Imagine a world where it was safe to be a woman, safe to be a girl and grow up with positive images of girls and women. Images that show women as smart, strong, confident, loving themselves just the way they are, in all body types, all ages and free from any constraints regarding their sexuality.
To live in a world where being female was not something that needed to be defended, protected, hidden or exploited, but rather honored, respected, loved and supported. What would it feel like to live in a world where feminine values were an integral part of the culture?
I am asking these questions because I have been doing research recently on the subject of “girl world” or what it means to be a girl growing up in the 21st Century, and I have to say I am horrified. Now I know this is a rather strong word to be using but it nevertheless is true. Having a God daughter who just turned 15 I decided to do some serious reading regarding the current sexualization of girls and children by the media and the marketing mongols. What I discovered was that it is really difficult to survive 'girl world' today. Boys are challenged as well in different ways, but I am just speaking about girls for the moment.
In today's world girls have to navigate through the trenches of "mean girl mentality" and blatant sexual harassment in their high school halls. In the book Queen Bees and Wanna Bees by Rosiland Wiseman, the author speaks about the existing pack mentality that is rampart in middle schools and high schools today for both boys and girls. It addresses the hierarchical positions of power in the girl cliques that exist and how each girl rivals each other for the Alpha Girl or Queen Bee's attention. Each girl has a part to play that is often not authentic but necessary for survival in girl world. Maybe it is because I don't have a daughter of my own, but I was seriously shocked to hear about the conduct girls are exhibiting amongst themselves. I know girl cliques have been a standard in schools for years, but I don’t remember them ever being so nasty.
The questions I asked myself were how did this happen, and why? When did girls become so nasty and mean to each other? When did power over others become so rampit in high school or even middle school? The answer is because we live in a world that fosters masculine values over feminine ones and teaches our children that power is everything. The concept of power over rather than cultivating power from within is valued and praised.
From a Tantric perspective the feminine is valued and appreciated. The woman is usually seen as being strong and proud of her sexual power. Power from within is not a new concept and I first heard this term fromStarhawk in her book Truth or Dare. It means to feel ones power from within oneself rather than to take control over another. Cultivating power from within takes courage and builds character and I consider this to be the only true power we can have.
All of the things I believed the Women’s Liberation Movement fought to change o many years ago regarding the stereotypes of women, are in full swing in ‘girl world’. And did you know that the ideal girl/young woman that girls often try to emulate is Barbie? I kid you not. Yes, Mattel’s multimillion dollar doll that I played with when I was just a girl is bigger than ever and more influential than ever. Fashion models notwithstanding the images that the media and companies like Disney are still feeding the youth of America are very stereotypical. The only difference is that now Barbie has a brief case or drives a race car.
“Marketer's, illustrators, authors, songwriters, TV producers, movie screen writers, journalists, buyers for mall stores, and more are currently competing with you for the right to teach your little girl what it means to be a girl.” ( Packaging Girlhood, Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes).
Girls are told that they must strive to become more like a doll than themselves. Is it just me or is there something really off with that philosophy. Girls ages 3-18 are bombarded with what it means to have girl power according to fashion designers and marketers, essentially boiling it down to learning how to dress sexy or like a princess and shop, shop, shop. Girls are being bombarded with commercials that tell them if they just buy this pair of shoes they will be popular or hot. They are still learning that being sexy is the only thing that matters for a girl, and that what is important is how they look. Sexual empowerment equals looking sexy.
In a previous blog, The Sisterhood of Women, I speak of the possibility of women learning how to truly be what I call a 'temple sister'. In this model, (and you can find out more about this at The School of Womyn's Mysteries), women and girls learn how to support each other, communicate with each other in authentic ways and to value each other equally even when in a relationship with a man.
Teaching and modeling for them how to honor and value each other is essential if they are to have meaningful and healthy relationships with women as they grow up. The model of cooperation and collaboration rather than competition and separation are new the new themes emerging in the world of women today.
Sex, boys, being popular and part of the in crowd have always been apart of "girl world." What has not is the rampart overt sexualization of women and girls through the media, music and advertising.
Some Things You Can do as a ParentIf you have a daughter or are a big sister to a young girl who is currently being affected by this or is a tween or teenager these are a few suggestions that you can do to help support you and her.
- I encourage you to speak with other parents and to seek out programs that can support your daughter and you through this.
- Become more educated and aware of the problem by reading books on the subject. Some of the books that I have found really helpful, besides the ones already mentioned are: The Lolita Effect, The Power of Beauty, The Beauty Myth and The Secret Lives of Girls. (all of these books can be found on Amazon or at your local library).
- Find ways to share what your wisdom with your daughter in ways that she can relate too and also understand that she probably already has a good idea of what is going on.
- There are also programs available to young girls called Maiden Spirit which will raise her consciousness, give her support, and help her to maintain being her own person.
- Join with other parents who feel like you do, take your power back from the media and speak to the principal and or head of your school district. Invite them to discuss the situation and brain storm on ways to shift it.
Your comments are appreciated and I am happy to respond when I can.Invite in a program to your daughter's school that can help raise the awareness of both boys and girls like the one Rosiland Wisemen offers.