A "good" girl vs. an "authentic" girl

Educator, Rachel Simmons, Author of Odd Girl Out, discusses the cultural messages directed at girls and how this influences girls' self-image.
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A "good" girl vs. an "authentic" girl

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I do this fun exercise with kids where I say, "Okay, sit in your chair the way you think a typical guy sits in his chair", and all the girls start laughing hysterically and they all sit like this, they're all open, they like slouch down in their chairs, and they open up and there's like, "yeah". Then when I say, "Sit in your chair the way a typical girl sits in her chair", they all sit up very straight and they cross their legs and put their hands on their knees and they just are stock still. Can we talk about the difference? Girls are expected to hold themselves in; they're supposed to act like others are watching. They're supposed to really be contained, not speak up too much through that posture, and I use that exercise as a way to talk about the pressure to be a good girl-to be polite, to be a rule follower, to be a pleaser- and girls internalize those messages at incredibly early ages. So, what we want is for girls to both become aware of that, to understand what it means to grow up female in this culture-which is why I talk with parents about why we've got to talk with girls about cultural messages-but we also want girls to embrace the idea of an authentic girl, of a real girl. And that is a girl who, rather than worrying, is everyone gonna like me? Am I doing the right thing? That girl thinks about what do I want to do right now? Do I like the people I’m seeing? Am I sure that I want to hang out with them? What do I think and feel in this moment? Do I need to say something about that? So this is a girl-the authentic girl, the real girl-who’s connected to herself, who’s comfortable speaking and not necessarily fearing what others are going to say, and who sometimes, decides not to be a pleaser or be polite all the time but instead takes a stand. One of the best ways to cultivate real girls is to make sure that girls have role models around them who are embracing these qualities, who assert themselves, who don’t shut down and become silent when they’re upset but instead, articulate their feelings; who are willing to make a little bit of a mess and play if that means having fun and embracing the joy of the moment rather than needing to have a perfectly neat house. When girls see adults around them embracing those qualities of authenticity they are so much more likely to embrace them themselves.

Educator, Rachel Simmons, Author of Odd Girl Out, discusses the cultural messages directed at girls and how this influences girls' self-image.

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Rachel Simmons

Author & Educator

Rachel Simmons is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator, Rachel works internationally to empower young women to be more authentic, assertive and self-aware.

Rachel is a Vassar graduate and Rhodes Scholar from New York. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, she is an experienced curriculum writer and educator who works with schools and organizations around the world. She currently develops leadership programs for undergraduate women at the Center for Work and Life at Smith College. She has previously worked as a classroom teacher in Massachusetts and South Africa.

Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and is a contributing writer and advice columnist for Teen Vogue.

Rachel has appeared on Oprah and the Today show, and appears regularly in the national me- dia. Odd Girl Out was adapted into a highly acclaimed Lifetime television movie. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her daughter and West Highland Terrier, Rosie, who is currently taking private workshops with Rachel to learn how to stop bullying other dogs.

For more information, please visit www.rachelsimmons.com.

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