Once I figured this out, I got busy. I created the Empower curriculum to address the connection between girls' friendships and vulnerability. I love what I do. I love the feeling when I first walk into a classroom with a group of girls and tell them that all we're going to talk about is their friendships, enemies, reputations, and popularity. They look at each other in disbelief. There's an immediate buzz in the roomwe're going to talk about a juicy secret. Are they really going to get to talk about this stuff? Once we get going, it's hard to stop.
As I enter Girl World, talking with girls in school hallways, cafeterias, and teaching in their schools, Girl Scout troops, athletic teams, and church groups, something becomes clear. In trying to prepare girls for adolescence, adults are failing. We refuse to see what's really going on in their lives. We trivialize and dismiss these experiences as teen drama. Adolescence is a time when social hierarchies are powerfully and painfully reinforced every moment of every day. Girls can be each other's pillars of support and saviors, but they can also do horrible things to each otherand the lessons they learn from one another set all of them up for worse experiences in the future.
Almost as often as I talk to girls, I talk to their parents. I often feel like a translator between girls and parents; an ambassador who shuttles between Girl World and Planet Parent, two fiefdoms with different languages and rules. Why is the communication between these two worlds so lousy? For many parents, the need to deny that their little girl is growing up so fast can make it difficult to listen to what their daughter is really saying. The first hint that their daughter is sexually maturing can fill parents with an anxiety that only widens the communication gap with their daughterat the very time when the daughter needs guidance the most. The other reason is parents don't like to admit to themselves that their daughters could be mean, exclusive, and cattyor, on the other end of the spectrum, isolated and teased. Parents so often see their daughter's behaviors as a reflection of the success or failure of their parenting that they refuse to look at their daughters for who they really are. On the other hand, girls are renegotiating their relationship with their parents at a time of maximum change and confusion. One moment they can be impossibly distant and sneaky, wanting and demanding to be treated as adults; two seconds later they're clingy and scared, insisting that their parents psychically divine that now they want to be treated like little girls again.
This book will ask you to see the world through your daughter's eyes. It'll ask you to acknowledge and respect the environment she interacts with every day. You may not want to know everything about Girl World, but if you want your daughter to realize her full potential, have a sure sense of herself, and be happy and safe, knowing her world is paramount.
Most chapters will begin with a thorough analysis and description of a different aspect of Girl World. Next, in the "Checking Your Baggage" section, I'll challenge you to answer a few questions about your experiences when you were your daughter's age, because understanding your own biases and preconceptions can show you how they've affected your behavior toward your daughter. Then I'll give you specific, step-by-step strategies to help her.
For further assistance, I've asked girls to take an active role in the development of this book. I've shown multiple drafts of every chapter to girls of different ages, races, cultures, communities, and socioeconomic levels. They've helped me fill in missing perspectives, pushed me to delve more deeply into certain issues, and offered their "political commentary," which you'll find throughout the book. They've anonymously shared personal stories, feelings, and opinionsall to help you know how to reach out to your daughter in the best possible way.
Excerpted from Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman Copyright© 2002 by Rosalind Wiseman. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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