Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker
At Big Sister, we pride ourselves on staying up-to-date about gender-specific marketing; marketing strategies could not be more gender-specific than those of Victoria’s Secret: a corporation famous for their bras and underwear, and most recently for the popularization of their PINK line. PINK is Victoria’s Secret’s line for their younger 15-22 year-old demographic. However, Victoria’s Secret has gone younger. Victoria’s Secret has recently come out with a line called “Bright Young Things,” otherwise known as PINK’s Spring Break collection. Bright Young Things features, among other things, underpants that have “Wild”, “Call Me”, “Dare You”, and “Feeling Lucky” printed on the back (or the front, in cases of the thong). Not only are they covered with sexualized phrases, they are cut in familiar Victoria’s secret styles of “cheeky hipster,” “lace trim thong,” and “The Date Panty.”
When a tween or teen girl sees her peers wearing PINK merchandise, few things will make her want it more than getting a “no” paired with a “because I said so” from her parents and mentors. This is why it is not enough to ask that Victoria’s Secret simply eliminate the collection. PINK will still be there. This is why it is not enough to tweet at Victoria’s Secret that this collection is unacceptable and leave it at that. The fact is, no matter how hard we try, young girls will continue to see these sexualized media messages, through other advertisements.
We need to educate these young girls.
Maybe they are daughters. Maybe siblings. Maybe they are our Little Sisters. Regardless, they need to know that when their parents, teachers, Big Sisters, and other mentors tell them to think critically about the messages on the backs of these underpants, it is not because we do not want them to be popular, or because we do not want them to succeed. On the contrary, we want them to succeed more than they know. We want them to succeed in finding relationships with people who will hear “call me” after a conversation about mutual likes and common goals, not see it on the front of their thongs. We want them to know that while Victoria’s Secret may see them as Bright Young Things, we see them as Bright Young Girls, and that alone makes a difference.
So the next time a young girl in your life asks why you think she shouldn’t choose “Wild” underwear, talk to her about why she feels she needs them. Talk to her about the social and media pressure she may be feeling. Encourage her to come to terms with her body and what she wants to do with it on her own terms, not her friends’ terms, or Victoria’s Secret’s terms. Teach her that success is not about what she wears, but what she knows and where she goes with that knowledge.
What are your feelings about Victoria’s Secret’s marketing campaign? How do you respond to the overwhelming pressure of the media? Do you have any advice for Big Sisters who don’t know how to begin that conversation? Leave a comment below.
Big Sister Caroline Kohler has been matched with her Little Sister Nadege for over a year through the Boston College/Franklin Field Program. Caroline recently accepted the Big Sister of the Year award. Pictured above are Caroline and Nadege at Boston College during one of their weekly visits.
Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker
Q: Initially, what made you want to get involved with Big Sister?
A: I was looking for a way to get involved in an organization I really cared about on campus. I had looked at a couple of different organizations, but none of them really seemed to emphasize service through the development of strong relationships. When I came across Big Sister and learned I would be able to build and develop a relationship with a girl within the context of such an amazing, empowering institution I was ecstatic and immediately jumped at the opportunity to get involved.
Q: What is the most rewarding part about being a Big Sister?
A: The most rewarding part about being a Big Sister is really watching the relationship that I have with Nadege grow and develop with each passing week. While I see myself as Nadege’s mentor, I first and foremost see myself as her friend. We share our struggles, hopes, and dreams with each other and constantly encourage one another to do our very best. Having only known each other for a year and a half, the mutual respect and admiration that we have for each other is astounding, and I consider myself so blessed to be a part of such a wonderful relationship.
Q: What is something you’ve learned about yourself or about the world since becoming a Big Sister?
A: I have learned that “sister” means so many more things than simply someone you are related to and the role of a sister does not have to be filled by a biological relation. “Sister” means mentor, confidant, teacher, student, listener, helper, and friend.
Q: Who were some of your female role models growing up? What made them such positive role models for you?
A: My main female role model growing up is my grandma. She is an amazing person. An immigrant from Ireland, she came to America by herself at 18. She has taught me what it means to be a strong, independent, and pragmatic woman, and I could not thank her enough for that. She is the strongest, most resilient woman I know. I look at her and am so proud and in awe of her spirit.
Q: What is something your Little Sister has taught you since you’ve been matched?
A: Nadege has taught me what it is like to be a kid again. Something I noticed near the end of my freshman year was that often times I would get so wrapped up in exams, papers, commitments, and meaningless drama that I forgot what it was like to splash around in the pool or play Monopoly for hours or just hang out and paint nails. Over the last year and a half with Nadege, I have learned once again that sometimes it is not about how stressful the week before was or decisions looming on the horizon. Sometimes the only thing that matters is the good company you are in and who owns Park Place.
Lisa Ewing was honored as Big Sister of the Year in our Big For a Day program. Big For a Day (BFAD) is a program where women are matched with a girl on our wait list for a one-time Big Sister activity such as bowling, a dance class, a martial arts workshop, or a trip to the Aquarium. Big For a Day activities occur once a month on a Saturday. You can volunteer as little as twice a year or as often as once a month.
Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker
Initially, what made you want to get involved with Big Sister?
I got involved in a program for mentoring middle school students for their science projects, in preparation for the local and state science fairs. I enjoyed the program and began thinking I could do more. I was working full time and going to school at night, so I wasn’t sure if I would have the time to be involved. Then l learned about the Big For a Day program, and it seemed like a great fit.
How do you approach making connections with the new Little Sisters you get paired with at each event?
There’s often a lot of activities at the events, so if there are multiple games or arts and crafts projects, I just ask my Little Sister where they want to start. If they’re still holding back a bit, I’ll suggest we start at a particular activity and go from there. I’m usually pretty excited to be doing any activity, and they usually pick up on my excitement.
What’s a favorite activity you’ve done with Big Sister and what makes it so memorable?
That’s hard to say – Big Sister always has such fun events. The Halloween parties are a lot of fun – everyone dresses up in great costumes! Especially the home-made theme costumes where matches create something together. The Winter Wonderland party is a lot of fun – being in Faneuil Hall with the decorations and getting to decorate cookies. The sporting events at colleges are also a lot of fun. As I said – it’s so hard to pick just one!
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself or about the world since becoming a part of Big For a Day?
I now understand that even if you don’t get to spend a tremendous amount of time with a girl, you can still make a difference in her life.
What would you say to women who are on the fence about applying to Big For a Day—any words of encouragement or advice?
I would say find a way to become involved. Just call the office or search the website for opportunities. It is a great experience, and you get back so much in return. It means so much to the girls. Just think back to when you were young. If you were lucky, you had a big sister or someone you could talk to about whatever was on your mind. If not, wouldn’t you have liked to have that someone? You can be that someone for a young girl.
If you’re interested in the Big For a Day program, check out the Big Sister website.
Guest Post by Marketing Intern, Molly Decker
Winter is here, and it’s definitely brought with it flurries, blizzards, and below freezing temperatures. If you’re at a loss for fun things to do with your Little Sister that won’t leave you more frozen than the Boston Common Frog Pond, look no further! Here’s a list of some fun winter activities around Boston.
Boston Common Frog Pond
If you’re bundled up properly and the temperature is in the positives, it’s not such a bad idea to venture outside and try your hand at ice skating. For Little Sisters 13 and under, admission is free, and for the rest of us (who are still kids, just on the inside) it’s only $5. The pond is open to the public daily from 10am until 9pm or 10pm, depending on the day of the week, and skating with your Little Sister (or trying not to fall with your Little Sister!) is always a fun choice. For more information or to check if it’s open, check out bostonfrogpond.com.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum
For Big and Little Sisters alike who are interested in history, the JFK Museum is an amazing place to spend the day. Open 7 days a week, this museum features films, recreated settings like JFK’s personalized Oval Office, and a special exhibit that gives insight into Jackie Kennedy, first lady and strong female role model. Admission pricing is as follows: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (62 and over) and students (with valid college ID), $9 for 13-17 year olds, and free for children 12 and under. For more information, check out the museum’s website.
Since 1991, The Food Project has built a national model of engaging young people in personal and social change through sustainable agriculture. What better way to engage young people than to participate in a workshop with your Little Sister! The “Eat Well” Workshops take place at The Food Project Kitchen in Dorchester, and the “Grow Well” Workshops take place at the Dudley Greenhouse in Roxbury. Advanced registration is required for most of the classes, but it’s worth checking out. If you’re interested, check out this flier and see what’s cooking!
Public Open Night at the BU Observatory
Look up at the stars through Boston University’s telescopes and while you’re at it, learn a thing or two about the night sky! Every winter Wednesday starting at 7:30pm, you’ll get a chance to use these telescopes and see what’s out there. The telescopes are outside so you’ll have to dress warmly, but seeing the sky with BU’s astronomy department is worth it. Weather conditions such as extreme cold and clouds can’t be helped, but check the BU Observatory’s Twitter or call them 2 hours before the event to see if it’s been canceled. Check the website to learn more.
Go ahead and be Alley Cats for a day and have fun bowling with your Little Sister! Boston Bowl is located in Dorchester just off of I-93, and features Tenpin and Candlepin bowling, as well as games, food and pool tables once you’ve had your fill of bowling. Daytime bowling during the week is at a discounted price, so go after school until 6pm and have a ball!
Museum of African American History
With February comes Black History Month, and that makes this museum a great stop for those with a thirst for knowledge. It’s full of great exhibits including one through the end of February highlighting Martin Luther King Jr. and other prominent figures of the Civil Rights Movement. The exhibits are housed in the Abiel Smith School, the first public school in the nation to serve black children. It’s open from 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday, and children 12 and under get in for free. Check out their website to plan a visit!
In an effort to lessen the vandalism of public utility boxes, Mayor Menino decided that promoting public art was the best solution. We now have, all over Boston and its surrounding communities, a series of painted utility boxes, painted by artists in their local area to make those necessary boxes beautiful. Here’s a further explanation of the project, and here’s a map of where around Boston you can find all of the boxes. They’re outside, but with the map, you can plan your trip around and not do too much excess walking. Plus, finding all of them is sort of like an art mystery, so you can show Sherlock Holmes how we girls do it.
Made By Me
For Big and Little Sisters who would rather make the art than go around looking for it, Made by Me pottery painting studio is a relaxed, fun atmosphere to do it in. You can work on a piece together, or you can choose you own individual pieces and paint side by side. The cost is the price of your pottery piece (they range from $3-$40, usually depending on size) and then $4 per half-hour per painter. It may seem on the expensive side, but on the plus side, you get to bring your kiln-fired piece home with you when it’s done! Check out their website for more info.
Everybody loves to be a kid sometimes, and the Boston Children’s Museum is exactly where anyone can be one. It’s full of interactive exhibits and chances are you’ll be having so much fun, you’ll forget that you’re actually learning a lot. Admission is a bit pricey most days, but on Friday nights from 5pm-9pm, everyone gets in for $1, courtesy of Target, so take advantage of that. If you’re interested, you can see more at their website.
Open Art Thursdays at Roxbury BPL
For people who love art but aren’t so jazzed about pottery painting, there’s always the Boston Public Library. The Parker Hill Branch in Roxbury boasts Open Art Thursdays, which are open to all ages from 3pm-7pm every Thursday. They ask that you call ahead if you plan to come with a group, but they’ll always have fun, creative art projects for you there! It’s also always worth checking out the Master Calendar of Events for all the BPL branches, because they always have workshops and other fun things to do.
So what are you waiting for? Go out and have fun in the winter wonderland of Boston with your Little Sister!
Recently in USA Today, there was an article about Malia Obama on how she is inspiring girls. She wasn’t inspiring them because of her interests or her dreams but rather because of what she was wearing and how her body looked. The article byline read “Is a fashion magazine in her future?” There is nothing wrong with teenage girls wanting to be fashionable but by focusing on Malia’s fashion sense and appearance rather than her ambitions, what are we inspiring girls to achieve?
It is important to recognize that kids look to their peers in the media as role models and want to emulate them based on what they wear or own. One study from the National Institute on Media and the Family found that at age 13, 53% of girls are unhappy with their bodies. This grows to 78% by the time girls reach 17. It is difficult to find positive role models in the media.
This is why it is important that the President’s daughters should be looked up to for their focus on academics, involvement in the community and talents, such as dance and basketball. Their ability to dress fashionably should not be the focus when it pales in comparison to their other achievements.
Seventeen fashion director Gina Kelly wrote, “That’s inspiring to girls,” Kelly says. “Especially when they’re that age, they’re not too confident in trying new trends or putting together clothes in a different way. Girls are really hungry for, ‘Gosh, how do I wear it?’ and I think she can show them that.”
While we can agree that girls do need more role models for dressing appropriately without the need for short-shorts and low cut tops; we need to emphasize that outward appearance does not determine value.
Girls are easily influenced by what society and the media deem important. As long as we place importance on the outward appearance of girls rather than their aspirations, where does their future lie?
Birding Belle Isle
East Boston, MA
Saturday, April 14, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Bring your Little Sister to Belle Isle Marsh. This is a hot spot for bird sightings! Join a DCR Ranger and look for spring migrants in and around Belle Isle, and also enjoy a leisurely hike. Please bring binoculars. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters of all ages. Meet at Belle Isle Marsh main parking area, off Bennington St, East Boston, MA. For more information about this event please visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/events.htm.
Terrific Tree Treasure Hunt
Friday, April 20, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. & 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Visit Breakheart Reservation for a fun treasure hunt with your Little Sister during her school vacation week! You will learn about trees and Asian Long Horned beetles while searching for hidden treasure! Drop in anytime during the allotted time periods for the 45 minute hunt. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 8-14. Meet at Christopher P. Dunne Vistor Center, Breakheart Reservation, 177 Forest St, Saugus, MA. For more information about this event please visit http://www.mass.gov/dcr/events.htm.
Teen Matches Give Back
Saturday, April 21, 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Earth Day Recycling
175 N Harvard St.
Saturday, April 21, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Science of Sports
Madison Park High School
Sunday, April 22, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Inspiring Minds: Meet Women in Science
Museum of Science
Sunday, April 28, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
What are the opportunities and obstacles for women in science? Hear from inspiring women who are taking on challenges in science and technology. Meet these extraordinary scientists and entrepreneurs and learn how you can start your own career in a scientific field. This event is free and open to the public and is for Little Sisters ages 14 plus. This event is located at the Museum of Science Blue Wing Level 1. For more information about this event please visit http://cambridgesciencefestival.org/Home.aspx.
Arnold Arboretum Drop-In Activities
Sunday, April 29, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
As Women’s History Month draws to a close, Big Sister would like to conclude the month’s celebration by highlighting a contemporary woman of influence and purpose who is making her mark on the Boston landscape. City Councilor At-Large Ayanna Pressley immediately comes to mind, not only for her political triumph but also for her advocacy for women’s issues.
City Councilor At-Large Pressley is the first woman of color to be elected (in 2009) to serve on the governing board in the council’s 100-year history. In addition, she was the only woman in a field of 15 candidates to have earned one of four “At-Large” spots on the city’s 13- member council, garnering nearly 42,000 votes.
In keeping with her historic win, Councilor At-Large Pressley set out to support those whom she saw as undeserved and thus formed and chaired a new committee, the Committee on Women & Healthy Communities. The committee is dedicated to the causes that are close to her heart: stabilizing families and communities, reducing and preventing violence and trauma, and combating poverty. With a particular emphasis on girls and women, the committee focuses on adequate delivery of city services and programming for youth, families, seniors, and new Bostonians. The committee does not shy away from tackling the tougher issues ranging from domestic and sexual violence, child abuse and neglect, bullying, substance abuse to mentoring, poverty, and homelessness.
Councilor At-Large Pressley goes beyond government work to hold leadership positions with community organizations such as the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus and the Young Professionals Preventing Child Abuse of the Children’s Trust Fund. She also serves on the Boards of UMass Boston Community Development, Inc., and the Young Black Women’s Society.
What makes Big Sister most proud of City Councilor Pressley’s advocacy for women is the special role she plays with our organization. Despite her busy schedule, she has found the time to join Big Sister Association of Greater Boston by becoming an active Big Sister mentor. Not only is she proud of her mentoring role, but she is just as proud to be considered a part of her Little Sister’s family. As an advocate for mentoring, Councilor At-Large Pressley recently spoke at Big Sister’s Rise & Inspire event in which she concluded, “I’m a Big Sister who happens to be a City Councilor.” Councilor At-Large Pressley launched a personal campaign, which she called ABC – Ayanna’s BIG Challenge – a yearlong initiative to recruit mentors for children living in the Boston neighborhoods with the longest waiting for Big Sisters. Now, that’s walking the talk.
Big Sister Amanda Martinez and Little Sister Mickaella share why they believe in the power of mentoring. Amanda, a former Little Sister herself, was named a 2011 Ignite Award winner at Youth Mentoring Day at the State House. Thanks so much to Mass Mentoring Partnership and Conover Tuttle Pace for creating this piece and helping us highlight the impact mentoring can have on a young girl’s life.
Big Sister Amanda Martinez was named the Patriots Difference Maker of the Week by the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation.
Amanda Martinez had a Big Sister when she was younger and always wanted to return the favor. When she moved to Boston she became a Big Sister and has been matched with Mickaella, a middle school student, since January 2008. They enjoy doing arts and crafts, learning about new cultures, meeting new people or trying new foods and being active in the summer rock climbing, rollerblading, bike riding, and swimming.
Amanda loves being a Big Sister because “it gives me the opportunity to have a positive impact in a young girl’s life and to learn about other people’s life experiences.” She also believes that “it is important for girls today to have positive female mentors because there is a lot of negative messaging that is pinpointed towards girls and having a mentor gives a young girl an opportunity to concentrate on what she has to offer on the inside.”
Mickaella loves having a Big Sister because “it is like having an automatic friend. Without my Big Sister I would not know how much fun it is to eat Indian food or that I am smarter than I think I am. Amanda has also helped me learn that there is more to life if you look at it from a different point of view.”
Mass Mentoring Partnership recently published a great guest post by Big Sister Lindsay Snyder, Director of External Relations & Development at the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA), on why she become a mentor:
A few months ago, while eating lunch at a T.G.I. Friday’s with Destyne, my Little from the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston program, she asked me why I chose to become a mentor. We were about to dig into the “Brownie Obsession,” this ridiculously delicious, dense sundae, when I said, “Well, because I was so fortunate to have so many mentors in my life, I wanted to be on the other side and give back…plus, you’re fun to be around and I’ve learned a lot from YOU.”
When I decided to become a mentor, I originally thought about it in terms of “paying it forward.” I have been blessed with several strong female mentors in my life, including my grandmother, mother and three women I used to work with at the Crittenton Women’s Union. I learned acceptance and forgiveness from my grandmother, strength and perseverance from my mother, and how to be a dedicated, passionate advocate for nonprofits from my former colleagues.
Now that I’ve been a mentor for two years, I think about the things – little and big – that I’ve learned from my Little – most of all, she keeps me in check. You need that when life gets hectic.
Washington based writer Gabrielle Nomura recounts meeting her role model, journalist Jenni Hogan, and the importance of a good female role model for every girl…
“What hit me then was the importance of role models.
Every girl, whether she wants to be a journalist, a professional athlete or a full-time world traveler should have a woman role model they can emulate, see a bit of themselves in, and be inspired by.
All girls should get an experience like I did at least once in their lives, to be able to sit down at a table with their own version of Jenni Hogan.
It’s not always easy to find a role model, as our society’s way of choosing which women to pay attention to is often skewed. As Faizon Love put it, why is it that Kim Kardashian makes the news, while masses of women who are actually doing newsworthy things, female doctors, researchers, teachers, activists, scholars, business owners and mothers, go unnoticed?”
For more of Gabrielle’s piece on Strong Female Mentors: CLICK HERE
To your Little Sister, you are her role model. Thank you Big Sisters, for being that influential woman in a young girl’s life.