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Pawleys Island seminar seeks to boost self-esteem (with video)

Images of dolls dressed in lingerie, women as furniture and eggs masquerading as a woman's rear end flashed across a large screen at Waccamaw High School's auditorium Thursday.

For over an hour Kristin Bohan, a psychologist, talked to a crowd of about 150 mothers, fathers and teens about the damage these kind of images do to young girls.

"Just at the time when girls trying to answer the question of "who am I?" they are bombarded with stereotypes," Bohan said.

Eighty-five percent of women and girls do not like their bodies, Bohan said.

While she pointed out that not every girl is affected the same way, the images are starting to have an impact. Bohan said she deals with girls' body image and self-esteem issues all the time in her practice.

She felt compelled to do something, after counseling a seventh grader who wanted to kill herself because she did not feel good enough about herself, Bohan said. She started the nonprofit organization myTerms, which was incorporated in March. She will host a camp this summer on positive female images and hopes to be able to open a center soon.

"What's out there right now is treatment after the fact," Bohan said. "We see it coming. Let's start inoculating them now. Let's give them the tools in the fourth, fifth and sixth grade to think critically for themselves and ask questions."

Gaby Barrington, 19, heard Bohan speak Thursday and called her presentation eye-opening.

"I know that Britney Spears' song '3' and I never knew it was about a threesome. I never paid attention to the words," said Barrington, of Surfside Beach.

Her mother Susan Bulla, said she also learned something from Bohan's presentation.

"I definitely agree that this is a society where a girl has to look a certain way to fit in," Bulla said.

Bohan ended her speech with a message for what parents can do.

"Teach your daughter to question everything that passes through the hand of a marketer," she said.

Ask her why there are no female cereal mascots. "Say to your 7-year-old, where are all the girls? In the meantime, your job is to instill in your daughter a critical voice that she will use for herself when you are not around."

Some teens like Waccamaw High School students Martha and Carol Anne Henry have already been made aware of the media's impact on girls' body images.

Both young women participate in Bohan's teen support group every Wednesday, where they talk about issues affecting girls.

"We sit at home and we flip through magazines and we don't really look at the ads and realize what we are seeing," said Carol Anne Henry, a senior. "I am self-consciously computing these images in my brain."

Her sister, Martha, said myTerms has changed the way she looks at the images around her.

"I don't read magazines as much and when I do I think about it a lot differently," she said.

"I ask more questions."

For more information about myTerms visit www.myterms.org.

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