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 firstname.lastname@example.org.