While catching up on a little television this week, I saw some promos for a new documentary series about to start airing on the Oxygen network, wherein correspondent Lisa Ling will be asking, Who cares about girls?
The first part of the series, which will debut on Sunday, March 25th at 10 p.m. ET on Oxygen, will focus on the lives of girls whose mothers are in prison. The next one will focus on child labor and prositution in India.
Each episode will look at the challenges and circumstances facing girls worldwide, as well as the efforts of those trying to help.
Sounds intriguing, particularly since girlhood these days, at least for me, has become a fairly confusing concept.
It seemed so clear-cut when I was experiencing it, before girls at 12 started wearing clothing and makeup more revealing than I ever felt comfortable wearing at 25, and before Laguna Beach showed high school kids experiencing levels of drama, maturity and complexity in their relationships and behaviors than I have been able to muster at 30.
Before I could walk into the Nordstrom’s juniors department with a girlfriend and find age-appropriate "going out" clothing, and have to turn to said girlfriend to ask, "Is this too revealing?" Followed by, "Wait a minute, this is how 13 year-olds dress now?"
"Yeah," she said. "Wierd."
We were brought up when 90210 was as racy as things got and we were darned near scandalized if anyone even considered going beyond kissing.
(And where we could at least console ourselves, if we started to feel a little less pretty, or less exciting, or less dateable than the girls on television, that they at least weren’t real–unlike with Laguna.)
Now, I look at young women, and I don’t know how they manage amid all these mixed signals and expectations. I watch Laguna Beach and find myself, at 30, completely intimidated by these kids, who are like, 16.
And I wonder, then, how do young women negotiate this?
Then there are the girls I worked with in Africa, who face totally different negotiations, like trying to acquire the skills to convince their fathers that they’re worth educating, or finding time (and lamp light) to study at 10 p.m., when they finally finish hauling water, cooking the family meals and caring for younger siblings. Or maintaining the sense of self, and perseverence, to continue with school at all, when every aspect of their culture and family generally tells them that this is useless, that they’re not worth it, that an education, a career and self-sufficiency are not their place.
So, indeed, my sense of girlhood is fairly confused lately, and filled with concern.
I don’t know how girls these days manage, in many respects, and I’m very curious to see what aspects of this Lisa will cover, and how.
And what will surface as the strategies that are working to give girls more hope, and enable them to tap into their fullest, most positive potential, despite all the crazy messages and signals they’re being bombarded with.
My hope is that the feeling I emerge with is not that the one thing girls share worldwide is vulnerability, or victimization, but hope, intelligence, resilience and the ability to stand up to whatever pressures might be pointing them in other directions.
I guess I’ll have to tune in to find out.
And in the meantime, drop a comment to let us here at The Women’s Foundation know what your thoughts are on the issues and pressures facing girls these days–here in the U.S. or abroad.
If you were Lisa Ling, what angle would you cover? What solution would you surface?
What story would you tell, if you could tell the world about girls these days, and who cares?