A Girl Like You...
“Why would a girl like you join the Marine Corps?” I wiped the sweat from my face and looked up from the radio I was working on. Corporal Litman was looking straight at me.
I was confused and hurt by the comment, but the feisty rebellion I have never learned to control lashed out at him. I looked at my fellow Marine standing next to me, who was also a woman, and shrugged. “I’m not sure which one of us should be offended.” I said.
“What ‘kind of a girl’ is supposed to join the Marine Corps, Corporal?” Now, he just shrugged and walked away.
This experience was not the first or the last time someone tried to impose their ideas of what ‘a girl like me’ should or shouldn’t be doing. I was blessed to have a mother and father that supported me in my decisions as I ventured out on my own as a young woman, however having the support of my parents did not make me immune to the sting of that often heard phrase...”a girl like you.”
Girls in the United States are bombarded by messages of what they ‘should be like.’ There are many paths to education and careers for girls in the United States however if girls don’t believe they are capable or if they don’t realize the importance of they’re contributions to the world then it is not likely they will reach for their dreams through education. The ultimate barriers holding girls back are the limiting beliefs and narratives they are conditioned to believe about themselves.
Limiting narratives about girls are perpetuated by media continuously. The conditioning begins very young. A study by the American Psychological Association found that men outnumber women four to one in cartoons. Male characters are often depicted as powerful, aggressive, and dominant while female characters are still often depicted as “damsels in distress.” Really? Even in the cartoons!
A 2010 study by the Kaiser Foundation and Children Now found that media favored by teenage girls often contain stereotypical messages about appearance, relationships and careers. Findings in the study confirm previous research which shows that appearance is shown as more important-and uniformly idealized-for women than men. Also the priorities and activities of women in the media may send girls implicit messages that relationships are more important than study, occupation, or career since women are portrayed as spending much of their time dating and talking about the opposite sex while men are primarily seen working and concerned about their success.
Dr Timothy Wilson, a world renowned psychologist, discussed in his most recent book, Redirect, that changing our personal narratives, even slightly, can have a drastic effect on how we view ourselves, the world around us, and our place in it. He refers to a study that showed a decrease in teen pregnancy within a control group consisting of teenage girls who were engaged in community service over a group who were not actively engaged in service to others. We can draw the conclusion that when these girls know their worth in the world and change the messages they have about their worth then they are more likely to focus on service and make more healthy lifestyle decisions.
There are many opportunities for girls in the United States to be actively engaged in service locally or even globally. Community work in the service of other girls certainly helps raise awareness and confidence in American girls even more! Here are just a few opportunities to ignite the fire:
~Girl Up: Uniting Girls to Change the World is an innovative campaign of the United Nations Foundation. Girl Up gives American girls the opportunity to become global leaders and channel their energy and compassion to raise awareness and funds for United Nations programs that help some of the world’s hardest-to-reach adolescent girls.
~Day of the Girl is a campaign to help galvanize worldwide enthusiasm for goals to better girls’ lives, providing an opportunity for them to show leadership and reach their full potential.Day of the Girl encourages girls in towns and cities across America to participate in our Day of the Girl Proclamation Project. These official declarations will spread awareness about this new girls’ rights day that will be celebrated each year on October 11. This nonprofit organization, located in Washington, DC, is eager to help individual girls, schools and community organizations pursue local proclamations as well as other events for 10.11.12.
~Girls For A Change (GFC) is a national organization that empowers girls to create social change. GFC invite young women to design, lead, fund and implement social change projects that tackle issues girls face in their own neighborhoods. The program inspires girls to have the voice, ability and problem solving capacity to speak up, be decision makers, create visionary change and realize their full potential.
We all play a part in the messages we choose to send to the girls around us and even more so to the girls within us. Make it a good message!
The world is a beautiful place when it’s narrated by a ‘girl like me!’