In my work studying the sons of single and two-mother families, I found deep concern about the lack of male role models for these boys. But shift genders, and girls and female role models is a conversation we seldom seem to have.
Part of that is the fact that 80 percent of the single parent families in the U.S. are headed by females. Combined with two-parent families, it’s statistically likely that girls will have a female role model in residence.
Still, we’re up against powerful cultural and media currents. The great post-feminist irony is that in an age of hard-won female opportunity, media is channeling that opportunity to a place of hyper-sexualized stupidity. It’s not who you are — it’s how hot you are.
Ask a young girl about the females she looks up to, and chances are good that — after family members — her list will be crowded with celebrities.
Young women at the most emotionally malleable time in their lives will naturally turn to celebrities for cues on everything from love to dress to sexuality. You don’t have to spend a lot of time wading around in the media muck to see that young females are represented by a collection ranging from sad to frightening — whose claim to celebrity is becoming a coarse side show.
But give girls some credit.
Most are not going to pattern their behavior on women who exit stores without paying or exit limos without underwear. They understand there is no reality show potential in the young women who manage to build public careers without making sex tapes, having sex in communal hot tubs, or collapsing on a Hollywood sidewalk at 3 a.m.
But at the same time, we can’t dismiss celebrity’s cumulative power. Sex objects in disarray have become the depressing norm. Strong, confident, accomplished women are out there by the legions. But they are going about building lives beyond the peripheral vision of popular culture.
Especially for young girls, peers provide the guide to things socially acceptable and desirable. Studies show very clearly that popular media is a super-peer; a force that can literally shape identities at a time when those identities are in play.
None of that is new. What’s new is that technology has made sleaze-celebrity extremely loud and incredibly intimate.
I remember those innocent days when a mother could say: “I don’t let my kids watch MTV.” Good luck with that today. Celebrity images are blasted at young girls 24 hours a day, pinging from TV screens to computer screens to smart phone screens.
The web has knocked down the appearance of separation between image and real-life. These professional bad examples are fully interactive. Experience enough of the Bad Girls Club, and you could come to accept that the acceptable — even preferable — response is a punch in the face.
The problem is more obvious than the solutions. The media culture is a formidable beast.
Still, some are pushing back. Sisters and parents Abi and Emma Moore founded a UK Website called Pinkstinks (pinkstinks.org.uk) to counter marketing and media they see as overwhelmingly focused on girls being pretty, passive, and obsessed with shopping. They pick on pink as the default color for all things submissive and girly.
Their mission is to use multimedia and partnerships to confront the “damaging messages that bombard girls though toys, clothes and media.”
The site started when Abi was making a film for CNN about scientist Naomi Halas, who is quietly and anonymously doing ground-breaking work using nano-technology to fight cancer. At the same time, Paris Hilton was being released from jail to a tsunami of media coverage — including telling Barbara Walters that she found spirituality in jail. And her skin was dry. That was enough for the sisters, and their website was born.
One website — or 20 — won’t stem the tide. But with a shared and wide commitment to present — and, if we’re lucky, to be — the real role models, we might lift young girls above it.
To think about what happened yesterday or a year ago or 20 years ago.
To think you could have done something different that would have made things better.
Or link all of the memories together into a story and calling it ‘me.’
But it’s all nonsense.
What happened even 20 seconds ago has nothing to do with what you are now.
From the perspective of the mind you are this person that stretches back in time. You are the sum of all of your memories.
But this is only mental chatter. It has nothing to do with what you truly are.
Truly, meaning not what you think yourself to be but what is here beyond all the thinking nonsense.
No matter what you may think about it, you are alive in this moment.
Yesterday is not alive; yesterday is nonexistent.
Right now, there is the undeniable sense of life beyond all the useless definitions and descriptions.
Right now life is happening and it is your choice whether you are alive in this moment or you choose to distract yourself about endless commentaries of what happened before, what might happen later and what to call this moment so the mind can understand it.
If you choose in this moment to experience yourself alive then you are radiance.
It is no easy task, it requires your complete attention to remain here on what is really going on in this moment.
Not your ideas about what is going on, not your knowledge of what it felt like 10 seconds ago to be alive in this moment.
But right here; living is happening, life is happening.
Not for your body or your mind or any of that nonsense.
You allow all that to be but you look past it.
Something much bigger, life itself in its totality radiating even exploding in this moment with such force that it belittles the mind, belittles the idea of this self important ‘you’ with all its problems and desires.
Its not really about getting a certain pleasure or attainment but being alive, being willing enough to truly feel life happening in this moment and remaining alive, remaining attentive to the direct experience that life is happening forever and ever in this moment.
To remain immersed in the source of life that is lighting up the whole show.
And if you even think about it you miss it.
If you know it you miss it.
It is too simple for understanding.
Too close to you to even be seen.
You can only be and recognize being, which are really the same thing.
You fully recognize being in this moment and there is no room for anything else.
I wonder whether in real life you are as confident as what this blog tells everyone to be :) somehow I think that you might at some point feel unhappy with yourself. regardless, I still love your blog and you are always awesome. thank you for being so inspirational.
I can only speak for myself, but in all honesty I don’t always feel happy with myself. I don’t think anyone does all the time, really. At times I do kind of laugh and think, “Here I am promoting love for yourself and all of those around you, but I don’t even love myself.”
Depending on the day, those thoughts can weigh heavily on my mind. But I’m learning that I have the ability to choose what I think about and the way I see myself.
I started probation a year ago and because I stopped smoking weed I actually eat now, I've gained at least fifty pounds and I literally hate myself. I want to physically hurt anyone when they tell me I'm still pretty. I don't even understand how I hated myself before when I was actually some what thin because I can't even look in the mirror now. I don't really expect a response, I just needed to say all of that to someone.
Hi darling, we’re here for you, okay? I promise. And other people are there for you, too. I cannot say that I understand perfectly, as I have not been in your shoes. But as a human, as a woman, I get it to some extent. Do not fear the reflection you see in the mirror. Be proud of who you are. Although I promise you are beautiful on the exterior as well, beauty is defined by what is on the inside. And you, I promise, are a strong, intelligent, capable, kind, and loving human being. You are beautiful. xoxoo
“The problem with labels is that they lead to stereotypes and stereotypes lead to generalizations and generalizations lead to assumptions and assumptions lead back to stereotypes. It’s a vicious cycle, and after you go around and around a bunch of times you end up believing that all vegans only eat cabbage and all gay people love musicals.”—Ellen Degeneres
One of my most vivid memories took place when I was in the fourth grade. I was getting ready for a school talent show, and wanted to get my hair just right. Now, before this moment, I really didn’t care how I looked or what people thought of my appearance. But I looked in my bathroom mirror and ripped my hair out if its braid and brushed it and brushed it. I put it up in a ponytail. Nope. I tried a headband. No. I let my hair fall naturally. No way.
Eventually, I got so fed up that I started sobbing.
Probably one of my weakest moments. I was a nine year old who didn’t feel pretty enough, curled up in fetal position on the white tiles of my bathroom floor, sobbing.
Now when I have those moments getting ready where I don’t feel good enough, I revert back to that moment in time. In my mind, I pick that young girl up off of the floor and wipe her tears. I tell her that she is beautiful and wonderful. And then I look back in the mirror, take a deep breath, and keep moving on.