Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What Are Girls Learning?

My 19 year-old daughter and I were watching a segment on The Today Show about a high school senior who wanted a very provocative picture submitted in her yearbook as her official graduation picture. The school refused so her mother encouraged her to take the school to court over the issue….really? I understand where this mother was coming from. She probably wanted her daughter to fight for what she believes in and was trying to support her although one of the panel members in the discussion thought that the mom was trying to be her friend and not her parent. 
I would love to see this young woman become a future activist and stand up for what she believes in, but again I have to ask, really this is what you’ve chosen? There are so many issues taking place in our country right now that I would love to see young people get involved with like Occupy Wall Street, funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and WIC, or even volunteering at a local agency to mentor other teens learning to make good choices.  Why would this young woman need to fight the school, in court, to have a picture in the yearbook that looks like it would be more comfortable in the pages of Victoria’s Secret?
My daughter who was watching the show with me asked, “Mom, what would you say to that girl?” Actually I was ready to answer because I had been thinking about it as soon as I heard that the mother wanted to support her daughter in this cause. I told her that I would ask the high school grad why she wants herself represented this way. This is her crowning moment; a representation of her steps up from childhood into adulthood. Putting aside the fact that future employers or your future children may see it for the moment, how will you feel about it in the coming years? Do you see yourself as a sum of your body parts? Do you think that the only way to be noticed and appreciated is if you look sexy? Is that all there is to you as a woman after all your years of hard work in school?
This young woman may be a very nice person. She may be very intelligent, hard-working, compassionate, and a future go-getter; but I wouldn’t know that by looking at her senior picture. I wish that the mother of this young woman had gone with her when her graduation pictures were taken to help her to consider the poses that were suggested and help her draw some appropriate boundaries (after all mom and dad are paying for the pictures, right?). I hope this mom is talking to her daughter about how important it is to represent herself as an intelligent woman with lots of great character traits to show to the world, not body parts. I hope she is encouraging her to think about what’s really important for her future and how to fight for causes that lift women to higher levels instead of bringing them down to sexualized objects.
What are we teaching our daughters?

If you are interested in more information on parenting issues, I co-host a parenting chat at with the Health and Lifestyles Writer, Maryanne Kocis-MacLeod, on the first and third Wednesdays of each month from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm.
There are also parenting classes that are offered throughout the year by CARE of Southeastern Michigan in locations throughout Macomb County. You can view upcoming classes, get more information, and register online at or call CARE at 586-541-0033.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said, thank you for your wise and helpful words. I wish more parents had the ability to influence their children in more positive ways.