Guest Post: Beauty Redefined – Girl Scouts Advocate for Healthy Media Images by Clare Bresnahan

by Melissa Silverstein on July 14, 2010

in Advocacy,Media,Politics

We’ve all seen media images of girls and women that can set unrealistic standards, distract girls from what is important, and make it harder for them to believe in themselves. But this is just show biz, right, let’s lighten up?

Well at the Girl Scouts, we want to ensure girls’ voices are heard, and we can’t ignore how girls are affected by these images. A 2010 survey by the Girl Scout Research Institute found that nearly 90 percent of girls feel pressure from the media to be thin, and 60 percent of girls compare their bodies to fashion models. Only 46 percent of girls believe that the fashion industry does a good job of representing people of all races and ethnicities.

The problem is not only what girls think – it’s also what they do. The same survey found that more than half of girls admit to dieting to try to lose weight and 31 percent admit to starving themselves. In the end though, girls just want to see healthier and more realistic images.

So what can be done about these troubling trends?

Girl Scouts of the USA is taking steps to ensure that healthier media images of girls and women become the new normal. First, our newest program, It’s Your Story, Tell It!, will be released this winter.  It will empower girls to use the media as an agent of change and vehicle for self-expression, effectively helping them build their self-esteem.

Girl Scouts also supports the Healthy Media for Youth Act (H.R. 4925), which was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswomen Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV).  The Healthy Media for Youth Act is an important step toward a new, girl-positive reality. The bill encourages the promotion of healthier media messages about girls and women through three avenues:

  • grants to support media literacy and youth empowerment programs;
  • research on how depictions of women and girls in the media affect youths’ health; and
  • the creation of a National Taskforce on Women and Girls in the Media.

We need your help more than ever before to increase support for this bill.  Our goal is to secure 75 co-sponsors before the end of this legislative cycle.  With 41 co-sponsors, we are over half-way there, but your support is crucial. Send a letter of support to your Members of Congress and help ensure that your U.S. Representative is the next one to support the bill and join the Healthy Media for Youth Facebook page.

Also, make sure to watch TV with you kids.  Talk to them about the images they are seeing so they can learn to recognize which images are positive and proactive and which are not.

Together we can create a better world for girls.

Clare Bresnahan is the Public Policy and Advocacy Associate at Girl Scouts of the USA. If you are interested in learning more about Girl Scouts’ advocacy efforts on this topic, feel free to contact Clare at


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Deb July 14, 2010 at 3:44 PM

I support the Girl Scouts 100% on this! I will definitely send a letter to my representative.

Charles Judson July 14, 2010 at 6:32 PM

I think this is great. But, I also think this has to go beyond just building self esteem.

We’ve debated often why more women in Atlanta aren’t behind the camera, writing, directing and in positions like cinematographer. Personally, I think in comparison to the guys, very few women are behind the camera creating stories and experimenting as kids and in high school, and that has real impact.

From informal polling and conversations, I’ve found that most women over the age of 30 who are producers, writers and directors here in Atlanta admitted they didn’t migrate to that side till college or after years of being an actor. While for most of the male dominated film groups and collectives they’ve been on all sides of the camera since at least high school.

I think every young girl who wants to act, should also be encouraged to write, direct and try producing their own films and creating projects for each other. Why wait till you’re 23 to realize you like directing, when you could find that out at 12?

Deb July 15, 2010 at 9:36 AM

That’s a good point Mike. But I do know plenty of men who didn’t start directing until they were in their twenties. A also know a lot of men who worked in advertising and were able to cross over from Art Director to directing commercials then transition to directing features. I’ve been asked to mentor young girls, the problem is that there aren’t any jobs for the women who are already fully trained and ready to work.

When you had Jim Crow down south, you could have had the best education in the world for African Americans, mentorship etc…But what does it matter if you’re still not allowed to sit at the lunch counter.

Melissa Silverstein July 17, 2010 at 11:29 AM

It all goes back to you can’t be what you can’t see. We need to see more women visible so that girls get the idea that this is something they can excel in. Women who have not had mentors because there were no mentors need to get over this whole attitude that I hear which is I did it with no help so can you. That might have worked a generation ago but it doesn’t work now. If women figured out how to work together and teach and learns from each other in larger numbers…watch out.

Pia Guerrero January 20, 2011 at 1:07 PM

Dear Melissa,

It was recommended we connect on linked-in, which led me to visit your site for the first time. I love it! In addition to running, I’m also the executive director of I’ll be speaking on a panel in March for the local WAM! in LA. The common goal for both sites is to increase the exposure of women’s voices and experiences that are traditionally absent in mainstream media. I’d love to speak with you further about ways we may be able to connect. I look forward to hearing from you. Warmly, Pia Guerrero

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