I Could Sure Use YOUR Input!

I’m working on an upcoming TEDx talk and could sure use your input.  To get you thinking…let me start here…in 1996 I started Girls on the Run International.

Here’s the original “blurb” I used back then to help folks understand what the program was all about.

In 1976, I bought my first pair of running shoes. I was fifteen then and like most fifteen year old girls, trying to figure out who I was inside a changing body. I was desperately wanting to be liked by the beautiful crowd–popular with the boys. But I couldn’t fit into the box the world placed over the spark of my spirit. The box told me things I knew in my soul weren’t true: That the way I looked was more important than who I was inside. That being a woman meant keeping emotions like anger to myself. That having a boyfriend meant giving up part of my own identity. But I stepped in anyway. Hours spent trying to mold my body, my lifestyle, my life into what the box required were extremely painful.

So I ran. I’d strap on those running shoes and head for the woods, the streets, wherever my feet would take me. I felt Beautiful. Strong. Powerful. I felt a part of something greater than myself.

On July 7th, 1993, I remember it well. I put on my running shoes and ran at sunset. I’m not sure what instant of the run the box disappeared, but like a glass womb it shattered around me and pushed me out, born to an entirely new freedom. It was a moment of personal awakening.

A year later, I began work on what was to become the Girls on the Run program. The concept, however, was born long before that July run. It was born in 8th grade when a boy in my class told me with disgust that I looked like a boy. It was born when a young woman, weighing 85 pounds and starving herself, told me she need to lose weight to be beautiful. It was born when I took a pregnant thirteen-year-old on a long walk in the woods.

Girls on the Run is a lot more than a running program. It will, I believe, create an entire generation of girls who can live peacefully and happily outside of the Girl Box.

In the year 2030, I’ll be 70. My daughter will be 32. If I have anything to say about it, she will never have to climb out of the Girl Box. Girls on the Run will shatter the Girl Box, like the spirit did for me that July night and help her and other girls feel comfortable simply being themselves.

Since 1996, the program has reached nearly 400,000 girls and our numbers continue to grow.

I’ve learned a lot.  I’ve learned that the “Girl Box” or “Boy Box” shows up in many different ways for each of us.  The Girl Box messages I, “bought into” were generally focused on two things, my appearance and my “social place.”  Girls were, back in the 60’s and 70’s generally slotted into only a few professional positions.  Thankfully that has changed.

I’m working on an upcoming TEDx talk and would love to hear from you and in your words, what limiting/stereotyped messages you received growing up, either from within your own familial circles or from the larger societal/cultural/systemic context within which you lived.  These may not be related to gender.  I don’t need to know specifics unless you want to share them.

Also…when in your life did you begin to realize that these messages were not necessarily real or true or accurate?  Was there an a-ha moment or was the process more subtle?

You’ve probably figured out by now…that I LOVE connecting dots.   I’m working on a “big idea” and am just still in the trying-to-figure-it-all out phase.

You can email me privately at mollybarker1960@gmail.com or if you prefer just write out your thoughts on the comment section right here.

8 thoughts on “I Could Sure Use YOUR Input!

  1. I ran track in Junior High (dating myself). My mother really did not like that and made it pretty clear that I would be more popular if I did Poms and dance team instead. I gave up running a a sport in high school. Looking back I was no more popular, maybe less. Regardless popularity or coolness should not be related to what you do, rather who you are. I still butt heads with my mom, she thinks my three girls should be exposed to dance.

    I started running again in college after being dumped by a boy. I was mad and needed to get over it. Had been my therapy ever since.

  2. Wow, that’s a biggie. Bad memories here. From father: 1- You have the personality of a horse and you’ll never have any friends. 2- Looking like that, we’ll never get rid of you. 3- If you’re gonna stay home from school (sick) you can at least make yourself useful. From mother: Never let your true feelings show, nobody wants to know what you really feel. …If I remember any others from teachers, etc, I’ll add them later.

    1. I’ll never forget being told that a girl shouldn’t laugh too much, or “too loud”. It made you look like you weren’t smart… I can’t believe I actually let that affect me for a few years.

  3. The trickiest part here was omitting those that related specifically to gender. A couple that stick in my mind are: after winning a race at a track meet (and quite possibly being a boastful fifteen year old), having my mother bring me down a few notches with, “I don’t care how fast you think you are or how many races you win, there will always be someone out there who is faster and better’ or after saying, “I hope I (insert I passed a test, got a I on a piano solo, etc.)” to hear, “Well, you better have.”

  4. During my early elementary years I spent large portions of time w/ my dad, he left when I was 12 but as I entered 7th grade I remember my girlfriends doing things I thought were silly, I guess they were trying to conform to those outside pressures. I thought they were silly and just couldn’t relate. I think it was then that I started to reach out and have boys that were friends, they were just way more mellow! I think I was spared so much of the trying to confirm b/c my dad spent so much time w/ me and just let me be me. I also think growing up in the late 70’s and 80’s made a difference, too. That was the time that women were really celebrating how great they were. I had many a t-shirt that stated anything boys could do, girls could do better!
    I worry about my daughter as she approaches this age, she already has lots of little episodes with her friends now. One of the biggest blessings is her school participates in Girls on the Run!!! I’d love to see it all schools!!! It’s a truly great thing for girls to have that safe space and understand what they are going to face and know they have friends that will support them and care for them as they are!!!!

  5. I am the eldest of three sisters and my parents worked hard to counteract gender stereotyping with us. However, we did (and still do) hear a lot of stereotypes about birth order. From the day my youngest sister was born, we were told by others and reinforced within our family the idea that she would be the wild one and give my parents a hard time. And, my middle sister is still referred to as “the stable one.”

  6. Molly- a friend showed me a book written by her cousin called “beautiful you: a daily guide to Radical Self-Acceptance” that I’ve been flipping through and I think it goes right along with all you are talking about- by Rosie Molinary. She also wrote another book called “Hijas Americanas” that expolores alot of these questions regarding Latina females- it really would be worth looking through I think as it is so right on target with all you are thinking/talking/educating/passionate about.

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