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Tween Summit

Girls attend the Tween Summit in D.C., where topics ranged from body image to bullying.
Girls attend the Tween Summit in D.C., where topics ranged from body image to bullying. (By Leigh Vogel -- Getty Images)

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Elsewhere, America's current reigning Junior Miss touts the pageant-cum-scholarship program. "It's awesome," Michelle Rodgers tells awestruck fans.

Girls stuff their swag bags with purple Mardi Gras beads, strawberry-flavored milk and free copies of a book about a high-schooler who balances her boyfriend with her secret identity as a spy. A cluster of girls giggle over a display for Dream Phone, a board game where each player tries to figure out which cute boy has a crush on her.

Dream Phone is very . . . empowering?

It's always a delicate balance with tweens, a push and a pull, between heroicizing Miley Cyrus (not that there's anything wrong with that) and heroicizing the 14-year-old founders of One Is Greater Than None, a charity that rescues enslaved children in Ghana. (The founders were at the summit. They were awesome.)

Tweens' depiction in the modern culture is "amazingly insulting," says Weiner. "They're not bad Disney stereotypes. They care about health care. They care about the environment." However, "tabloid coverage of tweens has become very in fashion." They're often portrayed as "entitled, vapid and self-absorbed."

Sex(ting) sells.

And the more tween girls hear that they're supposed to be obsessed with clothes, or that they're supposed to be hosting make-out parties, the more they worry if they're not. Or, as Weiner says: "Are we creating the culture of girls that we fear?"

Let's drop in to a Tween Summit session, to hear what salacious things are really on the minds of our tender youth. The "Listening Panel" allows tweens to tell a panel of powerful women -- Women's Sports Foundation President Jessica Mendoza, Vital Voices CEO Alyse Nelson -- about the things that concern them.

"We should be cautious about guns because we don't want another Virginia Tech," says one girl. "Only police officers should have them."

"We have more rights than other women around the world and we should use our rights to help others," says another, who looks to be about 11.

During the lunch break, Jade Jacobs, 13, chats with a friend about health care. "Parents can't afford it, and their children are being punished for it."

Angelique complains about sitcoms that depict girls as "prizes to be won."

Ahem.

After an afternoon with the tweens of the inaugural Tween Summit, we feel pretty positive about the state of girls today.


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