by Maya Brown
In a world where we are constantly bombarded with images of women on stripper poles, girls on diets, and babies in heels, it’s easy to get wrapped up in all the bad stuff and forget about who we’re doing all of this for. After watching TV or looking through magazines, it can start to look like we’re fighting this battle by ourselves and we’re probably going to lose. Luckily, for the past couple weeks I’ve been hanging with some awesome eight- to eleven-year-olds, and they’ve given me a huge wake up call.
This summer, instead of going to the pool, doing summer homework or sleeping in until the afternoon, my friend and I decided to run a two-week theater camp for local kids. We worked with them for four hours every day and at the end we put on an hour-long production. While I love everything about theater, I loved working with all the awesome girls in the camp even better. Although our camp wasn’t supposed to be solely for girls, as it often goes with theater, we had only one boy out of twenty kids, and I’m actually really glad it turned out like that.
Working with these awesome young ladies showed me that there are still real girls out there. Strong little girls who have dreams and desires far beyond the scope of what most magazines show them. Girls who care about so much more than how they look; who care about having fun and playing hard and getting on stage, and winning theater games. And little girls that have real emotions and amazing strengths. They can learn fifty lines in two weeks, and they can accept other girls, and they can make up a whole new scene if someone forgets their line. They can even get up in front of one hundred people and do something they’ve never done before.
Girls can do wonderful and creative things, but the media doesn’t represent that. The media shows us a limited picture of girls when there are actually so many different sides to them. All of the girls I worked with were unique: they were different sizes, different ethnicities, different ages, different socioeconomic classes, but they all got along and they all put on a play together. That’s not something you see very often in the media. While the media shows us girls who go to great lengths to look the same and who always fight with other girls, the girls I worked with took pride in being themselves. They embraced wacky hair day and laughed together as they tried on crazy costumes in an attempt to find one that fit their character. And by the end of the two weeks it didn’t matter what they looked like or who their friends were, they were all in this to put on a great show together, and they did.
Spending time with these girls definitely rejuvenated my desire to stop the sexualization of girls in the media. Because these girls deserve so much better. They deserve to stay just how they are and see other girls like them. They shouldn’t have to worry about what the media tells them to look or act like, they should be praised for what they look and act like already. They are all beautiful and courageous and they deserve to know that. Because they don’t need to look a certain way in order to be successful, they already are. Because every one of them, in their personalized and slightly deranged fairy tale costumes, shouting their lines onstage and running backstage in their light-up sneakers, is perfect just how they are and I hope that no one ever tells them otherwise. That’s why I do this work, and that’s why all of this matters, because girls shouldn’t have to think that what they are is not enough.