Wednesday, June 27, 2012

KEEP IT REAL


No one told me I was smart when I was a child; they only said I was pretty.  At 10, I never read books with strong female leads like Junie B. Jones or Stargirl; I was too busy learning the best ab work-outs and how to apply mascara from the articles in Seventeen. I’m turning 23 in one week and to this day, I wake up every morning to see how my belly juts out against my pants. I still feel like a failure every time my cravings concede to a piece of chocolate. But I know the beast that made me. I dedicated my academic career to studying gender behavior and media theory to help destroy it. And I will continue to do everything in my power not to let this mental condition get the best of another girl.  Because we are more than our waist line, our bust size, our skin tone, or our curves. Our aspirations are greater than wanting to be thin, wanting a boyfriend, or coveting to have all the attention in the school. Deep within every girl is gumption and drive, yet at such formative ages those amazing qualities are too easily snuffed out of existence by glitzy media saying “Who you think you are isn’t who you should be.”

Recently I worked as a site leader for a youth group coming in to help fix up a home for someone in need. The ice-breaker question I posed was “What did you want to be when you were a child?” There were 9 people in the group, 6 of them girls. One girl named Jeannie said, “Astronaut.” One girl named Katie said, “cake decorator.” And another girl, Lauren, said, “Concert pianist.”  Later in the day, I asked some of the girls what their life aspirations were. Katie said, “To get a boyfriend.” Jeannie said, “To be a supermodel.” When I prodded them some more, it was revealed that Katie wants to travel to Italy and that secretly she still wanted to open her own cake-decorating business.

It compels me to tears thinking about how much energy and attention I devoted to complying to the rules laid out for me in those early issues of Cosmo Girl and Seventeen. And to see girls openly changing their goals to match the roles they see their idols filling in magazines and TV shows shallows my breath. If ad agencies and magazine editors and TV scriptwriters do not start realizing the immense impact they have on young minds, and how damaging it is to them and in return, our nation, our society, our world will never change. It’s time to keep it real, people. 

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