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Media has become a treacherous terrain for young girls. From objectification to victim blaming, its no surprise mental health and suicide rates in teenage girls are on the rise.  On average, teenage girls are exposed to over 10,000 ads per week. Exposure to the kind of grossly photo shopped images severely impacts a girl's ability to concentrate and feel self-worth: 77% of high school girls report they are unhappy with their bodies.

Media2Me main article image template layersParent filters and limits on screen time don’t get to the root of the problem: instead, we need to give girls the tools so they can think critically about the way they interact with media in their everyday lives.

Creating opportunities for girls to make their own girl-positive media (such as blogs and photo stories) is a crucial piece of this strategy. Online organizing is quick becoming a fitting channel for young women’s activism: calls to action and petitions offer them a direct line to multinational companies, and way to demonstrate that together, girls are part of a bigger movement. It was a fitting opportunity, then, when the Media2Me girls were mistreated on field trip that they took to the social media channels for justice.

While exploring gendered marketing techniques at Cambridge Centre Mall, girls asked questions such as, “how are the images, colors and messages different in advertising for men and women?” Unfortunately while visiting American Eagle, staff deemed the exercise inappropriate for their store and told the girls if they weren’t going to purchase items they needed to leave.

The experience left the girls feeling "embarrassed, small [and] like criminals”: however, when Media2Me coordinator Kate MacLaggan asked them what they’d like to DO with those feelings, the girls were reluctant to do anything for fear of "getting in trouble." Kate took the chance to teach the girls it is not only right, but their right to demand accountability when anyone mistreats them. She explained this demand didn’t mean an attack on the company, but a chance to make their voices heard about something that mattered to them.

Consistent with our girl-led philosophy, the girls were involved in creating a real-time, age appropriate plan for action. For them, this involved writing a letter to the company and sharing it with their social channels. Within 24 hours and with the help of YWCA’s social media accounts, the story had garnered the attention of a reporter from The Waterloo Region Record. Two days after the story broke, a representative from American Eagle’s head office contacted Kate directly with a commitment to “make this right by the girls.” Within a week, the girls’ journey to justice had been shared with 64,000 followers on Twitter, and over 3,000 followers on Facebook (and that’s not even including the hashtags!)

We need to help girls challenge stereotypes. We need to share their stories and champion their voices. Help us to set the stage to stand up and shout when they need to: they are our best chance for creating lasting change in media, and the world!

Visit our Girls Programs section for more information about opportunities for girls!

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As a member agency of YWCA Canada, YWCA Cambridge is part of a national movement known as the country’s oldest and largest women's multi-service organization, the largest national provider of shelter, literacy, life skills, employment and counselling programs, and is the second largest provider of childcare services in Canada.

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