What Makes Me a “Girl on the Run”? So many things…

What Makes Me a “Girl on the Run”?  So many things…

“How am I a girl on the run?”  This is an important question, with a complex answer, for there is not just one thing that makes me a “girl on the run.”

Nooriel in the 1988 Gator Gallop

First and foremost, I believe in the power of girls and women, and encouraging other females to feel that power.  Too often girls are made to feel powerless; this message is communicated in so many ways within our culture, from subtle things like male-centered language, to obvious things like driving girls away from “masculine” careers (engineering, mechanics, biochemistry) .  Yes, our very language is designed to place more value on boys and their experiences—Mankind, HIStory, CongressMEN, the order of gendered word pairings: King & Queen, husband & wife (sometimes said as “man & wife,” which drives me crazy!), male & female, boys  & girls, etc, etc.   Males constantly use gender-related words/items as insults to one another: “Don’t be such a girl;” “You throw like a girl;” “Man up;” and other slogans. Feminine hygiene products are also used to insult, and discussed as a joke, nonsense, in “how silly to be a girl” tones.  Girls get this message early on, and it teaches us to undervalue ourselves.  Thankfully, I had a mother who worked to counteract those cultural messages.  I strive to do the same for the girls in our society, in any way I can. It saddens me that this devaluing of girls still goes on in 2013; we must end this phenomenon.  We must stop teaching our girls and boys to innately feel that being male is somehow better than being female.  This is why I believe in the GOTR messages.

Secondly, though very much related to the first, is my belief that the beauty myth which has surrounded women for centuries has reached ridiculous proportions.  Girls feel they must look like supermodels (fake images, airbrushed, retouched, shrunk, enlarged, etc) an absolutely unattainable goal, even for the actual models portrayed.  Those images are not human, but computer-generated.  Our girls need this explained to them so they do not set themselves up to hate their bodies.  Discussing what a real woman’s body should look like – many shapes – as well as learning to place more value on who they are inside is vitally important as well.  This is one of the wonderful messages of GOTR.

Thirdly, I value exercise and have always had an affinity for running. My parents are runners and thus I began running at a young age.  I ran my first 5K race, the 1988 Gator Gallop, at the age of seven.  By the age of fourteen I had started running almost daily with my mother, and have been hooked ever since.  I think running is a wonderful way to get kids active.  They can go their own pace, and it doesn’t take a lot of athletic ability – any kid can run.  There’s no gear required (other than shoes) and no pressure like being on a sports team.  Yet, it can become a group activity. Running in pairs can encourage team work, while running alone can foster personal reflection, since running doesn’t require a lot of focus – daydreaming can actually make the run seem shorter.  It is a simple formula for good health that can set them up for a wonderful future.

Fourthly, I know when girls/women work together, wonderful things can be accomplished.  Yet, girls often get the message growing up that females are catty, can’t cooperate or get along.  This is a silly stereotype that desperately needs to be debunked and counteracted.  Girls can do GREAT things together! That is why it is so great that the GOTR program is not just about the individual girl, but about the group supporting one another in life and in personal goal setting (running that 5K at the end of the semester.)

These are a few of the reasons I am a “girl on the run.”  Programs like GOTR are vital to teaching girls that they are worthwhile.  Getting girls out of that “girl box” that the GOTR curriculum discusses is crucial to them growing up to be self-confident, productive women.  I am thrilled that such a program exists nationwide.  When girls/women believe in themselves, there’s no limit to what they can achieve.