“Empowering” girls can look a lot like enforcing gender stereotypes, writes Scott Richardson on Pacific Standard.
His daughter participates in Girls on the Run, a 5K run (or walk) for girls — no boys allowed — in third through eighth grade.
Volunteer coaches lead their team through a pre-packaged curriculum designed to “encourage positive emotional, social, mental and physical development.” Girls discuss self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, healthy relationships, and “challenges girls face.”
Though boys are banned, older male relatives and friends run with girls as “sponsors.”
Men, women and girls are encouraged to “girl it up” with “skirts, tutus, big bows, bold patterned knee-high socks, tiaras, etc.), apply make-up or face paint, and spray color their hair,” writes Richardson.
There’s nothing for girls who might want to “butch it up.”
Richardson also questions “bombarding girls with ‘positive’ messages about themselves meant to counteract negative ones.” The program implies “that girls aren’t considered equal to boys.”
“What messages are girls really getting when special programs are aimed at trying to make them feel good about themselves as girls?” he asks.