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Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Thinking about Barbara

July 13, 2011|By Joe Puglia

Girls can do anything, part two.

Barbara Schuman was the brightest kid in the neighborhood. She excelled in school, could throw a ball as far as any boy, climb a tree, run like the wind, and was prettier than a picture. Barbara believed that everything was possible. The cloud of socialization had not yet consumed her, telling her what she could and couldn’t be. As she grew older she was no longer merely a tomboy; she became an anomaly, an aberration of what was consider feminine.

Last week I wrote some thoughts prompted by a remark by a Boy Scout leader who said, “Girls don’t go backpacking — they make bracelets.” My column found its way to San Angelo, Texas, prompting a response from Carolyn Mioduski, a leader in Girl Scout Troop 5039.

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“My Scouts can read a compass,” she wrote in an email. “We hike. We cook out. We explore. We work on badges that require real Scout skills. And, we’ve never made a bracelet, arranged flowers, braided hair, or experimented with make-up.”

As the girls of Troop 5039 experience physicality, adventure and daring, they will foster self-assurance and confidence, and elicit a greater sense of self in shaping their identity. Their ranks will produce women who will break gender barriers.

Sherrie Inness, author of “Tough Girls,” asserts that girls who are exposed to roles associated with typical male physicality are prone to take greater control of their own destinies and imagine themselves departing from traditional gender roles.

Since I’ve been blessed with two daughters, I’ve become emphatic in my assertion that physical skill development is as essential for the overall actualization of emerging young women as it is for boys.

One of my favorite adventure stories, “Annapurna: A Women’s Place,” by Arlene Blum, is an account of the 1978 Woman’s Expedition to the Himalayas of Nepal and the subsequent ascent of Annapurna I. This is a must-read for any young girl. The expedition's accomplishment had a positive impact for women around the world and changed perceptions about women's abilities. Conquering the mountain is incidental to developing the soul, thus Annapurna is a metaphor for achievement.

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