I am presently undertaking a project, 25 Days, where I travel around the country listening to people and writing their stories. I am now working on stories for Austin, my fourth city.
In many of the homes I have stayed in during this project, there have been young girls of ages from five or six through 12 or 13. Generally speaking, I have a good relationship with the children in the houses I stay in, but observing the difference in girls, the way they transform from these confident little balls of energy into secretive and insecure young women is stunning.
My own experience growing up was not much different. At a certain age, I became very aware that I had changed. When I was very young, I was treated like a little ray of sunshine. When people saw me coming, their faces would brighten, and I could do no wrong. When I hit about 11 or 12, I became a problem to be dealt with. I became awkward, sarcastic, and generally unpleasant to be around.
I have to wonder what this is. Why is it that girls go through this change, and why have we as a society not figured out how to help them through it? I can’t help but think that there is something that could be done.
I recently watched a documentary about the disparity between males and females in media, and how pervasive the “woman as second-class citizen” message is. Like most things of this nature, it seems to stem from fear. I don’t think it is fear of women, but fear of ourselves. It might even be a fear of what we are capable of, but too afraid to reach for. The documentary discussed the reality that women, just as often as men, discount women. It is as if we believe that we are not all connected.
We lose so much by putting each other down. It is not about who owns the most, it is about who shares the most. It is not about what you have to lose, it is about what you have to give. We are missing the point. We have to wake up and start believing in our own greatness. Treating girls this way is a symptom of a sickness we have yet to cure. It is time to stand up for ourselves and stand up for each other.