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Strong Is The New Pretty
"Do them a favor and remind these girls of their strength. Remind each other of your strength. Often. Write it down if you need to: the ways in which you are smart, the ways in which you are qualified, the ways in which you are strong. Put them on your wall, say them out loud--internalize them. Believe them. Don't let your daughter, your niece, your sister, your cousin waste any precious time wishing she looked like anyone else--she looks and acts and sings and walks and talks and works and plays like herself."
If there is one book that I feel should be in the home of every family who has a growing girl, it would be Kate T. Parker's Strong Is The New Pretty. Every day our girls are bombarded with messages about aspirations from those who do not have their best interests at heart. Being pretty has to do with being almost impossibly thin and achieving a degree of perfection even models (never mind soccor playing preteens or teens balancing school, extracurriculars, and jobs) need photo enhancement to achieve. One has to have all the pricey and constantly changing garments and accoutrements. (Shopito ergo sum; I shop; therefore I am?) Messiness is a total taboo. Strong Is The New Pretty is a powerful antidote to this bombardment.
When she was seven (in 1983) Parker decided that her long hair was too much of a time suck. Playing soccer was much more important in her life. Fortunately her supportive parents didn't stand in the way of her getting it cut as short as her brothers'. They empowered her to be her true self, even when that clashed with the dictates of the larger society.
As a parent, Parker encourages her daughters to be their authentic selves. A professional photographer, she took lots of pictures of her girls and their friends.
"...The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the strongest images, the ones that resonated the most with me, were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they were messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept shooting. I didn't ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were is amazing. I wanted to continue capturing them in just that way--not just for my sake, bit for theirs too."
Lucky for us, her project expanded. She travelled all over the country, capturing the words and images of a wide diversity of girls. Nearly 200 are beautifully portrayed in the book. Among the youngsters you will be introduced to are:
*Emme (7) looking down through a leafy canopy
"We weren't supposed to climb this high, but the view is better up here.";
*wheelchair athlete Jordan (15)
"Strong is putting all your heart, mind, and effort into what you believe in. Your beauty will shine from this.";
*Cello player Nora (11)
"Through music I have the ability to make others smile and even cry when I perform in a way that moves someone.";
"Cancer stole part of my leg, but not my joy. I choose happiness. Being happy is my superpower.";
*Ella (9) represented by a hand waving a star topped wand
"I am magic.";
And so many more. Really drinking in the images and words is like falling in love again and again and again...
Parker hopes that her book will inspire girls and women to be and take pride in their authentic selves rather that settling for society's expectations.
"...I worry about what my girls and their friends are exposed to and how their opinions of their bodies and selves are being shaped by the Internet and TV and magazines. I want these images to combat those negative voices that tell us we're not good enough or thin enough or whatever enough. Because we are FAR MORE THAN ENOUGH! (reviewer's emphasis) I wanted these girls to hear their own voices through these images, and to inspire them to use them and continue to use them. Loudly."
Amen to that!
If you have a daughter buy this book and put it where she can turn to it for inspiration often. If you are female (CIS or trans) or gender nonconforming/fluid buy this book and put it where you can turn to it often for inspiration. Those messages don't go away; and for the over fifty set (of which I am a member) they take on a particularly lethal quality.
In fact one of the projects I have put on my list is to do a similar book featuring grown women further along in the age continuum. I know some amazing ones. I've already started a list. I love writing. I love photography. It's time to discover my inner photojournalist. I plan to begin with the story of how I became a drag king at the age of 63.
On a personal note, my Thursday was incredible! I started walking to Orono only to get a ride from a friend who is about to vaca in India. I arrived in time to help weed in the children's garden before the library opened. I shelf read and scored more books which you will love my reviews of. I went to a frozen yogurt place in Bangor with one of my very best friends. Don't you love to discover a new yummy eatery? I gave her the purple flower "weeds" which she finds beautiful. I had an Ending Violence Together meeting. I saw a picture that I believe will be made into a mural. I'm in it wearing my blue butterfly wings. Across the street from my home was a little girl in a stroller. I gave her a rescued picture book with electronic sound effects. The smile that lit up her face was priceless. I had salad with local veggies for supper and read with Joey cat. I love my life.
Oh, yeah, I finally discovered a way to read more books. About time, right? I can read and walk at the same time. YAY!
A great big shout out goes out all who shared the amazing day with me!
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