I feel compelled to put pen to paper about our girls this week. Over the past month the press have gone into meltdown over several new research reports highlighting the challenges of growing up a girl in the UK. Clearly as a teen girl champion it is not news to me that girls are in crisis regarding body image, bullying, mental health, early sexualisation, lack of aspirations and social mobility, depression, sexual harassment in school and so on. I see it ALL the time in my work with Girls Out Loud.
However, as a society we are in denial about the effect technology, a toxic media, porn and a misogynistic culture have on our girls and women for that matter. We still live in a society where women are told over and over again their key value is their appearance. Just look at how the media responds to powerful women or how we position our Olympic champions. The message is clear, you can be successful but if you want anyone to take real notice of you, especially men, you also better be hot.
Girls are not immune or protected from any of this and the situation we find ourselves in today is the result of our ignorance and poor choices over the past 15 or so years. Unfortunately most of these new developments fuelling the exploitation of young girls cannot be put back in the box. The internet and social media is an integral part of life now. We allowed porn to be taken off the top shelf without a second thought to the effects this would have on our young and now the multibillion dollar porn industry is unstoppable and stealing our children’s innocence on a daily basis.
We all buy into the ideal beauty myth; we all allow boys to play computer games that position women as commodities; reality TV is now the only TV our teenagers tune into and how debilitating is that for personal aspiration? We created this minefield so we now have to equip them with the tools and empowering mind-set necessary to navigate their way towards the light and try to embed a positive identity and sense of self along the way.
And don’t even get me started on the endemic sexism we as women, simply accept as banter or the violence towards women we try not to see. Is this what we fought for? Is this the end game?
Equality and justice is still a pipedream. If we step aside now we can expect more of the same and less and less young women stepping up to pick up the baton. Even bright girls go to University for a Mrs not an Msc. Yes, believe me I have heard this many times, get into a good University with a goal to bag yourself an ambitious, rich in waiting husband. Any idea who the poster girl for this philosophy is?
If we want girls to be pioneers and not simply passengers or poster girls we need to lead the way, be the role models they need and keep our foot firmly on the gas.
Rant over for today!