GIRLS FORUM: Deborah Tolman on Enhancing the Resiliency of Girls

February 3, 2009 posted by admin We asked advocates and scholars working on issues affecting girls’ lives to address the national conversation on girl’s needs, desires, and rights. What would they like to see changed?  Below is the first response in this week’s forum: Health is not just the absence of disease or risk.  It is the ability to live in a healthy body, with a healthy mind and spirit.   Girls need more than the elimination of risks and dangers in their lives, environments, schools, neighborhoods, homes. They need the encouragement and information that can enable them to live in the positive.   Most government funded research focuses on what, how and sometimes why negative practices, forces, impacts can be eradicated.   How about some effort, energy and resources getting behind what works for diverse girls?  What girls need to enhance their resilience not just to minimize their risks?

For me, the saturation of the media, a mirror of our society, with the depiction of girls and young women as sex objects ("sexual objectification") is one of those serious and seemingly entrenched "problems" that we just have to teach girls to live with. But that's not enough.  And that will not enhance their resilience.  Sexual objectification is like a sneak attack--always threatening to happen, taking its toll in indirect as well as direct ways.   The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls and Women documented this effect.  The concern of Americans is reflected in its being the #1 most downloaded report on the APA website--over 1,000,000 times. And I and many other women, men and girls themselves believe that if we have enough people with enough will, with enough alternatives and enough courage to take on this insidious and all-pervasive take down of girls (and women, and for that matter, boys and men, too), we CAN change our society's tolerance and embrace of this dehumanizing practice. And that is just the top of my wish list for how to enhance the resilience of girls and young women. --Deborah Tolman, Professor of Social Welfare, Hunter College School of Social Work and The Graduate Center, City University of New York This post is part of a forum. LINKS: GIRLS FORUM: Navigating Girlhood to Womanhood from New Moon’s Nancy Gruver GIRLS FORUM: Twelve-year Old Calls for Better Educational Opportunities for Girls GIRLS FORUM: Dear Arne Duncan—Not Everyone Learns the Same Way! GIRLS FORUM: Young Obama Campaign Worker Wants Equal Opportunities to Pursue Her Dreams GIRLS FORUM: With New President, Young Girl Sees Chance for the End of Racism GIRLS FORUM: Discrimination Can Happen “Anywhere, Anytime, to Anyone” GIRLS FORUM: See Dad GIRLS FORUM: Lyn Mikel Brown Counters the “Mean Girl” Onslaught with Strength-Based Programs GIRLS FORUM: Allison Kimmich Advises Obama to Connect Policy to Parenting GIRLS FORUM: R-E-S-P-E-C-T GIRLS FORUM: Kathy Cloninger–Developing Girls of Courage, Confidence, and Character GIRLS FORUM: Round-Up


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Women should have the protected right to express desire for whomever they want. That includeds professors who are only a few years older than them. Everywhere woman goes is an analogy of what any of her sexual expressions mean unbeknownst to her. Heaven forbid she desire to study it on her own. Sexual expression should include equal access to legal protection also should the need arise and not the legal, medical, and educational support of making her quiet or appropriate. There is also a real need for feminist values to be available to women in prison. This is especially true in the county institutions. There is a need for women with small children to be able to hold their babies. Women serving 6 months or more for lets say a DUI related offense need to still have physical contact with their small non verbal children. They need to have whole law libraries like that of their male counterparts. They need to have real knowledgeable people teach them how to legally advocate for themselves. They need to know how to determine whether or not the attorney they are paying is really representing them. There are serious bias showing up in the drug court movement. If a dependency is developed a females needs are ignored. Imagine being a young mother with a herion problem. A missed appointment in drug court, any missed appointment means four cruiser cars come to your residence and haul you to jail. Can you imagine it? A young mother missing an appointment. Or getting a DUI before you were pregnant and finding a newspaper clipping in the file of your prenatal doctor explaining why at every session an unusual questioning about drinking.
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