Take a momentary journey with me into the mind of a young girl who is entering puberty, emerging from the innocence of the grade school years. Her mind is looking for meaning to match the (rather frightening) changes happening in her body. Her searching mind is bombarded with hundreds, maybe thousands, of images daily which define for her what she must become. Is she being reassured that the changes of puberty are natural and priceless, that they signal the possibility of motherhood and nurturning? Is she being reassured that these life-giving powers carry a responsibility to care for herself because one day her body may sustain life for a helpless child who will depend completely upon her? Are these cultural images urging her to cherish and protect her sexual drives, allowing them only to be expressed when she is loved and cared for in a permanent relationship? Is she being taught that growing up female is a safe and delightful adventure?
The cultural message of today make growing up a “minefield;” a daily battle, and the prevalence of bullying that we see is the result of growing up in this cultural war.
1. The images of imaginary perfection made common by photo enhancement give girls a painful, life-long, message: “I can’t measure up.” It’s a “nagging beast” that spawns a compulsive need to look better, do better, be better, because “You are not enough.” And what’s happening to the starving emotional and spiritual part of her while she is obsessed with physical appearance? It’s hard to be kind when you are battling the gnawing anxiety of never measuring up.
2. Today’s sexualized stereotypes leave girls longing for healthy connection, an inherent part of their female biology. Sexualized images teach girls that their reproductive body parts have value for one thing only: sex. But not the kind of sex that brings emotional safety, nurturing, and the assurance of lifelong commitment. Instead, girls long for reassurance from boys that their bodies are “sexy,” attractive enough to meet the grade. (Rather like dismembered chickens at the meat market.) They long for supportive connection with other girls but despairingly, are competitors in an unconscious quest for status and boys. In a competition, someone needs to win and someone needs to lose.
3. Consider the impact the abortion culture has on the developing mind of a young girl. Why would she value her body when the procreative product of her body is so valueless that it can be destroyed for convenience, and as we have learned recently, dismembered and sold to the highest bidder? What’s so special about being a girl when the culture asks her to deaden her sense of maternal protectiveness in favor of reproductive “freedom?” The ultimate message is that there isn’t anything special about being female. A female is merely the reproductive counterpart of a male who needs to prove that she can function emotionally and physically the same as a male. Why would we expect a girl who is being taught to devalue and dull her maternal sensitivities (so powerful they were once called “Mother Bear” instincts) to treat other girls well?
We have myriad programs that aim to build “girl power,” that tell girls to value themselves and each other, but the images of our media culture speak louder than words.
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