Remarks by Emma Payton Cooper, Age 16, for Day of the Girl Event, Portland, ME

Good Morning.  My name is Emma, I’m 16 years old, and I’m a member of Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s Girls Advisory Board.  This is my first year on the board and I am incredibly honored to have the chance to speak to you all and to celebrate Day of the Girl.

In preparation for this event, I was researching the Day of the Girl and on the movement’s website, I found this quote:  “We want to be seen as equals in the eyes of others AND in our own eyes.”

I am of the belief that to become equal in the eyes of others, we must be equal first in our own eyes. But, today girls are told that we are never enough: by boys and girls alike, fathers and mothers, boyfriends and girlfriends.  But most of all, we are told this by the covers of magazines, by ad campaigns for fashion, makeup and weight loss products, and by the pop culture media in general.

We are told that we are not pretty enough. Not smart enough. Not strong enough. Not brave enough. We are told that we are not good enough, and we begin to believe it.

If I sit and quietly listen while my friends talk, I hear them say these things not just about other girls, but about themselves as well.  They have internalized the messages, and it pains me to hear them talk like this. I am saddened by just how far we still have to go. But then, I look at what we have accomplished and what we are currently accomplishing and I am heartened by the girls I meet.

At Hardy Girls, we strive to provide women and girls with the tools to empower themselves and the ways to best use those tools. Hardy Girls seeks to teach girls to critically examine the media’s portrayal of women and girls and fight back against offensive and unreal ads. Hardy Girls teaches women and girls to look for real beauty and to redefine beauty.

Recently, three members of our Girls Advisory Board, in partnership with SPARK Movement, created a petition to get Seventeen Magazine to stop Photoshopping their models.  These girls expected to get maybe 50-100 signatures. Instead, they got 86,000 and Seventeen agreed to never Photoshop or alter the bodies of their models.

Six years ago, two alumni of GAB took on Kmart to get them to remove t-shirts that made light of violence against women.  They successfully got t-shirts removed from stores across the country.

This is what girls can do when we have the support and encouragement we need.  I am so honored to be a part of an organization that stands with girls, trusts girls, and helps us reach our greatest potential.

I think that out of education comes empowerment, and out of empowerment comes equality; whether this empowerment comes through art, dance, political activism, theater, sports, saving whales or singing.

My dream is to educate women and girls around the world and to re-define beauty.  I want to teach my friends to not hide their accomplishments the way that girls are often taught to do, but instead to celebrate them, to relish in their beauty and power. Because after all, beauty isn’t about “skinny.”  Beauty is about confidence, bravery, honesty and kindness. I have two younger sisters. They are ages four and six. I hope that when they get to be my age they will be confident with themselves, bold, brave and beautiful. I hope that they will not think of themselves as anything less than equal.

Thank you for your time.