I've been thinking recently, that we as a society need to start some sort of national Save Our Girls campaign. The trials and tribulations of teenage girls has been documented for eons, from Sophocles to Shakespeare to Plath to Brashares. Teenage girls have always had it rough, but it seems that things are getting worse. I think the first glimpses came with the book Reviving Ophelia, published several years ago now. Mary Phipher (I think) showed through case studies of teenage girls she had counseled that our girls were floundering under the weight of low self-esteem, peer pressure and societal expectations. More recently, the movie Thirteen (co-scripted by a thirteen year old girl) told the story of two thirteen year old girls gone completely wild. And last year, a book entitled, The Notebook (?)was published by four high school friends who recounted, with full disclosure, their exploits with alcohol and sex throughout the previous years, as well as their struggle to find self-worth and self-esteem.
This past week, I've had two students come to me and tell me they were pregnant. I had one student come to me and tell me that she was dating an older guy who she knew was cheating on her and who also refused to use protection during sex but she didn't want to break up with him because he was "really hot" and everyone thought they made a great couple. Something has obviously gone terribly wrong.
Of course, there have always been girls who find themselves in these situations, but I don't think it's been as across the board as it is now, or as widespread. The girls interviewed by Mary Phipher were all middle-upper class white girls. The girls who published The Notebook were honor students bound for Ivy League schools. So, what's going on?
I have a couple of theories, all of which may have no bearing whatsoever. First, I think our hyper-sexualized, whatever makes you feel good society forces kids to grow up too fast. Second, I think our kids have less guidance in how to maneuver through society. It's natural for teenagers to want to rebel against their parents, but who else is there to give them advice and to help them through? Third, where are the role models for our girls? Who do they have to really look up to and aspire to? Who's there to tell them it's o.k. to be who they are, and that they don't have to conform to anyone else's standards. I think now, more than ever, our girls need mentors. They need adult women in their lives who will get to know them, who will care about them, who will nurture and guide them through the turbulent time of adolescence.
So, I'm sending out an S.O.G. I'm encouraging all of you women out there who read this to find a way to connect with the teenage girls you come into contact with. Volunteer with a local mentoring program, volunteer with your church's youth group, volunteer to help coach a local softball or volleyball program. Be a cheer leading or dance team sponsor. Take some time to check in with your neighbor's kids. Make plans to hang out more with your nieces or little sisters. Just take some time. You don't have to be a fount of wisdom spouting out advice and platitudes every time your mouth opens. You just have to be available, and to listen, and to let your actions speak louder than any words you could use.
It's time to try and save our girls. If we don't, who will?
Blessings and Peace,
P.S. As a mother of a boy, I don't want to give the impression that our boys don't need us too, they do. I just haven't quite figured all of that out yet:)