Introduction to Swimming Upstream


I am writing this blog because I am alarmed. If you are reading this blog, it is likely that you are too. As a mother of a preteen daughter, I look around, often shocked by what I see in current culture that is being directed toward her. Every day I notice how cultural pressures encourage girls to look “hot and sexy” when they are too young even to know what this means. I walk down the toy aisles and see Monster High and Bratzilla dolls with their fishnet stockings, stiletto heels, and feather boas. I go to the girls’ clothing department and notice string bikinis with pushup tops for girls barely out of diapers. Then, as girls reach the preteen and early adolescent years, I see how they are pressured to be thin and beautiful and to look much older than they actually are. I browse the Internet and see girls posting provocative pictures in order to gain attention and fame online. I read about how sexting is on the rise in middle school and how common girl-fighting videos have become on YouTube. And on top of all of this, the academic pressures! A girl is expected to accumulate a long list of accomplishments—to do it all—in order to be deemed a success. As I observe all this, I wonder how today’s girls can survive without collapsing from exhaustion! How will they ever feel that they are enough? How will they ever meet these unrealistic expectations? And what effect will all of this have on my daughter as she enters adolescence in this type of environment?

I know that you have observed the same thing. You see how current cultural expectations are toxic for girls, but the messages are pervasive; everywhere she turns, she hears that these are standards that she must meet if she is to be a success. You feel as if the culture is pushing hard against you and your family, and you may even feel that you are the only one who is struggling with these issues. Maybe you are wondering if there is anything you can do besides just tread water or to try not to drown in these trends. First, I want you to know that you are not alone. Hopefully this blog will give you encouragement that there is another path for you and your daughter. You don’t have to merely accept these new trends as the norm. Instead, you can start to question them and decide for yourself what will be most empowering for your daughter. To help you start this process, in this blog I will highlight cultural expectations and then offer strategies for you to make decisions that will better enable her to remain strong and resilient.

I know from experience that this is no easy task and we all need support in making these countercultural choices. But the extra work will be worth it because the stakes for our daughters are so high. With all of these new cultural changes affecting girls at such early ages, we don’t fully know how this will affect their mental health and development. Never before have girls been faced with so many pressures to live up to confusing and often contradictory expectations. Girls are floating along in a toxic culture, but they do not yet know any better but to follow the current trends. But as parents, we have a voice and we can speak up on their behalf. With support, we have what it takes to help our daughters stand strong and remain resilient. Together, we can change our direction and start swimming upstream. I hope this blog will serve as a guide to help you begin this important journey.

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