Read here about all of the action campaigns that SPARK executed over the years. These campaigns were initiated by girls, but designed and launched in collaboration with SPARK adults and alongside many of our partner organizations. Replicate! Imitate! Copy! If you are interested in learning more about any of these campaigns or if you want guidance or consultation about how to adapt any of them for your community, please contact us.
Remove Offensive Anna Rexia Costume
This was one of our very first campaigns, and it was maybe the easiest success we ever had! If only all campaigns were this easy. After just a few hundred signatures, HalloweenStores.com removed this offensive costume glamorizing eating disorders off of its website.
Day of The Girl Comes to NYC
The City of New York, in collaboration with SPARK, declared October 11, 2012 New York City’s official Day of the Girl! This declaration comes at the same time that the United Nations adopted Resolution 66/170, which declares October 11 as the International Day of the Girl. We are so proud that we were a key part of raising awareness about the unique issues girls face in New York City.
LEGO, Stop Condescending to Girls
This was our most controversial campaign–it turns out people get really heated when you try to talk about hypergendering children’s toys. (Just ask Target.) The story is pretty simple: LEGO released a new line of toys “for girls” that SPARKteam activist Stephanie found troubling. Another SPARKteam activist, Bailey, tweeted Steph’s blog post about the toys at LEGO, and they responded in a way we all thought was pretty disappointing. We launched a campaign asking them for a meeting to share our concerns, and after tens of thousands of signatures and global media attention, we got it! In preparation for our meeting, we wrote up a “gender audit” of the LEGO company where we analyzed all their current advertising and toy designs through a gender lens. We presented our findings to LEGO and left our meeting feeling pretty good, and while they’re still dividing their toys somewhat along gender lines, the Friends line is significantly less lipstick-focused than at first launch. We can’t help but feel we advanced the conversation around gendered play (Again, just ask Target!). And we were thrilled to see LEGO’s newest line of scientists featuring ALL women.
Seventeen, No More Photoshop
Whenever Melissa was explaining her job to someone, she would say, “remember that girl [last month][last year][a couple years ago] who wanted Seventeen to stop using Photoshop?” and they would almost invariably say “yes!” Of course, the Seventeen campaign wasn’t as simple as that: we actually asked Seventeen to run one spread every month that was unretouched. The petition, written by SPARKteam activist Julia Bluhm with help from the whole SPARKteam, got about 25,000 signatures in the end. We delivered the signatures directly to the Seventeen office, staging our own photo shoot downstairs first–it was a ton of fun! Julia and Dana met with the editor, Anne Shoket, and then we waited…and waited…and nothing happened! So we amped it up, putting together the #KeepItReal Challenge with Endangered Bodies, Miss Representation, and I Am That Girl. And then, it happened! In August, Seventeen published their Body Peace Treaty, pledging to never alter the faces or bodies of the girls in their magazine’s pages. It wasn’t exactly what we had asked for, but it was big: here was a promise, something that the readers could hold a magazine accountable for.
Teen Vogue, No More Photoshop
Following our success with Seventeen, we wanted to approach the other teen mag in town: Teen Vogue. SPARK girls Emma and Carina asked Teen Vogue to follow in Seventeen’s footsteps and pledge not to retouch its models’ faces and bodies. We got a meeting with them, too–but it didn’t go quite as well. But we stepped it up, doing the “homework” Teen Vogue insisted we needed and backing up our concerns with serious research. Unfortunately, they ignored us. But the rest of the world didn’t: Emma and Carina made headlines, sparking a conversation everywhere about not just digital retouching but honest representations of girls of all races, sizes, and abilities.
Seventeen/Teen Vogue Challenge
Months after the Teen Vogue petition had died down, we still weren’t over teen magazines. We had talked about them SO MUCH: what was good, what was downright awful, what we thought could change, what the point of teen magazines even were. SPARKteam activists Alice and Eva wanted to dive in deep, so they designed the Seventeen/Teen Vogue Challenge: for a month, each of them would live their lives according to the advice of Seventeen or Teen Vogue. They started a blog to document the challenge, and it was incredible. They covered everything from the funny to the incredibly awkward to the downright scary. After their month of living like a teen mag, the project continued a while longer with a group of Tumblr users who continued to critique teen mags and share their own experiences. This was, by far, one of the most intense, girl-driven, high-reward actions we’ve ever done! Do yourself a favor and read through the whole archive.
We Demand Plus-Sized Mannequins at H & M
Can’t win ‘em all! In 2013, SPARKteam activists Montgomery, Georgia, and Anya petitioned H&M, asking them to use plus sized models in stores where they sold their (newly released in the US) plus-size line. We designed a super fun action to go along with it: girls would go to H&M stores and strike their best mannequin pose, then share their photos online. Our petition gained some traction, but soon after our launch, H&M was involved in a very public, very serious conversation about fashion supply chain labor and human rights. It seemed as though the timing wasn’t quite right, so we put aside the campaign, waiting for a moment where it felt appropriate to launch again, but soon found ourselves moving away from the “ask a huge company to change things via petition” model.
In December of 2012, Stuebenville, OH, made headlines: two star athletes in the football town had sexually assaulted a 16 year old girl at a party, while bystanders looked on, made jokes, and shared images of the attack on social media. This case was horrifying for us: this girl was our age. We knew student athletes who seemed to be able to get away with anything. We saw how the adults in Stuebenville covered for the perpetrators, and we wondered how much that happened elsewhere. We knew we had to take action. Coaches, we knew, set the tone for lots of schools, especially in football towns where they might be revered and honored. Even in towns without sports legacies, coaches are in incredibly unique positions to mentor and educate their athletes. We needed to reach coaches in order to reach their students. SPARK activist Carmen Rios teamed up with Colby College football player Connor Clancy, and together we asked the National Federation of High School Associations to work with a coalition of anti-violence experts to develop training materials for high school coaches. We were successful, and now those resources are available for use on the NFHS website. They are not, however, mandatory. That’s why we developed this toolkit, designed for students, parents, and educators who want to ask their schools to require coaches to receive this kind of training.
At our 2013 training retreat, we talked a lot about representation: whose stories get told? How do we learn history? What does it mean when we only learn about the achievements of white men? We talked not just about our formal educations, but all the other places we learn who matters: statues, building names, currency, street names. And: Google Doodles. You know, those little cartoons that Google puts on their homepage when it’s a holiday or a huge sporting event or someone’s birthday? We talked about how it felt like we only ever saw dudes there. We wondered how bad it really was. So we started doing research, and it turns out: it was pretty bad. LIke, way bad. 76% white men kinda bad. After months of careful and painstaking research led by SPARKteam activist Celeste, we released our research at the start of 2014. Google took notice basically immediately: it turns out we had kind of blown up their spot. They knew they had a problem–with gender, anyway–and they were working to fix it. They had been planning to announce it in a month. Hah! We made headlines around the world, and when we checked in a little bit later, it seemed like they’d really held up to their word, at least on gender. Their representation of people of color was still seriously subpar. But, as Celeste noted, the Doodles take about six months from start to finish, so if Google is serious about representation in Doodles, they should be having an uptick right about…..now.
Women on the Map
Our Doodle Us campaign received global media attention and led Google to contact and meet with us (in a Google Hangout!). At our meeting, we discussed ways we could work together and we pitched a really rad project: Women on the Map. They loved it and we began partnering with them to launch this innovative and educational project hosted on Field Trip, a Google mapping app. We researched and wrote over 100 women around the world who did something incredible (not so hard to find – women have been kicking ass for thousands of years!). Then, using Field Trip, we linked those achievements with IRL places using Google Map technology. When you download Field Trip and turn on SPARK’s Women on the Map, your phone will buzz when you approach a place where a woman made history.
Like basically everyone else in the unvierse, we were obsessed with The Hunger Games in 2013. We had written about the series in 2012, and the marketing for the 2013 release of Catching Fire (the film) really struck a nerve with us. Covergirl was releasing a makeup line called the Capitol Collection, along with a “lookbook” that let buyers do their makeup like a tribute would in the days before they enter the arena. First of all: what? Second of all: that is literally what the Capitol would do. They would release a makeup line so you could do up your face like your favorite person who you’re about to watch die on live TV, and you would buy it, and then you would eat your food that was picked for you by literal slaves including the parents of the person whose makeup you’re drawing “inspiration” from, and then your lipstick would be ruined and so you would reapply your makeup as you cheer for death!
OK, apparently in 2015 this STILL strikes a nerve! Anyway: we thought this makeup line was ridiculous and absurd, so we got ridiculous and absurd right back. We started a blog called Capitol Cuties and invited readers to put on their Capitol Finest and submit their photos with captions that show what being in the Capitol is really about: power, corruption, and greed. We got a ton of super awesome submissions for this blog and had a LOT of fun doing it.
Black Women Create
In late 2013, SPARKteam activist Joneka had a realization: we’re always talking about how important it is for girls and women, and especially girls and women of color, to create their own media. But without role models, it’s incredibly difficult to figure out how to forge a path. It was hard to know where to look for inspiration and guidance. This was a problem. Her solution? Talk to Black women who are working behind the camera in the film and television industry about their careers, their goals, their passion, and most of all, their art. This idea became a blog series, Black Women Create. Our first interview was with filmmaker Tchaiko Omawale, followed by another with producer and creator Lena Waithe. This ongoing project brought us in contact with incredible women from all parts of the arts.