Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Girl Land

Having raised two daughters, now in their twenties, and being the grandma of three young granddaughters, I find Caitlin Flanagan's recently published book, Girl Land, particularly relevant to me. In comparing the teen scenes of generations past to those of today, we find that though Girl Land is a common phase shared by all females, the stark differences between the social atmospheres over time has landed many young girls in a difficult struggle to find their places. The biggest struggle, as has been for generation upon generation in the past, is a girl's self-image and how it relates to the opposite sex. This building of the self-image requires much introspection, hence the term "finding oneself." Our culture being one of techno-media is overwhelming our girls and causing great turmoil, for instead of spending enough time in self-contemplation, they simply learn all of their information by watching the images frolicking across the various screens before them.

As we fail to provide support and encouragement for the struggling girls in our homes and communities, we need to realize that it is us who first taught them that reality is learned by watching TV. It is the parents, caregivers, and teachers who plopped our toddlers down in front of Barney, Elmo, and the like for the purpose of learning the fundamental skills that were once taught first by direct-parenting then hands-on teaching. Now these same girls are learning of the larger reality of which they are infinitely curious. The media-learning that our girls are subjected to by a society that does not have their best interests at heart is countered in Girl Land with some of the most successful teaching aids in all of history: Books. What better way to aid a young gal in her all important deep thinking moments than by giving her characters, plots, and conflicts which not only can she relate to, but which she can work through in her own imagination without the distraction of caustic images and sound bites? Give her some space where she's not being bombarded with how other people think she should act or look or think. Books have been known to encourage thinking for many centuries; the combined audio/visual media does not have this track record, and in fact seems to be failing quite miserably as a tool in personal and social development.

I have made a list of many of the books that are quoted and referenced in Girl Land. Titles such as Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret, A tree Grows In Brooklyn, and Forever, are among those that I am heading to my local bookstore to purchase. I am hopeful that the insights and situations within the pages of these books will make me a better grandparent for my granddaughters; for Flanagan's book has revealed to me just how truly difficult my generation has made it for the next generation to find happiness.

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