The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


The Student News Site of Chatham University


Hardy Girls Healthy Women empowers girls through media literacy

Hardy Girls Healthy Woman (HGHW) is a non-profit organization that emphasizes the idea of “hardiness” as a targeted characteristic for girls to develop strength, empowerment, and leadership skills. The organization includes a methodical, detailed curriculum which creates a “girls coalition” through a series of eight lessons.

A girls coalition is essentially a comfortable environment for girls to convene, and investigate what they desire. A key aspect to the curriculum is the girls’ ability to investigate what influences them to want such desires. The program focuses on media literacy and gender roles, with an emphasis on questioning the norms of the two in society.

Within the girls coalition, the girls are encouraged to speak their minds and support each other in and out of their coalition environment.  Lyn Brown–a writer, teacher, public speaker, and leader–originally founded HGHW.

Aside from Lyn Brown’s curriculum, HGHW includes other mediums for learning. As a facilitator of Hardy Girls, you are considered a “muse” or someone who inspires the girls to understand themselves without influencing their thoughts.  The program takes great pride in their principles of working with (not teaching) the girls.

However, muse can be a difficult position considering the difficulties of such things as trust, girl-fighting, body image, gender roles, the objectification of women, and much more. Because of this, the program includes a myriad of extra mediums of learning for the facilitators to help induce an effective girls coalition.

Helpful supplementary tools such as webinars are available through HGHW.  A webinar is usually launched live so the participants can communicate with each guest speaker and they are always available after airtime for download. Despite the way they are used, the webinars can be an extensively helpful tool to anyone interested in the idea of empowering girls, so they become empowered women.

One particular webinar featured a PowerPoint presentation on the idea of breaking negative associations with body image and BMI. Guest speaker, Margo Maine, PhD., FAED, CEDS, who works as a clinical psychologist and founded the Maine and Weinstein Specialty Group, emphasized the negative impact of negative body image and BMI, and their correlation with eating disorders.

Maine presented a multitude of statistics that more than prove her point.  Her research begins with children, with an emphasis on the girls. She reported 42 percent of first, second, and third grade girls say they already have a desire to lose weight.

Of boys and girls of grades three through six , 45 percent report they wish they were thinner.  From the 45 percent, 37 percent report they have already tried dieting, and 6.9 percent scored in the range of an eating disorder already. Her statistics continued with the nine and ten age group of children, of whom over half (51 percent) reported their self-esteem rises when on a diet, and 81 percent report being fearful of becoming fat.

Maine provided an example between older generations after revealing these statistics. She said, “Back when I was nine years old, the word diet was not even in our vocabulary.”

The scary desire for a thin body continues as girls become women, Maine notes. She shared that 43 million women in the United States are dieting to lose weight.  She goes to point out later that dieting usually has the opposite effect than originally desired.

Often dieting causes one to gain the weight back more easily, or fluctuate in weight, which is extremely unhealthy. Of the 43 million women dieting, 26 million diet merely to maintain their weight. Given these numbers, it is apparent the general consensus remains: women are unhappy with their bodies.

Given the cultural standard of beauty in westernized culture, it is not hard to understand the parallel of negative self-esteem as the foundation for eating disorders. However, Maine also explains that the BMI, Body Mass Index, has played a part in adding to eating disorders as well.

The BMI, as utilized in the medical world, does not track muscle, bone, and fat composition of the body accurately, and is the cause of labels such as overweight or obese. Often, the labels are misrepresenting the actual fitness of the child. The BMI appears to act as another cultural influence that furthers the devastation of positive body, especially when encompassing the media.

Maine mentioned the many instances of airbrushing to slim celebrities, and emphasizes the cultural change from the 1860s to the 1960s. In the 1860s, Renoir painted pictures of women whom were considered beautiful by cultural standards.  The women were robust and thick. They had curves and full-figured bodies. By the 1960s, mainly due to the fashion industry and media, women desired flat, small-figured bodies.

She provided the example of a model Twiggy, who traveled from Britain to America, and became a runway model. At 5’6” and 91 pounds, she acted as a “hanger” for the clothing she modeled. According to Maine’s PowerPoint, it was all downhill from there. She does have advice for all people, especially girls, “Our bodies are resources… we need to appreciate them, thank them!”

Maines’ is just one of the innumerable, helpful webinars. Hardy Girls Healthy Women utilizes such webinars, a variety of books, a website, as an aim to unite girls and women, and work toward the empowerment of the females. A strong message, accentuating the need for a female network of support in a male dominated world is at the center of HGHW learning. Learn more about their organization at

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