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A Special Sweet 16th for Malala

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A Special Sweet 16th for Malala

In case you missed hearing the amazing story of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who survived being gunned down by the Taliban for her outspoken support of girls’ education, you should catch up here. Today is her 16th birthday. She’s not throwing a big party–although if anyone deserves to have a party, it’s her. Instead, she gave a speech today at the United Nations. Okay, we have to admit–that is WAY cooler than a party!

I don’t have very many people I consider heroes, but Malala Yousafzai is definitely one of them. She is only a few months older than my oldest daughter, and when I heard her story and found out she had been shot–those weeks while the world waited to learn if she would live and if she would recover–it hit me hard. I know what it’s like to love and parent a 14 year old, and I could only imagine how proud and yet how heartbroken and scared Malala’s parents must have been.

And yet, she did recover, and the experience has given her a voice throughout the world. She is a total badass–in the very best way. Without covering her face, she boldly speaks out for peace, for standing up for your rights and the rights of others, but also for loving her enemies:

Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone…Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group.

I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists, especially the Taliban.

I don’t even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him…This is the forgiveness that I have learned from my father and from my mother…This is what my soul is telling me. Be peaceful and love everyone.

This right here. That is true beauty. That is courage and grace and astounding strength. That is how this broken world can be put back together. I want to be more like Malala. I want my daughters to find their own inner strength and beauty and grace, like she did. I want that for all of us–and you, too.

Happy sweet 16, dear Malala. I hope you see many more birthdays and live long enough to see your dream of education for all girls become a reality. Thank you for being a role model for all of us.

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Emma Watson and the Eight Pairs of Shoes

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Emma Watson and the Eight Pairs of Shoes

According to an article in British Vogue, actress Emma Watson (Bling Ring) owns only 8 pairs of shoes.

Emma Watson says the incredible wardrobes of many celebrities was an eye-opening experience for her while filming The Bling Ring. 

“It’s almost like consumerism as a form of kleptomania,” said Watson. “I’ve got about eight pairs of shoes and that’s it. But it’s easy for me to sound like a total hypocrite because, of course, I’m dressed in designer clothes right now.”

She goes on to comment about how many of the items she saw in Paris Hilton’s collection (they used Hilton’s closet to film a lot of the movie scenes) were unworn, with tags still attached. She observes that Hilton could never possibly wear all those things, and that she must have bought them just to have them.

Many celebrities on the red carpet don’t actually own the designer outfits they’re wearing. Often, those gorgeous dresses or elegant tuxes are borrowed from designers who realize it’s the best kind of advertising they could ask for. On the other hand, It’s also likely that Emma Watson’s shoes probably didn’t come from the clearance racks of DSW, like most of mine do.

Regardless, I think she makes some really great observations. How many people buy stuff just to have it? Do we really even need eight pairs of shoes? I love fashion, and I love shoes. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But most of us have probably known girls (or adult women, too) who look down on other girls for not shopping at the expensive stores, or not owning a huge collection of shoes. Or for not wearing the designer label that is hot at the moment.

Maybe we are (or have been) those girls.

Fashion is fun–but in order for it to stay fun, we all have to resist the urge to make it into a competition. Wearing Miss Me jeans or shopping at Coach doesn’t make a girl a better person or more worthy of love or friendship. It doesn’t make her less worthy, either. Owning 50 pairs of pricey shoes or being able to spend $500 on a dress won’t make you happier or fix whatever problems you have in your life. If it could, you’d see a lot less drama coming from celebs in the gossip mags.

Like Emma Watson says–It’s just stuff. It’s stuff you bought because you wanted it. I like her attitude. I think she seems to know what’s actually important in life.

Money definitely can make life easier–I won’t deny that. Having enough money so that you don’t worry about being able to eat or pay rent, and being able to do fun stuff when you want, and feeling secure about finances–those things are all really important. I don’t want to minimize the pain and fear that poverty inflicts on people.

But I’ve learned that it’s equally important to be content–to find joy wherever you’re at. It’s not always easy. But people who learn contentment are able to be happy and at peace–whether they (like Emma Watson) have 8 pairs of shoes…

Or none at all.

Photo credit: Bert Palmer / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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Teens Help Each Other Spot Dating Violence

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Teens Help Each Other Spot Dating Violence

Am I alone in being horrified by the slew of stories in the last year about teens being killed, assaulted, or committing suicide because of violent dating relationships? I didn’t think so. Every new story about dating violence breaks my heart.

It won’t be the first time I say this, I’m sure:  No one deserves to be hurt, abused, or assaulted by a romantic partner. NO. ONE. Doesn’t matter your gender, sexual orientation, race, or age. You deserve to be treated like the priceless treasure you are.

If your boyfriend or girlfriend is trying to control you, or seems suspicious of everything you do, or if they are threatening you, trying to cut you off from other friends, pressuring you into doing things you don’t want to do (sexual or otherwise), and especially if they’re hurting you–with words, physically, emotionally, or sexually–GET OUT. This is called dating violence, my friends. Don’t wait. Don’t think you can change them. Don’t be so in love with having a relationship that you put your own dignity, freedom, health and safety at risk.

There will be other, better relationships. I know it may not seem that way right now. It may seem like you’ll be single forever if you give up this person. But trust me–there are good people out there waiting to meet you. And even if you are single for awhile (even a long while), it’s better than being in a damaging, abusive relationship.

That said (and I promise I’ll say it again), there are some teens who are doing fantastic, creative things to get the word out on dating violence, dating safety, and how to spot trouble before it starts. I think these teens are doing really important work, and I wanted you to know about them.

Things you can do: know the facts about teen dating violence, find a way to get involved in making changes, and know where to turn for help. LoveisRespect.org is a great resource.

Stay safe, Wildchilds, and make a positive difference!

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A Word About Corsets

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A Word About Corsets

Steampunk, goth, historical, fairy tale, sexy–we love our corsets! There’s something oddly romantic about the satin-steel-lacing contraption that helps exaggerate all our best feminine curves.

And what about the fantasy of a totally hot someone unlacing it in candlelight…yeah, I’ll have some of that, please!

Some people believe corsets are a sexist invention men created to keep women literally tied up and physically weak. Others say that women drove the corset craze because it showed the difference between women who were upper-class and fashionable, or virtuous, and women who were poor or unstylish, or immoral.

These days, the corset is a symbol of subculture–especially goth, steampunk, or fetish. And the debate over whether it’s safe or healthy to tight-lace a corset is still going on. But that doesn’t stop fashion designers from using corsets in their designs. Even Burberry got in on corsets with their 2013 spring collection.

Most people don’t wear corsets every day, but if you think about it, our culture still has ways of trying to control women’s bodies and make them over into an idealized, fashionable shape. We just do it by exercise and dieting, now. And, sadly, it still creates a class difference because those in poverty struggle to afford healthy food and often don’t have the time or a space in which to exercise.

I think corsets are fascinating, and wearing one is an interesting experience. On one hand, a corset makes me feel regal and sexy. On the other hand, after awhile, it makes my back hurt, and I get tired of not being able to move or breathe freely. I’m glad I don’t have to wear one, especially every day. But once in awhile, it’s so fun!

The female characters in my Alchemy Empire series wear corsets a lot–it’s steampunk, after all. But some of the things they do while wearing corsets is probably not very realistic. However, some modern corset-wearers claim that they can run and jump and do just about anything in a corset–except maybe touch their toes.

If you want to try wearing a corset, check out this article and this one on how to choose a corset. And see this video for the proper way to lace a corset:

Featured Image Photo credit: Tara Spalty / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

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