Why Girls* Need Our Support
I AM AN EMOTIONAL CREATURE.
I WAS BORN LIKE THAT.
— Eve Ensler
It’s not easy being a girl.* (*The word girl includes all gender-expansive youth: trans girls, non-binary youth, gender non-conforming youth, and gender queer youth among others.) It’s never been easy. But now it’s so much more complicated. Every day, our young women are faced with a thousand conflicting pressures and pulls, all dominated by social media. The average American teenage girl consumes at least 10 hours of media per day, most of which sexualizes and demeans her. Despite our many social advances, we are living in the midst of what MissRepresentation director Jennifer Siebel Newsom calls “a major cultural backlash against women’s progress.” In the midst of our hyper-objectifying culture, teenage girls are uniquely vulnerable. And yet, it is the very sensitivity of girls—their ability to feel things deeply—that also makes them uniquely powerful. Our work at the Intuitive Writing Project is to support girls in realizing their immeasurable power, value, and wisdom.
In just the last few years, the self-esteem of teenage girls has dropped twice as low as it is among boys, while the rates of depression in girls have doubled. According to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, 75% of teenage girls felt “depressed, guilty and shameful” after spending just three minutes leafing through a fashion magazine. 92% of teenage girls hate some aspect of their appearance, 90% of eating disorders occur in teenage girls, and 74% of girls report feeling pressured “to please everyone,” obliged to compromise their personal values in order to be liked. At the Intuitive Writing Project, our goal is to strengthen the inner self, to help girls develop resiliency and self-worth through their own direct, intuitive knowledge.
From what I hear from our young writers, teens today are most demoralized by the fact that none of the institutions that rule their lives are adequately acknowledging or supporting their inner life. The problem, of course, is that we live in a culture that over-values and obsessively polices the surface—external standards of “perfection,” “achievement,” and “beauty”—while de-valuing and negating their character and values. That's why this kind of inner-focused writing community is such an important resource for teens.
Part of our program is focused on media literacy, helping girls to think more critically about external influences, developing the social immunity they need to see themselves through their own eyes. We also work to bring awareness to the universal archetypes, patterns, and cycles of The Heroine’s Journey, as described by the author Maureen Murdock. In understanding the larger patterns of human transformation—the patterns found in every fairytale, novel, TV show and movie—young women will recognize their part in a much larger narrative. Our goal is to help young women become conscious of their unique wisdom and power, as the authors, leaders and heroines of their own lives.