassion’ in the ‘kindness’ ‘pillar’. There will also be model talent scouts! Once you see the images of white thin models on the posters and check out the MTV celebs hosting the event you start to get an impression of what’s in store for ‘young ladies’ attending.

Here is a link to their website: http://www.u4uk.co.uk/.

Writing your letter

We have provided two template letters, one to the organisers and one to the museum. If possible, try to modify the letters, adding your own perspective and voice. Finally, don’t forget to sign and provide your contact details.

Letter to the organisers

The organisers are called U4U. You can email them at: info@u4uk.co.uk

Alternatively send a letter to:

U4U
99a Prince of Wales Mansions
Prince of Wales Drive
London
SW11 4BL

Template letter text:

Dear U4U

While I applaud the aim of providing a safe space for girls to develop, socialise and gain confidence, I am deeply disturbed by the nature and tone of the Girlation event that is taking place at the Natural History Museum on 17 May – in particular the “high heel boot camp” and the emphasis on makeovers, manicures, consumption and kindness as a means for empowering girls.

We live in an age that objectifies and commercialises female bodies and there is increasing evidence that this is a form of sexual abuse, which robs girls of their right to develop and explore their own sexuality on their own terms and in their own time. Instead the very culture is grooming them to accept a life of objectification and service to men’s needs rather than their own. It seems to me that Girlation is promoting and participating in this worrying trend.

A report produced by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2007 said that the growing sexualisation of women and girls in the media and popular culture not only negatively impacts on the well-being and health of women and girls but actually contributes to sexism, sexual exploitation and provides a conducive context for violence against women. For example, on page 3, the report says “The sexualisation of girls may not only reflect sexist attitudes, a societal tolerance of sexual violence, and the exploitation of girls and women but may also contribute to these phenomena” and page 28 it says “The sexualisation and objectification of women in the media [and popular culture] appear to teach girls that as women, all they have to offer is their body and face, and that they should expend all their effort on physical appearance”.

In view of this evidence, I would ask you to consider changing the emphasis of the Girlation events. I and a number of other members of the London Feminist Network would be happy to meet with you to discuss some alternative approaches. You can find out more about the London Feminist Network at http://londonfeministnetwork.org.uk/.

Yours sincerely

Letter to the Natural History Museum

You can send an email to the Natural History Museum on their website at:

http://www.nhm.ac.uk/about-us/contact-enquiries/forms/emailform.jsp?recip=customerservices&business_title=Customer%20Services&email_title=Customer%20Enquiry

(If the link doesn’t work, go to the main website and click the “contact us” link at the bottom of the page and then look for the Feedback and Complaints section.)

Alternatively send a letter to:

Natural History Museum
London
SW7 5BD

Template letter text:

While I applaud the aim of providing a safe space for girls to develop, socialise and gain confidence, I am deeply disturbed by the nature and tone of the Girlation event that is taking place at the Natural History Museum on 17 May – in particular the “high heel boot camp” and the emphasis on makeovers, manicures, consumption and kindness as a means for empowering girls.

We live in an age that objectifies and commercialises female bodies and there is increasing evidence that this is a form of sexual abuse, which robs girls of their right to develop and explore their own sexuality on their own terms and in their own time. Instead the very culture is grooming them to accept a life of objectification and service to men’s needs rather than their own. It seems to me that Girlation is promoting and participating in this worrying trend.

A report produced by the American Psychological Association (APA) in 2007 said that the growing sexualisation of women and girls in the media and popular culture not only negatively impacts on the well-being and health of women and girls but actually contributes to sexism, sexual exploitation and provides a conducive context for violence against women. For example, on page 3, the report says “The sexualisation of girls may not only reflect sexist attitudes, a societal tolerance of sexual violence, and the exploitation of girls and women but may also contribute to these phenomena” and page 28 it says “The sexualisation and objectification of women in the media [and popular culture] appear to teach girls that as women, all they have to offer is their body and face, and that they should expend all their effort on physical appearance”.

In view of this evidence, I find it entirely inappropriate for a public institution of the stature of the Natural History Museum to be hosting and condoning this grooming of girls as the sex objects of the future. I am surprised that such a well respected organisation could be hosting something so trashy and discriminatory.

Please can you assure me that you will never host such an event again?

Yours sincerely

An alternative vision

PinkStinks

http://www.pinkstinks.co.uk/

PinkStinks is a campaign and social enterprise that challenges the ‘culture of pink’ which invades every aspect of girls’ lives.

Girls Rock! The Movie

http://www.girlsrockmovie.com

“At Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp, girls ranging in age from eight to 18 are taught that it’s OK to sweat like a pig, scream like a banshee, wail on their instruments with complete and utter abandon, and that “it is 100% okay to be exactly who you are.” … What happens to the girls as they are given a temporary reprieve from being sexualized, analyzed and pressured to conform is truly moving and revolutionary.” (Hot Docs)