girlfriendseptGirl Achieving: Girlfriend September 2013

Melinda Tankard Reist

As always, when I review teen girls’ magazines I look for the girls who are taking up their rightful place in the world, engaging in social action and cultural transformation.

This issue we meet ‘2013 Girlfriend of the Year’ (I’m ignoring the eight pages on GF’s Rimmel Model Search). Hannah, 15, was chosen from six finalists for her activism against Coal Seam Gas Mining. “The methods used to extract it are all detrimental to the environment and the people surrounding the wells…There is little info available on the actual chemicals used in the mining process – all we know is there are proven links between CSG mining and illness in humans and animals, lack of land productivity, lowered air quality and contaminated soil and water,” the young activist says. Hannah, who has also been involved in Youth Parliament, says her motivation comes from raising awareness, encouragement from others and knowing she is making a difference.

Marian Bechtel, 18, invented a land mind detector. Described as an ‘anti-war hero’ in the article ‘Like a boss,’ about inspiring girl CEOs and inventors, Marian came up with the idea of using sound waves to detect land mines at only 14. She spent three years researching and working with scientists to develop a prototype. As a result Marian was a finalist in the 2012 Intel Science Talent Search in the US. “I think technology can definitely help us get toward word peace,” says Marian. Madison Robinson, 15, created her own thong (‘fishflops.com) business, which has taken off. “I think you can be creative and achieve your dreams at any age,” says Madison. “If you have an idea you love and can see the possibilities, go for it.” Ava Anderson, 18, created the world’s first non-toxic beauty products as CEO and director of Product Development of Ava Anderson, Tavi Gevinson, 17, started her style blog at 11 which grew into an online magazine Rookie Mag, one of the top websites for teens in the world. Eesha Khare, 18, invented a battery that charges in 30 seconds.

There are more high achievers in the ‘Life as told by you’ section. Brittany developed a breast cancer app after her cousin was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her app enabled doctors to enter values on a scale of one to 10 for each sign of breast cancer a patient has. She has spent over 1000 hours working on it and run 7.6 million tests. The app is now 99 per cent accurate for diagnosing the disease. She hopes to become a doctor one day. Kelsey, 17, has raised more than $40,000 for the charity ‘Hands Across the Water’, which helps children in Thailand. Started by her father, she has volunteered in one of the charity’s orphanages during her summer holidays. “I saw how tough things are for them and learned not to take life for granted as so many of us do, myself included. I also watched how the children look after each other. It made me think, why can’t we all be kinder to each other?” The money Kelsey has raised so far can save 27 girls from trafficking. Kelsey says she feels she must do something to help at-risk children. “I can be the voice for girls my age and younger from all over the world who are being forced to do terrible things against their will….To be able to provide new hope and possibilities for these girls is the reason I’m doing this. I know that changing their lives will also change the lives of their families, friends and broader communities, as well as the generations to come after them”. She urges other teens to take the focus off themselves and unleash their energy in positive ways to help others.

Well done GF for finding these girls – our young women need more like them.

‘When your crush is your teacher’ is an important article which helps girls understand what is normal and when boundaries become blurred and how to deal with that. Being infatuated means girls may not think as clearly and may misread signals. Girls are warned of the dangers of flirting with a teacher. They share stories of teachers crossing the line and are advised to talk to a parent or adult immediately. They are reminded that because they are in positions of power, and because they are underage, it is illegal to have a relationship with a teacher.

‘The art of apologising’ helps girls to apologise sincerely without ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. “Apologies shouldn’t come with qualifications”, says GF. “Focus on the feelings of the other person, not your own, and allow them to absorb what you’re saying in their own time.” Related is ‘The Blame Game’ – how to take responsibility for your actions. “It means you can learn from your mistakes and grow stronger and better.” ‘Body language basics’ helps girls read body signals such as smiling, eye contact, hand gestures and body movements. There’s also advice on how to deal with the emotional pain of loss and bereavement after a celebrity such as Glee start Cory Monteith died. “If someone has touched your life, entertained you, inspired you, helped you to form your identity and connect with others in the turbulent teen years, it’s only natural that you might feel the loss of their presence,” says GF.

‘Project You’ looks at how to correct distorted thinking which causes anxiety, confusion, frustration and despair. GF psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg lists the most common thinking errors as: black and white thinking, should-ing, jumping to conclusions, disqualifying the positive and mental filter (hearing 10 compliments and one insult for example, and your mind only focussing on the latter). To help become error free, girls are advised to do a reality test, to look for alternative explanations to put things into perspective and use goal-directed thinking (Is this way of thinking helping me achieve my goals? What can I do that will help me solve the problem? Is there something I can learn from this situation?).

Hopefully those goals, will include making a difference in the world, encouraged by the personal stories of girls doing just that in this issue.