Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Saving Adolescent Girls

I read about the shock and awe we all feel when we listen to the lyrics of songs our children and grandchildren listen to. The concepts and the raw language we are subjected to are common fare everywhere on television, on MTV, on comedy shows, in movies.

We live in a world that has blurred all lines between adult fiction, and smut. Even very alert parents will not be alert enough to catch all that is going on. I remember when we screened what our children were exposed to. All of us did. Once, when my baby was very little, and I was still nursing her, we took her to see a rated R cartoon. I forgot the name of it; but we were refused entrance because of the child; and we sheepishly left, went home, and swore to ourselves we'd be better parents.

We are losing that battle. My concern is how our girls view their roles, or are coerced to take up roles to be popular, to remain in the group, to appear 'with it'.

I like Dr. Mary Pipher's thesis in Reviving Ophelia, a New York Times Bestsellers for years. She studied the problems girls are having with depression, anorexia, suicide attempts, and connects them to the way girls see their roles represented in the culture. Girls continue to struggle to find their true selves, playing different roles for different people and feeling as though their lives do no matter any more unless they please others, unless they look a certain way, unless they have certain things.

We all need to become advocates for healthy life styles, and healthy relationships. We must speak out whenever and where-ever we see sick practices.

The poisoning starts in adolescence and doesn't end there.
I read blogs of adult women still trying to be 'good', 'non-complaining', 'cheerful'. We are not fictional characters, people. We are made of flesh, blood, bones that break, muscles that ache, and are surrounded by families who, without skipping a beat, have enjoyed Mother in the role of the Martyr. Mothers have accepted such roles and feel guilty for not having achieved Sainthood, or lost enough weight to look as they did when they were in high school, or control every single drama life throws at the family. We are socialized to be everything to everybody.

Feminists, where have you gone? Why aren't educators doing more? Why are we not promoting mental health?


Matawheeze said...

"We must speak out whenever and where-ever we see sick practices."

Whose criteria are we to use? I'm sure you can see the various problems inherent in the question.

My daughter was offered the opportunity to watch, listen to and read anything the world offered. I asked only that she let me know so I could also watch. listen and read it and be aware and allowed to discuss it with her. I trusted her to make good choices before and after. It seemed to work.

matawheeze (

Paul Costopoulos said...

My word, where is the serene lady I had the pleasure of discovering about a week ago? I know, I know, I'm just a mere man and should not but in on this theme. However, I remember a piece about how young people have lost theit bearings, do not respect anything anymore and have no sound values nor are they capable of resisting the lures of modern times. It had been written by Socrates in 500 BC.
Adults should be there to guide and counsel, not to impose or, even worse, shelter the children from all that is least in their views.
Once, when our son was 4 or 5 he desperately wanted a toy called a wallwalker. We advised against but those adds on TV were most convincing to a child. Since the toy cost 50 cents, we let go and bought it. Of course it was a dismall disappointment. After that he never took an add at face value.
I may be out of touch with reality but I still have confidence in our girls and boys. The immense majority of them are sane and have a healthy revolt toward our old ways but they stick to the essentials providing their role models, mom, dad, the teachers hold fast while allowing them to test the limits...but limits have to be clear.
But I'm sure you have been practicing all that and had pretty good results. The new generation of parents will do the same.
Sorry for being so long winded.

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

Ahem! Did you read my last post before you wrote this? I'd laugh if you didn't! Yet it's not a laughing matter and there is only so much time and energy in which to speak up and so many battles to be faught, whilst at the same time keeping the happy equilibrium which gives mental stability to our girls.

An English Shepherd said...

Unfortunately society these days seems to be about buying stuff and having stuff.

Having said that the media is always pushing the negative and not often the positive ;-)

Wizz :-)

Lola said...

Ciao Rosaria,

just a quick hello before I crash. It's been a hard but fun day at work, so my eyes are shutting.

The film I'm working on now is the life story of an Italian poet named Cristina da Pizzano, who lived in France and wrote about womens' rights in 1360. And it's a true story. Talk about a precursor of feminism.

From a comment I read on Renee's blog, I figured out that your eldest son and I were born not only in the same year (I remember you telling me 1967), but also in the same period. My birthday is May 2nd. Funny. There's a mega-magnet working here, I think.


Eddie Bluelights said...

Today's world is so corrupt one wonders where to start to even try to enravel all the evil in which we have to live. I have almost given up trying to change things. The politicians are corrupt, the legal system is biased towards protecting the guilty and penalising the righteous. There is no attempt to protect us from lawlessness, child molesters, fraudsters, bankers! Our society spirals ever downward into chaos and depavity. I do believe our day of reckoning is at hand. Surely God will not put up with this for much longer.
Eddie in a serious mood - yes I do write serious stuff as well. God Bless Eddie

Delwyn said...

I too have faith in our youth. Every generation has to reinvent itself in the context of the world it lives it.
We see and hear more now about mental illness, abuse and crime - doesn't mean it wasn't happening before, in fact it is well known that sexual abuse was just as prevalent in our youth but it was hushed up.

It is unfortunate that 'Sex and the City' is fodder for the minds of many young women. That programs like this and the US idolisation of movie stars exists is a sad reflection of our cultural values, making it harder for young women to swim against the tide to find healthy alternatives.

Nothing is ever perfect, all we can do is speak out where we can but more importantly be a role model for our youth.

Sink said...

So interesting that our posts were so similar. I'm glad that you found mine about TT's T-shirt.
Two things relating to education and this topic: 1) I think that it is the school's responsiblity to be a model to which a student should aspire rather than the school being a reflection of society. 2) This is exactly why Critical Literacy is so important for our students and children. They need to learn discernment in so many areas.

Amy said...

It's such a balancing act, being a parent, isn't it? I suppose I should speak only for myself. For me, it's a constant weighing of protection vs. independence, intrusiveness vs. privacy, etc.

I operate mostly from the gut, but find that my children often kick me in it. I'm clueless. I'm just out here trying very hard to be a good parent and raise decent citizens. I hope my effort pays off.

Mary said...

By no means is my comment a particularly well thought out response, still, I am leaning towards saying that adolescents (a reasonably new term)have always had a really good attempt at pushing the boundaries, pushing the buttons or pushing the age of adulthood closer and closer to nappydom. However, unlike any other generation,children and youth and adolescents and young adults alike have to navigate their way through modern technology that allows them to be subject to all sorts of images, concepts, morals, theories, stories, relationships (endless list). Most young people do not have the privilege of having their parents or adult mentors supervising these teaching tools for the majority of western kiddies have their very own mobile, laptop and internet. Late at night when mums and dads are asleep they are quietly accessing whatever junk the would be manipulators are dishing out.

It is unwise of any adult to think that any child is not being influenced by many others. Their worldview is being shaped by whoever. Mums, dads, educators wake up and balance this education. Is the the techno world becoming a big cult?

Lori ann said...

An interesting post as always Rosaria. I am good, non complaining (if i want something i ask, instead of complain) and very cheerful. It's a wonderful way to live.

I agree with Paul(please don't apologize).This is not only with girls, we all, people in general, have always faced these same issues.

We all have choices. I have always taught my children this. The best we can do is Be The Change we'd like to see. Maybe I see it because that's what I look for.
Life is just too short.

willow said...

Hear hear!! Excellent post. This is an important issue which needs to be addressed more often.

Natalie said...

I see what you are saying. Sometimes I fear for my younger daughter in particular, she is so enamoured with all that 'Yuk' that the media throws up.
My eldest daughter, however, has a steadiness and grace about her, that gives me hope and comfort that they will find their way if they are given a good example at home.Even if society at large is unsavoury. I questioned a health professional about this, and she said we must fight the tide, and keep leading by example.

Jennifer said...

I was just thinking today about why it is so easy to accept blame, to shrug off experiences of being shamed, and stop striving to be "good." And why is it that this is so much more frequently found in women? So far, I have no answers.

introspection said...

Hi, I came via one of your comments at Meredith's 'My Girl'.
This is a very interesting topic, and very close to my heart. We now live in a far worse materialistic world now than we ever did in the past. Parents should teach by examles rather than preachings, teachings and books, internet etc. No matter how obsessed the young get with what their colleagues do/have, they unknowingly still ape their parents when fully grown. This is my humble experience, correct me if I am wrong. They ape their parents in every way, bad or good, right?

Also I feel if you keep telling them about descipline, virtues, kindness, honesty, responsibilty and sincerety it has its effect sooner or later. They may not pay attention to it right then, but it works it's way in bits and pieces. Plus you have the satisfaction of having done your best. The secret is not to lose focus by their rejections, denials and defiance. They have a lot to face too, and the burden is only growing on them.
Let's keep trying..!!


Fire Byrd said...

You are so right Rosaria, the mental health of women now and in the future is getting worse.
The standards that we held dear are being battered at every angle as the continued sexualisation of women continues.
WE got away from women as sex objects when feminisim get going. But now women's bodies are selling everything again.
And all of them with 'perfect' bodies. No wonder the obesity levels are going up as young women despair at not reaching the perfect goal.Or the other way round as they try desperately to control their food intake.
One things for shore I want be out of work anytime soon!

Dave King said...

An absorbing and perhaps timely post, full of truth and good sense. I am not so sure, though, about the playing of different roles for different people. maybe that is just playing, full stop. We all do it to some extent and young people are in any case trying out the various roles they might or might not play in society. Most they will drop in any case. There are, after all, more valid ways of living a life than can be lived by one person living one life.

Anonymous said...

This weighs heavily on my mind! We must be vigilant in attempting to reach our girls and pull them from this madness they are bombarded by. It is a tough job and we can't give up.

Renee said...

And this is only one of the reasons why you are my mentor. This is only one of the reasons why I think you are fabulous. This is only one of the reasons I agree with you 100%.

"I read blogs of adult women still trying to be 'good', 'non-complaining', 'cheerful'. We are not fictional characters, people. We are made of flesh, blood, bones that break, muscles that ache, and are surrounded by families who, without skipping a beat, have enjoyed Mother in the role of the Martyr. Mothers have accepted such roles and feel guilty for not having achieved Sainthood, or lost enough weight to look as they did when they were in high school, or control every single drama life throws at the family. We are socialized to be everything to everybody.

Feminists, where have you gone? Why aren't educators doing more? Why are we not promoting mental health?"

You are brilliant and I love the picture of you in your wild and crazy shirt.

I admire you Rosaria. You are like I always wanted to be.

Love Renee xoxo

Woman in a Window said...

All great questions. I wonder at our acquiescene to popular culture. Now yes, it's out there, but if we allow it to reign supreme, well then just who is at fault?

Rob-bear said...

I found you via "Reasons to be Cheerful . . ." with whom (along with Natalie at "Musings from the deep") I've been having conversations about this very topic.

My concern, of course, is the media's separation of deep relationship and sexual intimacy. And this image is sent to both girls and boys (please don't forget the boys; they're an integral part of this equation).

My children grew up with "Sesame Street" and things like that. My son won't allow television in their home; our grandkids watch it at our place, but we are extremely careful of what they see (mostly "CBC Kids" and "Treehouse"). As at least one of us usually watches it with them, we have the opportunity to discuss events that unfold. Our grandson is beginning to take an interest in the Web (age 5) -- he sits in my lap and we look for things about dinosaurs (his favorite interest). But we do it together.

Our granddaughter is a princess, complete with magic wands and a tiara. Like her brother, she usually spends lots of time with painting in the kitchen, working with play dough, colouring pictures, attaching stickers in sticker books, and helping grandma make things (like cookies), etc., etc. Whether this will have any long-term impact, who knows. But I think it is the relationship that counts.

Ribbon said...

I try not to view life as a battle of the sexes..... more just people helping people.
We in the western world are bombarded with choice and therefore how people choose to live is exactly that... a choice that they've made.
Woman produce detrimental advertisements too.
I think basically we all just need to be kind to one another and mostly we are.

best wishes Ribbon

Saretta said...

I so agree with you. I am amazed by what pop culture is throwing at all of us these days. Have values changed and the media is reflecting that or has the media been the vehicle of change? I always talk to my sons about what they are seeing or listening to, but you can't cut them off from the world...

janis said...

Oh Yes!! This was / is one of my favorite books!!! I also loved and recommend, (oh shoot! What is the name... I loaned it to a counselor firend of mine recently..) I believe it is "Ophelia Speaks". A wonderful second coming, more of Ophelia's point of view. Wonderful read! I was so blessed with my daughters, however these books are so insight for to all Moms, friends, teachers or youth leaders.

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