Category Archives: Female Empowerment

Strong Women Rom Coms

clueless

Clueless

This one may seem like a silly choice for a strong female rom com but Cher (a ditsy high schooler) is actually a fairly strong character.  She doesn’t let immature high school boys turn her head, she stands up for what she believes in (even if it’s giving sports equipment to disaster relief), and is nice to everyone, even the school “losers”.  She’s very much her own person for all her valley girl ways.  Plus, her whole talk about her virginity being an important thing is a great message.

[about keeping her virginity]

Cher: “You see how picky I am about my shoes and they only go on my feet.” 

13-going-on-30

13 going on 30

Jenna is an insecure 13 year old girl whose only wish is to be popular.  She makes a wish and wakes up as a 30 year woman with a successful job in publishing.  While at first her life seems perfect, she soon realizes her success and popularity were due to acting in a horrible manner to the people around her, including her friend from when she was young (a boy).  Lots of soul searching with the boy from her past (now a hot man) she realizes that friendship and being a good person are the keys to happiness and not being popular.  This leads to love and a new future of happiness.  

Jenna: “Who are these women? Does anyone know? I don’t recognize any of them. I want to see my best friend’s big sister, the girls from the soccer team, my next door neighbor, real women who are smart and pretty and happy to be who they are. These are the women to look up to.” 

the-prince-and-me

The Prince and Me

Paige is a smart, driven, woman in her senior year in college with dreams of medical school.  Edward is a carefree, spoiled prince from Denmark.  Edward come to the US in pursuit of “Girls Gone Wild” type women and ends up falling for Paige when he realizes there is more to life than fast cars and faster women.  I love how Paige teaches him that kindness, hardwork, and fairness are keys to happiness and love.  The ending is especially great because Paige holds to her values and dreams but still gets the prince (who respects her even more because of it).  

Edward: “I want you in my life Paige.  I want to marry you.  If that means I have to wait until you finish medical school, become a doctor and anything else you would like to do then I will do it. I will wait.”

Paige: “Denmark isn’t ready for a Queen like me.”

Edward: “But then they will have to be.  Because I am.”

the-last-holiday

Last Holiday

There isn’t as much “romance” in this movie as others but there is enough to put it in the rom-com category.  Georgia is a shy, introverted woman who has big dreams but limits herself to a small quite existence.  When she learns she is “dying”, she takes her life savings, travels to Europe and learns to live like she has always wanted.  Along the way she learns to be strong, confident in who she is, and to enjoy life.  When the guy she has always loved but never let herself pursue come to “rescue her” she ends up saving those around her instead.

Georgia: “Next time… we will laugh more, we’ll love more: we just won’t be so afraid.”

 romancing-the-stone

Romancing the Stone

Oh how do I love this movie. It used to be in the regular rotation for my mom and I as one of our go-to rentals when my dad and brother were out of town (back when you had to drive to the video store).  It has everything a a girl needs in a rom-com.  Strong female lead in Joan (Kathrine Turner), handsome male lead in Jack (Kurk Douglas in his prime), comedy, adventure, romance, and subtle message that a woman can bring a man along for an adventure but doesn’t need him to save her.  Seriously, no matter what the movie poster shows, for all of Jack’s effort, by the end of this movie you will realize that Joan ends up saving herself every time they get into a pickle.

The story revolves around a shy romance writer named Joan who dreams of being swept away in a grand passion by a strong “manly man”.  Her sister gets kidnapped by a drug lord who wants a map the sister’s husband sent Joan.  She travels to Columbia to exchange her sister for the map, gets on the wrong bus and meets Jack.  Lots of adventures later they find the treasure, save her sister, and live happily every after.  Or at least until the sequel which isn’t worth watching.

Publicist: “Joanie, you are now a world-class hopeless romantic”

Joan: “No, hopeful. Hopeful romantic”.

Do you know of any other romantic comedies that star strong female characters that do more than wait around for “the right guy”?  I would love to hear about them.

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Filed under Female Empowerment, Movie Review

Will the Live Action Beauty and the Beast be an Inspiration to Young Girls?

I saw the teaser trailer for the new live action Beauty and the Beast this morning (shown above) and it’s twinged my feminist radar.  Regular readers of my blog know that after the birth of my daughters I’ve become more and more of a feminist.  Not the exactly the bra burning type but more towards making sure the influences in my girls lives don’t subtly tell them they are less than a man.  This extends from the toys they play with, the books they read, and the movies they watch.  I don’t need to be a research scientist to know that watching a princess wait around to be rescued over and over again will give any girl a complex.

Two years ago I saw an advanced screening of Disney’s live action Cinderella movie.  After I got past the beauty of the set and costumes, I realized that poor little Cinderella was still stuck in the Dark Ages in terms of using her own strengths to rescue herself.

Then I heard about Emma Watson staring in a live action version of Beauty and the Beast.  The cartoon it’s based on already has a lot more going for it in terms of strong female characters.  Belle is surprisingly independent for an early Disney princess between staying strong to her beliefs and fighting to save her father and the beast.  On top of that, the fact that Emma Watson is Belle will hopefully guarantee that the writer/director will not be allowed to make her character too subservient/helpless.  Emma is a outspoken feminist herself having helped launch the UNs HeForShe campaign.  It would be hard to imagine that she would tie herself to a movie that was anti-feminist in any way.

So Disney, please don’t let me down again.  Please have listened to people like me that complained about the message Cinderella was telling our young girls.  Please have Belle be the strong independent woman I know she can be portrayed to be.

And while your at it, can you make the new live action Tinkerbell movie have an engineering minded Tink and not just a funny fluffy headed fairy?  Pretty please?

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Filed under Female Empowerment, Motherhood, Movie Review

How TV Movies and Moms Have Changed Over the Years (Guest Post)

Today’s Guest Post by the bloggers over at Sheri’s Berries is a fascinating study on the evolution of TV moms and is perfectly times for Sunday’s celebration of mothers. 

For many, the idea of a perfect family was quite simple, especially if they grew up watching shows like Leave it to Beaver and I love Lucy: a stay at home wife who took care of the household duties. But as the years went by, mothers started to take on new roles. By the 90s most of the TV and film moms were employed while still taking care of their household.
Shari’s Berries got really curious on the subject and researched the evolution of TV and movie moms starting with the 20s. It includes data about marital and employment status, the average amount of kids and even some fashion trends.

Evolution-Of-Mom_header

It was common to see stay at home moms in the 1940s, as their primary duties were taking care of all the household and making sure kids got a delicious home cooked meal. Few such as Doris Walker in A Miracle on 34th Street stood out as a working mother.  As the years went by, there was a rise in the amount of mothers who held jobs—and even those who owned their own business—while still maintaining a household.

There is one trend that hasn’t changed much: martial status. Although we started seeing more divorces in the 1970s (along with widowed and single mothers), it seems seeing a pair raise children is still very popular in TV today. Of course, it’s important to note that some of these moms’ marital status changed as the show or as the movie progressed.

Perhaps the most interesting data we came across was the changing roles of moms in TV and movies. While being a housewife remained popular in all of the decades, by the 2000s we saw a large number of full time lawyers, doctors, talk show hosts and some in the process of retiring. Let’s not forget that there were also witches, vampires, fugitives, which of course fall into the “other” category.

How many kids can a mom handle nowadays? It seems as though the years have stuck with one or two as the most popular. But in the 80s we had mothers with a lot more kids. Carla Tortelli in Cheers had eight, while Claire Huxtable had five and still held full-time jobs. Talk about a super mom!

It’s never a good idea to ask mom what her weight is, but thin was very popular in the 40s. As the decades went by, we saw a rise in average-sized women on TV that continues today. Cheers to curvy women! Our favorites include Good Times’s Florida Evans and Maria Portokalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Evolution-Of-Mom_build

Have you ever dressed up as your favorite TV or movie character? If so, you’ll realize that one of the most important part of the costume is the hair. So many iconic characters are recognized for it: Marge Simpson, Peggy Bundy, Katie Bueller—the list is endless. As time goes by, we see more of a classic, long wavy look.

Which era did you grow up in, and what TV and movie do you remember most?

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Filed under Female Empowerment, Motherhood, working mom

I Wasn’t a Feminist Until I Had Daughters

You would think as a advanced degree holding Mechanical Engineer I would also automatically be a card carrying feminist. Well it may be true now, but it wasn’t a few years ago.  Sure I chose a profession that was predominantly male but it was only because I always liked finding out how things worked.  Sure my classes in college (*cough* 20 year ago) were on average 15% female but the male students never treated me differently (ok there was flirting but hey it was college).  Sure, I still go to conferences or work with larger companies and I’m surrounded by mostly men.  BUT, I can’t say I ever felt strongly discriminated against.  The men have treated me like what I am, another engineer.

Now, working at a tiny company and not having to deal with hoards of male engineers and managers all day I can say that I’m lucky.  I know women who have had to deal with a lot of crap STILL in this industry so I’m not saying that discrimination isn’t out there, just that I haven’t had to deal with it.  Plus, I married a man who I feel truly thinks of me as his equal.  This meant that I could stay in my little bubble and not have to think about it.

Then I had daughters…

Having daughters changed everything.  Suddenly all the sexist things that I had ignored were a big deal.  The parade of pink useless toys down every “girl” toy aisle was appalling.  The movies marketed to my kids were full of anti-feminist messages.  I discovered a shortage in good STEM books that would appeal to and inspire young girls.  The older my daughters got, the more of an outspoken feminist I became (and the more my blog posts moved away from the fluffy kid stuff).  I knew to ignore the often subtle sexist messages but would my daughters?  Or would they grow up feeling just not quite as smart/strong/funny/equal to a man?

So I’m not actually a card carrying member of the ACLU but I am one of SWE (Society of Women Engineers) and I’ve started a Girl Scout troop (with my awesome husband) where we focus on more than crafts and fluffy stuff but throw in a lot of science and girl power lessons.

And most importantly, I tell my girls every day how smart and strong and clever and funny and wonderful they are.  They are our next generation of leaders and I want to see them excel.

I wasn’t a feminist before I had daughters, but now I would proudly shout it from the roof tops if it helps them to be successful both in their professional and (almost more importantly) personal lives.

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Filed under Engineering, Female Empowerment, Girl Scouts, Motherhood, parenthood, STEM

Fun STEM books for young girls: Me…Jane

Me Jane Book

This post I’m going to focus on a children’s book that promotes the Science part of STEM for girls.  Animal Science in particular.

Me…Jane is an adorable book.  It’s written by Patrick McDonald (who draws the comic strip Mutts) and gives a child sized biography of Jane Goodall.  The story follows Jane as she develops a love of the nature after getting a stuffed chimpanzee as a child.  This love followed her through her life and career as a scientist studying gorillas in the wild.  It’s a wonderful story that tells our young girls how a passion for nature can morph into a fascinating job.

It helped that the illustrations are so cute which kept my girls interest.  A big plus. They are drawn in the same style and easy to read prose as the Mutts cartoon.  If your girl loves animals, this is a great book to help her explore some of the possibilities in Animal Science.

I especially love this page as it encourages them to explore and learn.  We used it to explore with the girls how to learn more about topics that interest us.

Me Jane

“Why I review” and a disclaimer:

This post is a continuation on my series of book reviews of children’s book which emphasize topics in the STEM field that would be interesting to young girls.  It started when I had difficulty finding STEM related children’s books that weren’t obviously written for boys.  Most had only male main characters or even only male characters period. My girls had a hard time identifying with them.  Thus, this blog series was born.  The opinions in these blogs are purely my own.  Well, really they are my girls opinions.  Either they like them or they wander off half way through the book.   We’ve read an ever growing number of these books and quite a few bore them or turn out to be subtly sexist (those “disappear”).

The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means I get a few pennies if you end up ordering the books.  These pennies are used for… more books. 🙂

For other STEM children’s books that are fun for young girls try these:

Rosie Rever, Engineer

Going Places

I am Amelia Earhart

Violet the Pilot

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Filed under book review, Engineering, Female Empowerment, STEM

Live action Tinker Bell movie – will she be an engineer?

I heard very exciting news today.  Reese Witherspoon is making a live action version of Tinker Bell!  Yep, your favorite mechanical engineering fairy is coming to the big screen in her very own movie staring Reese Witherspoon.  That little blond ball of energy (Reese) will be perfect in the roll of a little blond ball of energy (Tinker Bell).  AND, I have high hopes that the movie is a female empowering version like I think Beauty and the Beast will be unlike Cinderella.

I just have one wish for the movie. PLEEEEEEEEASE let Tinker Bell be the awesomely cool engineer that she is in the cartoons.  Can you imagine the wonderful influence this movie could be on young girls?  It’s a slam dunk to show how fun engineering can be to a whole generation of girls.  There could be all sort of inventive and funny ways she could use her engineering brain to get herself out of scrapes and save the day.

As of this posting, the script is still “in development” so I’m sending this out into the great wide internet as a message of hope for all the young girls out there who love to figure out how things work.  Please give us a movie to love and be inspired by!

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Fun STEM Books for young Girls: I am Amelia Earhart

I found I am Amelia Earhart by Brad Meltzer at the library completely organically.  I was walking out of the children’s section with Me…Jane in my arms (that’s a separate blog post) and just happened to notice the name Amelia Earhart on the spine of a book at eye level.  Imagine my delight when I pulled it out and saw that it was a children’s book on the life of Amelia Earhart from her perspective as a child.  To put it mildly, this book is awesome.
wpid-20150101_184456.jpgSeriously, how can you not be inspired by that?  Rose thought the idea of having a parade thrown for you was pretty cool, I loved the words.

Awwww.  How can you not love this?
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I had fun explaining the engineering behind the roller coaster she built (way to reduce the friction with grease Amelia!).  I also expanded on the themes of her learning to fly with a discussion on the technology she needed to learn (simplified for a 5 year old of course).
wpid-20150101_185701.jpgRose was entertained by this book, a large part of which was the great illustrations that are very kid friendly.  It was great that Amelia was illustrated as a kid through the whole book.  I think it helped her identify with the character better.  More than having to imagine herself as an adult, Rose got to see the KID doing all this cool adult stuff.

2014 12 21_3056I would recommend this book for any adventurous girl you want to inspire or one that you want to inspire to be adventurous.  You never know where that adventure may lead.

“Why I review” and a disclaimer:

This post is a continuation on my series of book reviews of children’s book which emphasize topics in the STEM field that would be interesting to young girls.  It started when I had difficulty finding STEM related children’s books that weren’t obviously written for boys.  Most had only male main characters or even only male characters period. My girls had a hard time identifying with them.  Thus, this blog series was born.  The opinions in these blogs are purely my own.  Well, really they are my girls opinions.  Either they like them or they wander off half way through the book.   We’ve read an ever growing number of these books and quite a few bore them or turn out to be subtly sexist (those “disappear”).

The links to Amazon are affiliate links which means I get a few pennies if you end up ordering the books.  These pennies are used for… more books. 🙂

If some random link on the internet brought you to this post and you want to learn about other awesome STEM books for young girls that the girls and I love try these posts:

Rosie Revere, Engineer

Going Places

Me…Jane

Violet the Pilot

For a huge list of books to inspire, try the A Might Girl site.

Know of other STEM books that are age appropriate for the younger girls?  Let me know!  I’m always looking.

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Filed under book review, Engineering, Female Empowerment, STEM

Is the Cinderella 2015 movie an inspiration for young girls?

I’m not one to post movie reviews on this blog but I was lucky enough last night to be able to watch a screening of the live action Disney Cinderella movie coming out in March of 2015.  I was excited to see if it was as inspirational to young girls to be a strong independent female as with previous Disney movies (Brave, Frozen).  Although I didn’t hold out hope for an engineering role model like I found Tinker Bell. (wishful thinking of a engineering mom)  I took Rose (and her Aunt) and am very happy to say that unlike Maleficent it was very age appropriate for even little girls.  I came out of the movie with that nice warm fuzzy feeling that good romantic comedies give.  The guy gets the girl, the bad people are punished, and everyone lives happily ever after, all interspersed with some comedy and light drama.  Rose’s aunt was almost giddy because it paired an actress from Downton Abby (Lily James) and an actor from Game of Thrones (Richard Madden) together as the romantic leads.  😉

The story line follows the cartoon movie almost verbatim but with a nice addition of expanded back story and heartfelt drama.  The acting was great (how could it not be with Cate Blanchett as the Evil Stepmother) and the scenery beautiful.  (Rose wanted to take home the gorgeous grey horse she rides around on)  If the costumes don’t win an Oscar, I don’t know what’s wrong since they were absolutely stunning.  I think her wedding dress alone is going to inspire a whole new wedding dress line.  And of course, the shoes*….

Here’s the thing.  Once I got home and started to move beyond my initial “awwww” reaction, I realized that Cinderella is still a bit of a subservient character.  I get the whole “wait for your prince to come” theme from in the 50’s when the cartoon was made but this is 2014 (or 2015 when it comes out).  Cinderella’s mom’s dying quote is “have courage and be kind”.  So I guess the whole “have courage” thing is have to courage to wait around for rescue?  Or maybe it was to have courage to be kind in the face of adversity?  But does being courageous and kind mean you should stay quiet and kind in a bad relationship/home life because something good might happen if you do?  (50 Shades of Grey anyone?)  I think they were trying to make Cinderella be “self assured” and “finding joy in the life you live no matter what” but it seemed like she was a bit of a door mat.  I know, I know, it’s just a Disney movie and a remake of an existing one at that.  I shouldn’t expect huge life affirming, girl empowering stuff every time.  Sigh…  (Of course they remade Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent and Aurora turned out pretty bad ass)

It isn’t all bad of course.  For the most part, she doesn’t let herself get depressed over her situation and she did have a stand up for yourself moment at the end but then apparently gave up and sat around moping after that.  As of the editing on the screening, she didn’t even free herself with the help of the mice like she did in the cartoon.  Humph.  I think I am just spoiled by the Ever After story line with the female lead that saves herself in the end but still gets the prince.  I know this was the “olden times” where it would be very difficult to be a woman out on her own but as a mom who is taking her young daughter to this, I know she will not be analyzing the social economical trials of the time period.  She will be looking at Cinderella as someone to look up too.

The Step Mother is actually the strongest female character but of course, she is evil.  It almost gives the message that being strong and opinionated is “evil” and being quite and subservient is “good”.  Deep thoughts there!  There is a whole nuther blog post that can be written about her but I’ll wait until the movie is out since it would contain a bunch of spoilers.

Oh, and don’t get me started on how skinny they made Cinderella’s waist.  Like “did they computer generate her waist that skinny?” skinny.  Not a good message to our girls.

Disney really did a step back for our impressionable girls with this movie.  After wonderful strong female character movies like Brave and Frozen (sister power!), it was disappointing to see them go back to the old standard.  Maybe because it was directed by Kenneth Branagh who isn’t exactly known for his movies with strong female leads?  There was a woman writer (along with a man) but….

So long winded rambling aside, the latest Cinderella is a beautifully filmed movie with a nice romantic story line.  Your little girls will love it.  Just don’t expect it to inspire them much beyond playing dress up.  Or dream of galloping a beautiful horse across flower strewn fields until a prince comes along to save you from your run-away horse…. wait.  Damn it!

*On an engineering side note, I have to give props to the prop department (see the pun I made there?) for designing a glass slipper that might just hold up under the force of Cinderella running around.  The thickness of the heel and area under the ball of the foot are surprisingly thick.  The heel is even thicker then in the poster and not as high.  Hopefully the fairy godmother put some Dr. Scholl’s in there for shock absorption but otherwise I bet a stress analysis would show the shoe would withstand basic use. 

Update 5/23/2016:  I just saw the teaser trailer for the live action Beauty and the Beast.  Please let it be a better influence for our girls!

cinderella 2015 Live Action

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Filed under Engineering, Female Empowerment, Movie Review