Alice Paul Tapper may only be 10 years old, but she can already see that some girls her age have stopped speaking up and are starting to take a backseat to boys in school. In an Oct. 31 op-ed that the fifth-grader wrote for the New York Times, Alice talks about the moment when she realized girls were fading into the background rather than using their voice.
“Last year, on a fourth-grade field trip, I noticed that all the boys stood in the front and raised their hands, while most of the girls politely stayed in the back and were quiet,” she wrote. “It made me upset.”
She continued: “I told my mom that I thought girls weren’t raising their hands because they were afraid that the answer was going to be wrong and that they would be embarrassed. I also think they were being quiet because the boys already had the teacher’s attention, and they worried they might not be able to get it. My mom and I decided that we should take the experience to my Girl Scout troop.”
They did, and Alice found out that all 12 girls in her troop had noticed this problem as well. The troop shared their ideas on how to solve this. Alice suggested that they create a Girl Scout patch that would encourage girls to raise their hands in class and use their voices.
That was the origin of the “Raise Your Hand” patch. “Its message is that girls should have confidence, step up and become leaders by raising our hands,” wrote Alice.
The troop suggested the new patch to the Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, which, according to article, represents more than 62,000 girls in the Scouts. The organization made it an official patch, and on its website, encourages girls to get involved with the Girl Scouts’ Raise Your Hand movement, saying: “Sign the pledge below and commit to raising your hand in class when you think you know the answer or have a question. Not 100 percent sure? That’s ok! Take a risk and try anyway.”
Yahoo Lifestyle reached out to Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital and will update when we hear back.
Alice’s dad, journalist Jake Tapper, couldn’t be more proud of his daughter. On Oct. 25, he tweeted: “So proud of my daughter for coming up with the Raise Your Hand patch & pledge to encourage @GirlScouts to raise their hands in class.” His tweet caught the eye of a New York Times editor, which led to Alice writing the op-ed piece.
— Jake Tapper (@jaketapper) October 25, 2017
Barbara Greenberg, Ph.D., a teen, family and individual clinical psychologist, isn’t surprised that girls around Alice’s age are starting to struggle with speaking up. “What starts to happen when girls get to be around 10 and 11 years old is that their self-esteem decreases,” Greenberg tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “They lose their confidence. They start to become more self-conscious. What starts to happen is maybe the boys get reinforced more for speaking up and for being more assertive and girls are getting reinforced for being more compliant and social.”
Researchers such as Carol Gilligan and Lyn Mikel Brown have studied what happens to girls’ self-esteem as they age. In their book, “Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development,” they note: “We witness the struggle girls undergo as they enter adolescence, only to find that what they feel and think and know can no longer be said directly. We see them at a cultural impasse, and listen as they make the painful, necessary adjustments, outspokenness giving way to circumspection, self-knowledge to uncertainty, authority to compliance.”
While a Girl Scouts patch is only one small step out of many needed to counter this pervasive problem — including building girls’ confidence — it’s a start.
Greenberg thinks the patch is a “phenomenal” idea. “Once people start monitoring the behavior [of girls not speaking up] and it comes into awareness, that behavior will change in frequency,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Since she’s calling it into awareness, the behavior will change, and girls will be more assertive and raise their hands.”
She adds: “The badge is absolutely brilliant. Major kudos to this young girl.”
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