ilsr Camp Featured in The Boston Globe

Their empowerment summer

Leadership Exploration camp boosts girls' self-esteem

This article originally appeared in The Boston Globe

Scantily clad women fawn over a fully dressed man in an advertisement for hair products. There are many images like that sprinkled throughout the glossy pages of the gossip, teen, and fashion magazines being passed around.

But the young girls scrutinizing them are not impressed. In fact, they're a little miffed.

"I never really thought about how bad it was until today," said 12-year-old Sarah Grove, after spending about an hour examining magazines for both negative and positive images of women. "I would really look at them differently now."

Grove was one of about two dozen Framingham middle school girls participating in a session on "Beauty and the Media," part of a three-week camp to help girls build their self-esteem and their leadership skills.

The girls unanimously agreed that in the pages they examined, negative images of women were easier to find than positive images.

Officials at Girls Inc., a New York City-based nonprofit organization with programs all over Massachusetts, say educational programs aimed at boosting the confidence of young girls have become more popular in recent years, and are increasingly targeting earlier grade levels. The organization conducts programs for girls as young as 6, talking with them about self-esteem, the media's portrayal of women, and opportunity.

"From our research and from our experience, we are very aware that girls today are growing up getting a lot of conflicting information about what girls can be and should be," said Marcia Kropf, chief operating officer of Girls Inc.

They see that a woman can run for president but they also see - more often - women portrayed as sex objects, she said. And they are bombarded by media images that "celebrate self-destructive behavior among young celebrities," said Kropf.

The Framingham girls were taking part in a Girls' Leadership Exploration camp, held at Pine Manor College in Newton and funded largely through a federal Department of Education grant. The agency's 21st Century Community Learning Centers program supports school-based efforts aimed at lower-income students. Middle school students participate during the academic year, and those with good attendance are rewarded with the summer program. This is the Framingham camp's third year.

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