Archive for May, 2010

Sexually Charged Pop Culture Permeates an Ever-Younger Demographic – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of this discussion on the oversexualization of our youth. Check out Tuesday’s post for background on the topic.

We can’t know how these specific girls feel about it. But let’s remember that the name of the song is “Single Ladies” and here is a sample of some of the lyrics:

  • If you like it than you better put a ring on it, Don’t be mad once you see that he want it. [Twice during the dance they point at their ring fingers.]
  • You decided to dip (dip) And now you wanna trip (trip) Cause another brother noticed me I’m up on him (him) He up on me (me) Don’t pay him any attention
  • I got gloss on my lips (lips), A man on my hips (hips), Hold me tighter than my Dereon jeans
  • Here’s a man that makes me then takes me and delivers me, To a destiny, to infinity and beyond

In my experience growing up in the 80’s I understood what “sexy” felt like at a pretty young age. And as we all know, media representations of girlhood (toys, tv, film, advertising) are being sexed-up at a younger and younger age. So while these girls are amazing athletes, I just can’t believe they think the dance is as innocent as ballet. There is absolutely no shame in them executing this dance, but I question the adult choreographer.

So what effect do sexualized portrayals of youth have on kids? According to the American Psychological Association (APA), “The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development.” They break down the negative effects into five categories:

  1. Cognitive and Emotional Consequences – Self-objectification has been repeatedly shown to detract from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, thus leading to impaired performance on mental activities such as mathematical computations or logical reasoning (Frederickson, Roberts, Noll, Quinn, & Twenge, 1998; Gapinski, Brownell, & LaFrance, 2003; Hebl, King, & Lin, 2004). In the emotional domain, sexualization and objectification undermine confidence in and comfort with one’s own body, leading to a host of negative emotional consequences, such as shame, anxiety, and even self-disgust.
  2. Mental and Physical Health – Research links sexualization with three of the most common mental health problems of girls and women: eating disorders, low self-esteem, and depression or depressed mood (Abramson & Valene, 1991; Durkin & Paxton, 2002; Harrison, 2000; Hofschire & Greenberg, 2001; Mills, Polivy, Herman, & Tiggemann, 2002; Stice, Schupak-Neuberg, Shaw, & Stein, 1994;Thomsen,Weber, & Brown, 2002; Ward, 2004).
  3. Sexuality – Sexual well-being is an important part of healthy development and overall well-being, yet evidence suggests that the sexualization of girls has negative consequences in terms of girls’ ability to develop healthy sexuality.
  4. Attitudes and Beliefs – Girls and young women who more frequently consume or engage with mainstream media content offer stronger endorsement of sexual stereotypes that depict women as sexual objects (Ward, 2002;Ward & Rivadeneyra, 1999; Zurbriggen & Morgan, 2006).
  5. Impact on Others and on Society – The sexualization of girls can also have a negative impact on other groups (i.e., boys, men, and adult women) and on society more broadly. Exposure to narrow ideals of female sexual attractiveness may make it difficult for some men to find an “acceptable” partner or to fully enjoy intimacy with a female partner (e.g., Schooler & Ward, 2006).

There you have it folks. Let’s continue to talk to young girls about their own views of female identity and media images. We can’t protect them from the negative messaging they receive everyday, but we can teach them to celebrate childhood.



May 18, 2010 at 6:05 pm 1 comment

Sexually Charged Pop Culture Permeates an Ever-Younger Demographic – Part One

I’m willing to bet that the majority of our Girls Circle community has been saddened at some point by sexed-up portrayals of young girls – whether found in images of beauty pageants, “Bratz” dolls, or Miley Cyrus videos.  (Check out our post on Miley Cyrus’s Teen Choice Awards performance.)

It seems to be getting worse, but after watching this latest video, I have to wonder, how long can this go on?

Watch seven-year-old girls dance to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” at the U.S. World of Dance competition:

I found this video on Huffington Post under the header, “Young Girls CRUSH Beyonce’s ‘Single Ladies'” and was… well, appalled. I read many of the comments to this video on Huffpost and while the majority are disturbed by it, many feel that we should all just “relax!” One commenter writes, “Oh come on people lighten up. If YOU think this is sexualizing young girls, then that’s on YOU, because for the little girls (and their parents) it is as innocent as ballet.”

I like that mindset. It’s nice to watch the dance through that lens. No shock, no concern, just celebrating the talent of five young girls who are obviously having a great time. A part of me wants to embrace that thinking.

There’s no question that if adult women performed this same dance in these same costumes it would be seen as very sexual. But people who would agree with the commenter above would say that it isn’t how we as adults view the dance that is important; it’s how the girls who are performing are affected by it. There could be debate on this alone – for example some worry about the actions of sexual predators – but for the sake of simplification, let’s assume this is true.

So do these young girls think this dance is “as innocent as ballet?” Or do they have a concept of the inherent sexuality in the clothing and movement? And if they could sense the provocative nature of it, what effect does that have on their sexual development, if any?

Give us your thoughts and check back on Thursday for Part Two of this discussion!


May 14, 2010 at 3:22 am 2 comments

Girls Circle Facilitator Activity Guides-What’s Cookin’?

Hopefully you’ve been able to access our most recent tip sheet on Transitions and Closures.

Doesn’t it seem like the school year accelerates to an end rather than winding down?

At Girls Circle, we have some deadlines approaching as programs are ending.  These include writing new supplemental Facilitator Activity Guide specific sessions for the Circles Across Sonoma program, an award winning collaborative program through Sonoma County Juvenile Probation, CA, and six community-based organizations serving girls in contact with the legal system.  This gender-responsive Title II program concludes June 30. Fortunately, the Sonoma County Probation Department has renewed the program for its 2010-2011 fiscal year.  This means that girls in the county will continue to be referred to the Girls Circle program.

The community-based facilitators, committed to the strengths-based approach for girls, have identified the following topics as highly relevant for girls in their Girls Circle sessions:

  • Marijuana
  • Binge Drinking* and High Risk Behaviors
  • Coping Mechanisms, and
  • Mental Health

(*On the subject of alcohol, has anyone talked with the girls in your groups about the Hello Kitty wine that’s just been released? Seriously?Also, The Marin Institute’s blog describes a really intense, super high alcohol content new beer, BrewDog, on the market now. That’s a beer equal to about one six pack.  Hopefully you can visit about these products with the girls or boys in your groups.)

We’re excited to be developing these relevant sessions now.  Once they’re complete, we’ll let you know how to purchase these to supplement your own Girls Circle curricula.

Stay well, and thank you for your continued support!

May 13, 2010 at 5:38 pm Leave a comment

Transitions and Closures in Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men


Today we provide the Transitions and Closures TIP sheet.

This document is a rich resource that describes best practices to promote girls’ and boys’ resiliency as they move through transitions and groups, and when their circles and councils conclude.

Click HERE for your TIP sheet. We think you’ll love this resource. In it, we address the significance of changes and endings for youth, including youth with chronic traumas and multiple losses, common youth responses, our recommendations, and two case examples.  The TIP sheet is a guide to assist you in providing safe and strong connections for group members throughout the separations, coming and goings, and departures they will experience.

Originally, we announced our plan to host a teleconference to discuss this topic with you. However, we’re in a transition, ourselves! We decided to forego the conference because we are changing to a webinar format for better delivery of these topic-focused presentations, beginning this fall.

Thank you for visiting  our blog, and for joining our teleconferences.  Since we initiated them in 2009, we’ve had an ever-increasing number of attendees, which is a compliment and a privilege.  We want your time with us to be useful, efficient, and enjoyable, and look forward to our collective meetings again in the fall.

Meanwhile, we always welcome your questions, comments,  by email to:, or  phone, 707-794-9477, or Facebook at Girls Circle or at The Council for Boys and Young Men.  And now that you are here at our blog, come visit  again.

Best wishes on the transitions in each of your groups and programs.

Beth, Giovanna, Kitty, Vanessa and Moorea

May 11, 2010 at 6:20 pm Leave a comment

Teleconference Update

Hello Friends –
We will be posting the Transitions and Closures TIP sheet right here at our blog site, WEDNESDAY, May 12th, under the blog title “Transitions and Closures in Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men”!

PLEASE come back.
Remember, we will NOT be hosting the teleconference call originally scheduled for May 12 but we WILL present a TIP sheet to support your services with youth in Girls Circle and The Council.
Have a great day!

May 11, 2010 at 3:43 pm Leave a comment

Promoting Girls’ and Boys’ Mental Health

Did you know that 13% of children ages 8 – 15 in the U.S. have a diagnosable mental health problem?  See:

Thursday May 6th is Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day.

We cannot separate mental health from overall well being, and we do not recommend separating girls or boys with mental health diagnoses from the circle or council programs serving all youth. Girls Circle and The Council for Boys and Young Men are like extended families for youth.  These models recognize that good health results in part from safe and caring social relationships which are at the heart of development for all children and adolescents.

Earlier last year, we sent an inquiry out to our database, asking facilitators about girls with mental health needs and how they are being served in various Girls Circle programs.  We received a resounding response: all girls are welcome into the groups, and there is no specific difference in how girls are treated with mental health diagnoses than girls without or not diagnosed.  The obvious exception was girls being served within mental health treatment settings, for whom Girls Circle was an extension of core programs.  In addition, facilitators shared our views of the primary purpose of Girls Circle – to offer connection and support for all girls.  Here is one such as reply:

“My circles are open to all girls in the age group of the circle being offered.  I think all of the girls are dealing with the need to maintain a healthy mental state.  All are seeking acceptance and inclusion.”

I will never forget the comment one girl, Jessica, made on a video about Girls Circle many years ago.  She had been a member of Giovanna’s original Young Women In Spirit girls circle. Jessica had been suffering depression, suicidality, family problems during her adolescence.  She spoke to the camera and said, “I see a therapist, a psychiatrist, a family counselor…but of all the things that I’ve done, I think it has been the kindness, love and caring from the people in this circle that has truly kept me going and helped me heal.”

So keep up the good work, offering safety and empowerment, connection and acceptance for the youth in your circles and councils.

The National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) offers several brief audio and video recordings regarding the most common mental health issues children and youth experience, including: attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression, suicidality, and autism.

Massachusetts General has an online resource with dozens of school based intervention strategies for children with various mental health needs. These strategies may also be useful during circle program participation when used appropriately.  If you are serving youth with any of these common mental health concerns, please discuss the strategies with a student, his or her family members, teacher, or school psyschologist when developing support plans:

For example, one set of interventions relates to students with PTSD. These strategies acknowledge that a student’s hypervigilance, checking out, spacing out may be a PTSD symptom due to a trigger, and provide multiple ways to create safety and calmness for the child or adolescent.

On Thursday, in honor of the girls and boys growing up with mental health diagnoses – those that have been identified and those that may never be identified, we invite you to talk with your group members about the prevalence of mental health needs for youth, their family members and friends, and let them know it is okay to ask questions, ask for help, and know that many resources are available to support their well being.

One such resource is an online site where youth can view the stories of kids who have experienced mental health problems like bipolar disorder, suicidality, asperger’s syndrome, and so on, with good ideas that make a difference:

Challenge your group to come up with a phrase that counters the stigma of mental health and instead, offers hope, care, and connection.  Thank you for being there!


May 3, 2010 at 7:43 pm 2 comments

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