On a daily basis we are inundated with media messages that make not-so-subtle suggestions on how we should live our lives: how we should look, what we should eat, who we should surround ourselves with, and more. More often than not, these messages are harmful by promoting unattainable standards. And if they are harmful for adults, can you imagine what the effects these messages have on our youth, especially young girls?
Here at the Center, we believe in helping young girls foster a healthy and positive sexual identity because in doing so, they are empowered to expect and demand relationships free from coercion, disrespect, and violence. But, in order to encourage this, we need to help our girls build resilience against harmful media messages that promote the objectification and sexualization of young girls.
It is no easy task to just ignore the media and all the pressures that come with it. But if we want our society to change, and if we want our girls to believe they are wonderful just as they are, then we need to provide women and girls with skills to recognize and reject harmful media messages.
1. Explore media alternatives
About-Face provides some great alternatives to traditional media for girls. They suggest movies like Drop Dead Gorgeous and Mean Girls. Blogs like Feministing and Jezebel are also great resources for young women and girls that shut out the harmful noise of traditional media.
2. Spend time with your family
Spend quality time with the ones you love, without the TV. Play games, do something active, make arts and crafts with each other. Much of the media does not place very much importance on nurturing relationships, so what better way to show our girls the value in relationships than to enjoy each other’s company.
3. Stop talking about your weight (especially in front of young girls)
Girls are great listeners, and they are listening to the way you talk about yourself and other women. According to About-Face, this is how they learn the language of womanhood. Young women can only learn body acceptance if they see examples of women who love and accept their own bodies.
4. Voice your opinion
Speak out against harmful ads and the companies that use them. Your letters, emails, and phone calls really make a difference. About-Face has numerous petitions that send individual emails to companies that need to hear your voice in order to make a change. “A three-pronged approach of writing a letter stating WHY you will not be purchasing a company’s products anymore (and then not purchasing them…) will go a long way toward helping our media environment change for the better.”
5. Be a role model for young girls to break the mold and set new standards!
Kids learn from example, so model the behavior you want them to learn. Be on the lookout for “teachable moments,” and initiate conversations about what you see in the world and in the media. Always be open to conversation, and remember that dialogue goes both ways.
Bianca Di Marcello is our Community Education intern. She supports the Community Education Team in their efforts to prevent violence in our community.