Hardy Girls’ programming and resources are fueled by current research in girls’ development and education, particularly that of cofounder Lyn Mikel Brown, Colby professor of education. Brown has authored or coauthored four books including Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls (New York University Press, 2003) and Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers’ Schemes, (St. Martin’s Press, 2006).
The American Psychology Association Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls recently found “evidence of negative consequences for girls when they are sexualized or exposed to sexualized images.” Today’s youth spend nearly eight hours a day engaged with some sort of media, according to Brown, and children and teens are bombarded with sexualized images and products. Movies and videos portray young women—and even young girls—in compromising or provocative roles. Advertisements use scantily clad models to sell everything from jeans to soft drinks to cars. Marketers promote such products as padded bras for toddlers and a pole-dancing Barbie.
These products and images narrowly define who girls should be, emphasizing looks, clothing—and attractiveness to boys, critics say. This exposure to “sensationalized media and narrow gender roles,” according to Brown and Hardy Girls Executive Director Megan Williams ’04, “contributes to three of young women’s most common mental health complaints: depression, low self-esteem, and eating disorders.”