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Young NC blogger advocates for girls
Alice Wilder fights stereotypes, works to inspire change
View Alice Wilder's video critique of Teen Vogue's September 2012 issue for SPARK at: http://youtu.be/mYFa1oCaIgM
Alice Wilder considers herself a feminist.
A 17-year-old senior at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, NC, she is also one of 26 bloggers for SPARK, an international activist group founded in 2010 to protest what it calls "the clear and present danger" of the sexualization of women and girls in media.
Alice found out about SPARK when the organization launched a campaign toward Seventeen magazine, asking the teen-focused publication to feature a more diverse group of models and to not alter their appearances.
She applied to be a blogger for the group in May, along with about 100 others, and won one of the 16 spots available then. Now part of a 26-blogger lineup, she also gets paid a small amount each month.
Choosing her was easy, said Dana Edell, SPARK executive director. "Alice has a strong and unique voice as a writer, which is a key component to SPARK," she said.
SPARK works with hundreds of women ages 13-22 and more than 60 national organizations, said Edell, and aims to fight the use of the female body as a marketing tool, which is associated with low self-esteem, eating disorders and depression.
Alice said she feels it is her job to hold large companies and media outlets — such as CoverGirl, Teen Vogue and Seventeen magazine — accountable for altering images of women and girls in their products and for using more diverse representation. She hopes these organizations increase in diversity and stop editing images of women. Increases in bust size, decreases in waist size, smoothing and whitewashing skin are several changes Alice notes.
"We want them to know that these images are toxic for our development," Alice said. Three out of four teen girls feels bad about themselves after reading a fashion magazine for three minutes, according to SPARK research.
Alice first felt compelled to advocate for women in fifth grade, after seeing a girl's Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt with writing on the front that said: Who needs brains when you have these?
"I was raised with this idea that if you don't like something, you can change it," Alice said.
So Alice started following feminist bloggers and writing about topics like rape and derogatory slurs.
"Young feminists are everywhere," Alice said. "(Being a feminist) means thinking about how certain issues affect all women. For me and my community, it's about thinking of everyone."
Being a feminist isn't easy, Alice said. She said she has lost more than one friend — and has been teased by her peers who do not understand the feminist movement and why it is needed today.
When she is teased, she turns to friends and her family for support.
"My parents support me 100 percent, which I don't take for granted," Alice said. "If I need to skip dinner to have a chat with SPARK or drive around looking for a copy of Teen Vogue for a video, they're totally understanding. My dad is really adorable about it, actually. He likes to email me articles about how women are making all these advances."
Jean Coco, Alice's mother, said she is proud of her daughter for being brave and speaking her mind.
"We've made it our business to take our kids to any march or protest we believed in," Coco said. "We've always tried to expose them to progressive ideas."
Call to action
It can be difficult for teenagers to speak out about the treatment of women in society, Edell said. "It's really threatening for teenagers to say, 'We shouldn't be treated this way.'"
Edell said the advocacy group is structured to help give girls and women a collective voice to make changes.
"We need a call to action," Edell said. "We need to bring girls into the movement, not just protect them."
Each month, Alice pitches her girl- and women-centered blog ideas via online chat to an editor at SPARK. So far, her topic choices have included writing about female actresses, clothing choices and dealing with anger, among others.
In a late September video post, Alice challenges viewers to stand up against magazines like Teen Vogue for not being diverse in the models they use in publications.
In the video, Alice analyzes the September issue of the magazine. She breaks down the publication's images based on ethnicity and thin or not-thin models. In the issue, she finds that 85 models are thin, white women; only 18 are plus size or not Caucasian.
Alice hopes after viewers see the video they will pledge to "keep it real," urging publications to change their policies and not alter models' bodies.
"(Alice's) activist voice is so strong," Edell said. "She isn't afraid. She gets it."
In between blogging and creating videos, Alice juggles class work, participates in Planned Parenthood's Teens Taking Action program and serves as editor-in-chief at her school's newspaper, Intermission.
She's also focused on creating projects that aim to inspire girls — like designing a "girl power bathroom" at her school. The newly designed third-floor restroom is complete with pastel paint colors and inspirational quotes from women around the world.
"Sisterhood is powerful," Alice said. "It can make you feel less alone."