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.
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.
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.
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.