I used to have a little tradition of buying a cheesy teen magazine during the first week of summer and lying on the beach reading about the perfect nail polish color, or how to make your skin appear flawless. The primary reason I enjoyed this was because I knew it was pure junk, and that most of it could not be accurate. Yet I recently began to look into how inaccurate these magazines are in portraying how teenage girls are and should be, while also considering the effects on the self-esteem of many readers. Because even I, who laughed at most of the spreads on the glossy pages, felt my happiness with my body disintegrate a bit each time I picked up one of those magazines.
A few weeks ago I attended the Young Women’s Leadership Institute at Barnard College, and I decided that I should focus on body image and the media’s effects on the minds and bodies of young girls. I learned so much from all the girls I talked to at the program, from the classes and workshops I participated in, and from all the research I conducted on the subject. There is just so much to say about the issue of magazines and media and their effects on teenage girls’ perception of themselves. One portion of my group’s project included a video in which we interviewed many girls participating in the Young Women’s Leadership Institute. I hope you watch this video and spread the message!
On our way to high school recently, I asked my friend, “Do you consider yourself a feminist?”
After a slight hesitation, she responded, “Well, I support women’s rights and all, but I’m no bra burner.”
Besides the fact that the bra-burning story is apocryphal, I was surprised by her answer. Is that what feminism meant to this smart girl?
As I’ve discovered what feminism means to me over the past couple years, I am repeatedly shocked by what others think of the movement. One highly accomplished woman I know declared that feminism was dead. Another scoffed when I said I was interested in attending a women’s college. Why is there so much animosity toward such a simple, important ideal—that women deserve equal rights?
I’ll just get it out of the way: Barnard’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute was an amazing program, and one of the best experiences of my life. We had some really awesome speakers/workshops (including Ingrid Dahl from the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls – awesome) and really engaging teachers. But that’s not what I want to talk about. What I want to talk about are the approximately 55 girls who were selected for this program – the future women leaders of America – and what they thought about feminism.
I signed up for this program thinking, “Awesome! I can’t wait for all the insightful feminist conversations I’m going to have! So many young feminists in one place, we’re practically going to take over the world!” And yet, this is not so much …