Dr. Rebecca Hains

Announcing PINK ATTITUDE, a documentary featuring Rebecca Hains

© Cie des phares et balisesThis spring, I was interviewed for a great new documentary called Pink Attitude: Princesses, Pop Stars, and Girl Power. The documentary will debut this Saturday, October 4 in France on ARTE, the European culture and public service television network.

The film’s structure is organized around the producer’s interview with me about my research on princess culture and girl power. Here’s the official description: Read More

Woman harassed with “Rape Room” joke, then fired for complaint—but rape is not a joke.

Rape is not a joke. It’s an act of violence. Therefore, if a male employee makes unwanted “jokes” about rape to a female co-worker, it’s logical to conclude that his actions are creating a hostile work environment. Right?

Well, that’s what one woman here in Salem, Mass. alleges happened to her earlier this week. On her twitter page and in a Salem facebook group, she reported that while she was in training for her new job at Harrison’s Comics, a male co-worker told her that a specific storage room is called “The Rape Room.” When she replied, “That’s not okay,” she says he retorted, “It is if they can’t talk.”

Later, she says, the same co-worker touched her inappropriately, putting his arm around her and pulling her close while they were working.

Screen Shot 2014-09-04 at 11.32.20 AMShe explained in the facebook group that when she complained to the owner, “He brushed it off because he is friends with the guy. He told me he didn’t want to make waves. I was off on Monday and when I went for my shift yesterday I was not even allowed in the store. The guy who made the rape joke blocked my entrance and told me I was fired. I fully admit I could be wrong but this does not seem like a coincidence.”

I don’t know whether her claims are true or not, but my inclination is to believe her. That’s not what I’d like to discuss today, though.

What stood out to me as I followed the coverage of her allegations today was this: As her story spread around the internet, numerous people suggested that she just needs to lighten up. After all, the “Rape Room” comment was just a joke. The attitude seems to be: Can’t she take a joke? Read More

LISTEN: Rebecca Hains discusses #TruthInAds & body image on CBC Radio

TruthInAds: Before and After

Yesterday, I spoke with CBC Radio about the Brave Girls Alliance’s #TruthInAds campaign, explaining why we’re asking advertisers to stop deceptively Photoshopping people’s bodies. The body alterations that are now routine in ads are contributing to a public health crisis—one disproportionately affecting children, teen girls, and women.

I also shared some advice from my book, The Princess Problem, for parents who are concerned about the body images their children are exposed to. You can listen to our segment, “Ditching Photoshop,” here:

CBC Radio Saskatoon Morning: Ditching Photoshop with Rebecca Hains

(Note: the interview begins at the 4:55 mark.)

The good news, is that one retailer, ModCloth, has agreed to take the #TruthInAds pledge, receiving widespread praise from media outlets such as Time and Today—setting a precedent we hope other advertisers like Dove will follow.

But because not all advertisers are willing to discontinue this practice, the Brave Girls Alliance also wants the FTC to develop a regulatory framework prohibiting advertisers from materially altering people’s bodies. We’ve made this request via the bi-partisan Truth in Advertising Act (TIAA), which we introduced in the U.S. Congress in 2014. Here are some examples of what we mean by “material alterations”: Read More

Announcing my new book, The Princess Problem!

I’m delighted to announce that my new book, The Princess Problem, will be released next Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014! If you pre-order it on Amazon now, you will receive it on its release day. It will also be stocked on the “New Arrivals” tables at most Barnes & Noble stores across the U.S.

I wrote The Princess Problem to help parents raise girls who are equipped to navigate the marketing, beauty ideal, gender stereotypes, and race stereotypes found in princess culture and beyond. Parents of boys will be interested to note that the principles in the book are useful for parenting children of both sexes—I just use princess culture as a case study, if you will, to discuss how to raise media-literate children.

My research for The Princess Problem overlapped with the final stages of getting my previous book, Growing Up With Girl Power, to print. While I was researching Growing Up With Girl Power, the pre-adolescent girls I worked with kept talking about princesses, with some even wishing they could be princesses. The Disney Princess brand had debuted a few years prior to my fieldwork, and I was intrigued by its success.

I wondered: What are the implications of princess marketing for young girls? As a researcher, though, I had a methodological challenge: I couldn’t work with groups of preschoolers in the princess target audience—not in the same way that I had with pre-adolescent girls in the girl power target audience for my Girl Power book. Developmentally, preschoolers they can’t answer the same types of questions, so I needed a different approach.

I decided to do two things: Go undercover as a birthday party princess (dressing up as princess characters and attending kids’ birthday parties), and interview parents about their daughters’ experiences.

Me on campus:

 Rebecca Hains photograph 2013-1

Me as Cinderella:

Rebecca Hains as Cinderella

As a birthday party princess, I experienced firsthand the pure fun that princess culture offers girls. It’s a blast! But alongside the fun are some worrisome issues, as I quickly learned from the parents in my study. Peggy Orenstein’s landmark book Cinderella Ate My Daughter had raised people’s consciousness about the matter, and many parents were desperate for ways to address the unhealthy messages about beauty, gender roles, and relationships with their little girls—as well as the race stereotypes and underrepresentation of people of color.

Meanwhile, memes were popping up all over the internet, poking fun at the negative messages girls were receiving from Disney’s princesses: Read More

Op-ed: Media’s choice of photos creates a split-second bias. #Ferguson

Two contrasting images of Mike BrownToday, the St Louis Post-Dispatch published an op-ed my colleague Robert Brown and I penned, critiquing the media coverage of Mike Brown’s shooting in Ferguson, MO. Here’s an excerpt:

Twenty-three years after Rodney King and just two after Trayvon Martin, the tragic story of unarmed black youth like Mike Brown being shot dead by police is an all-too-common one. But news media fuel the fires of racism every time they choose an accompanying photograph in which the victim resembles not the beloved son, brother, and friend his loved ones say he was, but the scary thug police assume he was. […]

Selecting such unsympathetic photographs to represent young men who have been forever silenced through death–who can never tell their side of the story–is unjust. It also echoes broader patterns in film and television, in which black men are too often depicted not as three-dimensional human beings, but as threatening menaces–a stereotype that media critics and organizations have critiqued for decades [….].

According to experimental studies, this same stereotype causes police officers to make split-second, erroneous decisions to shoot unarmed black men–but not their white counterparts […]. The politics of the media’s race representation have real, material consequences for all people, but for black youth, media representation can be a matter of life or death.

What the news media need to learn is that their photo selections create a split-second bias in the public arena. And that, too, can be a matter of life and death.

You may read the op-ed in its entirety here.


Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Her book, The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.

Rebecca is on Facebook and Twitter. If you enjoyed this post, you may follow Rebecca’s blog by hitting the “follow blog” button at rebeccahains.wordpress.com

Girls, strength, and the beauty ideal: A beach conversation

My five-year-old son befriended an eleven-year-old girl at the beach last week. As they worked together to create a sand castle, her dad and I chatted about my work as a media studies professor and his work as a high school art teacher.

“So, you said your research is about body image?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said. “It’s something I’m really passionate about.”

“You know, my passion is figure drawing,” he said, “but it’s difficult to teach to high school students today. They just don’t have realistic ideas about the female body.”

“Oh, in what way?” I asked.

“Teenagers don’t know what real bodies look like any more,” he lamented. “They have a preconceived idea in their heads—a bias that they can’t see past. I can see in their drawings that they’re not seeing. So they complain: ‘Hey, Mr. Richards, how come all your women have muscles? They look like men. That’s gross.'”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “Your students think that women with muscles look like men?” Read More

“Six Summer Beauty Tips” by Rebecca Hains

"Splash!" by Zakwitnij!pl Ejdzej & Iric. (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Fashion magazines love telling women that our bodies aren’t fit to be seen in public, unless we buy and use the beauty products they’re hawking. And in the summer months, when rising temperatures lead us to shed more clothing, their scrutiny intensifies, picking women’s bodies apart from head to toe. Well, forget them! I’ve penned the only list of beauty tips you need to enjoy the summer.

SIX SUMMER BEAUTY TIPS by Rebecca HainsSUMMARY: Alice Maison in bathing suit, standing with one foot in ocean, muff on right hand and left hand raised. CALL NUMBER: SSF - Bathing Beauties--1918

  1. How to get a bikini body: Put a bikini on your body.Your body is great!
  2. How to get your skin ready for summer: Use sunblock. Your skin is great!
  3. How to make your lashes pool-proof: Avoid mascara. Your lashes are great!
  4. How to find your happy hair color: Be happy with your hair color. It’s great!
  5. How to get summer-ready legs: Is it summer? Look down at your legs. They’re ready for use!
  6. How to choose a summer wardrobe: Pick out some clothing you like. You’re ready for summer!

Read More

Homemade Disney Princess peg dolls: Tutorial and giveaway

Frozen-inspired peg dolls by Summer Langille

Many little girls love playing with Disney Princess dolls. They make up stories with their dolls or reenact the films. They delight in dressing up the dolls and styling their hair. And sometimes, they just like to snuggle them.

Faced with the Disney Princess doll choices in the toy aisles, however, many parents feel hesitant and unsure about what to buy, if anything. Might some of the Disney Princess dolls’ body shapes have negative consequences on their daughters’ body images?

Parents who have these concerns are generally well-informed. They’ve heard of the research studies that show Barbies and Barbie-style fashion dolls—with body types that researchers classify as “extremely thin”—are unhealthy for girls. To offer but one example, an experiment found that when girls played with extremely thin dolls, they restricted their own eating afterwards—consuming less food than girls who played with dolls that had average body types.

Mattel has been trying to undercut these research findings for years. Most recently, they’ve launched a PR stunt called “The Barbie Project,” documenting girls playing with Barbies in ways that defy stereotypes. But in focusing on non-stereotypical play, the Barbie Project willfully ignores critics’ major concern about Barbie-type dolls: their body shape. We already know that girls’ doll play is inventive and imaginative! We just don’t see the need for inventive, imaginative, bright little girls to play with Mattel’s extremely thin dolls at all.

Because of these concerns, many parents whose daughters love the Disney Princesses turn to other options in stores, such as Animators’ Collection dolls and toddler dolls, which have child-like bodies. Like fashion dolls, these dolls can be dressed and undressed, and their hair can be styled, which are very satisfying play activities for many young girls. Many parents also appreciate the Disney Princess plush dolls, whose body shapes seem less exaggerated than their fashion doll counterparts. These dolls are great for cuddling.

The biggest gap in the Disney Princess doll marketplace seems to be in the smaller, hand-held types of dolls that girls might use in dollhouse-type pretend-play. Unfortunately, the majority of dolls in this category—such as the small plastic Disney Princess figurines and story sets and the Polly Pocket-type “MagiClip” Disney Princess dolls-–have proportions similar to Barbie-style fashion dolls. Their waists and wrists are incredibly small. The best option in this category might be the LEGO Duplo Disney Princess line--but as these are meant for toddlers, some preschool and kindergarten-aged girls might balk.

For reasons such as these, some DIY-inclined parents have taken matters into their own hands and begun crafting adorable Disney Princess-inspired dolls for their children. For example, wooden peg dolls are perfect for dollhouse play. They’re inexpensive to make (less than $1 for a doll, plus just a little paint), pretty easy to get the hang of, and can be customized to suit the child’s preferences. Read More

The College Rape Crisis: Four Ways to End to Rape Culture

This week, as colleges across the nation hold commencement ceremonies for the Class of 2014, Time Magazine’s cover story takes on a topic relevant to college students nationwide: the campus rape crisis. Approximately 20% of college women in the U.S. are victims of an attempted or completed sexual assault, making college campuses one of the most dangerous places for 18- to 21-year-old women.

The fact that one in five college women are sexTime.Coverually assaulted is both devastating and a call to action. If 1 in 5 college students were routinely the victims of some other crime—ranging from violent muggings to “white-collar” crimes like identity theft—we would find a way to end it; and yet campus sexual assault is an epidemic that rages on unchecked.

I believe campus rape is an epidemic first and foremost because the U.S. is infested by rape culture. In rape culture, sexual violence against women is seen as normal and easily excused. In media and in everyday life, rape culture teaches our young men—smart men, college-bound men, men who should know better—that they will face few consequences for sexual predation.

Here are a few things we do wrong in the lead-up to the college years (and beyond), which we must change to put an end to rape culture: Read More

Customers: Stop abusing Disney Store clerks. It’s not their fault Frozen merch is sold out.

Disney’s film Frozen was released in theaters five months ago, but merchandise based on the film is still sold out at Disney Stores nationwide. It’s clear that Disney Consumer Products Division had no inkling that Frozen would become the most successful animated movie of all time—even though parents and members of the girl empowerment community have been clamoring for years for girl-centric animated films that go beyond romance.

Limited Edition Anna and Elsa dollsAs a result, Disney has missed out on millions of dollars in potential revenue in Q1 of the current fiscal year alone, and Q2 will be more of the same, as Frozen merchandise will not be fully stocked in Disney Stores until July or August. Meanwhile, children across the nation are upset that they cannot have toys based on their new favorite characters. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone. Read More