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Inspire Change

At Girls on the Run, we are passionate about all girls developing key life skills – confidence, caring, connection, character, competence and contribution – in order to live joyful lives of meaning and purpose.   Our program is designed for girls to have the opportunity to discuss, think about and question a wide range of topics.  Through our experiential curriculum, we encourage girls to develop their critical thinking skills to examine and understand why they or others make the choices they do.  

Critical thinking, or making judgments, is a part of being human and we each do it every day.  It involves asking ourselves questions in order to make decisions.  From instantaneous choices such as “is it safe to pass this car?” to more informed decisions such as “which political candidate will best serve my community?” we make continual judgments as we move through our lives.  

Asking the Deeper Questions

As many of you know, Self magazine has received extensive media attention over the last 48 hours for requesting a photo of Monika Allen, a GOTR-San Diego board member and then using it to make negative comments about running in tutus.  When something like this occurs, we must stop and consider why a magazine would choose to run negative commentary like this in the first place.  Why would printing an opinion that tutus are “lame” be deemed relevant content?   What does this say about our larger societal and cultural values?   Do the answers to these questions impact our quest to achieve our limitless potential in life? 

While the content of the piece was not directly about Girls on the Run, it unquestionably highlights the relevance of our curriculum.  This situation certainly aligns with our lessons on bullying behavior.  Self is a national corporation with a great amount of power and influence.  Therefore, its judgment of tutus as lame reinforced by the picture of a real woman with a very real story feels like bullying to many of us.  Monika has stood up to the magazine to express her feelings in a healthy and open way.  More importantly, the people who witnessed the bullying are expressing themselves as well.  This firm, yet thoughtful response by bystanders is critical in the elimination of bullying.  We are far more likely to observe bullying behavior then to be the bully or person being bullied; therefore it is imperative that we use our voices to stand up when others are mistreated.  

This situation also relates to our Girls on the Run lesson about gossip.  Using toothpaste as a visual representation, we help girls realize that once you say something (squeezing toothpaste out of the tube) you can’t take it back (how would  you put toothpaste back into the tube?)  Once hurtful words have been expressed, they cannot be unspoken, only forgiven. Self magazine has apologized for what was printed, but people still feel very strongly about what was said and are not readily accepting this expression of regret.  We all must be sure that what we say is what we mean, whether we are in the third grade or adults in a professional setting.     

We also teach girls that no one is perfect.  We are human and we all make mistakes.  At the heart of making a mistake is the importance of learning from it in order to change our future behaviors or actions as a result of the experience. Self magazine has admitted that it made a mistake.  What is yet to be seen is what happens now.  Will Self learn from this experience?  Moving forward, will it work to ensure that it celebrates women for the content of their character and not what they choose to wear while running?  

What Happens Now

What I have been reflecting upon as I ponder what has transpired is how we, the leaders of Girls on the Run, can truly influence individuals to stop making judgments that are mean-spirited, irrelevant or destructive.  This kind of judgment serves no valid or worthy purpose.  When we find ourselves or others making judgments that at their heart are disparaging, we must ask the bigger question “why?”  Once we ask why, we must then determine what our individual responsibility is when we see corporations, public leaders or other powerful entities making judgments or decisions that we do not support.  How can we as individuals express ourselves and our beliefs in a meaningful way?  If we subscribe to a magazine that offends us, we can cancel our subscription.  If we are displeased with an elected official, we can support another candidate or even run for office ourselves!  

Changing the World

At Girls on the Run, we believe that girls have the power to change the world.  While it is easy to silence or ignore the voice of one person, the voices of many united in purpose has power!   Amazing transformation is possible when we embrace and live our core values of joy, gratitude, empowerment, connectedness, responsibility and intentionality.  By celebrating one another, connecting with one another and coming together as one powerful movement, we can create healthy dialogue, elevate thought and, indeed, change the world. 

 

Elizabeth Kunz

President

Girls on the Run International