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The art of being different – a girl scout’s story

Girl scout cookie season is upon us, and recently our office was swarming with youngsters taking cookie orders. I wasn’t sure which girl I should order from (one can’t really order from each of them and expect to maintain any semblance of a normal BMI) and as I was considering how to choose, one energetic little girl simply walked right up to me and asked if I’d like some cookies.

She was slim and blonde, with bright eyes and an honest face. I knew the “sales pitch” didn’t come naturally to her, and I tried to make it easier by joking a bit. She was shy, but on a mission. I asked her which type of cookie she liked best, and if her daddy ate too many of them. She was innocently pleased with the interaction and disappeared down a hallway near some cubicles.

Many weeks later a large delivery of girl scout cookies arrived. There was a mass distribution strategy in place with moms and girls cutting open cardboard boxes of cookies and delivering them to buyers. I asked if my cookies were on the list. They told me that they didn’t sell me the cookies, so I’d need to wait for the specific little girl who sold them to me to stop by.

About a week later, when I had assumed that my little girl scout had forgotten about my order (and the rest of our staff had well and truly gorged themselves on thin mints), her dad came into my office with a pretty bag tied with a ribbon and a hand written card from his daughter. He told me she asked him to deliver it personally, because she wanted her service to be different than the other girls. Her dad joked that he was trying to train her about “differentiators” but I was quite touched by the effort she had made to make me feel like a special customer.

Later that afternoon I sat down to write a thank-you card to the girl. I wanted her to know that her efforts made a difference, and that I noticed her hard work in making my cookie purchase a personalized experience (not just part of a bulk delivery service). I put some stickers on the card, I used colorful paper, and a big red envelope.

A few days later I asked her dad if she liked the card. This is what he wrote to me:

“She loved it. She saw it at breakfast and came screaming upstairs to show it to everybody. Thanks!”

That really made my day. I hope in some way that I’ve encouraged this little girl to continue to reach for excellence, to stand out in the crowd, and to know that her work is appreciated. It is this sort of attitude toward life that will help her grow up to be… a revolutionary.

This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

Sexism and Sexualization of Women: East vs West

I really couldn’t help but feel saddened by three recent news stories about the continued attitudes that are so harmful to women. If these media reports are right, Japan’s leadership appears to be way off target, referring to women as baby machines and refusing to apologize for enslaving and raping ~200K women in World War II.

America has a more insidious version of sexism that can harm young minds – exposing children repeatedly to age-inappropriate sexually explicit images and ideas. As we expand our understanding of neuronal plasticity, it is becoming more and more clear that what we see and experience can imprint itself on our brains and literally change the way we think and feel. We spend a lot of time worrying about what we put in our bodies (e.g. avoiding trans fats, food chemicals, etc.) I wonder if we should think a little bit more critically about what we let into our minds?

Here’s what I’m talking about:

Japanese health minister says women are “birth-giving machines”

In a report in which the health minister explained how dangerous the low birth rate is for Japan’s economic future, he suggested that women are a rate limiting factor. There are only so many “birth-giving machines… and all we can ask is for them to do their best.”

There has been an outcry in Japan against the health minister though it’s unclear if he’ll resign.

Japan refuses to apologize for crimes against women

Japan admits its army forced women to be sex slaves during World War II but has rejected compensation claims.

Historians believe at least 200,000 young women captured during World War II were forced to serve in Japanese army brothels.

A large number of the victims – who were known as comfort women – were Korean, but they also included Chinese, Philippine and Indonesian women.

The media’s portrayal of young women as sex objects harms girls’ mental and physical health, US experts warn.

Magazines, television, video games and music videos all have a detrimental effect, a task force from the American Psychological Association reported.

Sexualisation can lead to a lack of confidence with their bodies as well as depression and eating disorders.

For more information on kids and sexualization, see Dr. Stryer’s recent blog post.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

Subway workers hand out condoms in NYC

A new initiative funded by the health department resulted in the distribution of 150,000 free condoms to unsuspecting subway riders in NYC. The condoms were colorfully labeled with a subway themed wrapper, and handed out by city workers and volunteers in all 5 boroughs.

Condoms are critical for the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, but I wonder if the candy wrapper marketing and non-selective distribution methods are contributing to an over-sexualization of society?

Now, I know a lot of you will think I’m being prudish, but I worry about children being over-exposed to sexual content all the time.  What does it say to them that subway staff are handing them condoms?  Is it just me, or does anyone else think this is a bit much?

Go ahead, let me know!This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

The brain benefits of being bilingual?

Technically, the jury’s still out on this one, but Dr. Ellen Bialystok’s (cognitive psychologist) work is very interesting. She has compared cognitive skills in monolingual and bilingual children, as well as a fairly recent study comparing dementia rates in monolingual and bilingual adults in Canada. I wanted to go back to the original source articles, but I wasn’t willing to pay the journal article fees. Sorry. Still, this seems to be what she found:

Bilingual children were ~55% more able to block out misleading information than their monolingual peers.

Bilingual adults tended to show the first signs of dementia at an average age of 75, but monolingual impairment began at an average age 71.

Yes, there are a gazillion unanswered questions here: does it matter what age you become bilingual? Does it matter which languages you speak? Do you have to speak both of those languages all the time or can you have learned a language back in college and not use it now? What about if you speak 3 languages?

Still, there are some interesting findings here worth a deeper look, wouldn’t you say?


This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.

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