MumsnetGuestBlogs (MNHQ) Fri 11-Oct-13 11:36:58

Malala is a fantastic role model for girls - but why aren't there more?

This week, Malala Yousafzai won the EU Sakharov prize for human rights. Here MN blogger Lynn Schreiber, who last year launched Jump! Mag, an online magazine which seeks to broaden the role models offered to girls in the mainstream media, explains why Malala's example is so important.

Lead photo
Lynn Schreiber

Salt and Caramel

Posted on

Fri 11-Oct-13 11:36:58

(141 comments)

Malala Yousafazi speaks at the United Nations.

Happy International Day of the Girl! We would have loved to have been able to congratulate Malala Yousafzai on being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, but unfortunately it was not to be.

But this is no way diminishes her extraordinary achievement. Threats from the Taliban couldn’t stop her writing - nor did the appalling, cowardly attack on her and her school friends. Standing tall at the UN earlier this year, she spoke powerfully and movingly for the rights of girls to an education. The fact that she was considered for the Nobel Prize for Peace – taking her place alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Shirin Ebadi – is, I hope, testament to the fact that global equality for women and girls is edging closer. What a fantastic role model she is to our girls - and to our boys.

And heaven knows they need it.

From a young age, children are given the message that girls like pink, dressing up, make-up and hairstyles, princesses and horses. Boys are pushed towards cars, tractors, planes and adventure. Campaigns such as Let Toys Be Toys have been successful in highlighting how damaging this is for children – but the media landscape in which our daughters are growing up presents just as many challenges to those of us who want our children to be whatever they want to be.

Our girls are bombarded with images of seemingly perfect celebrities, and feel pressured that they don’t live up to the images portrayed. They are as yet unaware that this perfection is only achievable with the assistance of a team of stylists, flattering lighting and photoshop to smooth the skin and vanish blemishes.

It's time to give all girls the confidence to stand up and speak up, and to know that their voice will be heard.

In March 2012, I started a thread on Mumsnet asking if anyone would like to contribute to a preteen magazine for girls. The idea was that the magazine would offer an alternative to magazines like Girls & Co, Go Girl and Hello Kitty, which offer such a narrow range of options for girls to aspire to. This magazine would focus on fun articles and creative craft ideas, personal and school/career advice, insights into careers that they may not have considered, articles about children around the world and interactive content, some of it written by their peers. We wanted to feature female role models – not celebrities, but sportswomen, archaeologists, engineers, counsellors and councillors.

With the assistance of dozens of Mumsnetters, Jump! Mag was born.

In the year since, we’ve published over 200 articles on a wide range of topics, hosted two writing competitions (the second is currently underway) and featured over 60 articles written by our young readers – everything from being a vegetarian to coping with bullies to what it is really like to live on a boat.

In the coming weeks we’ll be launching a Kickstarter crowd-funding project to develop the magazine further – so do keep an eye out on Facebook and Twitter for announcements. The new Jump! Mag will be a unique online magazine for preteens - a one-stop-shop to inspire and entertain kids, in a safe, girl-positive environment.

We’ll feature games and interactive stories, news and reviews, peer-to-peer counselling, advice on bullying and health and using social media safely – and we’ll be working with other organisations to inform our readers about science, technology, engineering and mathematics – traditionally subjects that are not promoted to girls.

Our hope is that we can be online mentors, guiding the way for thousands of girls around the world, showing them that there are fascinating careers that they might not even know about- and opening up the world for them by showing that there are many more roles available to them than the ones they see in the other girls' magazines on the newsagent's shelf.

In a world that celebrates the bravery of Malala Yousafzai - a girl who is determined to speak out about what she wants to be - we think it's time to give all girls the confidence to stand up and speak up, and to know that their voice will be heard.

By Lynn Schreiber

Twitter: @LynnCSchreiber

It's nice your daughters have exactly the same opportunities in education as their male counterparts.

But what is wrong with saying that not everyone does? I don't follow.

If I understand the OP rightly, she started her magazine precisely because her daughter couldn't buy the magazine she wanted to read - because the market was crowded out with things promoting gender stereotypes.

Yes, of course, this is not remotely comparable to the situation where women and girls around the world cannot access education at all - but there is a continuum. It's arrogant to assume that the UK is all fine and dandy, and the only countries where women suffer are conveniently located 'elsewhere'.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 13:48:17

You can buy this kind of magazine. National Geographic Kids. First News.

This problem isn't conveniently located 'elsewhere'. The absolute essence of Malala, what caused her to be singled out, is she has put it right there in everyone's faces, worldwide. My daughter told me she knew about her before I started to talk about her.

In the pink fluffy world of the UK female preteen, she had found Malala before I told her about her. And she doesn't read this emagazine. She also funnily enough learned about Mary Seacole and Nelson Mandela by picking up kids books from her school library when she was in Year 1 and into Disney Princesses.

And don't give me that twaddle about 'well that's nice for your daughters'. Because if they weren't getting a rounded view from home, or even from their peers, they would still be entitled to it from their teachers. Even in the free school fiasco the Al-Madinah School was not tolerated in this country.

Mmm. Not sure they are the same, really.

The whole point is that Jump! isn't a 'pink fluffy world'.

And yes, obviously no-one is saying it's the only source of information on world news. hmm

I have no clue why you're so cross with me or so angry about what seems to me a perfectly nice thread. It is nice for your daughters they get a rounded view at home and from their teachers. Like it or not, that makes them pretty fortunate, and not all children get that.

Surely it is good to discuss role-models for UK girls in as many media as possible?

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 14:08:28

I'm not cross with you (except perhaps that you called me patronising and tried to twist what I was saying about Malala) I'm cross with this thread for using Malala as a way to attract people in what is clearly a promotion of Jump.

I'm making the point that girls who are in their pink fluffy world are still able to take in and process information from many sources, and that those sources are available to them - even if not at home, in schools.

It is good to discuss positive role models for ALL children, I thought that was what this thread was about, and I think they are everywhere actually, and that they are girls and boys, women and men.

I don't see what's particularly positive about the 'pink fluffy world'.

Can you really not see the connection between promoting gender equality for preteens in a magazine, and getting those same girls interested in an inspiring young women who ... um ... promotes gender equality?

I don't think I am twisting what you are saying. I just disagree with you.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 14:23:41

Those girls are quite capable of being interested in inspiring young women without it being suggested that they need this to save them from princesses and horses. I don't want my daughter to feel guilty about her choices because they are somehow being presented as the opposite of what good role models who she admires stand for.

confused

Ok - so what you're saying is, you think girls don't need 'saving' from princesses and horses (wasn't aware anyone had been demonizing horses, but there we go). Do you mean, you like gender stereotyping? But you also like women who fight against it?

My head is about to explode.

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 14:58:04

I am saying that I will stand shoulder to shoulder with anyone protesting against the oppressing of any group or individual by political, religious or violent means.

I simply don't agree with you that Hello Kitty magazine falls into that category.

Of course, because gender stereotyping girls doesn't matter, and has no links to misogyny. hmm

Growlithe Sat 12-Oct-13 15:12:43

Well, let's just say it doesn't matter as much as girls getting shot for going to school.

I really don't think anyone suggested it did, and that's an extremely unpleasant thing to pretend they did.

lljkk Sat 12-Oct-13 15:32:38

Malala has been brave but she's being made out to be a symbol of women's rights which she really ISN'T, not by western standards. I'm so glad she didn't win the Nobel Prize. She is still a product of her place & culture. Many of her values are deeply conservative, she's no poster girl for the progressives. She wouldn't campaign without the full support of the senior men in her family. I often think it's her dad who deserves a world-size prize for defying cultural expectations he was probably deeply suffused with. Malala is young & easy to be foolish or idealistic when young.

Malala's mates have been making headlines, too. More brave dads behind them, too.

LynnCSchreiber Sat 12-Oct-13 19:51:45

Grow
I am sorry that you feel that I am 'using' Malala in any way. That was not the intention of this guest blog.

For the record, I was asked to contribute an article on the occasion of International Day of the Girl. I suggested that a post about mentoring would be good, as I had been reading Melissa Benn's book. As the Nobel Prize was to be awarded on Friday, we agreed that it would be appropriate to mention Malala, and we were hoping that we could congratulate her on receiving the prize. Sadly that was not to be, so we used the draft that I had prepared as a contingency.

Fwiw, we have featured two articles about Malala, one of them written by the young daughter of a MNetter who did a sponsored walk to raise money for Malala's fund. We have often promoted her fund on Twitter and FB, so I don't feel that we are using her in any way to promote the magazine.

The main intention of this post was to celebrate girls, and to let the many MNetters who have supported me and Jump! Mag. I have not made a penny from Jump! Mag, in fact I have invested a lot of time and money to bring it this far.

The site is being developed further for two reasons. First, to enable me to pay the writers who contribute articles. And second, to enable us to reach more young girls, and to widen the range of content we can offer.

As to your comment about there already being similar content on the market - all I can say is that I would invite you to have a closer look at what we offer. Neither National Geographic nor First News (both great publications) offer the range of articles that we already do, and certainly not those that are in the pipeline for after the redesign. These products are mainly print based, and we are completely online.

We are developing a magazine that I would say is a kind of Huffington Post for preteens (except our contributors will be paid!), with news, reviews, interesting content, and teaching/study guides.

We have plans to offer free subscriptions to libraries, for kids who can't afford to access the site at home, and are planning teaching English as a foreign language content, which we are hoping to offer to kids in developing countries free of charge.

This isn't a get-rich-quick scheme, and I am sorry if that was the impression that you received from this guest blog.

I am aware that this is a monster post, but trying to answer all points. Sorry about that.

To the 'pink and fluffy' comment - I absolutely don't think that we are making girls feel guilty about their choices, but by 8 or 9 years, most are growing out of the princess phase. I have actually been planning a 'In defence of pink' article for some time, but haven't got around to writing it.

There is nothing wrong with pink. I wear pink, I buy my daughter pink products on occasion. What I would like to see is it being relegated to just another colour in the spectrum.

Anyway, I am happy to answer any other questions that you may have.

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 22:18:30

I'm with Growlithe all the way here - clicked on a thread about Malala and opened and advert to a pre-teen magazine?

Really surprised that MN would allow this - I'm completely used to ignoring the advertising on MN, but it's somewhat strange to encounter it in this way.

I agree with the off-colour comparisons - "Over in Pakistan, a girl is shot in the head for going to school...meanwhile back in the UK there's a dearth of choice in the pre-teen magazine market".

Not cool.

mystic, OP was asked to write the guest blog.

MN didn't just 'allow' it, they sought her out.

Bad form to make up a quote, too.

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 22:27:24

LRD - I'm just telling it how I read it. I doesn't make a difference to me, who approached who, it's an advert for a product.

And apols for what you consider to be a "made up quote" that was not my intention - my keyboard is buggered, and that was the best I could come up with. I'm sure most MNers are clever enough to spot that I wasn't quoting anyone though.

I d

curlew Sat 12-Oct-13 22:38:10

It doesn't sit well with me either. I am finding it hard to articulate why.

LynnCSchreiber Sat 12-Oct-13 22:39:18

Ok, to be very clear about this.

I approached MNHQ and asked if there was any way that they could help me promote the relaunch of the magazine, since it was born out of a MN initiative.

They asked me to write an article for Day of the Girl, which I agreed to do. Initially it was to be a review of the book mentioned, and discussing mentoring (which we will be featuring on Jump! Mag).

Then MNHQ asked if I would add a reference to Malala, since she may receive a Nobel Peace Prize on the day of publishing, and that it would a) be odd not to mention such a massive point of discussion on such a day and b) make the blog post topical.

I am really sorry if this is being taken the wrong way, as it was certainly not intended to cause upset.

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 22:44:53

I don't know if there is a "wrong way", really.

It's actually a bit of a relief to read that the OP is the result of two different agendas? Because it is SO clunkily put together...

"The fact that she was considered for the Nobel Prize for Peace – taking her place alongside Aung San Suu Kyi, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Shirin Ebadi – is, I hope, testament to the fact that global equality for women and girls is edging closer. What a fantastic role model she is to our girls - and to our boys.

And heaven knows they need it.

From a young age, children are given the message that girls like pink, dressing up, make-up and hairstyles, princesses and horses. Boys are pushed towards cars, tractors, planes and adventure."

Eek! What a mess.

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 22:54:21

It's not a product - it's a labour of love. Something not driven by profit. Lynn has used her own time to build an on line magazine for girls. Something positive. MN invited her here to comment on the Malala story and encouraged her link to Jump Magazine to celebrate Internatilonal Day of the Girl. I'd like to know what anyone else is doing to encourage the young girls of the future before they get pissy about it'

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 22:57:24

Semantics, porto.

It's an advert dressed up as a guest blog.

Why not just start a thread entitled "hey, MNers, have you seen Jump Magazine"

I'd respect that much more, why the need to draw people in with a blog post about a Pakistani child that actually turns out to be a promotional piece for an online magazine?

Very strange.

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:00:46

Ok - for one Jump Magazine originated from Mumsnet and posters wanting something better for their daughters.

Secondly, MN ASKED Lynn to do this post. It is not all her being uppity and promoting her "product" They ASKED her to do it.

But the two issues are quite clearly related.

It's not as if the OP is the first person to make the connection - if you listen to Malala on the Daily Show, she isn't talking only about herself or only about Pakistani girls. She is talking about all girls.

It is important to combat gender stereotyping, however it presents itself.

Portofino Sat 12-Oct-13 23:09:47

Mystic, do you presume that Lynn earns a fortune for her online mag whist you snipe at her? Have you been on MN long?

mysticminstrel Sat 12-Oct-13 23:12:31

I have been on MN since 2007.

I don't presume anything about the editor of Jump magazine's financial state.

It's a product, which is being advertised on a thread in the 'guest blog' section of MN.

I haven't mentioned money, though.

Doesn't stop it being an advertised product.

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