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Verizon Viral Ad for Girls: What are We Telling Our Daughters about Math and Science?

It was a great Good Morning America segment this morning!  We focused on a new viral Verizon campaign and ad that questions whether it’s time to move from telling our girls that she’s simply “pretty” to telling them that they are “pretty brilliant” too. What are we telling our girls about their abilities in math and science?  Can we attract more girls into STEM?  We explored this topic.

GMA_verizongirlsvideo_800400Why are we seeing greater numbers of ads reaching out to young girls and women giving them the message they can be more?

First, let’s not forget that these companies want to sell products and in these ads they are appealing to big markets, women and girls. But aside from that, I think these companies are seeing that by moving away from looks and celebrating the strong minds of girls, they can inspire a larger pool of future game-changers.  These are the people who can invent something important and become the next generation of leaders in their companies. We are looking for leaders, not hood ornaments.

The ad quotes a statistic- 66% of 4th grade girls say they like science and math, but only 18% of all college engineering majors are female. So where does the disconnect happen? Is it the fault, as the ad suggests, of parents?

Parents get such a bad rap—but it’s not just parents, it’s society as a whole.  If a girl is interested in Science, Technology, Engineering or Math, many of the toys that support those interests are in the “boy” section, the protagonists of the majority of books & movies in this genre are boys—and while there are companies and wonderful grass roots efforts to change that, there is still a Read more

Brave Girls

The Problem with Labels: Confining, Constricting and Compressing Our Children’s Potential

labelWe don’t mean to do it.  But so many of us do it anyway.

“This is my shy one.”

“She’s my tom boy.”

“He’s my clown.”

“She’s my reader.”

“He’s my little athlete.”

“She’s great in spelling.”

“He’s great in math.”

“She doesn’t like sports.”

“He can’t sit still for a minute.”

When we label our children, we unwittingly define them.  We provide definite limits that tell our children what we think of them, what we expect of them and who they are to be.

Most of us have heard of the movie, Field of Dreams.  The message repeatedly relayed is “If you build it, he will come.”  I think of labels similarly; “If you label it, they will BEcome.”

Sometimes, this seems like a win.  We label our child a “great student” when Read more

Girls groups

When A Group of Great Girls Goes Bad: Basic Drama or Cultural Breakdown?

Girls rock.  Put a bunch together and it can be a great deal of fun, laughs and heart to heart conversations. Except when it isn’t.

Sometimes groups of girls have problems getting along.  They fight, gossip and hurt each other’s feelings.  At times it feels like a uphill battle while at the same time a downhill freight train with no intention of stopping.

I’ve been working personally with specific staff members and girls this year from a variety of schools and camps.  And even though I’ve been doing group coaching for a long time, I always find it an eye-opening study of girls culture, friendship and positive mentorship. Most recently, the leaders of an organization had asked me about one group of girls, in particular, who seemed to be in an endless fight. This daily argument not only was causing internal havoc in the group but was also exhausting the staff and leaving them with questions, concerns and a whole lot of frustration.

After a meeting with the girls personally, I realized that the problem was not, in fact, day to day fighting.  Rather, it was a much larger cultural problem that had festered like a toxic wound at the heart of the group.

Does this sound familiar to you?  It can be exhausting to deal with the day to day issues that emerge in such a group because there never seems to be an end.  That’s because the daily problems are a symptom—not the cause.  The question becomes; are you dealing with the root of cultural turmoil or are you trying to band-aid the daily indicators of that turmoil?

Here is a way to determine if you have a deeper problem than the standard daily grind:

  1. Same thing, different day: The girls always seem to be fighting Read more

Picture Day, Hot Pink Socks and Raising an Assertive Daughter: When Values Can’t Be Conditional

“I want to wear the pink socks.”

“Honey, you have a blue and white dress on.  Please just wear the white socks.”

“But I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Tallie, I’m exhausted.  Please stop arguing with me.”

“I want to wear the pink socks!”

“Fine! Wear the pink socks!”

My 4 year old daughter puts on the hot pink socks. I angrily stomp upstairs and ask myself why she doesn’t want to listen to me and just put on the socks. They’re just socks! So I go back downstairs to plead my case.

“Ugh, Tallie.  It’s Picture Day.  You can wear the pink socks any other day.  Can you please just wear the white socks?”

Tallie puts on the white socks.  I win.  Or do I?

I want my daughter to be assertive.  I want her to stand up for what she believes in, follow her own lead and make choices that are meaningful to her no matter what anyone else thinks.  I really do. We talk about being assertive.  I ask her to be assertive in restaurants when ordering.  With friends on play-dates.  With her brother when choosing a movie to watch.  Being assertive is important.  But can she be assertive on any other day but picture day?

As it turns out, values can’t be conditional.  They can’t depend on schedule, holiday, company or place. As parents we may know that intellectually but in practice, the notion can seem like quite a nuisance.   Well, in the short run anyway.

So I thought about it.  And after Tallie left for school I confessed my blunder out loud.  Raising healthy, strong daughters is an everyday thing, not a sometime thing.  It’s not about convenience, it’s about commitment.

So I plopped the hair on top of my head in a clip, put on a warm up suit, brushed my teeth and walked out the door with hot pink socks in hand.  I drove to the school and went inside.  Then I asked if I could see my daughter for a moment.

When Tallie came out, she looked a little confused.  Why was I there?  I knelt down in Read more

The Many Sides of Girls: From Spiderman to Princesses and Everything In Between

The first thing my daughter, Tallie, wanted to do this morning was go downstairs and have me read her two Spiderman stories from her brother’s new Adventures of Spiderman book he received for Hanukkah last night.  So that’s what I did.  It was from that book that I read her a good night story before bed last night (because nothing says sleep like Spidey against “Lizardman”).  She has also taken a liking to her brother’s new Hess helicopter and truck (so we got her one too that she’ll get for Hanukkah one night).

Tallie loves to climb, tickle-wrestle, play with cars, play baseball, roll in leaves, make snow angels and run.  She also loves to play dress up, play dolls, play pretend and get her nails done with Mommy.

My point is that she is beautifully complicated and multi-faceted.  She is not one-note.  And my guess is, neither is your daughter.

As parents we must be careful.  Society tells us that girls are meant to love princesses and pink—and some of them do—but not all of them—and for those who do, that’s not all they love.  And it’s vital to our girls’ healthy development that we nurture all sides of them.

The side that likes to pretend.  The side that likes to build.  The side that likes to do puzzles.  The side that likes to run, jump and get dirty.  And the side that likes to read about everything from superheroes to bugs (a current interest of Tallie’s) to space to princesses and whatever else perks their curiosity from one week to the next.

My point it; we can’t let society dictate what our daughters love.  We must let our girls do that.  I’m currently coaching one Read more

TV Anchor, Jennifer Livingston, Called Fat: Fights Back Against Her Body Bully

(Note; My Today Show Health Report Interview on this topic included below)

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GdJ2jHii6Y0]

The internet blew up yesterday with applause for Jennifer Livingston, a TV anchor in Wisconsin, who spoke out about fat hatred and what I call, “body bullying” after receiving a derogatory email from a viewer about her weight.

The viewer’s email read;

“Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you’ll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.”

Jennifer fired back with a very thoughtful, stern and directed response.

“The internet has become a weapon. Our schools have become a battleground. And this behavior is learned – it is passed down from people like the man who wrote me that e-mail. If you were at home talking about the fat news lady – guess what? Your children are probably going to go to school and call someone fat. We need to teach our kids how to be kind – not critical and we need to do that by example. So many of you have come to my defense over the past four days.

To my colleagues and friends from today and from years ago…my family, my amazing husband and so many of you out there that I will probably never have the opportunity to meet – I will never be able to thank you enough for you words of support. And for taking a stand against this bully. We are better than that e-mail. We are better than the bullies that would try to take us down.

And I leave you with this… to all the children out there who feel lost…who are struggling with your weight, the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability – even the acne on your face…listen to me right now. Do not let your self worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience that the the cruel words of one…are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

I was interviewed by the Today Show Health Report about this incident.

Livingston’s move is a step toward civility in a society that thinks a woman’s weight is fair game, said Dr. Robyn Silverman, a body image expert and author of the book “Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.”

“I applaud her for her response,” Silverman said. “It was a very responsible response.”

We’ve become a “fault-finding” society where it’s acceptable to make snarky comments about anyone, but especially those in the public eye, Silverman said.

When Livingston stood up to the mean-spirited viewer, she was helping combat the messages that say it’s OK to judge people based on weight.

“We send the message to our children that they are not good enough, they are not valuable enough, unless they look a certain way,” Silverman said.

While the fat-shaming speaks volumes to the girls and young women today who must constantly hear these messages wherever they go, it wasn’t the direct slams on Livingston’s weight that frustrated her the most.

On the Today Show this morning, Livingston told Savannah Guthrie;

“I can deal with being called fat … with being called obese. It was calling me a bad role model that rubbed me the wrong way, and not only a bad role model for our community, but for young girls, in particular.”

Young girls need to see and hear that they can be and do whatever they dream of in life– that their determination, hard work, smarts and talents will put them in the forefront- no matter what their weight, size, height or overall appearance.  We need more women (and men) like Jennifer Livingston who stand up and tell the world that they are worthy just the way they are– and that bullies should not and will not define them.  But they especially need to hear that as girls and young women, that they are valuable too– that they set their own path and their own definition of worth.  Jennifer Livingston did just that– and for that, I truly applaud her.

Yes, she certainly seems like a role model to me.

Dr. Robyn on The Today Show: Vintage Ads Say Thin was Not Always In

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PRGdNH8qKpg]

These days, the word “fat” comes with a lot of baggage.  Studies tell us that fat is continually associated with unflattering words like lazy, ugly, blameworthy, gross, and unpopular.  But it wasn’t always that way.  If you look at some of the vintage ads, thin was definitely NOT always in.

“Enjoy life!” “Put on 5 pounds of flesh!” “Left out because you’re too skinny?” Vintage ads paint the picture that full-figured women were the beauty standard of their era.

Over the last 100 years the celebrated standard of body beauty in advertising has morphed from one that was more voluptuous (signifying vitality, wealth, and happiness) to one that is thin (signifying, sometimes erroneously, health, perfection and self control). In the early part of the 20th century actresses and models demonstrated the voluptuous trend—prompting beauty products and subsequent advertising to address the desire to put ON weight. Things changed dramatically in the 60s with the introduction of Twiggy, in the 80s with the fitness craze (think Jane Fonda), the 90s with the introduction of the waif, and now, we still receive messages (and the studies reflect this), that to be thin is to be beautiful, sexy, controlled, successful and good. Beauty products and advertising has followed suit.

These days it seems that people say the word “fat” like they are spitting it out on a plate.  This can be really confusing and upsetting for young girls who are going through puberty—a time when it’s very normal and natural to gain an average of 25 pounds! As a young girl or women is gaining weight, many look at it as “getting fat.” It’s common that people bemoan ‘I feel fat” or call themselves ugly names like “whale,,” “pig,” or “heifer.”

What would it have been like to live at a time when people thought it was more beautiful to be buxom that thin? Or is the pressure the same whether it’s to be thin or to gain weight in order to fit in?

It seems like a lot more women would have fit the ideal standard if we weren’t told that we all needed to be impossibly thin to be considered attractive. But then, naturally thin women would have been left out to the definition of beauty.

At the end of the day, it still comes down to marketing. As long as there has been women’s beauty products and advertising, there have been (and there will be) messages that tell girls and women that they are not good enough, not beautiful enough, and not worthy enough unless they buy these products…and use them.

How do you think it would impact YOU and the women in your life if their was pressure to gain weight rather than lose it?

 

 

 

International Women’s Day: What Stands in the Way of More Women Leaders?

It’s International Women’s Day—a day to reflect on the amazing women and girls in our lives but also to ponder what’s to come for the up and coming women in the world.

As the mother of a young girl and a speaker who works with girls and women with regard to leadership, confidence, mentoring, and the barriers that stand in our way, I see so much potential in today’s girls.  Yet, I think there is some work to do in order to help them to become the leaders they are meant to be.

We know that there is still an imbalance when it comes to the number of women vs men in leadership positions. This is true in business as well as in government.  Women have a great deal to offer but many are not taking their rightful place in this world—which for many, is in front…leading the pack.

How do potential women leaders stand in their own way of success?

(1) Pleasing others instead of pleasing ourselves:  Many girls and women are known “people pleasers.” They want to be liked. They want to be admired. They want to feel useful.  And while there is nothing wrong with being liked, admired, and useful—many girls and women will sacrifice what they want in order to “do” for others.  Leaders do what is right and what is needed- but they also follow their own bliss.  They assume their rightful place in this world not because others put them there or others don’t want the job but because they are doing exactly what they were meant to do.  When a girl or woman follows her our own bliss, they are always in the lead. Nobody can usurp the position that has someone else’s name on it.

(2) Perception of ceiling: We’ve heard for years about a glass ceiling that is impenetrable by women in business.  But every time I hear something like that, I think of Roger Bannister, a runner who was told it was impossible to run a 4-minute mile.  It had never been done! And then he did it. Immediately following, others did it. I think if we sell ourselves and our daughters a bill of goods that this ceiling exists, they will believe it.  What they believe is what they will see.  Leaders don’t look at ceilings—they look at what’s beyond it.

(3) Distraction: Girls receive hundreds of messages each day telling them that they need to look and act a certain way if they are going to be deemed worthy by others.  Questions loom in their heads; Am I thin enough? Too ugly?  Read more

Dr. Robyn Silverman on The Anderson Show: Plastic Surgery & the Pressure to Be Perfect

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc1EEuFpHs4]

Plastic surgery is a booming business. In 2010, there were 296, 000 breast augmentations, 252,000 rhinoplasties, 203, 000 liposuctions procedures and 116,000 tummy tucks.  I imagine you can guess who are the most likely consumers of these procedures: women.

And it’s not just for adults. The latest figures from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery show that the number of such procedures performed on youths 18 or younger more than tripled over a 10-year period – from 59,890 in 1997 to 205,119 in 2007. Liposuctions rose to 9,295 from 2,504, and breast augmentations increased nearly six-fold, from 1,326 to 7,882. (Info here from my body image book, Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls and How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It)

In the above video, I’m speaking on The Anderson Show about body image and Read more

No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about: When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments Read more