Monthly Archives: February 2010
My journey with Big Sister Association of Greater Boston began six years ago when I became Migleila’s Big Sister. I will never forget that first time we met, she was the cutest seven year old, and she greeted me with a couple of key chains she had made. One said “Little Sis” and the other one said “Big Sis.” We have a scrapbook, and I keep that key chain in it to this day, along with other memories and pictures from the past six years of our relationship. After returning from our interview at NECN last week, we went over our scrapbook and enjoyed every memory cherished all over again…the moment was priceless!
When I first heard of the Big Sister program my initial impulse was to apply so I could make a difference in a little girl’s life. The blessings I have enjoyed throughout my life have been countless, and I felt like it was time for me to pay it forward. I am privileged to have a wonderful family that provided endless support and positive role models, and where education was always a priority. It was my intention to provide the same type of guidance and support to a Latina girl that shared my same background and heritage.
As a Big Sister and a member of Big Sister’s Diversity Council, which aims to increase the number of women of color who become Big Sisters in order to reflect the diversity of the girls they serve, I am aware of the amazing benefits of sharing a “Big-Little” relationship with a girl of the same cultural heritage. In my relationship with Migleila, we can relate to each other with more ease and understanding of our experiences and upbringing. It is a very enriching relationship, and I am inspired every day because I see how she aspires to become a productive member of society when she grows up. Children learn by example, and our relationship is providing positive examples for her to follow in her own life.
If you are a woman of color and are thinking about making a difference in the life of a girl in our community, I would strongly encourage you to apply to become a Big Sister. I also want to hear from you. What is your experience mentoring a girl from a similar ethnic or cultural background? Why do you think it’s important and how can Big Sister Association encourage more women of color to become mentors?
Click here to watch Eneida’s interview on BNN’s El Show de Fernandito about the importance of more women of color becoming Big Sisters.
Sharon Daura is a Big Sister staff member who leads the United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley’s Intentional Mentoring initiative. This capacity building program provides training and support around gender-sensitive programming to girl-serving organziations throughout Boston.
I listened in my car recently as two well-known radio talk show hosts discussed the topic of bullying. The recent and tragic suicide of Phoebe Prince, the fifteen year old girl who was being bullied at her high school, prompted the discussion. Both used the term “mean girls” repeatedly, while one was convinced the answer lies in prosecuting the girls who bullied Phoebe. I gripped my steering wheel and waited for what I knew would eventually come. A few seconds later, one of them delivered the inevitable: “Girls are worse than boys.”
We know by now that both boys and girls engage in relational violence and aggression and both suffer as victims. However, the issue deserves a gender-sensitive perspective, especially since the current media discourse about bullying is placing gender in the spotlight. The “girls are worse than boys” opinion is a popular one. Yet, what does it really say about our beliefs about gender and behavior?
Society gives girls plenty of messages about where their value lies, which in turn equips them with the tools to devalue one another. It’s no mystery why Facebook pages become venues for harassment that target girls’ appearance, weight, and sexual behavior. Viewers of The Bachelor can tune in as women compete with one another for the ultimate prize: a man. Girls will tell you a similar story–most of the conflicts start with competition over a boy. When girls use language to hurt one another, they access the very same sexist language they hear on a regular basis. It’s important to shed traditional beliefs about girls’ behavior and realize that while they are capable of violence and aggression, they are also not biologically predisposed to it. The labels, like “mean girls,” offer very little in the way of solutions. They also demean girls and contribute to the very problem we are trying to address
Dr. Lyn Mikel Brown, author of Girlfighting: Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls, urges us to consider the ways our culture “nurtures and reinforces meanness between girls.” As we do that, perhaps we should also nurture a new kind of culture where we talk to girls about anger and equip them with tools like assertiveness. We could reinforce a dynamic of respect between girls and provide them with examples of women supporting other women, on television and in real life. Rather than judging girls’ behavior as “worse than boys,” we could focus on our own language and behavior as adults. Let’s start here: Are we willing to retire the term “mean girls”?