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Dear Readers:

Television programs show most girls and women in unrealistic roles: Only one in five Saturday morning T.V. characters is female; less than 5 percent of children's T.V. characters are people of color; most girls on T.V. are interested in two things: boys and clothes. Girls Incorporated (a national youth organization) started a campaign called "Girls Re-Cast T.V." that teaches girls to evaluate what they see and hear on T.V.. Last year, Girls Inc. of Dallas, Texas, held a " Girls Re-Cast T.V." talk show. Two of the show's participants tell us more. Love, Luna.

My name is Monisha Randolph. I served as an usher at the "Girls Re-Cast T.V." talk show. I was one of 75 girls, ages 6 through 18, who participated. I helped seat people, passed out programs, and handed the microphone to audience members. Girls asked talk show panelists questions about television shows, and how they felt about the way girls and women are shown. Some shows portray females positively, such as "Seinfeld" and "Home Improvement." These programs show females as strong and independent. Other shows, such as "Married With Children," "Baywatch," and "Martin," show females in negative and stereotypical ways. I learned to be smart when I watch television, and I learned that girls need to pay attention to the difference between T.V.'s reality and the real world. I also learned that girls can help change programs with negative images of females by writing letters to T.V. networks and producers and by not watching those programs.

I'm Folashade Oni and I was a panelist. As a group, we compiled a list of the 10 best and 10 worst female role models on television today. Some of the women listed as the best role models were Ricki Lake, Oprah Winfrey, and Sally Jessy Raphael. Some of the female TV show characters we thought were good role models were Khadijah from "Living Single," Jill from "Home Improvement," and Laura Winslow from "Family Matters." These women and T.V. show characters possess strength and intelligence, are career- and goal-oriented, and are in control of their own lives. Characters that made our top ten worst role models list were Kelly from "Married With Children," Amanda from "Melrose Place" and Gina from "Martin." These characters show women as sex objects or mean people.

We also talked about how females' roles on T.V. have changed. In the past, T.V. only showed women in homemaker roles, and they were almost always married or had a boyfriend. Today, many women are playing characters that have careers, such as Vivian from "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air," who is a college professor. Also, single women are shown as being strong and happy, like the character Khadijah James on the sitcom "Living Single." She plays a young, single, African American female who runs her own business and has positive, close relationships with her friends.

This experience made me realize that girls have to try to change negative stereotypes of women on television. We can refuse roles that are degrading to women and minorities, or that portray women as sex objects. And we can write letters to television shows, letting them know how we want females to be shown on T.V. Together we have a voice!

Monisha Randolph, 12, is a seventh grader at Pearl C. Anderson Middle School in Dallas. She likes science and someday wants to be a zoologist.

Folashade Oni, 16, is a junior at Skyline High School and Career Development Center in Dallas. She is on her school's drill team and sings in her church choir.

To participate or receive more information, contact Girls Inc., 30 East 33rd St., New York, NY 10016-5394, or call (212) 689-3700. Reprinted, with permission, from New Moon Publishing.

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New MoonŽ Publishing
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