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5 Pressures Girls Face as School Starts

5 Pressures Girls Face as School Starts

At the high school where I work, I run an after-school group just for girls. We get together every week to talk about issues that are important to them, and the word I hear most often is “pressure.” Girls in this age group are no strangers to societal pressures, as they are surrounded by them in their daily lives and, more often than not, these pressures seep in to their lives at school as well. At our first meeting of the year, I asked the girls to expand on these ideas and tell me, specifically, what they felt were the worst pressures they face at the start of every school year. What follows is the top 5 issues they feel they face every August.

1. The Pressure to Look Perfect

We are all familiar with the back-to-school outfit. Even teachers have been known to go on a shopping trip before the first day of school to pick out something new to wear on the first day the students are in school. However, the pressure to look perfect is particularly bad for teenage girls. By the time they get to middle school, girls have already been looking at magazines that show unattainable, photoshopped images of models. Because of this, they already feel the pressure to be thin and to wear the perfect clothes and have the perfect hair all the time. There is no time when this is more important to them than back-to-school. After three months of not seeing many of their classmates, they feel the need to be sure they look their best in the first weeks of school.

2. The Pressure to Impress Everyone

Once students get to middle and high school, they have up to eight or nine teachers a day. On top of that, this is socially the time when students’ friends are becoming the most important piece of their lives. As if that weren’t enough, this is also the time when students start dating. This can mean that teenage girls feel like they have to impress upwards of 20 or 30 people every day. They need to figure out what each person wants out of them, and who each person expects them to be, and meet those expectations. This would be difficult for anyone, but somehow teenage  girls manage to juggle all of these separate expectations.

3. The Pressure to Prioritize

The girls in my group insisted that the pressure to over-commit themselves is one of the biggest pressures they face in high school. It’s at this time that students start to think about college and life beyond that, and they worry that not being involved in enough sports or clubs will hurt their chances at getting into a good school. They also worry that their friends will be angry at them if they choose a different activity over their friend’s favorite. As if that weren’t enough, many students who are already over-committed are also taking Advanced Placement or honors level classes. They are afraid to take a fun class or something they are interested in because they fear retribution for that decision when it comes to the college application process.

4. The Pressure to Be Caregivers

It’s no secret that women are expected to be caregivers in society. This starts early, as soon as we give a little girl a baby doll and a kitchen play set. This expectation grows when girls are teenagers and are asked to babysit their younger siblings. During the summer hours, when the days are long and school is out, caring for younger siblings can easily fit into the schedule. However, when school starts again and parents still need help watching younger children after school, teenage girls who already feel pressured to over-commit themselves are now faced with another choice: help their parents or participate in after school activities.

5. The Pressure to Be Social

Along with the expectation to be caregivers, girls are expected to manage social calendars. Any girl who decides she’d rather stay home with a good book than attend the school dance is then subject to a barrage of persuasive techniques from her friends and family: she’ll regret not going; she’ll miss out on all of her friends; it’s only one evening and she can read her book later. Along with the pressure to be social, there is then the pressure to find a date and a dress, and we’re right back to the beginning with the pressure to look perfect.

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Photo Credit: terren in Virginia

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110 comments

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2:30PM PDT on Oct 14, 2012

They face these pressures but giving in to them is a personal choice. if they are raised with parents who instill love for themselves and positive self esteem they will be fine. I took honors and AP classes and had friends and boyfriends and dances and clubs, and I was fine. I dressed the way I liked and let things fall into place. The people who matter will love you regardless of how you dress and what your hair looks like.

12:53PM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

Gene J.. middle school for me had it both. 5,6,7,8 grade. it alternated with home ec and shop.
home ec had cooking and sewing. so you learned how to cook your own damn food when you are 11 or 12. then one year you did some cooking and learned how to make a shirt or pants or boxers or a bag. then cooking again.
then the other two for shop I was so terrible at and the teacher was nice and cut most of my stuff on the saw because I was afraid of it and did a poor job sawing and it was like cutting frozen butter with a spoon. then in 8th you made some things, and I think a bridge with match sticks with a group

then HS was more elective. choose what you want. I forget if there was a "no girls allowed". I can always find someone else to teach me how to make a decoy duck or fish out of wood.

12:48PM PDT on Sep 20, 2012

I think I was blessed to be obvlious to these things.
now I am a wreck and care way way way to much.

but!, what we do now is, tell the world to bend around the girl. not the girl to change to fit in with the world.

everything is situational. some people can do and be a particualr way and be celebrated, others will get bullied.
I thought I was cool for mismatched socks. they made fun of me for that. so I stopped.
they should of seen mismatched socks were cool and everyone do it.

I thought putting barretts in my shoe laces was cool. I got made fun of. years later something like what I did is on store shelves.

be proud to be you. unless you are a raving lunitic. who knows. the poor gal could have undiagnosed schizotypical personality disorder.
why should she try to not be herself? it's not hurting anyone.

12:02PM PDT on Sep 10, 2012

Shouldn't be like this!

10:03PM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

Poor things!

10:48AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

I'm so very glad my school days are behind me. It certainly wasn't the best time in my life.

10:42AM PDT on Sep 9, 2012

We all had to face it.

2:11PM PDT on Sep 7, 2012

Boys have pressures on them too. Like all these amazingly beautiful, intelligent, and capable girls everywhere. Good Lord! We feel so inadequate!! What is a guy supposed to do? Either be a jock, a nerd or a rebel. He can't be a multitasker like these girls. We aren't built for it. We have limited abilities. We are under achievers when compared to these amazing young women. Maybe, that is why male dominated societies want to keep it that way. They are fearful that their short comings will show.

6:59PM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

Unrealistic expectations, with a halo of disappointment, forever hanging over their heads.

1:37PM PDT on Sep 6, 2012

Thanks

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