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Thursday, June 10, 2010

HELP!!! Young Girls Need MORE, Strong Female Role Models

As a father of two daughters, ages six and eight respectively, I’m becoming more keenly attuned to social and media issues that project the wrong image of what a woman is or should be.

Even though my daughters have a tremendous role model in their mom, it’s difficult to fight the competing societal onslaught.

Simply stated, our society is intoxicated with female celebrity, youth and sex, and because of our collective fixation on that superficially-false, unholy trinity of “womanhood,” young girls are socialized into becoming something they’re not.

I don’t want my daughters aspiring to grow up to be Paris Hilton, Brittany Spears or Lady GaGa or any other vapid misrepresentation that society’s tastemakers are pushing as the latest, ever-changing definition of femininity.

This is not a new issue and it predates the ERA movement; National Organization of Women; the Suffragist Movement….etc.  However, the problem remains that despite all of that progress and advancement of women’s issues, things seem to be trending in the wrong direction for women – if the media is any kind of gauge.

In fact, singer/performer Pink wrote a song several years ago that echoes and laments the lack of strong female role models – here’s a link to the lyrics of her song Stupid Girls, which rightfully lampoons the shameful image of female super-starlets that is relentlessly foisted on the psyches’ of our daughters.
http://www.songlyrics.com/pink/stupid-girls-edited-lyrics/

Despite this reality, all is not lost!

A recent Yahoo! story offers a glimmer of hope. In the link, you’ll see that STRONG female role models such as former eBay CEO, Meg Whitman and former Hewlett-Packard CEO, Carly Fiorina are being recruited to run for political office as Republicans. That is great news – even if you disagree with GOP politics. Here’s the link, http://tinyurl.com/24xjvko

Politics aside, we need to encourage and support strong female role models, whether they're Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin. Saying that, I fully realize that it’s ultimately up to us as parents to help our daughters maximize their potential as women, but it would be a refreshing change if society didn’t undermine our efforts at every turn.

16 comments:

  1. What worked for me, and your daughters are still a little young for this, but in high school and college when I started working I looked for female role models in the work place. I found women I could relate to, look up to, and learn from. Society wasn't giving it to me, so I found it myself. To this day, at every company I work with I seek out select females to connect with. It helps even after you are beyond your young, impressionable years and just need a little inspiration.

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  2. Kelly, great suggestion - thanks so much! You're an excellent example of someone who was able to sidestep the societal morass that tries to entangle women and hold them back. Thanks again for the perspective and insight!

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  3. Amen to that!!

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  4. I SO agree with you. I found that constant conversation, reality checks with my two girls, now 22 and 24, kept THEM talking, thinking, and allowed for my positive output, and I was able to constantly remind them of the beauty they are in CHRIST... so amen, Deborah

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  5. your post about strong female role models is fantastic. Here, in Brasil, we have many bad models. we must prevent our teenagers contaminate their minds. Sorry, my english is bad !! A hug @renattamuniz

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  6. @Debbie, You hit on two key points - keeping your girls thinking for themselves and helping to keep them in Christ. I hope to have as solid a testimony for my girls when they reach their 20s. Thanks for the comment!

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  7. @Renatta, thanks so much for taking the time to read this post and make a comment. I completely agree that it's up to us to help protect the hearts and minds of our young ones - especially our daughters when we can.

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  8. I'm torn... bad role models, yes they are. But I still believe that the "equal" world we are raised to believe is "real" doesn't exist at all -- but not because of these women.

    Maybe it's because I work in a technical role and I'm surrounded by men an overwhelming majority of the time, but I've very much seen differences between how males and females are treated, especially by management, and I feel that this is more influential on women than a bunch of famous women making poor choices.

    Not sure I'm getting my viewpoint through without going into detail about my various jobs, which I cannot do, but the last 15 years of my work in the technical world has helped me realize that I would really like to start my own business and hand it on to my daughters -- because I want to protect and shelter them from the B.S. that I endure. The same B.S. that I was raised to believe didn't exist in our equal, "real," adult world.

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  9. @Kelly, great points and thanks for the post! To be clear, I'm not totally blaming the Britneys and GaGas of the world for the inequity; however, they are carriers of the contagion but the malady itself dates back to the dawn of humanity. I do believe that impressionable youth do internalize images and stereotypes of what society portrays as the "ideal woman" - as a result girls strive toward that ideal. As I said, strong female role models aren't the panacea to the problem but they can help. I appreciate your thoughtful comments and would like to see more of them here :-)

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  10. @All - Here's a FB message about this post I wanted to share. The writer said it was ok.
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    Tammy Byron Reniff June 10 at 8:21pm

    I agree with you, too. I'm a Mom of three girls ages 6, 13, and 15. I'm also a Girl Scout leader of two Girl Scout troops. Girl Scouts can be a great program for showing girls how to grow into good positive leaders as adults.

    Again it depends on the leader. Some leaders don't really follow the program or they have poor skills themselves. I usually just volunteer for whatever my kids are in...that way I know what they are getting out of it first hand.

    http://www.girlscouts.org/program/gs_central/promise_law/

    You'll find the Girl Scout promise and law here. The entire program revolves around these simple down to earth morals when the leader follows the program.

    The trick is to keep the girls interested by incorporating the values learned through fun activities and let them make choices along the way. If a leader leads by choosing for them and they get bored....they'll drop out.

    I had two girls in my troop this year who earned a Silver Award. They are going on to earn the Gold award next. These are the two highest awards Girl Scouts can earn.

    They had to show leadership skills, responsibility, and lots of hard work and dedication to earn this award. They did all this as well as 50 hours of community service all because they simply wanted to do it. They chose their own Community Service project so it was something they were already passionate about.

    When the gold award is completed there will be no college that will turn them down. Colleges know when they see the gold award on an application that they are looking at a hard worker with determination and strong leadership skills.

    Of course, like any group, Girl Scouts starts young. They can join as early as in kindergarten. You won't see Gold award material that young of course, but to get them started as beginners of thinking about others while they play and make new friends.

    They are never too young to learn how to try new things, learn about caring and respect, or to learn how to help others. and care about their environment. Every strong adventure has to start somewhere.

    Girl Scout Promise and Law
    www.girlscouts.org
    content

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  11. I am of the opinion that I will serve all my children best when they learn to gauge their success not by what society promotes, but by prayfully discerning what God is calling them to be. It is His voice that must be sought. That being said, that Pink song is actually one of my favs.
    :)

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  12. It's difficult at best to convince a young girl or tween that they should aspire to be like Hillary, Sarah, or Carly Fiorina. It's not much fun listening to political speeches on your ipod or looking at posters of female CEO's on your wall when your 12. It is our job as parents, however, to instill the values and morals that will win out over the things they are subjected to in music videos and lyrics. It would be refreshing, to say the least, if the entertainment industry held themselves accountable and began to reject the blatant sexual references and lude, degrading behavior that seems so popular now. All we can do is teach them right and steer them toward substance... And pray with them. My daughter is 19 now and I couldn't be prouder of the person she is, but it's not only girls we need to worry about. Boys are being told by their so-called role models, in no uncertain terms, that in order to be a "real man" you should be rude, direspectful and crass. It's a battle everyday to remind them of what it truly means to be a man. With faith and by maintaining a constant, positive presence in their lives, we can hopefully change the current tide.
    No one said it was going to be easy! Thank you, Tor, for your blogs. They are insightful and inspiring! Keep up the great writing.

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  13. @Beeg, great comment about "...prayerfully discerning what God wants them to be." THAT is the most important job of a parent.

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  14. @Rebecca, outstanding insight! Your point about blending faith with a continual positive presence is truly inspired! It's obvious how and why your 19-year old turned out so well! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment - I hope to hear more from you!

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  15. Deborah A. Ten BrinkJune 11, 2010 at 8:54 AM

    Tor, what a fantastic post. My "girls" are 26 and 29. But, I remember well what it was like when they were trying to figure out what they wanted to "be." The world is constantly throwing sex in our face, immorality is portrayed as "fun," and unless a woman dresses provocatively, she's boring. I have a son that will be 31 shortly. I had a harder time with him than my daughters. I wanted him to see that "real" women weren't like what he saw in the movies or on TV. He really believed and got caught up in the glossy photos and celebrity hype. He loves Paris Hilton and the Pussycat Dolls. Now, he has a 6 year old daughter. He's starting to rethink things a bit!!! My daughters and I have stayed close and discuss all aspects of being a real woman, wife, and mother. I try to teach that being themselves and enjoying each stage of your life as a woman, leads to self-acceptance and a healthy self-esteem. Love life, be who God intended you to be, and leave the Paris', Britney's, and Lindsay's to and all their exploits to the tabloids.

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