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Tag: Clementine Ford

“Pink is for girlie girls” – more things we should never say to girls.

Last week I shared three of the five things I, and the other noted Feminists I asked to contribute, believe we need to stop saying to girls now. You can read this post here: “That skirt is sending out the wrong message” and 5 other things we should never say to girls.  It’s now time to share the other messages that, even though they may be well intentioned, do in fact have the potential to harm.

4. “She is only interested in exploring her sexuality as she’s troubled.”

It can be confronting for us to accept that our children will grow up and become sexual beings. However, self-motivated sexual exploration and age-appropriate information about sexuality are vital to our daughters emerging as healthy, whole women. Given that for many girls puberty will start in their early teen years, we should start having conversations with them about sex and sexuality while they are young. We need to offer them alternative voices and role models of sexuality to those they are exposed to in the media and in pornography. This is especially important given that advertisers and broadcasters certainly will be targeting them with messages about sexuality long before their early teen years; to me it seems damaging for girls who are just developing their own sexuality to be influenced largely by porn-inspired examples of sexuality. I am concerned not just because there are too many hyper-sexualised messages bombarding our girls, but because the ideal being presented to them of female sexuality is so narrow. Just as we are told that only a leggy size-8 model can be truly beautiful, we are now being told that only a busty, wet and wild blonde (who is solely focused on male pleasure) can be truly sexy. Women’s (and men’s) sexuality is, in reality, so much more diverse and complicated.

But before we can begin having truly meaningful conversations around our girls’ sexuality, we need to also establish a positive and non-judgemental attitude because in my experience, a negative or stigmatising attitude towards girls’ sexual development may cause harm, particularly when it comes from parents, teachers or other trusted figures. 

Writer Emily Maguire offered an important caution against pathologizing female sexuality:

The idea that teen girls are asexual unless ‘activated’ by some external force. This is so common – this denial of the fact that teenage girls might be into sex (doing it, talking about it, imagining it, whatever) because they’re sexually developing human beings. It’s like, a boy who is distracted by lust, eager to gain sexual experience and proud of himself when he does so, is normal. A girl who acts this way is a dupe with low-self-esteem, a cautionary tale. Yes, there are external pressures on girls to look and behave in particular ways related to their sexuality, but more acknowledgement that not all sexually active/interested teenage girls have had their sexuality imposed on them by advertisers, pop culture or predatory men would be good. In fact, a lot of them, a lot of the time, are simply doing what feels good. (Or what they think might feel good, getting better at figuring out what that might be as they go along).

Nina Funnell, who co-wrote Loveability: An Empowered Girl’s Guide to Dating and Relationships, with me, also warned against shaming:

We still teach girls to equate promiscuity with low self-esteem and poor self-respect. Meanwhile boys are told that it’s only natural that they would want to sow their wild oats. The reality is that both boys and girls have sexual urges, libidos, pumping hormones and a desire for physical intimacy, pleasure, arousal and connection. So why do we shame girls, and teach them that they must have low self-esteem if they crave the exact same thing boys crave?

5.  “Pink is for girlie girls!”

Emily Maguire in her essay  “Letter to the Girls I misjudged” laments the fact that as a young girl she associated all things traditionally girly with weakness and took great pride in being seen as “one of the blokes.” This idea was extended by Clementine Ford in her post “Betraying Our Girlhood”;

Taking up arms against the demonisation of girlhood isn’t about reclaiming our right to love lipstick or dresses or have the occasional conversation about Ryan Gosling’s bottom – although those things are all perfectly fine. The fierce determination to distance ourselves from anything perceptibly “girlie” only furthers the stereotype that women who like “girlie” things are stupid and one-dimensional – and indeed that girlieness itself is stupid and one-dimensional. Some girls – like me – rejected boys’ toys entirely as children, loved pink and watched movies about high-school girls falling in love, yet they still grew up to be strident feminists. We’re all different.

As adult women, Nina Funnell and I have both admitted to each other (almost tentatively for fear of losing some feminist credibility) that as little girls we were bower-bird like in our pursuit for all that was shiny, pretty and pink. We adored our Barbies, were besotted by anything princess-like and suspect that were they around back then — we would have sold our little glittered-up souls for a Bratz. And yet like Clementine, we somehow managed to turn out just fine ( we explored this idea in a piece published by the Sydney Morning Herald: Barbie’s not an issue if girls can think for themselves). Raising healthy, well-adjusted girls has less to do with the toys they play with ( or the colours they chose to wear) and more to do with the values we instill in them. By teaching our children to think critically about cultural goods and by equipping them with skills to navigate complex cultural messages we will be empowering them for life. Education — not panic — enables girls to see clearly, think critically, and reinvent their worlds.

Girls too need to be told that there are many ways in which they can chose to be a girl and a woman. Enlighten Education Presenter, and Manager for WA, Nikki Davis agreed:

When I work with teen girls I tell them upfront that I have always been attracted to very traditionally “girlie” things – I demanded to choose my own (usually pink) clothes from age 3, dressed up as a Princess at every available opportunity and I still love high heels and make up. I then go on to tell them how important feminism is to me and how powerful I believe we all can be as women.  I love to see the relief on the faces of a number of girls in the room as they realize that they don’t have to trade in their nail polish or love of clothes to be strong and independent with opinions that matter. I think telling girls that they have to fit into any sort of “mould” is incredibly limiting and we risk perpetuating age-old ideas around women having labels like ‘sporty’,  ‘girlie’ or ‘tough’. There’s no reason why a woman can’t be all of those things if she chooses to be!

Once again, I’d love to hear from you. What messages do you think we deliver to young women that are harmful? 

 

Fictional Future Girls

 

My first experience with dystopian fiction, with a genre of novels that explore a future that is bleak, corrupt and almost without hope, was in High School when we read Z For Zachariah. I recall finding the main character Ann introspective and indecisive; there was much contemplating on loneliness and praying (as I attended a Catholic girl’s school I wondered at times whether they had chosen this novel as yet another way of attempting to convince us that talking to God would indeed come in handy one day – particularly if we found ourselves in a post nuclear wasteland).

How different the introspective Ann seems in comparison to today’s post-apocalyptic action heroines.

Perhaps as a backlash to our seemingly insatiable thirst for paranormal romance fiction which tended to feature beautiful and often passive damsels in distress in need of a charming Vamp to save them, we are now being bombarded with kick-butt, clad in-black, hair-tied back warrior girls ready to literally fight for freedom. The Hunger Game’s Katniss, Divergent’s “Tris”, Disruption’s Maggie and The Maze Runner Trilogy’s Brenda all out-kick, out-shoot and outsmart not only the boys around them, but society itself. Bam! Girl Power!

Or is it? Writer and Feminist Emily Maguire in her thoughtful “Letter to the Girls I misjudged”, published in Sincerely, an anthology of letters derived from the Women of Letters events, laments the fact that as a young girl she associated all things traditionally girly with weakness and took great pride in being seen as “one of the blokes”; “It was the most wonderful compliment I had ever received and [it was] reinforced every single day when I heard the things people said about girls … the simple, contemptuous way that almost everybody – kids, teachers, even members of my own family – used that word, ‘girl’, as the ultimate insult.”

Clementine Ford extends on this idea it in her post “Betraying Our Girlhood”; “Taking up arms against the demonisation of girlhood isn’t about reclaiming our right to love lipstick or dresses or have the occasional conversation about Ryan Gosling’s bottom – although those things are all perfectly fine. The fierce determination to distance ourselves from anything perceptibly “girlie” only furthers the stereotype that women who like “girlie” things are stupid and one-dimensional – and indeed that girlieness itself is stupid and one-dimensional. Some girls – like me – rejected boys’ toys entirely as children, loved pink and watched movies about high-school girls falling in love, yet they still grew up to be strident feminists. We’re all different.”

The Bechdel test was first introduced by Alison Bechdel’s in a comic strip titled “The Rule.” It is a guide that can be applied to works of fiction such as films and books to assess gender bias. It asks whether at least two women talk to each other about anything other than a man. This new era of female protagonists would pass this with flying (suitably dark and masculine) colours as they are rightly too busy in survival mode to gossip about boys. But it struck me that it would be also a speedy test to administer in many cases as these females tend to only really befriend boys and rarely confide in the few other female characters that appear. Apart from having males as their love interests, these girls also only have males as their “besties”; Katniss has Peeta, Tris has Will, Maggie has Gus, Brenda has Jorge. In perhaps the ultimate rejection of their gender, the female action figures seem to also only be able to relate to the fellers.

So despite the fact that I have devoured all of the books above as they are fabulously addictive reads, it is this seeming rejection of the feminine and of females that has begun to trouble me. I am troubled too that the power the future female fighters we’re presented with possess is very much a traditional male version of power. It’s all kick-boxing, weapons, sensible black pants, and fearlessness. Not that there’s anything wrong with this when one is in survival mode– but nor is there anything necessarily wrong with power that presents itself in other more traditional feminine ways – such as through the capacity to form social connections and form and nurture alliances.

There are many ways to be not only to be a girl, but to be a powerful person. Fiction that depicts this would indeed be truly futuristic and visionary.

PicMonkey Collage.jpg

 

“To all my Facebook Friends: promise never, ever to assault women.”

The news that the body of Melbourne woman Jill Meagher has been found has left many of us distressed, and searching for answers. And, driven by this fear, we are at risk of offering misguided and potentially harmful advice to our young women. Case in point, a friend posted this as her Facebook status today: “To all my female FBFs: promise never, ever to walk home alone. RIP Jill Meagher.”

My aim in pointing out why this status is so unhelpful and misguided is certainly not to embarrass this Facebooker, but I do want to draw attention to how problematic this type of discourse is as I have seen and heard many similar comments in the past 48 hours. In fact, following on from an excellent piece about the dangers in victim shaming written by Clementine Ford this week, I was asked to caution against dialogue that assumes those who are harmed must have been doing something wrong on channel 9’s Mornings program yesterday.

So, what are the uncomfortable truths?

Firstly, Ms Meagher lived 700 metres from her home –  it is highly unlikely a cab would have taken her such a short distance and even getting a cab home wouldn’t necessarily have guaranteed her safety: there are a significant number of assaults on women in taxis. In Western Australia alone, ten drivers were convicted of sexual assaulting passengers  in the period from January  through to August 2012, whilst the WA Transport Department  received 52 complaints about sexually inappropriate behaviour during this same time frame.

Secondly, even if women did remain forever vigilant and never left the house unless escorted, they are not guaranteed safety. The vast majority of episodes of violence against  women occur with someone the woman knew, and trusted; many women are not safe even in their own homes. One in three Australian women will experience violence in an intimate relationship.

Finally, let’s ask ourselves the following questions. Is it fair and reasonable to expect women to live in a state of perpetual fear? Where would we draw the line; do we expect all girls and women to only walk to and from their workplaces and schools if they are escorted? After all, violence does not only happen after dark. And, is a world in which women no longer have personal freedom, one we want to be promoting?

Wouldn’t better advice be: “To all my FBF’s promise never, ever to assault women”?

The uncomfortable truth is that there is no quick, easy fix. Violence against women will not be stopped simply be increasing female fear (besides, ask any woman – there is plenty of fear there already). Violence will not be stopped by only ever walking in company, or by refusing to go out at night, or by demanding women keep themselves safer.

This week, in an attempt to make some sense of the senseless, and initiate more nuanced discussions, I am sharing a post by Psychologist Jacqui Manning.

NB: this blog talks about the traumatic effects of sexual assault – if you feel this will be painful for you to read, please pause here and/or get support before you do – LifeLine are 24/7 on 13 1114.

Jill Meagher and the problem with our men

As with many people across Australia I am writing with a heavy heart as the body of Jill Meagher was discovered this morning. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about her and think this is probably because I have done what she did a thousand times before. Why wouldn’t it be OK for her to walk a short distance home from where she was?

By all accounts she was smart, independent, savvy and familiar with her surroundings, all protective factors however the unthinkable happened to her.

The focus has been on women keeping themselves safe after dark, however it really should be on the men committing these heinous crimes and how we as a culture can make changes so this kind of crime diminishes over time.

Random brutal violence can happen to both men and women as we saw with the death of Thomas Kelly in Kings Cross, however while it does happen, the majority of attacks on men don’t involve sexual assault.

The ramifications of sexual assault are life-long. Even 20 years later those who experience this most horrible crime can suffer with the traumatic effects.

These can include:
* nightmares
* physical reactions of trauma and anxiety – heart palpitations, racing thoughts, sweats
* not wanting to get into a relationship
* not wanting intimacy with a trusted partner
* not being able to have children (fear of being examined/the whole process)
* not feeling safe in their own home – whether or not the assault took place there
* destroyed self-worth

I work with my clients to try and heal, re-build, learn strategies to alleviate the very real physical aspects of their trauma, and it does work over time. I remember many years ago one of my lovely clients who had just completed an emotional session with me regarding her sexual assault, walked out of my room beaming and saying “I never thought I could feel so light and free about this”.

But wouldn’t it be wonderful if the therapy came as an early intervention for our men, rather than as a tool to mop up the mess? Wouldn’t it be great if by one man seeking help for his problems, this prevented the downward spiral that leads to committing the crime of sexual assault (and murder) which affects not only the victim but their families and loved ones?

In our culture men are taught (from a very young age) to toughen up, don’t cry, deal with it, ‘don’t be a girl’ if they are feeling sad/down/upset. So what are men supposed to do with their very real feelings?
In Australia they are ‘allowed’ to drink heavily, get angry, be sullen, perhaps even get violent, that is all just a part of ‘boys being boys’.

Meanwhile:
* They are not being taught constructive outlets for their feelings
* They are not being shown how to communicate anger/sadness/grief in a positive way
* They are not being shown at a cultural level that drinking is not the answer to everything (I struggle every year to buy a fathers day card without it referring to beer).
* They are told to ‘man up’ if they have a reaction to difficult situations (relationship breakdown, losing their job etc).

I know absolutely nothing about the man who raped and killed Jill Meagher and I don’t know if anything could or would have prevented him from inflicting such horror.

I do know however that we can try to do better and rather than constantly laying the responsibility at the feet of women to keep themselves safe, we need to shift that responsibility where it belongs – to the perpetrators and to a society that hasn’t taught their men better ways.

Please call LifeLine if this article has been difficult for you to read and/or seek help from a trusted professional. Lifeline 13 1114

Boy-band crushes and body image — the week that was

Last week was a big week in girlworld. Unless you were recently deposited back on earth by aliens, I doubt I need to tell you that One Direction arrived in Sydney for their Australian tour. I was in at Channel 9 to talk on Mornings about whether teen girls screaming and crying over this boy band is healthy and normal (yes!) or something parents need to worry about (no!):

For my daughter, Teyah (13), and stepdaughter, Jaz (17), the best part was that they were allowed into the studio to breathe the actual same air as their beloved One Direction, as the boys made an appearance on Today.

Jaz, 17, and Teyah, 13, in the same studio as their beloved One Direction

The fans squealed. They wept. They trembled all over. But please don’t dismiss their feelings as silly or hysterical. Their feelings are very real and raw. And they have their origins in biology: the frontal lobes of the brains of teenagers are primed for high emotions, fighting, running away and, oh yes, romance.

I actually think it is beautiful to see the fans’ excitement for their squeaky clean and sexually harmless objects of desire. The big appeal of One Direction, according to almost every teen fan you ask, is that they are wholesome, down to earth and hard working. They pose little or no sexual threat. And there is no risk of rejection.

But of course there had to be a media kerfuffle about One Direction’s visit, with dire warnings being issued, and much tsk-tsking about the unbridled libidos of teenage girls these days. (Because the hysteria over the Beatles, Kiss, NKOTB, The Backstreet Boys, and so on and so on, was somehow different, apparently.) It all started when Channel 7 apologised because their Sunrise cameras captured fans in Martin Place holding signs that said “Point your erection in my direction” and “Send your one thing Down Under”. Many voices chimed in to express their outrage about the sexual nature of young fans’ adulation. Some pointed the finger at what many girls were wearing, saying their outfits were too revealing.

The fact is, there was a veritable sea of benign, nonsexual signs being held up by the screaming crowds. And anyone who wants to criticise teen girls based on how they dress should take a look at this Facebook album of One Direction fans and do a reality check. These young women are all shades of gorgeous.

To me, the real issue is why society is okay with young men making highly sexual comments, while girls seemingly should not even think about sex. Case in point: on that Facebook album, many males have left comments about whether the girls are hot or not. How sad that some little girl enjoying her first concert with friends inadvertently enters an online beauty quest. How sad that while girls are reviled for expressing a physical interest in their celebrity crushes, no one tries to stop those males publicly ranking teen girls on their hotness. And we wonder why girls end up playing the compare and despair game.

Why are we so threatened by what Wendy Harmer calls teen girls’ “emerging sexuality with training wheels”? Clementine Ford nailed it when she wrote last week in Daily Life:

The nascent sexual desires of boys are so readily accepted as part of life that we barely blink at the mention of them. . . . But instead of encouraging a similar sexual expression in girls (who experience the exact same explosion of hormones during their teen years), we demonise it . . .

At best, this trains girls to adhere to a system that constructs women as passive bystanders to sex . . . But at worst, it encourages the idea that their burgeoning desires are unnatural and gross . . .

A handful of girls waving titillating signs outside Martin Place isn’t representative of an orgiastic trend sweeping the nation, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. But it is a sign that no matter how much we try and shield girls from sex, they’re going to find ways to explore it and it doesn’t always mean they want to actually do it.

The answer isn’t to keep talking about how uncomfortable it makes everyone . . . it’s about giving [girls] the right tools to explore that sexuality in a healthy way, and trusting them to make the right decisions. They’re not delicate dolls, so stop treating them that way.

Hear, hear, sista!

Another big thing last week in this particular girl’s world was that I was on Life Matters on Radio National, talking to Wendy Harmer about positive ways to raise teen daughters. Of course, we talked about boy-band crushes, but we talked about much more, too. I especially loved having the chance to chat with listeners who called in with their concerns. One was worried about teen girls binge drinking. Another asked for advice on how to bolster the self-esteem of her beautiful teen daughter, who struggles with low body image and is teased at school for being flat chested. And a mother was deeply concerned about her 10-year-old girl who is of average weight yet is determined to stay on a diet because she believes it’s “part of being a girl”. All of their issues were heart breaking, so I was glad to have the chance to offer some practical suggestions for turning these situations around. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.

Hearing the stories of those mothers who are worried about their daughters’ body-image angst makes me more determined than ever to help make things right for our girls. If you know any young women who are struggling with body image, please let them know they can read the chapter on body image from my latest book, The Girl with the Butterfly Tattoo, free of charge. Simply click here for this free sample chapter.

 

Betraying Our Girlhood

I loved the post below by the talented Ms Clementine Ford so much that I asked her permission to share it with you all here. Clementine describes herself as a “freelance writer, broadcaster and troublemaker based in Melbourne”. She tells me she “enjoys cups of tea on stormy summer afternoons, men with beards and the collected works of Nancy Mitford.” You can read more of her work at http://www.clementineford.com.au or follow her on Twitter @clementine_ford.

This piece first appeared in Sunday Life for Fairfax Media on January 15, 2012.

What’s wrong with ponies and dolls? How did “girl” become an insult? It’s time to reclaim the power of pink.

When I was about 15, my family undertook the latest in a long line of relocations and wound up in the northern suburbs of Adelaide. My first week at school culminated in a non-uniform day, and I carefully selected an outfit that I felt would best display my casual demeanour and keen sartorial skills. This turned out to be a pair of Tencel jeans, a dusty-rose chenille cardigan and an incongruously matched choice of Adidas street shoes.

I know.

As I sat there in science class draped in layers of fug, year 10’s It girl turned to me and said admiringly, “Nice shoes! I’m guessing you’re into Triple J.”

“Yeah,” I replied, trying to sound nonchalant. “I’m pretty into it.” Inside, I basked in the glow of her compliment. I spent the rest of the day casually hoicking up the silky folds of my jeans so everyone else could spy my shoes, while desperately hoping they wouldn’t discover the truth – that I hadn’t ever listened to Triple J.

How quick we are to embrace the lure of social currency. I was reminded of this recently when feminist author Emily Maguire sent me a copy of her contribution to a Women of Letters literary salon, the theme of which was “A letter to the person I misjudged”. In achingly grand prose, Maguire (author of Your Skirt’s Too Short) travels through a series of apologies to the girls she met along the road to adulthood: her fellow kindergarteners, whose ironed bows and frilly socks drew her withering disdain; her middle-school friends, on whom she turned her back when presented with the first taste of male validation; and finally her high-school friends, and the limits they put on themselves by assuming that their adventurous forays into adulthood were the domain of men and thus all the more brazen.

Maguire’s letter solidified something that has bothered me for a long time: namely, the tendency of some women to enthusiastically distance themselves from what are seen as typically female attributes and interests in order to elevate their own worth. I’ve noticed an increase in women speaking of their childhood inclination for boys’ toys with an unconscious pride, as if a past dedication to Tonka trucks makes them more evolved than those who served tea to their My Little Ponies and made their Barbies have sex. But what’s so interesting about a truck?

This all comes down to the unquestionably limited way in which society has constructed girlhood. Consider the marketing of children’s toys. Girls are encouraged to bake pink cakes in pink ovens while realistic pink babies wee on their frilly pink dresses. Meanwhile, the boys are out preparing for their eventual roles as Masters of the Universe by roaming the countryside dressed as firemen and superheroes.

Is it any wonder that smart, savvy women with multidimensional personalities – that is, most of them – would seek to distance themselves from these tropes? We’ve all gone through a period where we’ve announced loudly that, of course, most of our friends are boys because we just seem to get on better with them. We wear it like a badge of honour. Boys build the world while girls are expected to decorate it. They have to be sexy without being too sexual, smart without being too smart and in need of protection without being too needy. The world does not respond well to women who look at these tiny boxes and ask for a little more wiggle room.

But it’s a double-edged sword. Despite wanting them to conform to those stereotypes, society doesn’t like girls very much. Girls are frivolous and sappy. They care too much about shoes and frills and vampires who sparkle in the sunlight. They’re manipulative and emotional, but they’re also weak, throwing, running and crying like girls. “Girl” is an accusation that’s used against boys to humiliate them. And the absolute proliferation of this in sitcoms, movies, books and pop culture has resulted in 50 per cent of the world internalising the idea that not only are they somehow less than their male counterparts, they also occupy a state that’s shameful and gross.

Maguire recalls when, in an attempt to ingratiate herself with her male peers in high school, she made a snide joke about one of her female friends, and was rewarded for it. “ ’You,’ they told me, ‘are just like a bloke.’ It was the most wonderful compliment I had ever received and [it was] reinforced every single day when I heard the things people said about girls … the simple, contemptuous way that almost everybody – kids, teachers, even members of my own family – used that word, ‘girl’, as the ultimate insult.”

Taking up arms against the demonisation of girlhood isn’t about reclaiming our right to love lipstick or dresses or have the occasional conversation about Ryan Gosling’s bottom – although those things are all perfectly fine. The fierce determination to distance ourselves from anything perceptibly “girlie” only furthers the stereotype that women who like “girlie” things are stupid and one-dimensional – and indeed that girlieness itself is stupid and one-dimensional. Some girls – like me – rejected boys’ toys entirely as children, loved pink and watched movies about high-school girls falling in love, yet they still grew up to be strident feminists. We’re all different.

I’m not ashamed of being a girl. Girls are, by turns, any number of the following: strong, infuriating, courageous, smart, weak, stupid, kind, cruel, ambitious, thoughtful, vapid, charismatic, delightful and any variation on any other adjective you could possibly think of. I choose to believe this because I know that girls are every bit as complex and nuanced as boys, and they deserve be treated as such regardless of which toys they played with as children, or if they think camping is a bit gross.

Besides, you can’t make your Tonka trucks have sex with each other. Where’s the fun in that?


If you enjoyed this post, you may also enjoy a post I co-wrote with Nina Funnell: Barbie’s not an issue if girls can think for themselves. 

We dare you to move

Ever noticed how much of the talk around the new year focuses on our appearance? There is an underlying premise that if we just put more effort and energy into losing weight or getting clearer skin / longer hair / a more stylish wardrobe this will be the year we will achieve success and gain happiness.

Ever noticed too how often when we begin the new school year we start by telling our students all the things they shouldn’t do? I sat at an introduction to technology meeting last week and noted that the first 30 minutes was spent telling the girls all the things they must not do with their laptops. I had to wonder how inspired the girls (and their families) may have felt about the new laptop program after hearing a sermon on all the restrictions and the consequences of mistakes that may be made. Tellingly, despite the fact that the girls all walked out with a new computer, I did not see many smiles.

Body police. Dire warnings.

Let’s dare to do things differently. Let’s begin the year by raising girls up. Let’s (re)connect them – to their bodies, to their learning, and to other girls and women.

My 12 year old daughter, Teyah, made this film celebrating Enlighten Education’s work with girls for me in the school holidays. I love the sense of possibility, joy and connection it embodies:

With the dual goals of both inspiring and connecting girls to a wider network of strong women (girls can’t be what they can’t see)  I asked some female leaders to share their advice for the new year with your girls:


Please take risks. If you really want to do something and you’re secretly worried that people will laugh at you, this is a good reason to do it. If that means telling someone that they’re being an arse, or that you like a TV show everyone else hates, or you want to play electric guitar (which you should totally do p.s.) or learn French or wear leggings as pants, DO IT…You might not realise it yet, but the coolest people in the world are the ones who don’t care what other people think.

Karen Pickering. Karen is the host of Cherchez la Femme, co-founder of The Dawn Conspiracy, and one of the organisers of SlutWalk Melbourne.




Tracey Spicer

Never let anyone judge you on the way you look. Your heart and mind are all that count.

Tracey Spicer. Tracey is a news presenter and journalist.


Every time someone tries to silence you, just get louder. Never let anyone bully you into believing that your voice doesn’t count.

Clementine Ford. Clementine is a freelance writer, broadcaster and troublemaker based in Melbourne.




Jane Caro

Don’t take yourself or anything else too seriously. You are allowed to have fun.

Jane Caro. Jane is a media commentator, writer and senior lecturer in advertising with the School of Communication Arts at UWS.


Your intuition is usually right.

Nikki Davis. Nikki is one of Enlighten’s stellar presenters.


Each moment in life will pass whether it is good or bad so move forward without fear.

Diane Illingworth Wilcox. Di is Enlighten’s  Program Manager, Western Australia.


Be a good listener. Always try to see things from other perspectives and don’t be afraid to admit when you’ve made a mistake.

Catherine Manning. Cath is an amazing Enlighten Presenter and the founder of Pull The Pin, a protest group working to ban child beauty pageants.


Never be afraid of who you are.

 Monica Dux. Monica is a writer, social commentator and co-author of The Great Feminist Denial.



Julie Parker
Julie Parker

There is inside of you a unique spirit of courage, wisdom and beauty. There is no one just like you. That’s your incredible truth.

Julie Parker. Julie is a coach and clinical counselor who specializes in supporting positive body image. Visit her blog: http://www.beautifulyoubyjulie.com/


Don’t be afraid to express an interest in social justice issues or other movements that interest you (like the environment!). If someone tells you that you are "overthinking" an issue, chances are they are "underthinking" it. If they tell you that you are "over analysing it" chances are they aren’t analysing it at all. Remember, it’s OK to have an opinion. All interesting women do.

Nina Funnell. Nina is a social commentator and freelance opinion writer. She works as an anti–sexual assault and domestic violence campaigner and is also currently completing her first book on "sexting", teen girls and moral panics.


Perhaps at your next staff briefing, or Parents Association meeting, you might like to think about how you can dare to raise your girls up, and about what advice you think they really need to shine in 2012.
We’d love you to share your thoughts here too.

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