Monday, April 7, 2008

Educating the Next Generation

From Autumn Libal of New Moon: A little while ago I wrote an email to some girls who are working with me in which I talked about us having a "We Can Do It!" attitude at New Moon. I was referring to J. Howard Miller's iconic World War II-era poster.

Some people thought I was talking about Bob the Builder. At first I felt mild amusement; it was a bit funny. Then I felt mild disappointment. I thought I was quite clever with my application of cultural iconography and believed the girls would appreciate my wit. Umm, a good reminder not to consider oneself too clever!

What does it mean when the first thing that jumps to girl's mind when reading the phrase "We Can Do It!" is Bob the Builder rather than a classic image of women's empowerment?

When a powerful idea or image becomes embedded in the cultural consciousness, it's easy to assume it will carry through to future generations. After all, so many things (gender inequity for one!) do pass down from age to age, seemingly organically and effortlessly.

But the mistaking of a classic women's empowerment slogan for a Bob the Builder quote reminded me not to take for granted the ground we have gained through the women's movement. Whether in subtle or obvious ways, our sociocultural values, principles, norms, and behaviors are taught and learned--from our families, our communities, our schools, our media. If we don't consciously pass the ideas we have and gains we make on to future generations, then they are in danger of being lost. This is especially so if one principle--in this case women's empowerment--is in competition with other long-standing cultural norms--like entrenched gender inequity.

And so today, when New Moon is celebrating another Parents' Choice Gold Award I am very thankful to be part of this organization. I am reminded , and I'm feeling renewed commitment to helping another generation of girls find their voices and use them in ways that matter in the world.

"We Can Do It!," far from being an obvious cultural reference, or worse yet, an overused cliche, is a vital message every girl still needs to hear.

No comments: