GIRLS FORUM: Lyn Mikel Brown Counters the “Mean Girl” Onslaught with Strength-Based Programs
February 5, 2009 posted by admin As someone who studies girl culture and as a mother of a 13 year old, I can't miss the avalanche of "mean girls" in the media and what it suggests to my daughter; to all our daughters. Can we imagine a girl-targeted reality show, sitcom, or drama that doesn't revolve around a catfight? Do we really need more movies like Bride Wars or another Jennifer-Angelina magazine cover with an inset of Brad in the corner? It seems like the only public displays of sisterhood we see any more involve girls collectively dissing other "bad" girls or commiserating over break ups with guys. As an education professor, I spend a lot of time in public schools. I see how the "mean girl" spectacle trickles down to impact the everyday realities of girls' lives: the time and energy it siphons, the hurt it inflicts, the way it undermines girls' power. Unfortunately, the most popular "bully prevention" programs, even the one advocated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention , are neither strength-based (they label kids and focus on their problems; "mean girl" is just the latest label), nor do they address the issues that underlie girls' aggression toward other girls (e.g., a lack of gender safety, harassment, inequality, competition over boys, pressure to match up to media ideals). So here's my wish for 2009: We affirm girls' relational and political strengths by giving them reason to believe they can count on one another and work together to solve social problems. This requires support (funding) for the development and evaluation of creative, strength-based programs that encourage diverse groups of girls to think critically about the world they live in and that offer them opportunities to work in coalition to create social change. --Lyn Mikel Brown, Professor of Education, Colby College, Waterville, ME; co-founder, Hardy Girls Healthy Women; author, Girlfighting and Packaging Girlhood This post is part of a forum
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