Girls’ Prescription for Self-Worth: Respect Rx

As we wind down All Things Girl Week on Shaping Youth (which has turned into more of a month) let’s connect the dots on the one theme that keeps resurfacing time and again from sports and school to body image and brains…Respect.

Respect Rx is the universal inoculation against media and marketing cues that can damage girls’ psyches and erode their souls needs to come from within as a preventive vaccine, but it’s not always easy, given the surround sound messages that contradict, objectify, and pummel youth with ‘what girls are REALLY for’ toxicity…

From the latest research from the Anita Borg Institute on women and technology and Stanford’s Michelle R. Clayman Institute for gender research, to the International Researchers Roundtable at USC’s Annenberg Foundation and Geena Davis’ Institute on Gender in Media, it’s readily apparent that every ounce of this ‘girl power’ Shaping Youth has been promoting the last couple of weeks is vital just to break even given the current cultural zeitgeist.

And if you don’t think there’s an ‘issue’ with girls and media today, check out these Respect Rx eye-opening stats via ambassador of change, author, and teen girl expert Courtney Macavinta’s excellent site, as well as the APA taskforce report on the harm of girls’ sexualization…

Respect Rx Reports:

“…50 % of teens in serious relationships say they’ve gone against their beliefs in order to please their partner and for 1 in 4 girls this meant going further sexually than they wanted.

…70% of girls ages 15 to 17 avoid normal daily activities such as attending school, going to the doctor, or even giving their opinion due to feeling “badly” about their looks.

…57% of U.S. teens have had a friend in an abusive relationship.

…8.8 million children in the U.S. witness a crime in their home each year.

…90% of girls say they have endured sexual harassment including teasing, touching or rumors.

…during adolescence, girls’ self-esteem drops twice as much as boys.

Though the status quo paints a grim picture, there is a remedy: Respect. True respect is always within reach, because true respect starts on the inside. And once you have it, you’re empowered to spread it.”

And spread it, she is…with Respect Rx Rallies of girls coming together nationwide for a common purpose, to boost their own view of themselves within the world and inspire action to create social change to alter the worldview itself!

When Courtney Macavinta chaired the Girls For A Change national summit and I saw the energy and hope being literally ‘marketed’ to these girls in the form of self-respect, perseverance and strength of character and conviction, it ‘sold’ me on the entire concept of her notion of creating Respect Rx Rallies to reinforce the 7 Respect Basics.

I tried to visualize what a ‘Respect Rally’ would look like and couldn’t quite ‘get it’ in terms of how she was planning to instill girls’ rights and use outreach to tap into the tough universal issues girls struggle with everywhere…She said she wanted to use these powerful programs for advocates, educators, guidance counselors, school therapists, staff at girl organizations, coaches, and such…Then it dawned on me…an ‘aha’ moment…

A Respect Rally takes the macro of the GFC National Summit energy, pops it  into a micro version format that’s scalable to ‘take on the road’ and champion change! Brilliant!

I remember Courtney scurrying around with her headset microphone and her tee that said “social change agent” as she darted in and out of a crowd of 1600 teen girls (above) energized by a stage of amazing leaders, performance artists and girl mentors teaching workshops (mine was on stereotypes in media) creating a force field of empowerment in ‘yes we can’ mode.

Watching Courtney Macavinta weave through the maelstrom of logistics and coordination of sponsors, lighting, production and excitement I remember thinking, “wow, if only we could harness this energy and bottle it up to keep it inside these girls when they leave this arena…and show girls they count on a global scale!”

Courtney must have already been working on how to scale that very thing, at that very moment, because by fall her Respect Rx Rallies came into being nationally, fully ramped with 6-month “Keep it Going” programs and social networking hubs to share best practices, team with and train other girl leaders, and overcome obstacles and rocky roads of adolescence with that seven-letter, life-changing word!

Courtney is a brilliant marketer, pulling together all the right people, sponsors, and support staff to make things happen, but rest assured, this is no ‘Respect in a box’ deployment of faux feel good fuel…

Like many survivors of adversity, her personal background as a ‘wild child teen’ on a journey toward respect has made her an intensely committed champion of change…

From domestic violence and healing dignity from physical and mental abuses to her passions to prevent girls from sinking into the quicksand of same, she is literally tossing a preventive rope for ALL girls of ALL ages and stages to strap on the armor of self-esteem and self-respect that will lead them out of darkness like a beam of light shining bright. Brava, Courtney! I respect you and your work soooooooo much, and look forward to getting a ‘shot’ of your enthusiasm and Respect Rx Rallies one of these days soon.

Courtney epitomizes the essence of The Survivor Personality…and uses her skill sets to help others reach their own potential.

“Learn it. Live it. Spread it.”

Is not just a marketing handle for her Respect Rx offerings, it’s a passionista manifesto that courses through her veins.

As her site describes,

“Picture a gymnasium filled with hundreds of teen girls, sitting in circles, listening intently to each other, doing engaging group activities, sharing their deepest feelings and hopes for themselves, and working together to design a new world where all girls are respected and respect each other. Picture each girl walking away from the day empowered to boost self-respect, sisterhood and social change in her life (and our world). This is what happens when girls attend a Respect Rally.”

Respect Rx is growing in leaps and bounds, surrounded by a triad of “Jennifers” helping her staff and grow the Respect Rx experience to make a colossal impact in ‘train the trainer’ mode.

Right now Courtney’s gearing up for another big splash delivering a Respect Connect leadership workshop for 500 to 1,000 young women at the Massachusetts Conference for Women on December 11th! (She just did this in Pennsylvania and Texas on the ‘circuit’ to thousands of young women too!)

She’s joined by some incredible trailblazers and media icons coming up in Boston… philanthropist/actress Holly Robinson Peete, journalist Lesley Stahl, author/lecturer Marianne Williamson, publisher Joni Evans, Judith Martin (aka Miss Manners), social commentator Liz Smith, and a line up of educators and inspiring minds to jumpstart girls’ visions…She also recently facilitated the Girl Scouts Uniquely Me Leadership Institute, teamed with the Colorado Girl Scouts to ‘rock the DNC’ (I never got that one posted in time when she partnered with Reality Check Coaching and our film friends at Girls Rock…)

She’s also just partnered this month with wünderkind teen entrepreneur Ashley Qualls who started at 14 years old and is getting 7 million monthly visitors and 60 million page views…(told you she was a good marketer)

Courteny will be the site’s self-respect advice columnist, and they’ll be rolling out special Respect Rx MySpace layouts from to get the girls engaged in peer to peer role modeling to ignite the ‘girl effect’ too…(btw, fabulous Girl site and video here I’ll post to wrap up this series tomorrow)

In this season of Thanksgiving, I want to thank people like Courtney for doing such life changing work to give girls a dose of Respect Rx that’s the best preventive medicine out there.

As the Dec. 11 Boston conference kicks in with their Be the Change award given out for community impact…I can only hope there’s a similar accolade singling out Courtney’s work someday soon…Two simple snapshots demo the power, poignancy and potential of her ‘rallies’:

More than 90% of 638 girls surveyed affirmed “After today, I feel more like I am not alone.” (one of many outcomes gleaned, but to me that small statement uncorks the vast impact of action en masse) and the City Hill Middle School Vice Principal’s goosebump giving words:

“In my 25 years of education, I’ve never been to an assembly where you can hear the overhead lights buzzing at times…that’s how engrossed the girls were in the program.”

Yep. Feeling very thankful for the ‘Girl Effect’ that can kick in with a little booster of Respect Rx.

Related Resources:

Handful of Respect Rx Compilations of Girl Stats and Studies

Who’s studying teen girls (a short list):
American Association of University Women
Girls Inc.
Harris Interactive
Kaiser Family Foundation
Pew Internet & American Life Project
U.C. Davis
Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance

CDC March 2008 study: 1 in 4 teen girls has an STD

The Teen Media Juggling Act: The Implications of Media Multitasking Among American Youth

Girls and Media

Wellesley Ctr. Women: Study on benefits of sports vs. risky sexual behaviors

Univ. of No. Carolina/Chapel Hill survey: 1,017 black and white teens surveyed when they were 12 to 14 years old; those who use media with high sexual content are up to 2.2 times more likely to have sex by the time they are 16 than those who use less such media.

Courtney Macavinta of Respect Rx Speaking at Girls For A Change Keynote

Courtney Macavinta, Keynote: Girls For A Change conference from Respect Rx on Vimeo.

Visual credit for the turkey graphic: Our friends at The Motherhood (new social network community)



  1. I did not thikn, that it can be possible..

  2. Where can I obttasin ladger inffo about this theme, exceptt blog.shapikngyout.horg?

  3. Renata, do you mean the Respect Rx and girl empowerment theme? I have a list of ‘all things girl’ blogs and data on this post that link to a ton of other self worth sites and girls issues here:

    Amy Jussel’s last blog post..Turning Up the Heat: Green Teen Videos On Climate Change

  4. Wow this was probably one of the most intelligent blurbs I’ve had the chance to come across on the topic so far. I don’t have any idea where you get all of your data but up! I am going to send a few folks your way to take a look at this post. Amazing, simply fantastic. I am have just started getting into spitting out articles myself, nothing close to your writing potential (lol) but I’d love for you to check out my stuff someday! bowflex

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