International Women’s Day 2020: An open letter to all the little girls watching me on TV

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Image via Getty Images.

To the little girl watching me on TV,

I see you looking for a place where you can belong as you flick past images on the screen, re-working your personality and mannerisms into who you think you should be. Maybe you are also there, comparing the size of your stomach, thighs and arms and making judgements on how you think you should look based on other women on the dial. 

I did all of that, too. I created my ideal of feminine beauty from the models I caught glimpses of. I thought everyone should talk like the cheerleader-type that was cast in the daytime soap operas. I compared my body more than my vocabulary - and there are times I still do.

Saphia Khambalia for The Weather Network. Image courtesy of Saphia Khambalia.

However, I also saw the approachable hosts whose inner and outer beauty could move mountains. I saw the journalists on the frontlines, the female trailblazers of medicine, lifestyle, science and comedy who spoke out on the airwaves. I saw strong women on screen continue to lean in, take up space and create the “she” I would watch and learn from as well.

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Now that I’m on this side of the medium, I know that those of us in this industry have a huge responsibility to you. I know that when you see me you’re not just taking my report at face value. You are not just absorbing the climate stats or the word count in my script.

You are seeing me and my worth as a female, you are seeing a woman of colour and hopefully the path for more of us that will follow suit. You are seeing how I present my body and regardless of it being covered or bared; you are truly seeing what my inner confidence is all about. You are seeing that we all make mistakes as you watch me wobble with humour and grace. 

Image courtesy of Saphia Khambalia.

In this arena, integrity in our actions and body language is huge, it’s not something I take lightly with you in mind. However, I’m not alone in this. On TV or not, we’re all living in a world where we can communicate with the masses at the touch of a button. We can instantly put out a new version of ourselves for others to see. How bright will you shine your own spotlight? 

As other young girls look to you, will you show a sad, sideways glance at the mirror or be someone who loves the way her reflection looks? Will you be heard calling another girl “bossy” and “mean” when she chooses to lead? Or will you commend her for taking the power position? Will you post the selfie of yourself to get the reaction you want, or simply because it felt good to showcase and be proud of your physical vessel? Your audience matters. You matter.

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Imagine the ripple effects. The rhetoric broadcast in your own life is continuously shaped by the repeated images you see, think and feel. That is true for all the little girls who will watch now and in the future. What if strong women building each other up and showcasing both intelligence and attention to image was what you experienced on every social media account and every website? What if everywhere you looked there was a woman holding her own alongside male counterparts? What if all body types and ethnicities had a role? You my dear, would feel invincible. 

Image courtesy of Saphia Khambalia.

Imagine if that was what every little girl saw when she watched TV? It is a responsibility to you that I will never lose sight of.

As we go on to direct this story for all the little girls watching and for the little girls within ourselves, there is one important person we can never overlook: Sitting right beside you there is also a little boy watching that same TV.

Don’t forget that he is also learning about his role and figuring out how his strength, body, power, kindness and support fit into the story. 

Imagine the respect and belonging in this world when we are all on the same channel.

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