This weekend, I was drawn into a bookstore by those words and the stare of a fiercely determined girl in a swim cap. Strong Is the New Pretty – A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves is a new book by Kate T. Parker, a photographer and mother of girls.
The book (which in fact came home with me) is filled with captivating photographs of girls in motion and girls communicating their strength to the camera and through to the observer. The images are beautiful and varied — some in colour and others in black-and-white; some close up and others from a distance; some a single girl, others a duo or a small group, and still others a team or troupe. Each image is accompanied by a sentence or two by the girl in the photo, talking about what makes her unique in her interaction with the world.
The project began with Parker’s photographs of her own two daughters, Ella and Alice. She explains, “The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the strongest images… were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves….I didn’t ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were was amazing.” The work grew to include almost 200 girls, from ages 5 to 19, from all over North America. Parker hopes “…to combat the messages the media sends to women every day” and show girls that they can be beautiful by being strong and fully themselves.
Even though I do not have daughters, I am so captivated by these wonderful photographs of girls who are determined to succeed in their own way and who, in many cases, have overcome diversity (cancer, accidents, parental deaths) to get to the confident selves they are in these pictures. Coincidentally, the next store I went into had this glass (at right) that I felt I had to have for my desk at work. I was also reminded of the recent Instagram post by Ashley Judd (currently in Berlin Station) showing how physically strong she is through this amazing yoga demonstration. Inspiration indeed!
I was looking for a song to illustrate the concept of a woman standing strong for who she is and I came across the site, A Mighty Girl. It bills itself as, “The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls”. (In fact, Strong Is the New Pretty, is one of the books listed there.) It was started by a couple who, while seeking inspiring books for their nieces, were themselves inspired to create a site collecting materials which show that “girls do not have to be relegated to the role of sidekick or damsel in distress”. For each product listed, there is a descriptive blurb, as well as notes for parents including recommended ages. Through the site, you can be directed to Amazon or CafePress, and purchases will generate a small commission (at no charge to the customer) to help run the site, A Mighty Girl. To keep expanding beyond the 4,500 items already listed, the site asks for visitors’ recommendations of appropriate products to be added.
The song I decided to share today is actually not on that site (maybe I’ll recommend it!), but is by one of my favourite strong female singers. P!nk is not conventionally beautiful, but she is strong in body and spirit and powerfully talented. In her 2001 song, “Don’t Let Me Get Me”, she sang, “Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears. She’s so pretty, that just ain’t me.” Here is her 2006 song, “Stupid Girls”, mourning the girls who decide how to act based on what they think guys want. “What happened to the dream of a girl president? She’s dancing in the video next to 50 Cent.” (Warning: Contains sexual images and language, as well as scenes depicting bulimic actions.)