Inspired by “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day,” University social worker and mother of two Carole Lapidos and psychotherapist Sally Wisotzkey co-founded a mentoring program called “It”s Great to be a Girl.”
The program, which is funded by the University, promotes the positive effects undergraduate women have on middle-school students.
Along with “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day,” which began in 1993, Lapidos said she was influenced by Dr. Mary Pipher”s 1996 novel “Reviving Ophelia.” Lapidos said the novel “really scared” her because it showed the truth behind what young girls think about topics such as self-image.
Lapidos said the program helps young girls determine how to act in situations such as friendship, bullying and sexual harassment, and felt that they should not have to go through the heartache of growing up alone.
Two years ago, 10 to 12 undergraduate women were asked to participate in this experimental program. After going through recruitment screenings, they traveled to West Middle School in Ypsilanti where they spoke with about 20 girls about different issues that affect every girl while growing up.
“I feel it is important for undergraduate women to be mentors to young girls because often needs, worries and issues of adolescent girls are overlooked and not discussed,” said Margaret Lassar, an LSA senior and mentor who has been working with the program for the past three semesters.
“The program is essentially a prevention-based one,” Lapidos said.
Lassar agrees. “It confronts the issues before they become a problem.”
Beginning as a course for parents to learn how to deal with the issues their young daughters face in today”s changing society, the program evolved into involving other young women. Because undergraduate women are still dealing with these controversial matters, it is only natural that they be the ones who give “perspective and guidance” to adolescent girls, Lapidos said.
The mentors even have their own title: “femtors,” or female mentors. Femtors are taught how to deal with the problems young girls are facing today.
Much of this program aims to undo what Lapidos called the harmful effects of television and magazines on impressionable minds.
“It is very important for positive role models to be part of society,” said Jackie Weiner, an LSA freshman studying the effects media has on the perception of body image. “Society is used to seeing a negative ideal whereas this program aims to reverse this effect.”
Not only does the media plays up the ideal body type as a size 0, but society as a whole is used to seeing women in just a motherly role, such as teachers, nurses and secretaries, Lapidos said. “It”s Great to be a Girl” promotes “dream building,” Lapidos said, in which the young girls make “dreamscapes” to show where they see themselves when they grow up. The program tries to expose girls to different career options.
The program essentially promotes a healthy body image, raises awareness of cultural stereotypes, and teaches girls how to effectively deal with the problems they are faced with and they are not alone in their fight to grow up. “Its Great to be a Girl” gives young girls the chance to see that there are others who have to same concerns about growing up as they do.
The program provides a healthy and safe environment for young girls to voice concerns and know they will be accepted for whomever they choose to be. “Girls can feel comfortable talking with each other about important issues and know they are not alone,” Lassar said.