A group of middle school girls were surprised this week to find in their school library copies of a couple of magazine covers that sparked widespread debate on social media: contrasting issues of “Girls’ Life” and “Boys’ Life.”
The controversy stemmed from the wildly divergent set of goals and values reflected in the two publications.
The girls’ magazine cover featured themes of fashion, hairstyles, boyfriends and first kisses, while the boys’ magazine touted a more edifying theme of career goals.
The female students, all members of an engineering club for girls sponsored by the Women in Transportation Seminar, could relate. Although they live in an era when girls have more opportunities than ever before, old attitudes die hard. They didn’t have to dig too deep to find evidence of double standards, often invoked as a way to stop them from doing something they want to do.
Asal Alrawi, 12, is an admitted tomboy who likes to climb trees, ride bikes and wear camouflage. When she was younger, it was socially acceptable. But now, boys tell her she should dress like a girl and do “girl things.”
The female students said they could see ways that boys seem inherently different than girls: they tend to be greater risk takers, more aggressive and messier. But they didn’t think those differences were enough to exclude them from the activities and goals they want to pursue.
“We’re all humans,” Isabel Santoyo-Garcia, 13, said. Isabel and her sister grew up playing more with cars than dolls.
The point isn’t “science good, makeup bad,” school counselor Marti Velasco, said. She and other teachers instill the message that it’s okay if you like clothes and makeup, but it’s good to expand your aspirations beyond those things.
Despite the prevalence of “hidden messages” about women’s roles in popular culture, Velasco thinks the younger generation will do better with fairness and equality.
“It feels amazing,” she said of the acceptance of transgender students she sees in the students. “Like, okay, we’re actually moving forward!"
Asal’s mom, Zinah Al Naseri, said in a telephone interview she doesn’t worry too much about the cultural messages in popular culture, that Asal is grounded enough in her religion to make good choices.
“She is clever; her grades are all A's,” Al Naseri, whose family immigrated here from Iraq, said. “This is very important to me, because we came to this country to build a future.”
Copyright 2016 KXTV