The Ojai Valley News
Author: Misty Volaski | firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’re a woman, you know the media hounds us every day with images of female perfection that maybe 10 out of 3 billion women could ever hope to achieve.
And yet, although most of us are quite aware of this, we still feel compelled to strive for their unrealistically slim bodies, their shining, bouncy hair, and their high-fashion wardrobes. We pit ourselves against an enemy that has infiltrated our minds, one that’s proving more difficult to eradicate than Osama bin Laden.
Knowing well what she’s up against, Tobi Greene decided to take a stand.
Working out of the Oak View Park & Resource Center, Greene developed her Girls’ Empowerment Workshop with grants from the Ventura County Deputy Sheriffs’ Association and from Interface Children and Family Services.
Her new program – a 10-week class which concluded last weekend with a camping trip into the Sespe – was completely free of charge to the 13 girls who participated.
Ranging in age from 10 to 16, the girls were shy at first, said Greene, but quickly loosened up in the no-expectations environment.
Greene brought in female role models as well as self-defense gurus to teach the girls “how to use women’s strengths against the perpetrator’s weaknesses,” explained Greene, who pioneered the program through her experience as a rape counselor and women’s advocate. “They also learned about trusting their instincts.”
The girls were also instructed in journaling, “so they have a private place to go to” to work out their feelings, added Greene.
This, naturally, led to plenty of discussions about body image. Shockingly (or perhaps not), the two 10-year-olds in the group felt just as much pressure to conform and be “perfect” as the older girls.
“I see girls today having a lot of pressure,” said Greene. “We put more influence on appearance than on who someone is. At a younger and younger age, girls are feeling the need to be sexy rather than just being kids. This just frustrates me.”
As a solution, the girls penned letters to the media, letting them know how the girls felt about their choice of programming.
“You open a beauty magazine, and all the articles talk about losing weight,” said Greene. “You don’t feel good about yourself – you want to over exercise, stop eating. We taught the girls to question that, not ignore it. The girls wrote letters to editors saying ‘Here’s what my friends and I would like to read about in your magazine.’ That showed them they can do something about it.”
The assertiveness taught by writing the letters carried over into just about everything the girls did. “The educated and assertive girl is 80 percent less likely to become the victim or target of sexual assault,” Greene pointed out. “A lot of people are afraid to teach kids this stuff, but it’s the opposite. Educate them and you empower them.”
And that’s what the sessions were ultimately about – empowering girls to “come from a place of power, a place of choice. Hopefully, the girls will grow up more confident, assertive, more in tune with nature, and empowered with strength and love for the world and themselves.”lleynews.com