Recognizing just how inauthentic these standards are, one photographer is pushing back — one empowering photo of bold young girls at a time.
The series, "Strong Is the New Pretty," started as photographer Kate T. Parker's attempt to capture childhood memories for her daughters and their friends. After a year of doing so, and in preparation for an upcoming showcase of her work, Parker soon realized she was capturing something much more.
"I started to see patterns and recognize that the images where the girls were authentically captured were the strongest images," Parker told Mic in an email. "The images that showed the girls as they genuinely are were my favorites."
Parker then began to intentionally capture the moments in which these young women were fiercely, unapologetically themselves. In doing so, she hopes to prove that "capturing my girls and their friends as they truly are," is "not only OK, but worthy of celebration," she wrote.
This celebration of authenticity is crucial at a time when girls are not always encouraged to be themselves. "There's a lot of pressure for girls (and women) to look a certain way, act in certain manner, and I wanted to let my daughters know that who they naturally are is enough," Parker added.
Parker's focus on strength is also notable considering how many well-meaning but ultimately misguided self-esteem campaigns still center around beauty. The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty, for example, may attempt to combat young women's insecurities by convincing them that they're more beautiful than they think, but in doing so still centers the conversation on beauty standards. Parker's focus on strength crucially discards this standard altogether.
Parker's daughters and their friends may inevitably get bogged down in peer expectations of how they should act. Thanks to this empowering series, they can be easily reminded that being female is not inherently tied to submission. In fact, these photos clearly prove the opposite.