From Barbie to Bieber: The Land of Girls
This guest post provided by Dr. Dana from www.drudallweiner.com
The bedroom of a 5th grade girl is filled with signs of idolatry: the altar to Justin Bieber; the anthems of adolescence which pulse through speakers, a story of transition from girl to woman, as narrated by Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. Songs of subjects mostly theoretical (we hope) for a girl this age.
The bedroom of a 5th grade girl reflects courage, and also uncertainty. Sneakers on the floor–evidence of dust-filled shenanigans and games of chase on the playground–are an homage to a childhood nearly used up. And there are signs of things to come—lip gloss, necklaces, a burgeoning closet which suggests intention and effort, a dedication to one’s own taste (rather than that of mom, who would still prefer those lame little girl outfits). There’s a hot pink bikini, worn seasonally, awkwardly, but with a sense of purpose or perhaps obligation. She has learned that there are certain things expected of girls and women.
She has learned that the hierarchy of beauty is well-established, in her classroom and in the world. It relates to things like skin tone, hair texture, weight and shape. Maybe she has good days, days in which she feels she can play the game and win; days in which she feels popular and pretty. But there are also days of confusion, of uncertainty if she is all the things she hopes to be, all the things those other girls seems to embody so effortlessly.
Next week I’ll begin to present a series of workshops to a group of 5th grade girls, on topics like body image, healthy eating, and media literacy. As I prepare, I think back; I remember. I observe the 5th grade girls in my life. And I am filled with a mixture of curiosity and concern.
But also, I am filled with hope; hope that these young girls will see their bodies as powerful and strong; that they will inhabit them wholly, rather than in a detached and objectified way. Hope that they will be able to use words, rather than their appetites, to deal with and communicate their fears, their anger. Hope that, in addition to the pink bikini, there is also a pair of cleats, dirty from the last game, and that, instead of tales of romance and chivalry on the nightstand, there are stories of brave women and unlikely heroes. So that they will join this heralded group, and live at the center of their own full lives.
Do you know any 5th grade girls? What inspires you about them? What worries you? Are today’s tween girls similar to you at that age?
Photo credit: 1. Sydjones; 2. zachstern