This is a letter written by Michele Landsberg to the Village Bloggurls, the recipients of the 2014 Michele Landsberg Community Award Village.

It was wonderful fun for me to get to know all of you through your blog, your postings and videos. I know from your posts that you and your mentors are full of life and adventure….and sushi. Getting to know one another and writing reports about each other, you express your friendship, your open-ness, your generous acceptance of each other and your delight in being in a girls only group, where you could feel the freedom of not being constantly judged on your appearance.

But above all this, you won the Michele Landsberg Award because you are doing exactly what the jury is looking for…you are learning to become powerful by using media instead of being used by it.

What do I mean? If you think about the media you consume…the TV shows, the movies, the You-Tube videos of famous singers…those media are shaping you and influencing you to be the kind of girls that THEY want, the kind of girls who value themselves according to the hair products and nail polish they use, the clothes they wear, even the fast foods they buy. The key words are BUY and CONSUME. These images and products aren’t so wonderful for the girls themselves. In fact, a lot of the time, they hold girls back from being themselves. They make you feel worthless if you aren’t skinny enough; they make you ashamed if you don’t have the same clothes as your friends; they make you worried about whether your hair is just right…is it blonde? Is it straight? Is it in style?

Those messages are wasting your energy and spoiling your happiness. They make you depend more and more on the stuff you can buy to make you feel ok and as though you belong.

But what’s the cure for all that, when media surround us night and day? The cure is to grab  those tools and make the media for yourselves…and that’s just what Village Bloggurls are doing. I was so impressed by the energy and joy in your blog as you described how much fun it is to be just with other girls once in a while, to feel you belong with your friends and mentors, that you are accepted and valued, where you can feel so free, and how good it is to learn about each other’s experiences instead of feeling judged and being rivals.

When the committee read about your plans to learn more about democracy and about women in politics, we were excited, because we know this opens the door for you to see yourselves as future leaders and politicians. Yes, some of you one day will be city councillors or members of the legislature. Or maybe even the mayor of Toronto…why not? And that all started here, where you bloggurls learned the power of using media to express who you are, instead of being defined and oppressed by media made by others.

When I was a little girl, the world was a very different place. For one thing, television hadn’t been invented yet…can you imagine that? In one way, that was a good thing, because we kids didn’t know about all the stuff we didn’t have and couldn’t hope to get. And we didn’t have constant pictures of pretty little princesses wearing pink gowns and tiaras and making us feel like nothing if we didn’t measure up to that phony image.

But even so, girls were constantly judged on how pretty they were…or not. My mother thought my only chance at happiness and success would be if I grew up being pretty enough to please others. That made me feel anxious and miserable a lot of the time…I was sure I couldn’t measure up. But I had a secret. A secret power. I loved to write. I loved to write poems, stories, essays and journals…writing gave me so much pleasure and satisfaction, I knew I wanted to keep on writing all my life.

And sure enough, that much practice at writing and reading made me better and better at writing, and when I was old enough, I went to university and then I became a writer for the newspaper, the Globe and Mail. Later I started writing a column for the Toronto Star, and in that column, I tackled the injustices and unfairness that affected women in their work and in their personal lives, I spoke up for refugees and immigrants and welfare mothers, and I argued against racism and sexism. I had learned what you are learning as bloggurls…the strength that comes from standing shoulder to shoulder with other girls and against any unfairness in our society, and also the tremendous power that you can gain through creating media. Words and images are abstract…you can’t touch them…they don’t exist in three dimensions the way this table or chair do…but they are so strong. They can actually change the world.

You young women are learning to be comfortable with wielding that power to express your thoughts and feelings and to touch others with those ideas and emotions.

Congratulations on your brilliant beginnings as you start down the path to what you will become one day…powerful and accomplished young women with wonderful futures ahead of you.