How Arowhon Supports
Girls and Young Women
Spend 5 minutes on Facebook (or other social media) looking at how teenage girls present themselves to their world. The pouty mouth, the cocked hip, the carefully curated hair and makeup… and cleavage. To see these images is to know the pressures on girls to package themselves as sexy and ripe for the picking. Both social and traditional media message girls to compete against other girls for boys’ attention. In this heated social pressure cooker, where has childhood gone? Does sex have to be on the agenda for young teens?
Not at camp! In the 1990’s, we at Arowhon thought a lot about two things – How our culture sexualizes girls way too young, and girl cliques. We decided to work hard to make camp safe from those two things.
At Arowhon we celebrate girls for being strong and ambitious and kind to each other… When girls can have fun getting dirty, when you take away the primping and celebrate their activity achievements and their social inclusion, they get to define themselves by who they are on the inside, by their respect for themselves and each other.
These days, when we hear our Senior Girls in the dining hall chanting Independent Women… or Be What You Wanna Be, we know they get it about girl power… and they like it!
How Arowhon Works to
Grow Girl Power
We started doing weekly Girls Circles in every girls cabin in camp, for girls to explore their thoughts and feelings about being female. It seems that every girl’s favourite Girls Circle is Courage Beads, where each girl talks about a time she had to be emotionally courageous… and then the counsellor ties a bead bracelet to symbolize her courage. Research had shown that Courage Beads and other similar Girls Circles increase empathy among girls and reduce cliques.
We also stopped primping at camp, the age-old summer camp pre-dinner ritual of girls doing their hair and makeup and agonizing over what to wear. It seemed such a shame to bring that pressure to camp, so we cancelled it! Simple rule at Arowhon: No primping. No makeup, no hair straightening, no skimpy cleavage-baring clothing. For campers and staff. Dressup at Arowhon is fun and goofy – We replaced primping with lots of crazy dress-up fun, like 80’s night, masquerade etc.
There were other camp traditions that supported girls’ sexualization. Those too we stopped. Camp socials with dates went the way of the dinosaurs. Same too for campers sneaking out at night, which some camps call cabin-hopping.
Instead we facilitate healthy co-ed social interactions where girls can learn to interact with each other and boys in positive, healthy ways.