By Culley Schultz

Culley Schultz is a senior at Glen Ridge High School, outside of New York City.  She is the vice-president of the GRHS Girls Learn International (GLI) Chapter as well as the Secretary of the GLI Junior Board.  Last year, Culley created a short documentary and commentary on the portrayal of women and girls in the media for the Women’s Media Center.  It was through these organizations that Culley’s interest in the sexualization of women and girls was generated.  As a result of her activism, she was led to SPARK where she is thrilled to be helping the movement to take sexy back!

I walked into the SPARK Summit on October 22nd, at 7:30am, still slightly groggy and alone.  When I walked out of the conference at 4:30pm that day, I was neither of those.   The day had been filled with eye-opening speakers, empowering messages, and women of all ages joined by our cause.

Jean Kilbourne and Geena Davis started our day with powerful words about their journeys towards conquering the sexualization of women.  Ms. Kilbourne shared with us a clip of her latest version of “Killing Me Softly,” the documentary that moved millions over thirty years ago and launched work against sexualization.  Ms. Davis challenged us to count the number of female roles in movies, especially children’s movies, that we see on a daily basis.  This challenge had affected the way her friends looked at media and has already begun to change my views.

Shortly after the morning’s speakers, we moved to our morning workshops. I began with “Hard-Core Media Literacy” sponsored by About Face, an organization based in San Francisco.  The workshop hit the nail on the head by exposing the exposed women in print ads and the objectification of women in commercials and music videos.

After a short break, during which there was much “mingling,” we took lunch as we listened to scientific proof that the sexualization of women is having detrimental effects on girls’ self-esteem.  We heard devastating statistics about the differences between girls’ reactions to strong images of women versus objectified women and listened to information on the troubles facing girls who play with Barbie.

Post-lunch festivities included our afternoon workshops.  I headed off to “Change Your World” with Girls For a Change where we learned about the seven-step process Girls For a Change uses in their activism.  It sparked interest in how to implement their steps into everyday activism in my own community.  Their steps towards empowering girls to make a positive change in their communities are inspiring.

By the end of the day, as attendees watched the Halloween Fashion Show, I had made new friends, new contacts and had the feeling that a great and powerful movement had started.  As Amber Madison led us in a pledge to continue the movement, I knew that SPARK was just beginning and will be an acronym everywhere in the future!