Girl Once Wild
An End To Bullying Through Peace

In a day and age where bullying seems to be heightened, due to the power of the internet and social networking, one teenage girl stood up to her bully without stooping to the same low. And her message of peace ended the abuse.

Fifteen-year-old Maisie Kate Miller, from outside of Boston, had been victim to a classmate’s taunts about her clothing, her boyfriend and her body. But one particular insult finally got to her.

While walking through the stairwell at school one day, Maisie’s bully made fun of her hairstyle, saying “Who wears pigtails still? What is this, kindergarten?” Maisie, who was having a difficult week, ended up in tears by the time she got to her class. 

Instead of coming back with something equally mean, Maisie decided she would stand her ground, assert her comfort with herself, and wear her hair like that all week. Maybe, she thought, she could even get a few friends to do the same.

After school, she shared her idea on Facebook, writing the following status update (I shortened it and cleaned it up): 

There was an incident today, and I was really upset about it. A girl who has been bothering me all year, saying rude, hurtful things to me, said something that just topped me over…today she was behind me going up the stairs, and commented on my hair that was up in pigtails (for a sport)…I am asking you all to understand that this hurt me beyond reason…partially because this has been a tough week for me, but mostly because it was wrong…if you could help my cause and many other girls who have had hurtful things said to them, wear pigtails tomorrow. If you can’t or won’t, please tell others about my experience, and ask them to please wear pigtails. Thank you so much for reading, and sharing.

Later, when she returned home from a babysitting job, she was stunned to find more than 500 notifications on her Facebook, from friends and others she had never met. All were on board with her plan. Maisie quickly reminded everyone not to bully the girl back, insisting this would be a passive protest. Then she named her plan “Pigtails for Peace.” 

The next day, hundreds of students (girls and boys), and at least one teacher showed up to school in pigtails. The bully was absent, but has backed off ever since. 

Maisie sent an incredible message of peace with her protest, reminding us all that bullying and meanness should not be repaid by more of the same. 

Celebrating Women Who Chose Creative, Not Sexy, This Halloween

Halloween came and went for me this year. Mild “Frankenstorm” rain swept through Pittsburgh, but mostly, it was a sinus infection that kept me at home in my pajamas, sipping tea.
Uniquely costumed children (and some adults) filled my Facebook newsfeed, providing sweet relief from the sexy and scantily clad celebrity women who clogged up the websites I frequently visit. 

Jessica Simpson’s “shrinking waistline” was featured on more sites than one. She dressed as a….not sure exactly…something that wears pigtails and a short leather dress to show off huge breasts and thin legs?

Kim Kardashian was everywhere, too, of course. She wore a leopard, partially see-through bodysuit, tweeting a photo for the world to see. 

Luckily, my Facebook newsfeed was more interesting. I was thrilled to see how many of my female friends went for creative and fun, rather than sexy and hot.

In speaking to these lovely ladies, it seemed as if being “comfortable, inventive, and letting loose” were the overall goals this holiday. Having the freedom to act like a kid again was not low on the list, either.

Allison K. from Pittsburgh dressed up as an insect (a stink bug, if you’re from Pittsburgh and familiar with the ghastly beast). She said, “I think as we get older we often lose that childish feeling because we’re normally restricted to office clothes, workout clothes, and street clothes. Why not take one night to dress up and feel like a kid again?”

Maya Tuttle, also from Pittsburgh, would agree. She took one year to dress up *with* her kids, as the three little pigs. She said, “It is fun to have an excuse to play dress-up, because at heart we are all kids.”

I’d never thought of Halloween in that way. I don’t usually dress up; I’m not very creative as costuming goes, and I get so excited about Thanksgiving, my favorite fall holiday, that I breeze right past October 31st. But when I think about the joy I felt as a kid, it suddenly makes sense. We all need opportunities to express our creativity, and to be someone or something else for a short time, if only for our own childlike delight.

For a few friends, authenticity and playing the part of their character ranked high in importance. 

Mary Jo Maggio, of Pittsburgh, dressed as an 80s woman from Long Island. The costume was easy - track suit, tacky jewelry, chewing gum and a cigarette in hand did the trick. She took it further than just the clothing, though. “I was totally in character and did my best to look and act the part.”

She wasn’t the only one to use her acting skills. Keri Mowry, from Pittsburgh, dressed as the Gilly character on Saturday Night Live. She said, “Every year, I try to think outside the box and create something original.” She stayed true to the character by acting out the famous “Sorry!” skit all evening long.

For Janna O’Donnell and Kim DeLuca, looking as similar as possible to the character they were playing was essential.

O’Donnell hadn’t touched a sewing machine since junior high school, but challenged herself to make a simple “Princess Buttercup” (of the Princess Bride movie) dress. The result was strikingly similar. She said, “I had so much fun being original and wearing something that I made.” Although I have no Martha Stewart in me, I admit that it sounds intensely gratifying to wear something I potentially crafted on my own.

DeLuca went for the true spirit of Halloween - spooky! She dressed as the quintessential skeleton (photo featured above). When I asked her if she was concerned with looking good, or sexy, she said, “I wanted to look authentic no matter what I chose to be. The sexy skeleton costumes were ridiculous - skeletons are not sexy and it’s hard to be authentic in a corset and mini skirt.” 

I can’t help but feel proud of my female friends who sought out creativity, fun and authenticity for the Halloween holiday. Rather than choosing to show off their bodies, they all chose to celebrate their adult, thinking minds, while still honoring the spirit of their inner children. Bravo to you, friends. You are inspiration to me, and to women and girls everywhere.

Celebrating Women Who Chose Creative, Not Sexy, This Halloween

Halloween came and went for me this year. Mild “Frankenstorm” rain swept through Pittsburgh, but mostly, it was a sinus infection that kept me at home in my pajamas, sipping tea.

Uniquely costumed children (and some adults) filled my Facebook newsfeed, providing sweet relief from the sexy and scantily clad celebrity women who clogged up the websites I frequently visit. 

Jessica Simpson’s “shrinking waistline” was featured on more sites than one. She dressed as a….not sure exactly…something that wears pigtails and a short leather dress to show off huge breasts and thin legs?

Kim Kardashian was everywhere, too, of course. She wore a leopard, partially see-through bodysuit, tweeting a photo for the world to see. 

Luckily, my Facebook newsfeed was more interesting. I was thrilled to see how many of my female friends went for creative and fun, rather than sexy and hot.

In speaking to these lovely ladies, it seemed as if being “comfortable, inventive, and letting loose” were the overall goals this holiday. Having the freedom to act like a kid again was not low on the list, either.

Allison K. from Pittsburgh dressed up as an insect (a stink bug, if you’re from Pittsburgh and familiar with the ghastly beast). She said, “I think as we get older we often lose that childish feeling because we’re normally restricted to office clothes, workout clothes, and street clothes. Why not take one night to dress up and feel like a kid again?”

Maya Tuttle, also from Pittsburgh, would agree. She took one year to dress up *with* her kids, as the three little pigs. She said, “It is fun to have an excuse to play dress-up, because at heart we are all kids.”

I’d never thought of Halloween in that way. I don’t usually dress up; I’m not very creative as costuming goes, and I get so excited about Thanksgiving, my favorite fall holiday, that I breeze right past October 31st. But when I think about the joy I felt as a kid, it suddenly makes sense. We all need opportunities to express our creativity, and to be someone or something else for a short time, if only for our own childlike delight.

For a few friends, authenticity and playing the part of their character ranked high in importance. 

Mary Jo Maggio, of Pittsburgh, dressed as an 80s woman from Long Island. The costume was easy - track suit, tacky jewelry, chewing gum and a cigarette in hand did the trick. She took it further than just the clothing, though. “I was totally in character and did my best to look and act the part.”

She wasn’t the only one to use her acting skills. Keri Mowry, from Pittsburgh, dressed as the Gilly character on Saturday Night Live. She said, “Every year, I try to think outside the box and create something original.” She stayed true to the character by acting out the famous “Sorry!” skit all evening long.

For Janna O’Donnell and Kim DeLuca, looking as similar as possible to the character they were playing was essential.

O’Donnell hadn’t touched a sewing machine since junior high school, but challenged herself to make a simple “Princess Buttercup” (of the Princess Bride movie) dress. The result was strikingly similar. She said, “I had so much fun being original and wearing something that I made.” Although I have no Martha Stewart in me, I admit that it sounds intensely gratifying to wear something I potentially crafted on my own.

DeLuca went for the true spirit of Halloween - spooky! She dressed as the quintessential skeleton (photo featured above). When I asked her if she was concerned with looking good, or sexy, she said, “I wanted to look authentic no matter what I chose to be. The sexy skeleton costumes were ridiculous - skeletons are not sexy and it’s hard to be authentic in a corset and mini skirt.” 

I can’t help but feel proud of my female friends who sought out creativity, fun and authenticity for the Halloween holiday. Rather than choosing to show off their bodies, they all chose to celebrate their adult, thinking minds, while still honoring the spirit of their inner children. Bravo to you, friends. You are inspiration to me, and to women and girls everywhere.


Ladies. Get Creative This Halloween!

Today I browsed the internet for women’s Halloween costumes. Not to find something for myself, sadly. I don’t usually dress up. I suffer from perfectionism, and can never seem to come up with an incredibly unique and impressive getup. I went to college at Ohio University, where tens of thousands line the streets to celebrate the most creative day of the year. 

I remember seeing a young woman dressed as a ten foot mini-Eiffel Tower. So cool! And I’ll never forget the woman who donned full feathered blues and greens, a beautiful peacock. I was boring in long black pants, a black sweater, black coat (it was cold!), and a cat-ear headband. Meow. Hardly.

While that was in the late 90s, I hope that female students are still inspired to be more creative than I ever was. Because remember that Google search I mentioned above? It brought up a whole host of costumes for women. All sexy. Okay, ninety percent sexy. Here are just ten that I found:

Sexy Dorothy (of the Wizard of Oz), with the tagline - “She’ll have lots of people offering to escort her to Emerald City!”

Hot Red Riding Hood - “The big bad wolf can’t resist!”

Sexy Dirty Cop - “Sometimes it’s good to be bad.”

Adult Deluxe Pebbles Flintstone

Sultry Swat Officer

Adult Sexy Vixen Pirate

Sexy Pocahontas

Deluxe Sexy Leopard

Sexy Owl (I concede that leopards are kind of sultry, but owls?)

Sexy Hippy GoGo Girl

Adult Sexy Cuddly Lion

Um. Okay. What if I don’t want to use Halloween as an excuse to dress like a prostitute? Or if that’s too harsh, what if I don’t want to use Halloween as a way to express my sexuality? Or to show off my body?

Halloween is the perfect opportunity to explore our creativity as women. To think outside the attention-seeking box. To use our brain, the right side. If you can’t think of anything on your own, check out some men’s costumes. They have much more clever options. In ten seconds, I found some stylish selections. Edward Scissorhands (hmmm…I kind of look like him), Ghostbusters, Headless Horseman. A Gorilla. And for the couple or duo - Two Person Horse! 

Ladies. Get creative this Halloween! Your worth is not determined by your hotness, your body, your legs or your breasts. You have brains, talent, and ingenuity. Put your cleavage away, and show off your exceptional imagination this year.

With the sexualization of women and girls ever rampant in today’s society, I’ve been asking myself a question lately - How in the world has yoga become sexy? 

As a yoga teacher of 15 years, and home studio owner, I try and teach my students the most valuable lessons of yoga I’ve learned throughout my studies. Humility. Deep relaxation. Self-acceptance. Self-awareness. Patience. Kindness. 

While most students often struggle with the desire to master a difficult pose, the desire to be “good” at the postures and look good while doing them is - dare I say - out of control. I recently found myself joking with a fellow instructor, and dear friend, about my newest yoga pants. I’d been resisting the popular tight clothing for some time, but decided to try a pair because they were also very durable and well made. After all, this is my full time job. Maybe I should give up the Target and Old Navy that fall apart in a year or less. Becca and I laughed when I told her - “I have to say that these new pants make my ass look fantastic!”

But then, why do I need my backside to look good when the goal of my yoga practice is to achieve a peaceful state of mind (while also gaining physical strength and flexibility)? I don’t need it to, of course. Looking good has nothing to do with the philosophy of yoga. Feeling good does. 

Some would argue - when you look good, you feel good. Actually, it’s just the opposite. When people feel their best - sleeping well, eating clean food, moderately exercising, meditating and participating in activities they enjoy, they positively glow. Plus, looking good, and looking sexy are two different things. And sexiness is not a principle I’ve ever heard of in the yogic philosophy.

When I first learned yoga, back in high school, studios and ashrams instructed students to wear “loose and comfortable clothing” for practice. Happily, I’d put on my baggy sweats and relaxed fitted t-shirt, and head off to Club One in Shadyside with my mother. We’d take Hatha and Astanga classes - the gym was one of the few that offered yoga at the time. Never once did my shirt fall into my face during a down dog, blinding me and causing some freak sun salutation accident. Maybe in a headstand, my navel might show, but the solution was simple. I tucked in my shirt. Right into the elastic waistband of my cotton pants. 

So, what’s up with sexy yoga clothes? And sexy yoga profile pictures on Facebook? Why do I sometimes struggle with wanting to look sexy in my yoga postures? These questions sent me on a Google search, naturally. 

I found that the most popular athletic wear is promoting yoga as sexy (for women, not men). Many even use the word “sexy” in their marketing taglines. Victoria’s Secret offers “sexy yoga wear.” One model naughtily pulls up the bottom of her tank top while gently touching her cheek with her free hand. Mika Yoga Wear offers a wide selection of booty shorts that look much more like bikini bottoms, mostly showing off women’s half-bare butts. Even the Prana website features a woman pouting at the camera while bending forward to reveal her cleavage. And that’s *all* you see. The photo is cropped so you can’t see the yoga pose, just those lips and a plunging neckline.

Facebook is another story. If I see one more half-naked handstand or dancer pose, from established yogis and teachers, I may go nuts. But then, I’ll just breathe instead and remember my own humility and my own struggles to want to look good, even to look sexy. I’ll sometimes wear the tight clothing, and other times stick to the baggy. I’ll struggle with wanting to look good in a pose, and then remember that’s not what yoga is about. I’ll post a picture to Facebook in my ass flattering pants, and then delete it, realizing I’m attention-seeking or showing off. I’ll remember that yoga is for acquiring peace of mind and wisdom, not for sexualizing women.

With the sexualization of women and girls ever rampant in today’s society, I’ve been asking myself a question lately - How in the world has yoga become sexy? 

As a yoga teacher of 15 years, and home studio owner, I try and teach my students the most valuable lessons of yoga I’ve learned throughout my studies. Humility. Deep relaxation. Self-acceptance. Self-awareness. Patience. Kindness. 

While most students often struggle with the desire to master a difficult pose, the desire to be “good” at the postures and look good while doing them is - dare I say - out of control. I recently found myself joking with a fellow instructor, and dear friend, about my newest yoga pants. I’d been resisting the popular tight clothing for some time, but decided to try a pair because they were also very durable and well made. After all, this is my full time job. Maybe I should give up the Target and Old Navy that fall apart in a year or less. Becca and I laughed when I told her - “I have to say that these new pants make my ass look fantastic!”

But then, why do I need my backside to look good when the goal of my yoga practice is to achieve a peaceful state of mind (while also gaining physical strength and flexibility)? I don’t need it to, of course. Looking good has nothing to do with the philosophy of yoga. Feeling good does. 

Some would argue - when you look good, you feel good. Actually, it’s just the opposite. When people feel their best - sleeping well, eating clean food, moderately exercising, meditating and participating in activities they enjoy, they positively glow. Plus, looking good, and looking sexy are two different things. And sexiness is not a principle I’ve ever heard of in the yogic philosophy.

When I first learned yoga, back in high school, studios and ashrams instructed students to wear “loose and comfortable clothing” for practice. Happily, I’d put on my baggy sweats and relaxed fitted t-shirt, and head off to Club One in Shadyside with my mother. We’d take Hatha and Astanga classes - the gym was one of the few that offered yoga at the time. Never once did my shirt fall into my face during a down dog, blinding me and causing some freak sun salutation accident. Maybe in a headstand, my navel might show, but the solution was simple. I tucked in my shirt. Right into the elastic waistband of my cotton pants. 

So, what’s up with sexy yoga clothes? And sexy yoga profile pictures on Facebook? Why do I sometimes struggle with wanting to look sexy in my yoga postures? These questions sent me on a Google search, naturally. 

I found that the most popular athletic wear is promoting yoga as sexy (for women, not men). Many even use the word “sexy” in their marketing taglines. Victoria’s Secret offers “sexy yoga wear.” One model naughtily pulls up the bottom of her tank top while gently touching her cheek with her free hand. Mika Yoga Wear offers a wide selection of booty shorts that look much more like bikini bottoms, mostly showing off women’s half-bare butts. Even the Prana website features a woman pouting at the camera while bending forward to reveal her cleavage. And that’s *all* you see. The photo is cropped so you can’t see the yoga pose, just those lips and a plunging neckline.

Facebook is another story. If I see one more half-naked handstand or dancer pose, from established yogis and teachers, I may go nuts. But then, I’ll just breathe instead and remember my own humility and my own struggles to want to look good, even to look sexy. I’ll sometimes wear the tight clothing, and other times stick to the baggy. I’ll struggle with wanting to look good in a pose, and then remember that’s not what yoga is about. I’ll post a picture to Facebook in my ass flattering pants, and then delete it, realizing I’m attention-seeking or showing off. I’ll remember that yoga is for acquiring peace of mind and wisdom, not for sexualizing women.

A few months ago, I wrote about Tavi Gevinson, a sixteen-year-old fashion blogger and feminist who founded Rookie Mag, an online magazine for teenage girls. Since then, Gevinson has published a book, Rookie Yearbook One, a collection of articles, interviews, photo editorials, and illustrations from her first year as editor of the site. 

What I love about the book (and the website) is its focus on issues facing girls today, written by actual girls growing up in this day and age. The posts range from serious to humorous, in subjects like gossip, college, music, sex, style and more.

While I’ve written passionately about women and girls and how we often express our anger passive-aggressively, Gevinson has embraced that fact, and chose to make light of it in one of her articles included in the book - “How to Bitchface.” She even went on the Jimmy Fallon show and taught the hilarious late-night host how to channel his inner teenage bitchy girl. You should watch it on Hulu HERE.

The article begins with Gevinson’s explanation of why we need to perfect our “bitchface.” She says, “If you are the kind of person to encounter human beings in your life, you probably will find yourself needing a bitchface eventually. A bitchface is a beauty essential for any true lady—the kind of accessory that says, ‘You are a fucking idiot, why am I still talking to you.’ Here, I show you multiple faces for reacting to varying levels of stupidity, including handy step-by-step how-tos.”

You must look at the instruction, along with the photo guide (click on the title above!), as she gives coaching on how to make an unamused or repulsed expression, or even a look that simply asks, “Really?”

Gevinson brings the teenage stink eye to a whole new level. A professional level. Not only did she remind me to laugh at my passive-aggressive tendencies, but that maybe I can embrace them. Heck, maybe I should even start perfecting them. 

I know I’ve been pretty tough on female pop singers. Maybe it’s a little unfair because I don’t prefer the style of music. I do sing along if Adele or Lady Gaga blare through my car radio speakers, but it isn’t long before I flip to a jazz or blues artist and really listen.

It’s just that, I only really enjoy good singers. Lady Gaga and Adele are okay. They sing loudly, and mostly in tune. They don’t lip sync their concerts. They write their own music. But there is a distinct difference between those stars and true artists. See, there I go again being unfair. 

Let me try and explain. I sing in the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh, and I’m certain that many women in our group could belt out “Rumor Has It” in their sleep. Many could put on a strange wig, take off their pants and rock out with “Born This Way.” Becoming a famous singer in our day and age doesn’t have much to do with singing well. Oftentimes, really good singers end up with desk jobs, using their MFA’s in music on the side, in local choirs or community theater. 

For that reason, I love when I stumble upon tween and teen girls who are using their musical skill, not their side boob, to break into the pop world. Girls who can sing without belting, and dance without stripping, but might still interest my eight-year-old niece. 

Today I discovered the Cimorelli girls - see video. These six sisters were introduced (by their musician mother) to classical piano, three-part barbershop harmonizing, and vocal jazz, each by the age of four. Now they sing popular hits as an a cappella group, and received quick notoriety on YouTube. In addition, the girls, ranging in ages from 12-21, write their own songs and were signed by Universal Records in 2010.

The first clip I saw (above) featured the girls in a video ad for AT&T’s “Don’t Text and Drive” campaign. Covering the popular hit, “Some Nights,” they wore brightly colored and appropriate clothing. One shirt read “DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE.” Another, “IT CAN WAIT.” I have to say - the girls impressed me. I won’t be adding them to my playlist or anything - it’s still not my preferred style. But as I perused through their numerous videos, I liked what I saw. The girls have a sense of style, a definite artistry, and they keep their performance about the singing and the music.

They managed to cover a Rihanna song without taking their clothes off. They dance well, without booty shaking. They keep it clean, without appearing uncool. How refreshing to see a young group of female singers go the pop route without selling their bodies. I’m crossing my fingers that as the Cimorelli sisters get bigger, they keep it classy.

Three Wildly Motivated Young Girls Inspire the World

So many inspiring young girls have been in the news lately, proving that not all teenagers go the “wild” route. While violent and hyper-sexualized women and girls still seem to entertain the masses, in shows like Dance Moms, Real Housewives of Whatever, Mob Wives, and Jersey Shore, many are actually living meaningful lives. 

Meet Elena Tsemberis, Sammi Siegel and Emma Axelrod, three high school students from New Jersey who were motivated by their Civics class to do something significant with their free time. The three girls were surprised to learn that a woman hasn’t moderated a presidential debate in twenty years. Because of their young age, they had never seen a female take the moderator position.

They decided to take matters into their own hands, creating an online petition to the Commission on Presidential Debates to choose a female moderator for at least one debate between candidates Obama and Romney. Here’s what they said:

“Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin’s presidential and vice presidential campaigns put women in the spotlight in the political realm in 2008, finally providing a way for girls across our nation to envision themselves in these positions of power. We already know that no women will be on stage at this year’s presidential debates, but what about in the moderator’s chair? We were shocked to find out that it has been 20 years since a woman last moderated a presidential debate….Men are no more capable of performing these tasks than women — but for the last two decades, only men have been given the job.”

When they quickly received close to 120,000 signatures, they traveled to Washington, DC, to deliver the petition in person to the Commission. The result? CNN’s Candy Crowley was chosen to moderate one of the three debates, along with Jim Lehrer and Bob Schieffer. 

The girls are thrilled that their efforts paid off. In a CNN interview, Siegel asserted, “I don’t think a man would be better than a woman, nor a woman would be better than a man. I just don’t think that the Presidential Debate Commission should continue to overlook women. There are so many qualified women.”

Axelrod continued by saying that they are only interested in “equal representation.” And all three state that many of their female peers are involved in and intrigued by politics.

The girls’ success is an inspiration to female teens across the country. Remind the young women and girls in your life today and every day - You are more than just your body, or the clothes you wear. Use your smarts, determination, and creativity to make change in the world, be it big or small. Be wildly active in whatever moves you.

Underneath the Anger

Months ago, a friend who had read my blog told me about an organization she partners with called Girls Leadership Institute. The co-founder, a woman named Rachel Simmons, works with young girls on issues I was starting to write about. When I finally got around to looking at the Institute’s website, I was amazed by the work Simmons was doing (and continues to do) to empower girls.

Simmons studied female aggression at Oxford University and went on to become the program developer for Girls Leadership. She has appeared on Oprah, The Today Show, and many other major networks. She is also the author of two New York Times Bestsellers, and a regular blogger for Teen Vogue. Not only does she work to inspire girls across the nation with her books and workshops, but she has a video blog as well. How did I miss her?

Watching one of her latest videos, called “Real Girl Tips,” had me nodding at the computer enthusiastically, saying “Yes, Yes, YES!” to the screen. The topic was one Simmons calls, “inside feelings.” Those are the deeper feelings underneath our anger that we often have a difficult time understanding and expressing.

Simmons explains that oftentimes girls express only anger when they may be dealing with multiple other feelings like sadness, anxiety or shame. And while expressing one’s anger and frustration is certainly valid, it sometimes results in a defensive stance from the person with whom they are trying to communicate. Check out the short video from her website HERE.

As a young adult, I can remember feeling “so annoyed,” or “irritated,” rolling my eyes and sighing in disgust as only a teenager does so well. Expressing that vague distaste never resulted in much of anything, let alone resolving a real conflict. Clearly, it is because I wasn’t understanding the emotion behind the annoyance. And when I didn’t get the result I was looking for from my parents, friends or a boyfriend, I just screamed and yelled, slammed doors or made insensitive and passive remarks. 

No wonder my anger eventually grew into rage. Underneath it all, I felt deep shame, sadness, and insecurity that stemmed back to early childhood. I wish I’d grasped that all those years ago, and avoided the pain I caused in myself and others, but as the old saying goes, I wouldn’t be who I am today without having gone through it all.

So, what to do? As I’ve mentioned in my blog before, it is important to teach girls that anger is acceptable, that it can be asserted logically and meaningfully. But we can all learn from Simmons that naming those “inside feelings” will help develop even better communication skills, and may even result in getting what we truly want out of our relationships.

The next time you are angry, ask yourself, what is underneath?

Sexualized at Six Years Old

A new study from the journal, Sex Roles, now shows the sexualization of girls as young as six years old. Psychologists and researchers in the past have shown women and teens who think of themselves as sexual objects. But this may be the first study of its kind to show that same line of thinking in children.

The research took place among six to nine-year-old girls from the Midwest. Psychologists presented paper dolls in two different styles to sixty girls. One doll was dressed in sexually revealing clothes; the other wore a trendy but “covered-up, loose” outfit.

The girls were asked to choose which doll looked like them, which doll they wanted to look like, and which doll was popular. Two categories were most shocking. 68% of the girls said the “sexy” doll was the one they wanted to look like. And 72% said that doll was more popular than the “non-sexy” one. 

Other studies have shown that sexiness in girls does increase their popularity. This must be a new phenomenon. When I think about the popular females from the school I attended, none of them dressed provocatively. But no one did at that time. The clothing style was loose and baggy. Further, the girls who had a reputation of being promiscuous were looked down upon, not popularized.

Many argue that the media’s portrayal of femininity has resulted in a more sexualized society of girls. However, in this study, the media alone didn’t seem to cause that behavior. The girls who watched a lot of television and movies didn’t automatically go for the sexy doll. Instead, those with mothers who objectified themselves by outwardly worrying about their appearance, and other such actions, chose the sexy doll in most questions. Children do seem to model their parents.

Religious beliefs of the mothers also played a part. Girls who watched a lot of television but had religious parents were less likely to choose the sexualized doll. But girls from religious homes who watched no television chose the sexy doll more often. Researchers believe this phenomenon may be due, in part, to the “forbidden fruit” case - the idea that sheltering children too much can create an idealization of exactly what parents wish to prevent. Rather, mothers who used television as an opportunity to *teach* their kids about right and wrong succeeded in lowering their children’s desire for self-sexualization.

Lastly, as I would have suspected, girls who were involved in sports, specifically dance, chose the sexy doll less often. This may be because they have learned to use their bodies in more productive, or creative ways. As many of my readers know, modern dance is what led me away from a wild, self-objectified life. Not only did I learn how to use my body in a healthy and worthwhile way, but simply finding a valuable passion in life inspired me, and clearly continues to inspire girls today, to have self-respect and self-worth.

Five Things I Wish I Would Have Learned About Anger

As a young girl, I noticed how boys (and men) lost their temper loudly and sometimes physically. I remember scuffles in the school hallways, boys shoving each other or even “duking it out” at recess. Those fights got worse as they became older and stronger. 

Girls didn’t behave the same way - not most of them anyway. Many girls quietly stewed. They ignored the friend they were angry with. Or manipulated them, turned others against them. And yes, they even cried, a reaction that often comes from the frustration of not knowing how to express anger. 

Only the really “bad girls” used hands and fists. I can’t even count on one hand the number of girl fights I witnessed growing up, despite the fact that this number is increasing. Actually, the only two that come immediately to mind involve myself. Once, I was pushed into my locker by a peer who called me “slut.” The other was a few years later when I physically hurt my own friend. 

Obviously, I struggled with rage. Terrible anger plagued me as an older teenager and young adult. I didn’t have the psychological sophistication to understand my feelings until years later. It was only then, and under the guidance of a therapist, that the causes became completely obvious. At that point, I had to learn how to deal with anger, the natural emotion that all humans experience. Girls are not typically taught how to handle these feelings. It is imperative that we teach them.

Here are five simple things I wish I would have learned at a younger age. Share them with the women and girls in your life. Let them know that feeling mad is completely normal, and that there are healthy ways to deal with it.

1. It is okay to become angry and to anger another person - In our lifetime, people will say and do things to us that make us mad, and vice versa. This is a natural part of life that can be dealt with in appropriate ways. There is nothing wrong with feeling angry.

2. Do not try to ignore anger, swallow it, or push it away - Feelings have a way of resurfacing when we don’t deal with them. Oftentimes, old anger that hasn’t been examined or expressed properly turns into dangerous fury. It is then that we say or do things we don’t mean - things that we can never take back. Don’t let old grudges weigh you down.

3. Expressing anger does not have to mean yelling, screaming or becoming physical - Telling someone you are mad can be simply, confidently and sometimes even calmly stated. Practice makes perfect, as with anything. Start by stating anger at times when you aren’t so ticked off. I used to practice by saying things like, “I’m really pissed that my computer isn’t working.” Or, “I’m so agitated that it’s raining outside.” Then, when it comes time to confront a larger, more important situation, the language will feel easier.

4. The best way to tell a person you’re angry with them is to used the tried and true “I Statement.” - Too often, we lob off accusations like, “YOU did this! YOU did that! YOU piss me off!” Instead, try something like, “I feel angry when you…” It is simple, concise, and accurately describes what is going on inside.

5. Learn to cool the flames in the moment, before communicating your anger. There are many tools out there to help lessen the symptoms of rage. A few that work for me and people I know are: deep breathing, yoga, meditation, clapping (when anger feels physical), exercising, being alone, writing in a journal. Although it is best not to let anger simmer too long, it can be useful to calm down before confrontation. Try these simple tools, or do a quick Google search to find other techniques that might work better for you.