Other views: Girl Scouts to generate counter tide

The feature article in last Sunday's (Jan. 8) Valley R & R got my attention; both the photograph of women in the Fitness America competition and the title, "Girl Talk." I applaud The Forum for letting our community know about the exhibit at the Heritage Hjemkomst. I wasn't aware of the exhibit or lecture series. I went right over to the Hjemkomst on Monday and took a look for myself.

The exhibit images by photographer Lauren Greenfield are powerful. Like the local young women Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova chronicled, I felt a range of emotions. One image was particularly sad. A 15-year-old aspires to be a stripper. She says she believes she could do anything, if she could take her clothes off in front of people. (That is a sanitized version of her actual words.)

My life work is to help girls know that they can do anything they desire. The steps to learning and believing this truth have nothing to do with taking clothes off. The Girl Culture exhibit brought this home to me in a painful way. It made me feel that we are in a cultural war, fighting for the well-being of girls. There are so many problems and pressures. We, as community members, must work together to create a counter tide that lifts girls up.

North Dakota Girl Scouts have adopted an advocacy platform. We hope to raise awareness of some of the most important issues facing females today. These issues are safety, media portrayal of girls, healthy living and leadership development for girls.

Dru Sjodin's murder impacted all of us. I have always felt a strong sense of personal safety here. Now I carry pepper spray on my key chain. Little girls in Grand Forks, N.D., were afraid to go to the mall for a long time. None of us can achieve anything without first being safe, physically and emotionally.


Every parent wants their daughter to have a positive self-image. We need to oppose media portrayals of girls that promote unhealthy and unrealistic standards of beauty, and negative behaviors. We need to stand behind initiatives that empower and teach girls to critically assess the media. The Girl Culture exhibit is one example of how communities can do this.

Two major health threats in North Dakota are obesity and binge drinking. Our friends in public health can't battle these alone. There are many things we can all do to encourage healthy living among youth. Let's empower girls (and boys) to have a strong self-image, to understand the importance of balance in diet and exercise, to practice healthy habits, and understand the rewards of positive choices. We need more opportunities to move and play, laugh and rejoice.

These are things we all can do; individuals, schools, churches, governments and community leaders. And there is one thing that Girl Scouts does particularly well.

The core mission of Girl Scouting is to develop girls of courage, confidence, and character, in a word: leadership. We provide girls many experiential learning opportunities that help them recognize and use their leadership skills. Girls are partners with adults in choosing and leading programs. We strongly support efforts that help girls become leaders with a lasting sense of responsibility and accountability to their communities - local, national and global.

We need to grow our own Rosa Parks, Katie Courics and Heidi Heitkamps in North Dakota. Hurray for community efforts that make that possible.

Hatfield is the CEO of Girl Scouts-Pine to Prairie Council. The council provides Girl Scouting to 5,400 girls in 33 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. E-mail

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