RVS Guest Author: Tracey Sweetapple, Guidance Counsellor, Bert Church High School – “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle.” Plato
I recently attended a screening of the documentary “Finding Kind” in which the notion that girls are catty, cruel, gossipy, and unkind to one another is explored. These pejoratives, along with far worse, are unhelpful in assisting girls and women to ‘find kindness’ that is, innately, at the core of being female. These stereotypes would seem hard to deny, however, in a culture where media dominates and young girls are struggling with anxiety, depression, and in worst case scenarios, taking their own lives, because of the girl bullying they are experiencing.
Where does this come from? Is what we experience in North America the same in other countries? From the documentary and panel conversation that followed, it would seem not. In other countries and cultures there are strong sisterhoods where it matters not one’s size, intelligence, beauty, or accessories. The difference, it would seem, is girls here are bombarded by over 30,000 images and messages per year, which show women in unflattering and unhealthy ways. If you find this hard to believe and need some proof, check out this 1:41 video “Sexism in News Media”.
I would highly recommend the documentary “Finding Kind” as it speaks to the heart of every individual who watches it. While predominantly a female audience at the screening I attended with my 10- year daughter, there were a few men. At various points, one could hear sniffles and tissues being passed around – on everyone’s mind was the question, “Is this really the world our girls inhabit?” Resoundingly, yes, it is and without support girls, are left to struggle with emotional scars from being the bully, being bullied, or being the bystander. Without exception, the experiences women have in adult friendships stem from experiences they had in childhood, making it important to teach healthy relationship skills early in life.
My daughter and I had plenty of good conversation following this event, which was organized by Womentum, “a community friendship group taking women from competition to connection.” I was impressed with Desiree’s understanding of the film’s message and what she took away from it. Certainly there is mature content and it lays raw one’s emotions, but it is well worth the investment of time and should not be shied away from. With appropriate follow-up and ongoing support, showing the film “Finding Kindness” may very well create the opportunity for large-scale change in schools where female relational issues are problematic. Ideally there would also be opportunity to involve mothers who may still be affected by their own experiences as youngsters and for fathers who may be at a loss as to how to respond to their daughter’s experiences.
Influence of mass media aside, girls learn how to behave primarily from their mothers, from other significant female role models, and also from coaches such as Dana Kerford, teacher and founder of Girl Power. Following the documentary and panel discussion, Dana gave a presentation with some important messages and strategies, the most critical being, “Don’t tell a girl to ignore the bully.” One must listen to the girl’s sadness and explore how she can stand up for herself. Dana encourages girls to consider: if there was intent (was the other girl being mean on purpose?), to think of friendships like nutrition (load up on healthy ones and limit the unhealthy ones) and, when being bullied, to have a quick comeback that is a statement, not a question (excuse me) and to be peaceful and coexist even if not friends. When we take away the ladders of competition, which are deeply grounded in our psyche by mass media, we may then find a sisterhood.
GLOW will be presenting another Finding Kind Event Mar. 17, 2013. For more information, or to purchase tickets, click here.