All around the country, girls (and surely many boys) thought a whole lot about what to wear that first day of school. How did they want to be seen this year? What identity did they want to reveal? We, at MEDIAGIRLS, also wanted to express ourselves with a bold new look. (A shout-out to the J Sherman Studio and Pixelsmith Design for helping us achieve this.)
It’s been five years since our founding in 2014, and we’ve come a long way. We’re now providing our after-school programming to 12 sites in Greater Boston. We’ve guided numerous educators at conferences and panels. We’ve given workshops to thousands of girls and parents at schools, camps and youth organizations. And we’re only just starting.
Our mission has remained the same since the start: First, we want girls to know and own their true self-worth. We strive to help them see that the size of their heart matters far more than the size of their waist; the power of their voice is infinitely more essential than the power of filters and Photoshop. Second, we help girls to harness the power of media for positive change.
We’ve listened over the years as girls confessed to us how they are impacted by ads, movies, billboards, music videos, and social media. We’ve taken endless notes on what they would do to make media healthier and more positive. We sure learned a lot. It now seems laughable that we started with such a heavy focus on magazine ads and TV shows, when today’s girls spend most of their time on Instagram, Netflix, and YouTube. (We quickly adapted our curriculum.) We know that while girls spend 8-10 hours a day consuming media, that doesn’t mean they understand how exactly media manipulates them on an everyday basis (namely, “You’d be so much happier if you purchased our company’s jeans/mascara/bra/lipstick/etc.”).
We have gathered the best conversation starters, activities, and strategies to help girls challenge undermining media messaging, and change their own consuming and posting behavior. It’s not girls who need a makeover; it’s the media that does. Girls shouldn’t have to adapt to sexist media messaging. There shouldn’t be any.
Last spring, we created the hashtag “#realmediagirl,” which we define as someone who uses her social media to be authentic, speak up for herself and other girls, and lift up others rather than tear them down. It’s girls who told us that these three priorities matter most to them. We want every girl and young woman to be a #realmediagirl. Girls dominate in numbers on social media. They have the power RIGHT NOW to make over Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms from spaces that breed insecurity, depression, and loneliness to ones that inspire, support, and empower.
We believe girls can, and will, use social media to help reshape the way our media culture treats women.
That said, it’s going to take all of us–parents, educators, college students and girls themselves—to bring about this girl-fueled revolution. Our website makeover is about disseminating the necessary tools to bring us to victory. Use them, adapt them, share them, and let us know what other tools you need.