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Writer and professor Carol Gilligan talks about the latest research on how adolescent girls see their lives.
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Carol Gilligan on the Research on Adolescence Girls
Host: You're watching UNICEF Television.
At an international conference addressing the rights of adolescent girls Writer and Professor Carol Gilligan discusses the ways conventional thinking must change in order to recognize the true value of girls.
Carol Gilligan: Because girls initiation into the gendered splits that is the gender binary meaning where being a man means not being a woman and the gender hierarchy where being a man means being on top. The gender binary and the gender hierarchy are the DNA of patriarchy. I mean whatever you see the gender binary where a man must disavow any qualities, human qualities, gendered feminine in order to establish his masculinity or where being a man means being on top you know you're in the presence of patriarchal institutions, practices, structures, whatever. It is the antithesis of democracy which is based on everyone having a voice and addressing conflict through free and open debate that is in relationship.
Now here’s the crucial research finding, girls coming of age at adolescence resist the initiation or initiation practices that would lead them to split their minds from their bodies, their thoughts from their emotions, their voices or you could say their honest voices from their relationships and this is a healthy resistance grounded in their human nature; it’s not feminine, it’s in their human nature. It is a healthy resistance to losses that are both psychologically and politically costly.
Without a voice they are not present in relationship, they cannot participate in the structures of democracy. The interesting thing is like a healthy body resists disease a healthy psyche resists these losses. So, for example, the honest voices of 11-year-old girls. We had a discussion one day is it ever good to tell a lie, the kind of conversation you have with children and then 11-year-old says “My house is wallpapered with lies”.
Now, for all those people who say “We want girls to have their voices.” I say “Do you?” I mean would you like her to tell you what she sees? Because that is the capacity in girls that is suddenly at risk as they become young women and are supposed to become in the name of being young women selfless. That is without a voice, without desires of their own.
Girl’s resistance is key to the realization of what I see as the feminist vision. That is not an issue of women or men or a battle between women and men but one of the great liberation movements in human history that is the movement to a free democracy from patriarchy.
Host: You’ve been watching UNICEF Television. For more information, visit UNICEF.org, Unite for Children.