Non-Profit Launches Campaign Teaching Girls Their Worth Isn’t Determined By Their Appearance

Do you ever find yourself automatically resorting to the “you look so pretty!” statement when you are talking to a young girl? Do your comments naturally default to something about her physical appearance, as opposed to any of her abilities? And here’s the really challenging question: do you ever find yourself NOT resorting to the same type of default statements when talking to boys of the same age?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are not alone. We live in a society that has programmed us to value and think about gender a certain way. The overwhelming amount of messages aimed at women and girls tells them from a very young age that their worth and value is firmly tied to their appearance. It’s time to change this and see an entire generation raised without pressure to conform and contort themselves to feel acceptable.

Thankfully we are seeing an entire global movement dedicated to empowering girls to know they are equal and just as capable as boys of achieving whatever they want. Whether it is brands like Goldieblox encouraging girls to develop engineering skills, hygiene brand Always revolutionizing the “Like A Girl” message to mean strength and power, or numerous parents who are writing books, designing clothes and creating products aimed at inspiring girls to look beyond their physical appearance as any sort of measurement, change is happening.

An Australian-based non-profit called the Pretty Foundation, launched by founder Merissa​ Forsyth, are launching a month-long campaign starting in August called “Pretty Powerful”, aimed at encouraging parents to know the power of words in a young girl’s life. The campaign is aimed at girls aged 2 to 6, a crucial development period which can set the course for the rest of their life in terms of body image and self-acceptance.

In an interview with TheAge.com.au, Merissa talked about the mission behind her campaign and what she particularly wants parents and caregivers of young girls to know.

“We want to drive awareness of the power of words on girls’ body image and provide parents with the tools and resources on the type of language we should use with little girls. Words are powerful, particularly when we speak them about ourselves and others and they can really have a significant impact on body image,” she said.

On the Pretty Foundation website, there is a link to resources for parents which can be used as a guide to initiating conversations around empowerment and help them start new healthy habits for their daughters. The information and strategies offered emphasize the role parents play in shaping a young child’s perspective on themselves and how they will take up space in the world as they grow older, which is what is so great about this campaign.

“Value personal qualities other than appearance”, “health is more important than appearance”, “remember that you are a role model”, the document states. It points out how the trifecta of parents, peers and the media are the three most influential aspects in shaping a girl’s self esteem, and that in Australia, over 50% of preschool girls are already dissatisfied with their bodies. That is both a scary and sad statistic to stomach.

The “Pretty Powerful” campaign will run throughout August, and during the month of September, the Foundation has partnered with Liptember, a campaign which raises funds and awareness for women’s mental health.

As with many mental illness and body-image related campaigns we see nowadays, the knowledge of social and other forms of digital media playing a major role in the lives of youth today is certainly included in the mission of the Pretty Foundation.

“The far reaching impact of negative body image is well documented – and its only getting worse as peer pressure, traditional and social media influence has an increasing effect on the next generation of girls. Negative body image not only causes considerable distress but it can also contribute to the development of low self-esteem, depression, unhealthy weight loss and clinical eating disorders,” says the website.

Various health and medical experts have started to speak regularly about the link between social media, eating disorders and mental illness.

“According to the National Eating Disorders Association ‘as many as 65% of people with eating disorders say bullying contributed to their condition.’ According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ‘about 3 percent of U.S. adolescents are affected by an eating disorder, but most do not receive treatment for their specific eating condition.’ The obsession over self-image and fitting peer and societal expectations in the social media world has also opened the door for body shamers and bullying to occur more frequently,” writes Greta Gleissner, the founder of Eating Disorder Recovery Specialists in an article on HuffPost.

It is an important issue, and one that can see massive change with greater awareness from parents and role models about how they can play a part in setting a girl on an empowering path in life, starting with the words they use. Along with encouraging them verbally, it’s also vital that young girls get to see other young female role models they can aspire to, ones that don’t conform to narrow standards of beauty.

These can include girls like education activist Malala Yousafzai, baseball superstar Mo’ne Davis, breakthrough skater from Japan Sky Brown, the all-female robotics team from Afghanistan who recently made headline news after initially being denied entry to the US, then eventually allowed in to compete in a competition where they won a silver medal, and countless others. Advertising like Always’ ‘Like A Girl’ is sending a powerful message that flips the script on a phrase that has for too long been used as a hideous gendered insult. The positive influences exist, but it must start with parents in the home.

“Research shows that the foundations for building a positive body image are laid in early childhood. That’s why it made perfect sense for us to take the body image conversation back to the start – and focus our efforts on young girls aged two to six years old. To do this we will not only develop initiatives that speak to young girls but we’ll also speak to the parents of these young girls – educating and equipping them with the language, tools and confidence to build resilience in their daughters,” says the Pretty Foundation website.

To learn more about their campaign and the work they are doing, visit the website and take advantage of the resources provided for parents.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.