Mighty girls at Juniors - Mrs S Skevington, Head of Junior School
At a time when misogynistic banter has been given the presidential stamp of approval, it has arguably never been more important for us as educators of girls to promote positive and accurate gender representations giving our children the freedom to be themselves and be open to all possibilities in terms of careers and life choices.
At the recent Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) summer conference, author Peggy Orenstein gave an inspirational speech about the challenges presented to girls by the media and the way in which schools can help. She had a particular place in hell for Disney princesses with waists smaller than their tiny clenched fists. Even ostensibly stronger characters like Frozen’s Elsa disappointed when analysis of the amount of speech allocated to her in the film found the male lead outstripping her by far on word count.
She talked of marketing through the ‘princess industrial complex’ and the ‘Kardashianisation of girlhood’ where the message is how girls look is more important than who they are, priming them for something more insidious as they grow older.
Whatever the argument of nature versus nurture as to why girls become ‘girly’, as a girls’ school, we have a duty to use our nurture to develop the right nature; where girls see themselves as empowered, strong, capable and not reliant on someone else to swoop in and rescue them.
We have started to discuss some of these issues in our Year 5 ‘Mighty Girls’ club at the Junior School. Our opening session was led by the Senior School Feminist Society and the interaction between our older girls (up to Sixth Form) and our Juniors was wonderful; a real example of sorority solidarity and support.
We have assemblies where the girls see strong women role models; we have looked at women in STEM and had projects and competitions looking at the qualities and strengths we admire. We have ditched tiaras in Reception and adopted superwomen cloaks for our Star of the Day.
Throughout the school, we make use of excellent resources promoting smart, confident, courageous girls, many from a brilliant website (www.amightygirl.com) whose mission statement states “Girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress; they can be the leaders, the heroes, the champions that save the day, find the cure, and go on the adventure”. And that is the message we want our girls to hear.