As we work to spread the emboldening message of The Breast Archives, there is a deepening awareness of the effort and brilliance of OTHERS who are generating body-positive messages for young women. Today we’re proud to spotlight a handful of trail-blazers who are actively shifting the landscape, and making the world safer and brighter for young people of every stripe.
As The Breast Archives demonstrates, the deeper dimensions of a young womens’ inner experience are often overlooked. It’s this precise corridor of time when girls begin to be bombarded by social messaging that shames and promotes feelings of inadequacy. Unfortunately, candid discussions regarding the body’s functions, its emerging sensuality, and the spectrum of social and bodily changes taking place, are rare. Instead, the focus shifts to the rush of new stimuli (music, boys, products…), which often supersedes the personal feelings and conflicts a girl may be experiencing. This creates a profound vulnerability – and handicap – for girls.
Did you know:
–Over 70% of girls age 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities, such as attending school, when they feel bad about their looks.
–75% of girls with low self-esteem reported engaging in negative activities like cutting, bullying, smoking, drinking, or disordered eating.
These are staggering, devastating numbers, and it is no surprise that as these girls grow into women, more problems ensue such as a vulnerability to abuse (from partners, bosses, and family members who shame and disempower, for example), poor health management, poor choice in romantic and sex partners, and so much more. We must work to change the paradigm for girls as teens, if we ever want to see real change in society as a whole.
Luckily, we have these brave women who are working to fill this void:
Rosalind Wiseman penned the book, Queen Bees and Wannabees, on which the movie “Mean Girls” is based. Rosalind’s work revolves around treating young people with dignity, and teaching them to treat each other that way as well. According to her website, “All of her work is based on the belief that young people’s experiences are important but often discounted and that adults often give young people advice without listening to them first.” She also writes books dedicated to helping young men walk through the world on respectful, emotionally non-violent paths. Rosalind Wiseman inspires us by helping young people own their own lives and moving the culture to a place of greater kindness.
Thank you Rosalind for listening to and believing in our teens.
Peggy Orenstein takes on the “girlie-girl” culture in Cinderella Ate My Daughter, which explores the impact that this societally-imposed need to be pretty and well-liked has on young women. She was already an award-winning journalist and author of SchoolGirls: Young Women, and Self-Esteem and the Confidence Gap (which she wrote when her daughter was born). Her most recent book, Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape offers parents a candid vision of the teen landscape, going beyond a sensationalistic depiction of the “hooking up” culture and looking at the pressure that pornography and a sexualized media puts on young women. Peggy looks unflinchingly at what our society is doing to girls and young women, and at how damaging it is when a girl believes her public image is the standard by which everything about her character is measured.
Thank you Peggy for your courage and honesty.
For many years, educator Katharine Kreuger struggled as she witnessed the negative connotations brought to young girls’ perception of their bodies, sexuality, and menstruation. In response to this culture of shame, she founded Journey of Young Women in 2009. Today, JOYW trains mentors to guide girls through their transitions to womanhood, Girls’ Circles in which young women can connect and support each other under adult supervision, virtual Red Tents, and more. Katharine Kreuger inspires us by creating a kinder, gentler, more female-centered world in which girls can grow and thrive.
Thank you Katherine for your insight, and for holding space for our girls.
When Rachel Simmons was considering writing her first book, she wanted to explore a topic that she knew about firsthand: the hidden culture of aggression among teen girls. At the time, bullying was still perceived as something that happened on the playground…something that mean boys did to weaker peers. Simmons, then a Rhodes scholar, saw something different. She began to talk to middle school and high school girls about their experiences. The girls confided in her. They described themselves and their friends as “sneaky” and “manipulative.” They talked about a world in which rumor and innuendo were wielded as weapons and in which the power to include or exclude another was ultimate. Her book, Odd Girl Out, was published in 2002, and has since been recently revised, updated, and reissued. She is also the founder of Girls Leadership and the author of two more books, The Curse of the Good Girl and Enough As She Is. Rachel Simmons inspires us by helping us to understand the world our daughters, nieces, and granddaughters live in and by guiding us as we raise them into women who can change it.
Thank you Rachel for your inspiration and leadership.