There's a reason many girls "throw like a girl," research suggests, and it's not a physical or anatomical one.
Youth workers who analyze research have pointed to some of the new trends around age-old issues among girls, particularly the cultural downpour of "more sexy, more pressure, and more violence."
In a July report by the Center for Youth and Family Ministry (CYFM), executive director Kara Powell and assistant director Brad Griffin highlighted research on the influence of self-objectification.
"Researchers ... have found that the way a girl feels about her body predicts how she'll throw a softball," Powell and Griffin wrote, citing the report, titled "Throwing like a girl: Self-objectification predicts adolescent girls' motor performance."
The more a girl is concerned about her appearance, the more likely she will throw like a girl. That also applies to one's view of God.
"[I]f it's true that the way girls feel about their bodies affects the way they toss a ball, then it's all the more true that the way they feel about their bodies impacts the way they view the One who created them in His image," stated Powell and Griffin.
The CYFM directors identified three "mores" in current trends.
First – More Sexy:
A recent report by the American Psychological Association showed the increasing sexualization of girls today. Virtually every media form studied, including television, music videos, movies, video games and advertising, provides ample evidence of the sexualization of women, APA reported.
Women more often than men are portrayed in a sexual manner and are objectified and a narrow standard of physical beauty is heavily emphasized, according to the 2007 report.
Such sexualization negatively affects girls' well-being, the study further found. Sexualization is linked to impaired cognitive performance, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and even physical health problems.
Meanwhile, over 77,000 invasive cosmetic surgical procedures were performed on teens 18 and younger in 2005, which was a 15 percent increase since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Powell and Griffin highlight that minors cannot undergo such surgeries unless their parents consent and oftentimes, the parents pay for the surgery.
A recent ABC 20/20 report found that parents are giving their teen girls breast implants or other cosmetic surgery procedures for their high school graduation gift as opposed to the more typical new car.
Lulu Diaz, whose parents let her trade in the Jaguar they bought for graduation for new breasts, told ABC the talk among her friends is about how they look and getting breast implants.
The gift of breast implants costs about $7,000, but parents say they want their children to be happy.
"What I see today a lot is parents who cannot bear for their kids to be uncomfortable. They do not want them to suffer. They don't want them to struggle," said psychotherapist Laura Gray, who specializes in treating teens, to ABC.
Second – More Pressure:
Girls are facing more pressure to be "the Supergirl," as Powell and Griffin called it.
"The Supergirl does it all: varsity sports, student government, theater, community service, and oh yea, youth group too."
But girls are also not supposed to look like they're trying to be a Supergirl and at the same time, be "more sexy."
"It seems that the real Supergirl pressure cooker recipe is something like smart-and-athletic-but-still-sexy-without-trying.
Third – More Violence:
There has been a rise in physical exertion and aggression among teen girls over the last few years, as author James Garbarino points out in See Jane Hit: Why Girls are Growing More Violent and What We Can Do About It.
"This 'new' physicality can in part be attributed to cultural shifts in attitudes towards women's bodies, social standing and participation, sports, and, well, 'girl power,'" the CYFM directors wrote.
How to Block/Reduce the "More":
Some suggestions the directors make to help shelter the girls from the more sexy, more pressure and more violence culture include scheduling a Girls-Only weekend retreat to address the new pressures girls are experiencing and discuss what makes girls feel valued. Also, give girls ways to appropriately express their physicality, providing opportunities for girls to experience themselves in ministry as more than just a pretty face, a pressured leader, or a nursery worker.
Tips on reducing the downpour of pressure on girls include allowing the girls to express their thoughts on the three "mores" through poems, collages, songs or art to each other and to the guys in the ministry. And ask the guys to share their thoughts.
Discuss the issues with the parents and let them chew on some of the findings.
The primary "more" youth workers and parents have to offer their children is the message of Jesus Christ and how his death and resurrection brought hope and healing for the girls as much as anyone else, as Powell and Griffin pointed out. That "more" "trumps by far the 'mores' of our culture."