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The #MeToo campaign placed a necessary spotlight on sexual abuse and rape. The #MeAt14 campaign followed on its heels after politician Roy Moore was accused of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old when he was 32 and district attorney. The point of the latter campaign was to show what 14 looked like, reminding everyone that a 14-year-old cannot legally consent in any state.


However, there were problems with the #MeAt14 campaign that I sensed but couldn’t identify for days. Women posting pictures of themselves at 14 and telling what they were interested in during that time in life was powerful. It drew attention to how serious the allegations against Moore were, an important accomplishment since he somehow still has defenders.

Why, then, did this campaign leave me with a sinking feeling?

I stumbled across an article in the Washington Post and immediately saw part of the problem. While most girls were posting pictures of themselves with phrases about being carefree and waiting to get their braces off, a slew of already-abused girls were underrepresented. The pictures of innocence and carefree living weren’t real for girls who had already been preyed upon by the age of 14. They couldn’t put up a picture of their young virginal selves because that reality had already been taken from them.

Purity culture, an unfortunate sub-culture within religious establishments that I am all too familiar with, leaves these women on the sidelines, much like the #MeAt14 campaign unintentionally did. As a woman who survived multiple rapes during her teen years, Elizabeth Smart said her upbringing in the purity culture made being repeatedly raped even harder to endure. “After that first rape, I felt crushed. Who could want me now?” she said,  pointing out the dangers of equating a woman’s worth with her status as a virgin.

The other problem with the campaign hit me the day after reading the Washington Post article. It wasn’t only problematic for those who had already been sexually assaulted or raped by the age of 14. It was also problematic for girls who weren’t innocent, as many described themselves in the #MeAt14 campaign, by choice.

I knew girls who fit the image of the nerd who was listening to New Kids on the Block and trying to record songs from the radio onto cassette without getting any of the commercials. Some version of that saccharin-sweet image appeared constantly as the #MeAt14 campaign rolled out.

I also knew girls at 14 who were giving blow jobs after school. These girls didn’t seem to be represented at all in the campaign, even though they also shouldn’t have been preyed on by a 32-year-old district attorney. The sexual desires and perceived innocence of girls aren’t factors when we’re talking about rape.

This campaign, though well-intentioned, played into the idea that “good women don’t get raped,” a belief that Yolanda Moses, anthropologist and consultant for preventing sexual assault, says is prevalent in our society. It’s a major reason that women adopt the approach of looking innocent, don’t talk about masturbation, and don’t express their desires. Exploring those issues is normal and expected for boys, but they aren’t largely welcome topics coming from girls.

This is especially true of women who have been raped or sexually assaulted. There’s an instinctive need to appear like sex doesn’t cross our minds, that we didn’t do anything to “deserve” what happened to us. Moses says “society tends to blame victims,” and it’s easy to look across the landscape today and see how true that statement is.

The world has a problem with girls who want: they don’t fit into the desired view of female innocence that is still seemingly necessary in order to cultivate sympathy when a woman is harmed. When a woman accuses a man of sexual assault or rape, people try to cast her as a girl who just might have sexual desires and who just might have had consensual sex at some point before being forced to do it against her will, as if these are horrendous acts comparable to her attacker’s decision to rape her.   

What would be the reaction if women actually stepped forward and said they want and that they figured out how to want at a young age? Those women know instinctively that they will not be listened to when sex is forced on them because, in the eyes of many, to express sexual desire means giving up the right to say no.

What do we do for our girls?

Girls need support, and psychoanalyst and author Joyce McFadden says that moms not talking about sex with their daughters can be life-changing in all the wrong ways. She’s found that grown daughters “felt resentful that, without support, their sexuality couldn’t be assimilated into their sense of self like other facets of living could, like their intellect, creativity, kindness or athleticism.”

We give our girls permission to be anything they want in most cases, but we still don’t want to talk to them about sexual desires and where that fits into their lives. McFadden confirms that the consequences are many, because daughters will not likely turn to their mothers for support after sexual abuse or rape if the conversations about bodies and desires aren’t taking place under normal conditions. McFadden said that the daughters “reasoned, if my mother couldn’t even talk to me about normal sexual stuff she certainly won’t be able to handle being there for me around sexual complications or traumas.”

What can we say and do to help our girls express desire and give them permission to come to us when they are harmed? Here are some ideas.

Talk about sex like it’s a good thing

Every parent is going to come at sex talks from a different place based on their values and religious beliefs. It’s still universal that sex can, in fact, be awesome.

No matter what we are telling our girls about sex, we don’t need to forget to let them know that it’s okay to have desires, to be excited about sex when it’s the right time, and to feel free to ask every question on the planet.

We also need to eliminate the idea of what Shulamit Almog and Karin-Carmit Yefet call the “humiliation scale.” This scale rewards girls who engage in sex that is considered acceptable for their gender and seeks to humiliate those who step out of line. It’s a way to keep girls who want to talk about sexual desires in line and, unfortunately, silent.

Don’t make girls the gatekeepers

The words that seeped into my brain when I was younger stuck, and they’ve resurfaced lately. They aren’t pretty. As a child and teen, I heard:

  • Women might not get raped if they dressed modestly.
  • That guy has three kids by three different women. When will these girls stop spreading their legs?
  • Boys can’t stop. They get turned on, and if a girl lets them go too far, they can’t stop themselves.
  • Normal girls don’t want sex. Boys are the horny ones.

That’s a lot of responsibility for girls. Females aren’t supposed to want, plus they are supposed to keep men’s desires in check at all times. That leaves very little room for girls to talk about and understand their own desires. It also paints men as uncontrolled animals with a testosterone overdose, an unfair depiction and a cop-out.

Don’t make girls the gatekeepers for boys or men. Don’t ever make them feel like if something happens and they come for help, they are going to be questioned about their roles in their own rapes or abuse.

Don’t give permission for others’ bad behavior

There are always going to be people who believe women constantly lie about being raped, that they somehow ask for it, or that what they wear or how they act means they deserve their fates. Speak truth boldly in the face of these lies.

There are times to let people agree to disagree, but this isn’t one of them. Speak up and speak out to help others understand the absurdity of their words and the thought processes behind them. Whether or not minds are changed, it’s important to put the truth out in the open so people who choose to be willfully blind won’t have any excuses. We need our girls to see us stand up for what is right so they will know we take no part in a mindset that says they deserve to be harmed.

The #MeAt14 campaign wasn’t bad, but like many things we try to do to prove we shouldn’t be victims of sexual assault, it put the pressure back on women to provide innocent pictures with innocuous anecdotes to safeguard them from judgment. Moore should have been the one on the defense, not women, even those who were thinking about more than Caboodles and getting perms at the age of 14. When we’re living in a world where a woman is comfortable saying she loves sex and people still understand this in no way gives someone the right to force her into sex, we’ll be making real progress.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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For many families, getting out the door in the morning is one of the biggest hurdles in our day, whether you've got one kiddo or multiples. Mama needs to get ready, children need to find that missing sock, and everyone needs to find something to eat—all while making it to the car before the entire day is running behind.

So we asked Chairman Mom members for their best tips and tricks to getting out the door faster in the mornings. Here's what they shared:

1. Get your kids to help prep the night before

"The simplest thing you can do to streamline the morning is prep everything that can be prepped the night before. Often easier said than done. But once your kids are old enough, they can own a lot of this."—Amy

2. Set an alarm using your kid's favorite song 

"Something small that saves us a few minutes: I put on an alarm with my 3 three year old's favorite song at 7:42, he knows it signals it's time to get his shoes and coat on."—Nogo

3. Use smart technology 

"We use Google Home (I'm sure Alexa would do this too) to read kids a story. So much easier to stop after the story is over then telling her to shut off the tv from watching a show!"—Maven

4. Try wearing a mom uniform 

"I don't wear make up, and my hair is an inch long, so I do not spend any time styling anything. I have an Office Casual Uniform arrangement of clothing, shoes, and jewelry, so there is no real choice involved. I have a coffee maker that is programmable, so I set it up the night before to brew at 6:15am."—Melinite

5. Simplify your beauty routine

"I do mascara and tinted sunscreen. Lipstick that I can put on without a mirror."—Julie

6. ...and your kid's beauty routine

"I brush and braid my daughter's hair the night before so that we don't have to deal with tangles in the morning. This saves the morning from going off the rails..."—Crystal

7. Hire extra help just for the mornings 

"I have a nanny for 45 minutes every morning that comes to help us. That's the best hack my husband and I have found to have happy and stress free mornings and be working or at work by 8 or 8:30 am."—Maria

8. Make breakfast super easy 

"Keep breakfast food at my office (instant oatmeal, nuts + dry fruit) that I eat at my desk while doing the first round of email."—Petya

9. Find those lost socks

"Whenever I have a MOMENT I prep lunches, fix sandwiches, put them in Tupperware, chop fruit, etc. (Oh! I even let the kids earn extra spending money by chopping the week's fruit for me on Sunday with butter knives) And get uniforms and SOCKS ready. Finding socks can eat up a good 10 minutes of my morning routine."—Sarah

10.  Take the guesswork out of what your kid will wear

"I have a toddler who hates changing out of her PJs so we just dress her in her day clothes the night before—one less battle to fight in the morning."—Jess

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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