Raising girls is hard. Raising boys is hard. We live in a culture where toys are more gendered than ever. The statistics of violence against women has not changed in decades. Aggression in boys and men is on the rise. And the rate of pharmaceuticals given to children keeps increasing. It’s a wonder if any parent can get a restful night’s sleep. My girls tell me to stop reading, that I tend to think the worst, and that I worry too much. On the other hand, I’m the cool mom in the group, they have never been grounded, and as a family we hardly ever fight. Some something is working.
But since having conversation about serious issues with my teenage girls tends to fall flat, I have found videos to be the next best thing to getting a message across. Here are my 5 top picks:
1) Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o Speech on Black Beauty in Hollywood, presented at Essence Magazine conference (video)
A flower couldn’t help but bloom inside me.
Inspired by the actresses in The Color Purple that led her to a career in film, Lupita describes her childhood aches about beauty. She begins by reading a letter from a little girl and then shares her own story. Lupita wished to God she had lighter skin and prayed every night. But change never happened. Her perspective did.
With her mom in the audience Lupita tells the story of her transformation from self-hate to self-love. Her mother told her: “You can’t eat beauty… What she meant was, you can’t rely on how you look to sustain you. What actually sustains us, what is fundamentally beautiful, is compassion. For yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul.” Apparently, Lupita is also a poet.
2) How Do YOU Define Yourself by Lizzie Velasquez at TedXAustinWomen (video)
There are benefits to being really small.
Lizzie is one of only three people in the entire world with a rare syndrome that prevents her from gaining weight. She’s 25 years old, can only see in one eye, and has never weighed more than 64 pounds. She was cruelly bullied as a child, with people telling her that the world would be better off with out her in it. Her story is nothing short of stunning. Lizzie is living her dream as a motivational speaker.
I watched this clip with my 13 year old, who feels like she looks like she’s still in 4th grade, who was recently diagnosed with a degenerative bone condition that means the end of her 10 years of competitive gymnastics. No more pounding on the elbows, ever. For a little feisty kid known as Jumping Josie, it’s a unexpected life challenge. Listening to Lizzie was inspiring.
What defines you?
3) The Mask You Live In (trailer) by Jennifer Siebel Newsom
As a society, how are we failing our boys?
My girls watched Miss Representation when the film on girls and women was released. It is part of our DVD library. The film “exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America.”
While empowerment movements abound for girls, however, they seem virtually non-existent for boys. It’s time we pay attention to our boys. I look forward to the film on boys and men. Recently, the trailer when viral. The message is urgent and clear. We can’t empower our girls without doing the same for our boys.
From the website: “Compared to girls, research shows that boys in the U.S. are more likely to be diagnosed with a behavior disorder, prescribed stimulant medications, fail out of school, binge drink, commit a violent crime, and/or take their own lives. The Mask You Live In asks: As a society, how are we failing our boys?”
4) Selfie, a short film by Dove
What if…your moms can redefine beauty just like you can?
One of the most common anxieties I hear from mothers , who seek me out about how to connect with their girls, centers around what’s happening in social media, cell phones and texting. They are frustrated with how self-absorbed girls seem to be. But social media and smart phones can also be a creative outlet and allow girls to show their real selves.
Taking a selfie is not the worst thing that can happen, remarks a girl in the film. Is the world going to combust into a million little pieces because I put a selfie out there?
The recent film by DOVE helps to open a conversation about beauty, body acceptance, and modern self-portraits. It revolves around a photography workshop with high school girls and their moms. The photographer asks the girls: “What if we figure out a way – when taking a selfie – to actually incorporate the things about us we don’t like?”
She also notes that moms often pass on their insecurities about their body or appearance to their children. “What if you work with your moms, who are also learning how to take selfies? Your moms can redefine beauty just like you can.” My favorite part was when girl in the film remarks on the self-portraits the other girls made.
I was surprised when I heard the girls talking about their insecurities. When they said they were insecure about things, those were things that made them different… but the things that made them different, made them unique. And that made them beautiful.
5) The Sexy Lie: Caroline Heldman’s talk at TEDxYouth@SanDiego
A sexy lie = being a sex object is empowering (It’s totally not)
Dr. Caroline Heldman is Chair of the Politics Department of Occidential College in Los Angeles. She is a vocal advocate for highlighting how mainstream media contributes to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in America.
I love this talk about sexual objectification and “the sex object test” for media literacy. I also appreciate how Caroline Heldman points out how women fail to enjoy their bodies when they continue view themselves as actors in a scene. We are always starring in our mind movies at the expense of being fully in our bodies.
If we accept the statistics that 70% of high schoolers have sex by the age of 17 (this is for you deniers out there) it’s time to be forthcoming about bodies, sex, respect for self and others, and being fully connected to our physical bodies.
This is in-your-face straight talk. It’s easier for Caroline Heldman to say it to your teen daughter than you.