#ToTheGirls2016

Dear Ceanray,

I’m sure you know as well as I do that sometimes girl world isn’t a fun place to be. There are rumors, fights, drama, and just general negativity. This morning, I saw a really cool hashtag campaign which worked to change these things by spreading positive messages to girls and creating a safe online space for girls to share encouraging messages.

The campaign, #ToTheGirls2016, was created by Courtney Summers, a bestselling author who wanted to “let girls know they matter” and spread “messages of support, advice, positivity, and empowerment to girls across social media.” The hashtag trended on Twitter today, with girls sharing positive messages about being unique, standing up for yourself, and the power every girl holds to make a difference.

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As I scrolled through the Tweets, my heart swelled at the wisdom of the advice I was reading. It’s such a great feeling to read uplifting messages and feel inspired by them – especially from your fellow girls. #ToTheGirls2016 created an online community of girls reminding each other of how amazing we are and the potential we have.

Like I mentioned earlier: girl world isn’t always a fun place. Not only is there drama, but there are a lot of unrealistic expectations placed on girls by the media; not to mention the double standards, sexism, and unequal opportunities (and pay) that face girls. The messages I read on Twitter today were a shining reminder that despite the struggles girls and women face, we are fighting back in the best way: with kindness.

Courtney Summers, who started #ToTheGirls2016, Tweeted that a message saying that if the campaign inspired just one girl, it had done it’s job; and I think it inspired not just one girl, but thousands.

If you’re in need of a reminder of how amazing you are (you’re amazing, by the way!) read through some of the #ToTheGirls2016 Tweets. I can guarantee you’ll feel happy after reading them!

Sherina

 

Dear Sherina,

I’ve just spent the past few minutes scrolling through the #tothegirls2016 tag and I agree, it’s fantastic. I love to see girls and women join together to combat negativity and the unrealistic expectations that are constantly placed on us by society and our peers. We are taught that there is a certain mould that a girl must fit into in order to be worthwhile. If you’re someone who does not fit into this ideal of perfection, you have to look within yourself and create your own.

With the advent of social media and the rise of well-rounded female characters on television, it’s easy to think that we’ve progressed to a point where we can sit back down again and get comfortable. This is certainly not the case, as we must continue to demand space for minority, disabled and transgender women. These women have strong voices and through social media are given the power to amplify those voices.

Another trending topic on social media today has been Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee’s decision to boycott this year’s Academy Awards. This is now the second consecutive year that actors of colour have not been nominated. As I read this, I couldn’t help but think about the African-American, Latina and Asian girls who would be sitting down to watch the Oscars and not see themselves represented whatsoever. Will this lead them to believe that their stories are not worth being told? I sure hope not, because they most certainly are.

It’s vital that messages of support and encouragement continue to be shared and shouted. Let us lend our voices to the chorus that strives to lift girls up instead of tearing them down.

Ceanray

Why We Need to Shatter the Glass Ceiling

Dear Ceanray,

There’s an old proverb that says ‘those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones’. I would like to amend this expression to say ‘those who look up at glass ceilings should throw all the stones they can find’. The glass ceiling, in case you don’t know, is “an unofficially acknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women and members of minorities.” (thanks, Google!)

A few months ago, the New York Times wrote about a startling statistic: there are more men named John who run companies than women who run companies altogether. This statement tells us that less parents should name their kids John. More importantly, though, it tells us that the lack of women in leadership positions in the corporate world is a serious issue.

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In my opinion there are several factors which contribute to these numbers: the most obvious of which is that some people still believe men are superior to women, and therefore prefer to hire and promote men into high-ranking positions. There’s also the stigma around women in leadership (with powerful women being called “bossy” among other things).

Empowering women would make a difference; movements like #likeagirl are helping to do this, and in my mind there’s been a lot of great focus on female empowerment in recent years. Still though, even when women want to be in a high-ranking position, there seem to be barriers that stand in their way.

Feminism, as we’ve discussed previously, means political, social, and economic equality for both sexes. So, by advocating for women in leadership I’m not dissing all of the men who lead companies. John’s and David’s, keep doing you. But prepare for women to join you at the top of the proverbial career ladder – and prepare for women to shatter the glass ceiling.

Sherina

Dear Sherina,

It’s alarming that in 2015 women are still so grossly underrepresented in the corporate world. Some might say that the reason this arena continues to be dominated by men is simply because there are more men qualified to fill high-ranking positions. While as many as 60% of university students in North America are female, “women account only for 2.7 percent of the chief executives in the financial industry”. Being a woman in the corporate world is a lonely pursuit these days.

On a personal note, I am seriously considering pursuing a university degree in political science once I graduate from high school. I am fascinated by government and how (in an idyllic sense, it would seem these days) ordinary people are given the power to change their circumstance in a democratic society.

However, I am not entirely sure that being a politician appeals to me. The level of media scrutiny female politicians are regularly faced with in comparison to their male counterparts is, quite frankly, appalling. During Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign, far more attention was given to her physical appearance rather than her political capabilities. A segment on MSNBC had this written on the screen crawl while her campaign was discussed;

“CLEAVAGE CONTROVERSY: HILLARY CLINTON’S CAMP ASKING FOR MONEY AMID LOW-CUT BLOUSE BROUHAHA”

A so-called ‘newscaster’ on Fox News commented “You all saw that photo on the weekend of Hillary looking so haggard and like, what, 92 years old!”

Ms. Clinton is but one example of the oft-prevailing misogynistic attitudes towards women in politics and in influential leadership positions. As someone who will be directly affected in her life by this glass ceiling, I would like to call upon fellow human beings to collectively resolve, as you said, to make the glass ceiling a thing of the past and a nonexistent hindrance to the futures of girls and women all over the planet.

Ceanray

Why Hollywood Needs More Hermione Grangers

Dear Sherina,

In previous letters, you and I have discussed the lack of positive female role models available for young women. Current Hollywood films often portray women in ways they believe will appeal to male audiences, while providing the public with female characters who often have little emotional depth or desires beyond landing their man. Luckily, there has been a recent surge in films such as the Oscar-nominated flick Wild, that have female protagonists who are well-rounded and interesting. Unfortunately, a common narrative of many action films involves the handsome, muscular superhero who saves the day and rescues the damsel in distress.

This past weekend while lying in bed with a nasty cold, I was trying to decide which movie to watch. I realized that I hadn’t seen a Harry Potter movie in years – so I chose to watch Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first installment in the series. As I watched this movie and two others, I made a few observations. For example; there are no one-dimensional female main characters in any of these films. With an assortment of women ranging from sadistic psychopaths to quick witted heroines, J.K. Rowling has proven herself to be able to create a universe in which strong male and female characters coexist.

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One of these characters, (and a personal favourite of mine) Hermoine Granger, is not your stereotypical smart girl. She is clever, creates solutions to life-threatening problems under pressure while, simply put, demonstrating that her two best friends (Harry and Ron) wouldn’t survive for a minute without her. Characters like Hermoine are a breath of fresh air in a digital world wherein women aren’t valued for their intellect but rather their ability to look good while half-naked.

J.K. Rowling perfectly sums up the power dynamics in the Harry Potter series in this quote; “What’s interesting about the wizarding world is when you take physical strength out of the equation, a woman can fight just the same as a man can fight. A woman can do magic just as powerfully as a man can do magic.”

Let’s continue to even out the playing field,

Ceanray

Dear Ceanray,

I absolutely adore the Harry Potter series, and I completely agree that JK Rowling did a fantastic job creating strong characters of both genders. Hermione was always my favourite character, and I think a large part of the reason why I liked her so much was that I could relate to her.

I saw myself reflected in her actions – her having read the course books ahead of time, and helping other people with her knowledge (like when she first meets Harry on the train to Hogwarts and uses a spell to fix his glasses). What I love about Hermione is that she was never afraid to stand up for herself. She endured some teasing from her classmates for being so smart, but eventually her classmates learned to respect her because she stood her ground and never stopped being the first to raise her hand or give the answer in class.

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Hermione is an amazing role model for young girls – as is the actress who plays her, Emma Watson. Hollywood is definitely improving in this regard, but I think it still has a long way to go; not just in terms of female role models, but in terms of all kinds of role models.

A few weeks ago when the Oscar nominees were announced people were outraged, and it wasn’t because their favourite movie hadn’t been nominated. It was because the nominees were predominantly white. There is actually a protest planned for this reason.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson – head of the LA Urban Policy Roundtable Group – said, “…the message is very simple: you [Hollywood] don’t reflect America, your industry doesn’t reflect America. Women, Hispanics, African-Americans, people of colour (are) invisible in Hollywood.”

Hollywood needs more Hermione Grangers – more characters who defy stereotypes of all kinds and who are otherwise unrepresented. Maybe we can persuade JK Rowling to write another children’s series so more great role models can be created.

Sherina