Guest post by Dannielle Miller, CEO of Enlighten Education.
What is really going on in the playground and behind closed bedroom doors?
Teenage girls are living in a girl poisoning culture and, whilst they may appear to be coping as they are still performing well academically, underneath that “oh so perfect” façade, many are silently imploding:
- A quarter of teenage girls in Australia say they would get plastic surgery if they could, and two per cent have already gone under the knife.
- Almost 60 per cent wanted to be lighter on the scales, and 45 per cent said they knew someone with an eating disorder.
- 3 per cent have tried the party drug ice, five per cent had swallowed an ecstasy pill and 13 per cent have smoked marijuana.
- half said they drink alcohol, with one in five confessing to having done something they regret while they were drunk
- 85 per cent worried about achieving at school.
- Peer pressures is also a reality for many, with 70 per cent of girls confessing they have been bullied.
- As many as one in ten teenage girls self-harm. There is evidence to suggest that women, particularly those under 25, attempt suicide and self-harm at a higher rate than men, although male suicide rates remain considerably higher than female suicide rates. Estimates of self-harm rates suggest there are between 150 and 300 acts of self-harm for every female suicide.
- Sexually transmitted diseases are on the increase amongst young people, it has been estimated that as many as 28% of teenagers may have Chlamydia. In Australia, pregnancy termination (abortion) is the second most common hospital procedure for girls aged 12 to 24 years.
Whilst I am well aware that statistics can be misleading, I don’t think we can afford to dismiss such findings as alarmist. Certainly my own experiences as the co-founder and CEO of Enlighten Education, a company that works nationally with teen girls in schools delivering programs that aim to boost self esteem, foster a positive body image and help girls deconstruct the media messages they are bombarded with, confirm that this is true. I also don’t assert that there are necessarily any direct links between negative body image, incidents of self-harm and risky sexual practices – yet surely all are indicators that teenage girls are stressed, unhappy and looking for love? And surely there are implications for those of us raising and teaching young girls?
Courtney E. Martin, in her insightful new book “Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, the Frightening New Normality of Hating Your Body,” laments the fact that many young women, raised by feminists who told them they could be anything, have misinterpreted the power messages and are now obsessed with becoming everything…successful, thin pretty and sexy. As there is nothing more bitter to a perfect girl than the taste of failure, self hatred has almost become a rite of passage for many teenage girls.
Courtney challenges readers to “step through the looking glass” and create new stories. She emphasises that no one story describes our healing as women, but rather that there are a series of moments when the light is let in.
“There is no healing without help.
There is no power as potent as possibility.
There is no transformation without truth.
There is no change without vulnerability.
There is no wisdom greater than that found inside you.
There is no beauty without struggle or aberration.
There is no statement like your life. There is no end.
There are only beginnings. ”
enlighten aims to be just one more beginning of a series of amazing, brave, wild adventures into self acceptance, and indeed self-love, for many girls. Wow. We love this role. :)
Let me now pose a challenge to you all – what is one small step you will make this week to end the culture of self hatred and help create a new beginning for yourself as a women?