This is How Our Digital World Shames Young Women

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[fullwidth background_color=”” background_image=”” background_parallax=”none” enable_mobile=”no” parallax_speed=”0.3″ background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” video_url=”” video_aspect_ratio=”16:9″ video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding_top=”20″ padding_bottom=”20″ padding_left=”” padding_right=”” hundred_percent=”no” equal_height_columns=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” menu_anchor=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]I will never forget the summer in between 6th and 7th grade. One tiny insignificant encounter with two guy friends may be in fact more significant than one would have ever thought. During one of my frequent bike rides to see my best friend, I ran into two of my guy friends. We talked for a minute and then I was off. Riding away, I hear – “did you see that? I think Miranda got her first zit.”

I was mortified.  I pedaled fast and hard -I needed to get away from them. And there they were, riding up to me to prove the fact that my first public pimple was real. The red dot on my face had now become something of the public eye.

This was a tipping point in my life. Perceptions of how I looked at myself changed. All I could see were things that were wrong with me when I looked in the mirror, from each and every little pimple to the tiniest kink in my hair. I went from getting out of the shower and throwing on tennis shoes to play, to hand-selecting outfits, getting up an hour early to straighten my hair and looking for perfect accessories.

I now had an image, or what I thought was an image. I did not want to be embarrassed, or talked about. With adolescence comes word of mouth social networking. The decade I lived between the ages of 10-20, Walkmans were how we listened to CD’s in our cars and cell phones were just becoming mainstream. We did not have ipods, Facebook, or YouTube. The internet and computers were slow and you were lucky if you had a computer in your home. So going viral in my generation was by word of mouth, telephone calls and school hallways.

It is my belief that virality has always been present in human life. As we progress and technology changes, an item that goes viral takes on new depth.

Historical and traditional values have placed limitations on women. A series of rules meant to contain women, or perhaps?… meant to be broken. Can women vote? Can women work? Should women stay home with the children? As society evolves, rules are bent, broken, replaced and even ignored.  Allowing us to embrace change and growth.

If there is one thing in life we know, change is constant.

Famous women have made a scene. They have chosen to break a rule or stand up for what they believe in. When they were told no, they pushed harder. The following women were told no. They were given rules and their choice to break them, caused life changing events – and things that will be forever viral through history books.

Susan B. Anthony is quoted- “Women must not depend upon the protection of a man, but must be taught to protect herself.”

“Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace with yourself.” -Amelia Earhart

“For many generations, more than we can count, we bowed our heads and submitted to blindness and begging. This blind and deaf woman lifts her head high and teaches us to win our way back by work and laughter. She brings light and hope to the heart.” -Quote from a Japanese woman about Helen Keller

“Back then, we didn’t have any civil rights. It was just a matter of survival existing from one day to the next. I remember going to sleep as a girl hearing the Klan ride at night and hearing a lynching and being afraid the house would burn down.” -Rosa Parks

Eleanor Roosevelt  was the longest serving First Lady of the United States, and at the most important time in women’s history, the era of the 40’s. She was controversial in her day, speaking up for child welfare, housing reform and equal rights for all racial minorities and women, African Americans rights, and helped new politics.

Much of our current media has shifted from celebrating wins and honoring courage, to focusing on the negative – completely changing what goes viral. Today young girls are growing up with images of perfection. The appearance that everything is bright and shiny. Magazines, television and media either portray perfection or call out the imperfections. Airbrushing photoshop techniques to make models and actresses look so perfect that if you saw them on the street, you would probably never recognize them.

I have watched beautiful friends desire or get liposuction, botox injections, false eyelashes, or permanent makeup. Hell, I’ve tattooed my eyeliner.

My own self-image was shattered for many years. Finding my confidence as a woman was not easy. (And I believe men struggle with this too.)  In today’s world our young women are being subjected to images of perfection and negativity at a faster rate. With social media and cell phones in the hands of many of our children and youth – we cannot control what they see. From YouTube to SnapChat, they are exposed and exposing themselves to the world.

Teen idols are openly discussing sex and hair and makeup tips for 12 year olds in magazines that are on our store shelves. We live in a world where media is influenced by the financial benefit. Sex sells. This image of perfection is only an outer image of the mirror we are all looking at. The bright and shiny reflection is never the whole story.  Instant gratification for beauty or success is damaging youth and adults everywhere.

The unwritten rules or expectations the digital world has provided, are not just affecting young girls and women. Many men and young boys are influenced to treat women as sex objects or expecting a woman to abide by rules generations of families have made for them. And believe me… women are not the only victims here, men and boys are undergoing the same type of treatment from women/girls.  These expectations are limiting our ability to think clearly about what normal really means.

The digital age is brought online bullying and shaming. Young girls and boys are basing life decisions on likes or retweets. Perfected photos are creating impossible image standards.

Gossip is no longer only in the school hallway, the conversation has moved online to numerous social networks. What goes viral online will change in a minute from right now. But what is posted online or trending amongst friends will never be forgotten. The words and actions used will ultimately impact lives.

Social media bashing, accusations, photographs and videos can be harmful and hurtful. Virality is an online argument of opinions. It often lacks respect for self, for others, and for our country.

The digital world is giving tweens, teens,  and even preschoolers access to information at a faster rate. It is a blessing and a curse. Being twelve or sixteen today, is much different than it was for me in my bicycle riding walkman days.

What people are saying online may be gone tomorrow on Snapchat – but never forgotten. To think I struggled with self-image without a public forum of opinions weighing in on my personal life. I can’t imagine what it feels like for young girls today.

What is the remedy? I don’t have the answers, but I believe it starts with having conversations. Young woman must be comfortable in their own skin. They must have a “Can Do” attitude, as the women did from the 1940’s era. We must instill confidence, respect and courage in our young girls.

Self-image is their legacy in this digital world, it’s time to stop the shaming.


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