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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!’

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
Learn more »

Comments

Sharontina's picture

Powerful

Powerful posting dear, Keep it up. Yes, the world is a beautiful place when narrated by a girl like 'you'. i love that.

Much love

Merlin Sharontina

Jennifer Brier's picture

I hear you!

Thank you, Sister Sharontina~

I feel that much stronger knowing 'a girl like you' hears me! There is great power in just witnessing and hearing each other into our more authentic truth. Blessings!

Jennifer

"I am a woman, that's my weapon!" ~Catherine Robbins

LisaXi's picture

So True

I hear you.

It seems that pop culture, the media, and others influence the thoughts and perceptions of girls own self image in ways far more complex then we can imagine. I too heard lots of things from the peanut gallery when I decided to join the Peace Corps and serve in sub-saharan Africa- you see "a girl like me" just wouldn't do that sort of thing, or at least that's what others thought. It makes you wonder.... who are "they" to squash the dreams of girls and women? Who are they to say what we can and can't become? Who are they to judge our paths to greatness?

We are strong, we are smart, we are capable, we are forces to be reckoned with, and we can change the world.

Thank you for sharing your story.

Jennifer Brier's picture

Thank you for sharing your

Thank you for sharing your similar experinces with limiting feedback about your choices and 'our place' in society as women. I have often wondered how my path might have been different if the collective voice of women had been more audible when I was younger. None the less, I am thankful for our collective voice now and I stand firm in the truth that it will bring about significant change in our communities!

In partnership,

Jennifer

"I am a woman, that's my weapon!" ~Catherine Robbins

IamTruth's picture

We create our own narratives

This is such a great read Jennifer!

The thing about these limiting beliefs and narratives we are conditioned to accept about ourselves, and which you so eloquently write about, is that they are NEVER consistent. On the one hand, we are supposed to be weak and passive damsels in distress, yet on the other, we are supposed to be the know-it-all, fix-it-all, do-it-all moms in the households, secretaries in the workplace, and divas in the bedroom. Furthermore, every Jack, or Jill, or Joe you meet will have his or her own idea of who you 'should be'. So yes, you are quite right in that we are in charge of (and moreso, that we have to create) our own personal narratives, rather than let others dictate what ours should be.

Love and blessings,

IamTruth
(Al)

Jennifer Brier's picture

Thank you very much for your

Thank you very much for your comment and feedback. You are so right! The narratives or conditioned messages we receive are oftened inconsistant and unrealistic. The process of exploring my own internal landscape has been treacherous! It has made me stronger though!

In partnership,

Jennifer

"I am a woman, that's my weapon!" ~Catherine Robbins

ola.mahadi's picture

great post

The fact that there is resarch and data about media messages, girl's education.
Your post well done it showes diffrent angle of the issue in US.
Thank you for sharing it
Ola

It is never too late to try make your way to your dream and left up your expectation.
Sudanes Women Building Peace
www.suwepmovement.org

Jennifer Brier's picture

Eye-opening numbers

Thank you for your feedback, Ola! Research and stats can be so eye-opening!

Blessings,

Jennifer

"I am a woman, that's my weapon!" ~Catherine Robbins

Aminah's picture

well said

gender stereotypes is like a plaque that once caught, hard to get off.
Education and emancipation is important - for both genders so as to allow for mutual respect.
Without mutual respect, we will keep hearing terms like "a girl like you" and also terms like "be a man!"

Salaam
Aminah

Jennifer Brier's picture

Mutual Respect Indeed!

Yes, Aminah, you are so right that mutual respect and balance is very important. May we both demand mutual respect in all of our future relationships! Blessings!

Jennifer

"I am a woman, that's my weapon!" ~Catherine Robbins

aimeeknight's picture

Thank you for pointing out,

Thank you for pointing out, that even in the US with all of the opportunities available to us, there are still barriers.

This was a well written statement, "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."

Carry on Woman Warrior, keep up the great work!

"One shoe can change a life" ~ Cinderella

michelle904's picture

Very well said. Sometimes the

Very well said.
Sometimes the small messages of what we "should be like" can have a powerful impact onto the women that we become.

kati.mayfield's picture

We need more "Girls like you"!

Dear Jennifer,
You do such a wonderful job combining your personal anecdotes, research and resources for the rest of the community to check out, this is a really well-written article.
How do you think we can get women around the world challenging their societies the way that you challenged the commentary of your Corporal?
If you were to write a new movie or tv series starring a female character you could be proud of, what would she be like and what would the storyline be?
I look forward to reading more,
-Kati

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

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