"I just want my little girl back." This is the plea Dr. Kristin Bohan has been hearing from parents of girls in her private psychotherapy practice for years. "She was great up until about middle school, and then everything fell apart...." What's happening to our girls?
While psychological disorders have many interrelated causes, part of the answer is simple. Popular culture has a powerful, and often negative, influence on shaping girls' identities. And perhaps the most harmful messages girls hear is this: "How you look is who you are. Achieve popular culture's current ideal of physical beauty, at any cost, and you will be powerful, loved..... and live happily ever after."
This is the promise made to girls by merchandisers, magazines and role models they've come to trust. As a result of this promise, many girls give up their childhood dreams and unique potential in order to pursue the perfect image. What usually follows is a long, painful journey down a road paved with low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, unhealthy eating and body image issues. Some girls waste years of their precious lives in pursuit of the perfect image before realizing that the marketers' promises were really lies driven by money, and that the road popular culture has been leading them down is nothing but a big dead end.
This troubling phenomenon is neither new nor unique to our community. In her groundbreaking book, Reviving Ophelia, Mary Pipher first brought "girl-poisoning culture" to our attention and warned that our daughters were giving up being "subjects" of their own lives to be "objects" of others' lives. Since then, other excellent books (e.g., So Sexy So Soon and Packaging Girlhood) have continued to document the dangerous effects of the mass media on girls' psychological development. Additionally, in a 2007 report by the American Psychological Association on the Sexualization of Girls, experts agreed that "The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls' self-image and healthy development."
The highly stereotyped version of girlhood being sold to our daughters is limiting at best and harmful at worst. myTERMS is an attempt to help girls fight back.