Editorial: Group helps girls to build self-esteem

From the April 4 edition of the Register-News

   Betty Vaneekhoven, a counselor at the MacFarland Junior School in Bordentown City, knows being proactive is more effective than treating a problem after the damage is done.
   Aware of the pressure that many of the school’s girls go through in regard to their looks and self-esteem, she created a group called "Girls Speak Out" to head off some of the problems faced by impressionable young women in our society.
   The group meets once a week during lunch or study hall, giving the girls an opportunity to examine and discuss school and societal issues that affect young women of today.
   Thanks to Ms. Vaneekhoven, young women who are being bombarded with propaganda about "image" and mercilessly scrutinized to maintain the "right" weight or the "right" appearance have a place to turn where the important issues of character, intelligence and potential can take precedence.
   Ms. Vaneekhoven said she was particularly concerned for the school’s young women when she became aware of a list circulating among the middle school students. The list asked boys at the middle school to rate girls on aspects such as their face and physical attributes.
   "Girls Speak Out" allows the girls to express what something like this list means to them. It gives them a voice and helps them understand that their lives are much more than what their male classmates think of their breasts and their complexion.
   Ms. Vaneekhoven has a tough road ahead. There are so many young women today influenced by advertising, movies, television and pop music. Every day, girls are told that the only way they will ever be completely fulfilled is if they successfully compete for a man’s attention, using any means, no matter how degrading.
   We endorse Ms. Vaneekhoven’s call for change. We don’t know how many young women in the group will learn to love themselves unconditionally, but if "Girls Speak Out" stops just one girl from starving herself, craving body alteration or forsaking education and enlightenment, it will be a success.