How to Make a Star Wars Skirt for Kids

Getting Star Wars tops for girls is easy – as long as you don’t mind shopping in the ‘boys’ aisle. However, you have more chance of bullseyeing a Womp Rat in your T-16 than finding a child’s Star Wars dress or skirt for sale at a major retailer. While Ashley Eckstein’s innovative fangirl brand Her Universe has a couple of Star Wars dress options, is she your only hope? No, there is another.

It’s you – by embracing Craftivism. If you can’t find the merchandise you want, simply make it yourself. My daughter recently received an awesome Star Wars skirt from our friend Francesca Cambridge, that she made using officially licensed Star Wars fabric. There’s lots of Star Wars and other official licensed fabric available, which is intended for home sewing use such as this.

In an act of wanton selflessness (her business Sewing Circus proudly creates and sells children’s clothes that don’t conform to gender stereotypes), Francesca has put together this step-by-step guide so non-dressmakers like me can make a children’s Star Wars skirt ourselves.

Whenever my daughter wears this skirt – which is most days at the moment – everyone asks where I got it from. Follow this guide, and you’ll have a Star Wars skirt that’ll make someone as over the moon (or space station) as my daughter is with hers. :)

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This elasticated skirt is one of the easiest items of clothing you can make for your child. It is so simple you don’t need a pattern or special equipment – you could even get away without a sewing machine!

For this skirt I used licensed Star Wars fabric manufactured by Camelot Fabrics, bought from Frumble (who also sell everything from Alice in Wonderland to Batgirl, Supergirl and Wonder Woman fabric).

But you can choose any fabric you want, in any theme, colour or style. That is how I started out, making Dinosaur skirts and Space dresses for my daughters when we couldn’t find anything remotely similar on the high street.

Once you’ve built a bit of confidence you can add pockets, a drawstring, applique – anything! The sky’s the limit for your creativity and inspiring your child to do the same. 

To make a Star Wars skirt for kids, you will need:

  • A waist measurement and preferred length of skirt from your chosen recipient
  • Approx 50 x 110cm of your chosen Star Wars fabric (you may not need as much but fabrics are often sold by the quarter/half/full metre and 110cm in width) Cost approx £7-9
  • 1″ wide elastic measured and cut to your chosen waist size
  • Standard ruler and a pen/chalk
  • Sewing machine if possible or a needle and thread
  • Thread colour to match your chosen fabric
  • Safety pin
  • Iron/Ironing board
  • About 30 mins of spare time!

Step 1 

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Cut your elastic and ensure there is ample flex room on the width of your fabric. For ages 12 plus you may need to add an additional panel to create a wider piece of fabric.

Step 2 – Measure and cut length

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The skirt length is 28cm, but we need to add on a little more to accommodate our waistband and hem, so I’ve added an extra 8cm to the length. If in doubt add more, not less – you can always trim more later. Use a ruler to guide you in cutting, never trust the pattern!

Step 3 – Cut length and trim selvage 

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This white part (that reminds me of bacon rind) is the selvage and needs to come off too. Check for an perforated dots from manufacture as you don’t want them in your final skirt.

Step 4 – Sew the side seam

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All raw edges must be “serged” or enclosed to prevent fraying, so for this skirt we’re going to use an enclosed seam. This means we sew wrong sides together (or right sides outwards as shown), trimming the seam slightly and then turn inside out to sew the seam again on the other side – trapping the raw edge inside. Like this…

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Your side seam should now look like this…

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Step 5 – Transfer to the ironing board for pressing

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Create a channel for the elastic at the top of the skirt by folding over a thin raw edge, and then larger fold to fit the width of your elastic. You can use your elastic to guide the size, but leave at least 5mm for a sewing edge. Once this is done you can measure the length again and fold up the hem using the same method at the other end. Again, use the ruler to measure as you will now create the final length of your skirt.

Step 6 – Hem

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Sew down your pressed hem, back stitching or tieing up the ends of your thread to prevent your work coming undone.

Step 7 – Elastic waistband

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Use your elastic to guide you as its essential there is enough room for it to fit through comfortably. If you find the channel is too narrow take it back to the iron board and press larger.
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Sew the channel closed, but leave a 1.5″ gap at the end. This will be the opening to thread through the elastic.

Step 8 – Add the elastic

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Attach a safety pin to the end of your elastic
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Thread the elastic by pushing the saftey pin through the channel. Secure the other end of the elastic as its really easy to end up loosing it as your pull through!
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Once you have pulled the elastic through, use a zig zag stitch to connect the two ends together with a good 1″ overlap. Don’t worry about the waist measurement just yet – you can always adjust in the next step.
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Ping the elastic into the skirt band, and check you’re happy with the waist measurement. If not, pull the elastic back out a little way to cut a section out and restitch together.

Step 9 – Close the waistband

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Once you’re happy, close the waistband “channel” and tie up the threads to finish.

Step 10 – Admire the awesome Star Wars skirt you have just created

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And that’s it! Your very own children’s Star Wars skirt
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My daughter wearing her beloved Star Wars skirt. She would wear it every day if she could.

This is a little bit of Craftivism shared from what I have learnt since starting Sewing Circus, but for more inspiration please check out the many wonderful sewing boards on Pinterest for free patterns and advice! Got stuck on a sewing element? Check out the free tutorials on YouTube – even after years of sewing I find it a fantastic resource with clear instructions on almost everything.

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Thanks so much to Francesca for sharing with us her Craftivist solution to the lack of Star Wars clothes aimed at girls.

To keep up with all the latest from Sewing Circus, please follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Etsy.

A version of this tutorial was originally published on Let Clothes Be Clothes.

Vintage Star Wars Recipe: Death Star Cookies

This recipe is taken from the Star Wars: Darth Vader’s Activity Book, originally published in 1979 by Random House (I have the UK Armada reprint).

Death Star cookiess, Star Wars, Darth Vader Activity book

Death Star Cookies

Yield: 2 Large Death Stars

There’s nothing evil about these delicious shortbread cookies. They’re quick and easy to make, especially if you have an adult to help.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 cookie sheets. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar. Beat in Egg well. Gradually stir in flour. Gather into a ball. Divide into two equal halves. Roll each half into a ball.

Place one ball in the centre of one cookie sheet and flatten out to a circle about 6″ in diameter and about 1/2″ thick as shown in the accompanying figure. Repeat with remaining dough on second cookie sheet.

For decorating, follow the steps below.

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1. With your thumb, press in a smooth round, shallow hole 1 1/2″ in diameter a little away from the edge as shown.
Death Star cookies, Star Wars cookies, Star Wars recipe, Star Wars cooking
2. Lightly grease a butter knife and make a wide, shallow cut across the centre of the cookie. Then make shallow horizontal cuts along the rest of the cookie. Do not cut through the hole.
Death Star cookies, Star Wars cookies, Star Wars recipe, Star Wars cooking
3. The make shallow horizontal vertical cuts between the horizontal lines as shown.
Death Star cookies, Star Wars cookies, Star Wars recipe, Star Wars cooking
Next cut a shallow outline around the 1 1/2 ” hole and make “piecuts” in it as shown. Take a fork and make rows of holes along the horizontal lines.

Then bake 25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges. Cool slightly. Remove and cool completely.

Now be a hero and destroy the Death Star – by eating it!

Will the ‘DC Super Hero Girls’ Line be the Princess Alternative I’m Looking For?

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DC Super Hero Girls, A New Super Hero Universe Designed Just For Girls

Superheroes are for boys. That’s a fact. What’s also true, but less accepted, is that superheroes are for girls too. So it’s great that DC and Warner are acknowledging this with their new project ‘DC Super Hero Girls’.

As the geek dad of a little girl, trying desperately to introduce her to alternatives to Disney Princesses and the like, I know how difficult it is to find appropriate content and merchandise featuring female superheroes, so when I first read about this I was excited. It features teenage versions (hence justifying the ‘girls’ tag) of Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and Batgirl (who were in my Top Five Awesome Alternatives to Disney Princesses). The likes of Harley Quinn, Bumble Bee, Poison Ivy, and Katana will also be involved. The target audience is girls age 6-12.

Finally, we have a big media corporation acknowledging what we keep banging on about – that there is an untapped market of girls who love superheroes. Glancing at the artwork, I thought how refreshing to see a group of female characters for girls in dynamic action poses, rather than the passive imagery that usually adorns apparel and accessories in the ‘pink’ aisle.

But taking a closer look at the artwork, I started to have some doubts. I realised that they all look like generic Disney Princess clones, which potentially alludes to the marketing intentions of those involved – going after Disney’s share of the girls merchandise market. If they do this by offering superhero culture as a real alternative to princess culture, that would be great. But if they take these superheroes too far in the direction of Disney’s heroines, it will be little more than a cynical market grab than trying to create a different offering. There are also issues of body image – while superheroes have always been visually hyper-realistic there’s a big difference between males having big abs and girls having waists smaller than their heads.

Then there’s the idea that this is being “designed just for girls”. It’s important to Include boys in anything involving female superheroes, so they understand from an early age that this genre is for girls too. I still read of boys telling girls that they can’t be into superheroes/Star Wars, only boys can. Subdividing the genre to create a girls only space clearly doesn’t promote inclusion.

The involvement of Barbie manufacturer Mattel is another worrying sign. While it’s worth noting they’ve said they’re making “action figures”, not dolls, this is the company that has presented a narrow view of femininity with Barbie for decades. If you want to see the kind of female superhero THEY think little girls want to play with, look no further than their recent Barbie superhero Super Sparkle, a pink and glittery princess who gets super powers from being kissed by a magical butterfly.

You can bet Mattel have noticed that Wonder Woman, as well as being a superhero, is also a princess.

There’s also the mention of LEGO, and “their experience and success engaging girls”. This can only be alluding to their LEGO Friends brand, the popular but divisive line of LEGO for girls, a pink and pastel gender ghetto that exists away from the rest of LEGO’s creative construction toys. A dedicated girls LEGO implicitly defines the rest of to as for boys. I worry the same thing could happen here. And that they’ll make a superhero spa playset.

And finally, they’re not even superheroes! They’re called ‘Super Hero Girls’ not ‘Superhero Girls’. The cynic in me suspects the thinking is that superheroes are for boys, but these ‘super heroes’ are for girls.

Am I being overly pessimistic? Probably. I would love this to be awesome. In a time when female superhero characters such as Black Widow, Gamora, and Big Hero 6’s Go-Go and Honey Lemon are routinely removed from merchandise, a new female superhero range is great. There’s no way they can ignore the female characters when they’re ALL female! So we should get a viable alternative to the pink & pastel shimmer & sparkle female characters of the moment. I hope that the cartoons, books, and comics provides wonderful character led tales of action, adventure, and inspiration with a diverse range of female superheroes (and villains). The lead writer of the project is a woman, Shea Fontana, so we’re not simply getting a male idea of what they think little girls like.

But ultimately, the reason I want my daughter to be exposed to female superheroes is to offer her an alternative to the current mass market merchandise targeted to girls. If DC Super Hero Girls is simply a cynical way to combine aspects of Disney Princesses and Barbie in order to get a piece of the existing ‘girl’ market, then it’s no real alternative at all.

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I’d love to know what you think about this ‘DC Super Hero Girls’ line.

Please comment below, join the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

Top Five Awesome Alternatives to Disney Princesses

If you’re raising a girl, there’s no escaping the reign of princesses over their generation – especially Disney Princesses. Frozen’s Anna and Elsa have only strengthened the power that Disney’s princess industrial complex wields over their developing cultural lives. If you’re tired of all the trappings of princess culture cluttering up your little girl’s childhood, or just wish to expose them to alternative female led films, TV, books, and toys – here are my top five awesome alternatives to Disney Princesses to inspire and empower your little girls.

1. Studio Ghibli

Disney Princess alternative, My Neighbour Totoro, My Neighbor Totoro, Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, Disney Princess alternatives, Disney Princesses alternatives, alternatives to Disney Princess,
‘My Neighbour Tototo’, Dir: Hayao Miyazaki, © 1988 Nibariki – G/Studio Ghibli

The animated films of Studio Ghibli, and Hayo Miyazaki in particular, should be a part of everyone’s cinematic childhood. My Neighbour TotoroKiki’s Delivery Service, and Whisper of the Heart are particular favourites of ours and they boast a wonderful range of female characters, any one of whom is a great Disney Princess alternative. Scarcely a day goes by without my daughter requesting to see at least one of them. Totoro centres on the gentle adventures of two young sisters in fifties Japan and their encounters with kind hearted forest spirits; Kiki is an entrepreneurial 13-year-old witch who leaves home and earns a living by starting the small courier business of the title; Whisper of the Heart also features a teenage girl, who is an aspiring writer seeking inspiration. I have seen them all more times than I could possibly count, and I still find them moving, inspiring, and utterly delightful. There is plenty official and unofficial merchandise around. We picked up some Totoro soft toys when we passed through Japan a few years back, and bought the 3yo a much loved Kiki dress up for Christmas. For other movies, also check out Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind for a wonderful female led eco-adventure, Ponyo for younger kids, and Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke for older ones who can take more intense scenarios. But perhaps save Grave of the Fireflies for another time – it’s possibly one of the saddest films ever made.

2. Wonder Woman 

Wonder Woman, Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinham, Disney Princess alternative, Disney Princesses alternative, alternative to Disney Princesses,
Ms. Magazine issue 1 and 40th Anniversary editions, featuring Wonder Woman on the cover. © Liberty Media for Women, LLC, wholly owned by Feminist Majority Foundation. Wonder Woman ©DC Comics

One of the few female superheroes that non-comic fans know about, Wonder Woman remains a pop cultural feminist icon and an awesome Disney Princess alternative. Conceived in the forties by American psychologist William Moulton Marston, he wanted to “create a feminine character with all the strength of Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman”. Hmm. Anyway, Wonder Woman is a warrior, and – yes – a PRINCESS, but she refuses to let being a princess define her, and it’s something she successfully rebelled against in her very first appearance. The character’s continued fame goes back to the fondly remembered seventies TV show starring Lynda Carter. The show tied into the popular feminism of the decade, typified by the likes of Gloria Steinham – who had previously launched Ms. Magazine in 1972, with none other than Wonder Woman on the cover. ‘Retro’ Wonder Woman imagery continues to adorn all manner of merchandise today, and this iconic cartoon look is as visually appealing as any Disney Princess. There is a LOT of merchandise out there if you hunt for it, but be warned – it’s far easier to get hold of a Wonder Woman t-shirt for a woman than a little girl. In addition to Wonder Woman, also be on the lookout for Batgirl and Supergirl gear. DC licensees are much better than Marvel in creating merchandise with their female heroes. It’s time to “Woman Up” Marvel.

3. The Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz fancy dress, dorothy gale fancy dress,
3yo daughter in her Dorothy outfit

While Frank L. Baum’s original book has been eclipsed by the colourful 1939 movie, both feature the engaging Dorothy Gale and her adventures in Oz with her three male sidekicks. While the film is wonderful, Dorothy is certainly more proactive and determined in the book, for instance not relying on her male friends to rescue her from the Wicked Witch but rescuing them instead. However she is an appealing character in both, with an iconic eye catching look that makes a nice change from glittery pastel dresses – and because the book has been out of copyright for a long time there are lots of affordable merchandise out there, ranging from dress up outfits to apps. Perhaps start with one of the books adapted for first readers, or of course there’s the wonderful film – the technicolour reveal of merry old land of Oz still remains one of the great moments of Hollywood magic, that will leave your little one on awe.

4. Katie Morag

Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted
From ‘Katie Morag and the Tiresome Ted’ by Mairi Hedderwick, published by Red Fox Picture Books

Set on the fictional Isle of Struay, off the west coast of Scotland, this series of books (and now a TV series) feature the independently minded little girl Katie Morag. Wonderfully written and beautifully illustrated by Mairi Hedderwick, the stories see our young red-headed hero in her trademark white jumper, green tartan skirt, and wellies, on her everyday adventures involving her family and fellow islanders. The spirited Katie is a great role model for little girls – our 3yo daughter has been inspired by this Scottish girl to be more independent herself. The books offer lots of other great female role models too, from her mother who runs the Post Office while also breastfeeding her new baby, to ‘Grannie Island’, Katie’s no-nonsense dungaree wearing, tractor driving grandmother. I really enjoy both reading these to my daughter and watching the TV show with her.

5. Star Wars

LEGO, Lego star wars, Princess Leia, We Want Leia, Amidala, Padme,
From ‘LEGOS Gir Problem’ published on ‘From Bricks To Bothans’

The galaxy far, far away is just as much a place for girls as boys – it just hasn’t been marketed that way since a long time ago. Top of the list of great female characters (showing my aged bias) is Leia, who is a great Disney Princess alternative. A royal in name only, she is a rebel fighter, political leader, and social activist. She is a central character in the Star Wars universe and there is a ton of merchandise out there – HOWEVER, there isn’t much new stuff at all. Despite Disney buying Star Wars, and churning out all kinds of new Star Wars goodies, don’t go to a Disney Store expecting to find anything with Leia on it, and there isn’t anything. If that bothers you, please read more here, and complain to them here about that. For other more recent characters, check out Padme/Amidala from the prequels and The Clone Wars cartoon, Ahsoka Tano also from the Clone Wars, or Sabine & Hera from the new Star Wars Rebels animated TV series. These are great empowered women for any child to look up to, and a terrific way into Star Wars and the wider area of sci-fi for little girls. Geek culture is synonymous with the STEM worlds of our children’s future, so if we don’t want to lose vast swathes of the next generation of world builders – because they’re girls who think this is boys stuff – then get them some Star Wars toys. You may even have some in your parents attic. :)

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What do you think about this list of alternatives to Disney Princesses?

What about the princesses themselves? Are they harmful or harmless?  I’d love to read about any additions you have to this (short!) list, or why you think Disney Princesses are fine. Please comment below, join the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

“Girls Rule!” (Until They Grow Up)

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“Girls Rule!” t-shirt, featuring Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl. (Photo courtesy of @UKToyCollector)

Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl all on the same kids t-shirt. As a geek dad it’s the kind of item I’m always on the lookout for. I don’t even mind (too much) that it’s pink. What’s troubling is the slogan, “Girls Rule!”. Because “Girls” don’t rule at all.

It’s a phrase synonymous with “Girl Power”, which probably has its origins in the Riot Grrrl feminist punk movement of the 90’s. While the progressive message of “Grrrl Power” was diluted when transformed into the safe and snappy commercial slogan “Girl Power” for 90’s pop phenomenon the Spice Girls, at least that version introduced many children to the notion of girl empowerment. However, the band also popularised the far more problematic “Girls Rule!”.

The girls who were fans of the band in the 90’s are now women in their twenties and thirties. What kind of world have they grown up in? Is it one where “Girls Rule”? The gender pay gap remains entrenched, and in the UK is even widening. Only 30% of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates in the UK are women, and just 17% of all professors in STEM are female. Both houses of UK parliament have only 23% women.

Globally, while there are high profile women in leadership roles at a corporate level, boards and executive committees remain 83%-96% male. The recent IMF report Fair Play: More Equal Laws Boost Female Labor Force Participation found that 90% of countries have at least one important gender based legal restriction. The UNDP states that “Gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development.

A slogan like “Girls Rule” seems little more than a lie in this context. It implies that women leaders are respected, listened to, and rewarded for their hard work, talent, and intelligence – when that is clearly not the case. Perhaps the slogan “Girls Rule!” was created as a way of hiding the sad reality of gender inequality.

The empowering messages we convey to our children are important, but they can easily backfire. As American comedian Sarah Silverman wryly observed, “Don’t tell girls they can be anything they want when they grow up. Because it would have never occurred to them that they couldn’t.”

This week new research on marketing to girls, found that when “…girls hit the age of 13 they start to feel less confident and more worried about the world around them.” The reasons are unclear, but this would also be the time they experience the dawning revelation that the reality of being a woman, on the wrong side of the gender bias divide, isn’t quite how they imagined it would be when they were little girls.

Advertisers obviously know the power of a good slogan, and a source for a new girl empowerment one has come from an unlikely place. Always (makers of ‘feminine hygiene products’) found through their market research the same issue of girls suffering a significant drop in self-confidence around the time they hit puberty.

The company tried to address these feelings for an ad campaign, and a new slogan entered the girl empowerment lexicon – #LikeAGirl. They deftly took the former playground insult, and transformed it into plaudit. When you run like a girl, throw like a girl, fight like a girl – you are not doing it badly, you’re doing it incredibly. At least that’s the shift in meaning hoped for.

The fantasy of “Girls Rule!” seems tepid next to the optimistic reality of doing amazing things ‘like a girl’.

All I need now is to get THAT on a kid’s female superhero t-shirt.

Fly Like a Girl, #likeagirl, LikeAGirl, girl empowerment, girl power, supergirl, girl with cape, female superhero, superheroine,

I’m not going to pretend to my daughter that she’s growing up in a world where “Girls Rule”. She will have many challenges to face in life, and lying to her about them won’t help her deal with them.

But I’m buying Asda’s “Girls Rule!” t-shirt for her. Three awesome female superheroes, drawn in the classic retro style, on a kid’s sized top in the UK? Sold. I also want Asda to know that female superheroes sell too.

And my daughter can’t read. Yet.

 

What do you think about the slogan “Girls Rule”? Helpful, harmful or neither? Please discuss by commenting below, joining the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

The Dad Network

Do We Need to Stop Talking About Working Mothers?

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‘Working Mom’ by Ran Zwigenberg. Photo used under CC license

Whenever there’s coverage of mothers in the workplace, it’s never long before the topic of how they cope with the competing needs of their children and their job comes up. What’s wrong with this? It’s a narrative that’s only ever applied to working mothers, and rarely – if ever – working fathers.

On the BBC series Inside the House of Commons this week, one of the featured MPs was a busy mum who juggles the demands of her job with the needs of her family. As the listings described the scenario: “Lib Dem MP Jenny Willott… seeks to balance new parenthood with politics.”

I am not denying Ms. Willott’s very real struggle between being a parent and an MP (and Deputy Chief Whip), but yet again, the search for this ‘balance’ was presented as an issue only for the working mother. While we did see the involvement of her partner, where was the male MP also struggling in the same way, having family dinners in his parliament office, dropping off his children at the House of Commons nursery, or leaving his crying child with an aide so he can dash off to the house for an important vote? Maybe he doesn’t exist. Maybe society’s expectations of working mothers are different from those of working fathers.

This was yet another example that feeds into the myth that when a mother is working, childcare is her responsibility. That the need for flexibility is the preserve of the working mother, not the father. That mothers struggle to maintain a work/life balance in a way that fathers don’t.

This week there was a report about the rising costs of childcare in the UK, which is indeed a big problem for parents. Yet I kept reading how this was an issue for working mothers or mothers returning to the workplace, never about fathers.

My wife has a full time job, and I freelance as well as being home with our daughter. In any discussions I enter into about work, the cost of childcare up at the top of the list when determining the feasibility of me taking on the job. The issues around flexible hours and an understanding that I may have to be absent when my child is sick are also important for my employer to know, because I am the primary caregiver to our daughter.

I don’t understand why are we always framing any discussion about childcare, flexible working, balancing the demands of home and work, with ‘Working Mothers’. These issues are not exclusive to mothers – they are parenting issues.

As a father, I find it depressing that people think dads don’t care this much about their children, that we too don’t lament the lost hours we could be spending with them when working. But as a parent of a daughter, I find the sexism of this prevailing attitude towards women in the workplace far more depressing.

It’s an attitude that is especially toxic when there are employers that would prefer not hire a mother, because they think that it’ll be too much hassle. It’s an attitude that fathers rarely encounter.

I am not seeking to diminish the emotional stress and logistical hassle of being a working mother. Despite not being a mother, I understand it completely.

I just think we need to stop talking about working mothers, and start talking about working parents instead. These are issues that affect us all and problems for us all to deal with.

What do you think about the way working mothers are perceived? Is being a working mother different than being a working father? Please get involved by commenting below, joining the conversation on the Facebook page, or on Twitter @manvspink.

What’s the opposite of a Troll? I reckon it’s an Emily…

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The ways in which strangers comment and connect online usually gets a bad rap. Perhaps because it’s so easy to take on another identity – or remain anonymous – in order to be vile to another person. A ‘troll’ used to be a goat eating creature that lived under a bridge in the minds of children. Sadly that monster has been usurped by an all too human counterpart.

But what of the wonderful instances of selfless acts of generosity and human kindness that also occur online? Well, here’s one for you.

"#WeWant Leia" by Yakface.com

I recently blogged about the Disney Store’s lack of Princess Leia products, and their absense of interest making any. As the dad of a Star Wars loving daughter, I hoped for some meaningful response from Disney, and there was a muted assurance that they will produce Leia merchandise in the future.

But the post also elicited this response from a lady called Emily:

“I don’t know if it would interest you, but I have a Leia doll and several of the Episode 1 Amidala dolls (all still in boxes because that’s how I was). It’s not the iconic Leia w/ buns, but they’re just sitting in storage and I’d be happy to dust them off and send them to you to share with your daughter. I may have some action figures but I think I gave those away already.”

Well yes, of course I was interested, so I followed up with Emily via email. The back and forth conversation basically went like this.

Me: I’m certainly interested, but how much do you want for them?

Emily:   Oh I don’t need anything in return. I know how it was growing up a girl in a Star Wars world, so I’ll gladly share what I have

Wow, that’s really generous. But hang on, there’s a problem – it’s not like I can just pop round and pick them up. We don’t live very near each other. In fact, we’re very far from each other. Emily lives in the US and we live in the UK. She replied:

Emily: I have no problem sending them across the ocean – they’re just collecting dust in storage right now and I’m happy to send them off to a better home.

Once again, wow.

Special international delivery

swtoysTrue to her word, some days later, we had a large package arrive in the post from America, which contained three boxed 12″ Queen Amidala dolls, a boxed 12″ Princess Leia doll, and a bonus item of a large Queen Amidala towel. It also came with the following handwritten note from Emily:

Simon,

I hope your daughter enjoys these dolls. I’m happy to share my love of Star Wars with your daughter and your family. Hopefully these will help fill the gap until some new official merchandise surfaces.

I only have one Leia doll, but Amidala/Padmé was marketed a fair bit, with her many dresses and hairstyles. Like many overzealous fans, I snapped up what I could, but already being in high school, I never played with them – just had them on a shelf in my Star Wars covered room until another interest came along and they got put into storage for 10 or so years. Now they can leave their boxes for some proper playtime.

Enjoy! And may the force be with you, always!

Sincerely,

Emily

Emily then signed off with these delightful Princess Leia illustrations.

Emily's Leia doodles

So it was with great relish – and Emily’s permission – that my daughter and I finally liberated these toys from the packaging they had been in for the best part of the past 15 years. It would be a sight to horrify many a Star Wars collector, but delight anyone who gains any happiness from the pure joy of a child.

My daugher loves these dolls. She is already swapping shoes and outfits between them. Ceremonial Leia looks pretty good wearing Padme’s large brown boots. ‘Royal Elegance Queen Amidala’s red shoes are a popular interchangeable item as well. There’s also some toddler hairstyling and tea parties happening.

“You never forget kids like Emily”

In 1999, the year that The Phantom Menace was out and Emily purchased all these dolls, another eagerly anticipated movie was released. Eerily, it features a young lady called Emily who parted company with her childhood playthings.

In Toy Story 2 we are introduced to Jessie, a once beloved doll who has been abandoned at a roadside when her ‘Emily’ outgrew her. In reality, perfectly normal behaviour, but in the story it was a source of great sadness and emotional trauma for Jessie, who mournfully states: “You never forget kids like Emily…but they forget you.”

Well, this real life Emily didn’t forget about her toys. They may not have been played with, but they were bought out of love (of Star Wars), and passed on for the same reason.

According to Buzz Lightyear “(a toy’s) life’s only worth living if you’re being loved by a kid”. Well thanks to their Emily these toys will be well loved by our kid. They are out of their boxes and never going back in!

The Emilys of the real world should be celebrated. She reached out to a father and daughter she has never met, with whom she had only had the briefest of online interaction with, and made the great effort to not just simply give us these toys she purchased, but to ship them across the world to us at her expense.

It also reminded me of the end of Toy Story 3, when…***SPOILERS*** …Andy hands over his childhood toys to the little girl family friend.

IMG_1855That brought a tear to my eye, and I have to admit, this did too.

So thank you Emily. As well as giving us these awesome dolls, you have also given me renewed optimism about the world I am raising my daughter in.

And Disney take note. There IS a girls market for Star Wars, and there always has been.

(Oh, while I immensely appreciate Emily’s generosity in giving these dolls to my daughter, at my insistence we have reimbursed Emily for the shipping. She also has a big credit in the favour bank)

Wonder Woman’s Movie Outfit – Latest Images

While a gloomy image of Gal Gadot in her actual movie costume was posted last year, the colours were so muted it was difficult to have an idea of what it might actually look like in the movie Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (although this being Zack Snyder, that might be exactly how it looks!).

Some images of promo/production artwork have been surfacing in recent weeks (thanks to Latino Review’s “El Mayimbe,” aka Umberto Gonzalez), that give us an idea how the outfit might look if not almost totally desaturated of colour and presented in sepia.

What do you think?

 

RT! #AskElMayimbe #HOT #WonderWoman #promo #art featuring her gauntlets pose! BOOM! Good night folks!

A photo posted by Umberto Gonzalez (@umbertogonzalez) on

 

RT! #WonderWoman #promo #art from #BatmanvSuperman #HH #Comingsoon

A photo posted by Umberto Gonzalez (@umbertogonzalez) on

 

#HH #EXCLUSIVE #HOT #WONDERWOMAN #promo #art from #BatmanvSuperman! Doesn't she look fresh next to my new logo? BOOM!

A photo posted by Umberto Gonzalez (@umbertogonzalez) on

 

I’m still worried this Wonder Woman outfit could come across like a ‘sexy’ Halloween costume instead of a super-warrior’s garb.
 
Wonder Woman, Gal Gadot, Batman v Superman, Wonder woman Halloween, Fancy dress, dress up, Wonder woman movie,

 
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (where Gal Gadot makes her debut as Wonder Woman) will be released in 2016.

‘Black Angel’, the Film That WASN’T The Empire Strikes Back

This short film – which has just been uploaded to You Tube – represents one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood (up there with the time I was run over by a lorry).

Picture this. It’s 1980. You’re 9 years old. You’ve been Star Wars obsessed since 1977 when the original film came out. They’ve made a sequel after a long wait (3 years was an eternity at that age), and you are delirious with excitement. Your older brother takes you to to the cinema to see it. After the endless trailers and Pearl & Dean adverts, the lights finally dim, the curtains open, and at last the film begins. Only… hang on, this isn’t the Empire Strikes Back. What the hell is this? Black Angel?!

I turn to my brother and say something akin to “wtf?”, he answers: “Oh no. We’re in the wrong cinema.”

Me: “Then let’s go to the right cinema! The one showing The Empire Strikes Back!”

Him: “We can’t, it’s already started. We’ve missed the beginning.”

Me: “I don’t care. I want to see it!”

Him: “Don’t worry, we’ll go an see it another day. Let’s watch this instead.”

I’m sure this back-and-forth continued, but as it did I started crying, and I continued crying. A lot. Instead of The Empire Strikes Back, I was watching whatever the hell this dark, low budget, ponderous, weird British medieval drama was.

I sat there and watched it all, sobbing away at how unfair this all was, lamenting that next door there was a cinema full of people watching The Empire Strikes Back – THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK! – while I wasn’t.

After Black Angel ended, we didn’t leave the cinema. My brother said let’s wait. So we did. AND THEN, the lights went down again, the curtain opened, and… well, it may have been a dark time for the rebellion, but it was a moment of utter joy for me.

So Black Angel was simply a film (which in memory was a whole feature, but I now discover was only 25 mins) shown before the main feature, something they used to think was a good idea. It was was only shown with The Empire Strikes Back in the UK, and perhaps Australia and New Zealand.

It may have been only 25 mins, but my brother let me cry all the way through Black Angel just to fuck with me.

And I’ve never forgotten it…

(Thanks for taking me though.)

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When You Grow Up, I Want You To Be a Voter

6997132774_8fa975c208_oThis morning I walked my daughter to her nursery as I normally do on Thursdays, but we took a bit of a diversion. In fact we walked in the opposite direction. I wanted her to come with me as I voted.

She’s 3, and she usually picks up far more than I imagine she can, so I tend to talk to her about everything. I explained why we vote, talked through the process of voting as I did it, from picking up my ballot paper, marking it, and posting them (district and borough councils too) in to the appropriate boxes.

‘When You Grow Up, I Want You To Be a Voter’

You see, there are many things I want my daughter to be when she grows up – happy, confident, strong, passionate, free. But this morning, more than ever, I also want her to be a voter.

I despair when I read of people who can’t be bothered to vote. If you don’t vote and feel that politicians don’t care about you and your needs, you’re the reason why. Elected politicians are self interested in this way. They have to be. Their existence as MPs or councillors depends on getting more votes than the competition. If you don’t vote, why should they be interested in your needs? They don’t need to woo you  to vote for them. Far better to focus on the wishes of those who do, such as pensioners, and racists.

Here are some common reasons not to vote, and why they are no good reason at all:

What I believe isn’t represented:

Then spoil your ballot paper. In fact this goes for all the points below. Seriously, that means something. It demonstrates that you are someone who will vote if engaged with. All votes are counted, recorded and announced for each constituency – and that includes all spoiled ballot papers. If the 34% of registered voters who don’t vote, all bothered to go to a polling station and spoil their papers, it would be announcing to the political class that there are 16 million people just itching to vote for someone. All they need is to be listened to.

My vote won’t make a difference:

Yes it does. Even if you’re in a safe seat, and you’re not someone who supports the incumbent party, your vote adds to the statistics. The reason why Green issues have become something mainstream parties take onboard is because of the large amount of people who have voted for the Green Party in recent elections.

Parties/Candidates are all the same:

They’re not. If you believe that, then you have not taken the short amount of time needed to differentiate them.

I’m just not interested in politics:

You’re living in complete denial. Politics effects everything you do, from what you watch on TV to how much you pay for your weekly shop. You can march, campaign, use as many hashtags as you want. Real change eventually requires politicians to legislate.

As this is a parenting blog, I’ll round up with this. If you’re a stay at home parent and want more tax breaks, parental leave equality, etc., only elected politicians can change this. If you can’t buy your first family home, only elected politicians create and control the legislation that can enable this. If you want the best education possible for your child, only elected politicians can achieve this.

Voting is about engaging with something bigger than you, being part of something that affects the lives of not just you, but your family, friends, colleagues, and all the people you don’t know yet, and those you never will. Your vote matters to them. Not voting isn’t just lazy, it’s selfish.

These politicians elected today will shape the future your child will live in. The voting patterns recorded today will shape the political conversation from tomorrow onwards. Basically, if you give a shit about your child’s future, you will vote today – whether it’s for the party/candidate of your choice, or the one who will keep out the one you don’t want, or if it’s simply to spoil the paper. Your apathy is self-centered and unacceptable.

So please, go out and vote.

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Are you someone who doesn’t vote? I’d genuinely love to know why, especially after reading this post, as I do not understand. Please comment below, on Facebook, or Twitter

Supergirl Gets CBS Series

Man Vs Pink:

I really hope this is a good show, and that it’s a hit so it can undermine the notion that there isn’t an audience for film & TV with female superheroes.

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Originally posted on TIME:

It’s a bird. No, it’s a plane. It’s Superman. No wait, it’s Supergirl! And she’s officially landing a series order at CBS.

The new series stars Glee alum Melissa Benoist as Kara Zor-El, who escaped Krypton amid its destruction years ago. Since arriving on Earth, she’s been hiding the powers she shares with her famous cousin. But now at age 24, she decides to embrace her superhuman abilities and be the hero she was always meant to be.

Supergirl hails from Arrow and Flash executive producer Greg Berlanti and The New Normal’s Ali Adler, who will write and executive-produce with Arrow and Flash boss Andrew Kreisberg and Sarah Schechter.

The drama is one of CBS’s relatively new efforts to venture outside of its standard crime procedural comfort zone. The network is diving into the super-hero genre, which has made such a strong impact in both movies and—over the last…

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens – Vanity Fair Photos

Star Wars, The Force Awakens, Vanity Fair, Star Wars The Force Awakens Vanity Fair photos,
Next-generation bad guy Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) commands snowtroopers loyal to the evil First Order on the frozen plains of their secret base. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
A small galaxy’s worth of tracking dots affixed to Lupita Nyong’o’s face allowed artists at Industrial Light & Magic to transform her into the C.G.I. character Maz Kanata. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
Galactic travelers, smugglers, and other assorted riffraff fill the main hall of pirate Maz Kanata’s castle. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
Dashing Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) stands alongside his trusty X-wing fighter. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
J. J. Abrams directs Actress Daisy Ridley for a scene in which her character, the young heroine Rey, pilots her speeder through a bustling marketplace on the planet Jakku. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.
Members of the brain trust behind The Force Awakens: composer John Williams, producer and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy, co-writer Lawrence Kasdan, and director and co-writer Abrams, photographed at Bad Robot, Abrams’s production company, in Santa Monica. Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

Joss Whedon Just Quit Twitter

Man Vs Pink:

A) I really enjoyed Age of Ultron; b) The Black Widow was kick-ass in it; c) Joss Whedon is the best thing to happen to comic book movies.

Originally posted on TIME:

Joss Whedon and Twitter have broken up. The conscious uncoupling happened at some point on Monday, following the $191.3 million opening weekend of Avengers: Age of Ultron, which collected the second-highest grossing three-day debut in history. (After only the $207 million opening of Whedon’s original Avengers in 2012.)

Whedon’s departure did create a wave of speculation on Twitter that he closed his account because of “death threats.” A search of tweets directed at him over the past week definitely turned up some deep ugliness, with some of the abusive users urging him to “die” or “commit suicide” over plot points they didn’t like in Age of Ultron. Although these comments are clearly disturbing, there was no unifying complaint or groundswell of attack beyond just the random (but all-too-typical) viciousness of anonymous social media trolls.

The most abusive bullying came from viewers who objected to Black Widow’s tentative…

View original 421 more words