Girls: "We Are the Ones Who Can Make a Change!"Excerpted from the book SISTERHOOD IS FOREVER: The Women's Anthology for a New Millennium, compiled, edited, and with an introduction by Robin Morgan (Washington Square Press, a division of Simon and Schuster, March 2003).
WHAT IS THE GIRLS MOVEMENT? Well, we're girls. But weand most other girlsdon't talk about a "Girls' Movement." We just think life should be fair, and things should be equal between girls and guys. And we still have a long way to go to reach that goal.
So, who are we? And who are we to tell you what the Girls' Movement is to girls? We're Ana and Emma; we're both fourteen years old as we write this; and we've been friends sinceforever! We're also both editors for New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams. That means we hear from a lot of girls. We hear about what girls are doing and thinking. We hear girls' opinions on what they find unfair, and on what they do to change things in their daily life.
We don't actually call ourselves "The Girls' Movement," because we just don't feel there is a large organized girls' movement going on, like there is with adult feminism. Also, even though we know there's a long way to go, we feel we've already come a long way, because of feminism. Compared to how things were thirty years ago, we feel very lucky to be girls now.
We define feminism in terms of our everyday actions: how we react to unfair situations and what we do to change them.
Here are a few stories from girls we are in touch with. These stories show why we still need feminism and how it helps us.
Sports is one area where things have really gotten better for girls (because of Title IX). But there's still unfairness. Last year, Emma's soccer team was discriminated against because they're girls. Her school has one good playing field and the girls weren't allowed to scrimmage therewhile boys' teams were allowed. The female coach didn't fight the decision because she was worried about retaliation later from the Director of Athletics. Even though we were inspired by our country's huge excitement about the U.S. Women's Soccer Team triumphs in 2000, when it comes closer to home, we're still struggling.
One thing that is still unequal is how people think about "women's jobs" and "men's jobs." Ana's goal is to be a lawyer and one day run for president of the United States. Right now there really are too few women leaders in politics. But when Ana tells people her goals, they sort of laugh and say "Ohhhh ..." But in their voices it sounds like they are really saying, "She's just a kid, and she doesn't know what she wants, and that goal is way too high." In fact, Ana has thought a lot about the process of getting there (lawyer and later president) and she knows what it involves to reach the goal. Also, many people automatically assume that she wants to be the first woman presidentwhich she doesn't. She says, "It will be twenty-three years before it is even possible for me to run for president, and that is way too long for this country to wait for a woman president!!!"
It's terrible that many girls experience harassment, assault, or date rape. But we can help each other deal with these things. A friend of Emma's was being verbally harassed at school. The things that were said to her made her suffer a great deal. She became self-conscious and withdrawn. But her friends helped her, and with their extra encouragement she felt courageous enough to take the problem to the principal.
Media imagethat's a huge issue for girls. When we see unrealistic, "perfect" images over and over, telling us that looking that way will make us popular, we start to think those images are the "right" ones. And if that isn't enough, the faces and bodies of models and celebrities airbrushed to make them even more perfect! Many girls then see these impossible images, and strive to be just like them. This creates self-consciousness and low self-esteem. Some girls even end up hurting their bodies, trying to become thinner or look different, in order to fit these images.
We think that's awfuland at New Moon, we're doing something about it. In 2000, we created the international "Turn Beauty Inside Out" (TBIO) Campaign. Thousands of people have joined it. TBIO tests the narrow way media portrays girls and women. We put the focus on Inner Beauty instead. In 2001, we went to New York to meet with advertising executives. We told them what we thought was good and bad in ads, and we developed the "Best Practices for Advertising and Girls." In 2002, we went to Los Angeles, California, to protest Hollywood's images of girls and women. We should not be treated as objects I should not be judged based on our appearance! We should be seen for who we are as people!
These stories show what feminism means to usand that we still need it. But things are better for girls and women than they were, and we thank feminism for that. It shows that real change can happenand that women and girls can make it happen.
In the future, we want women and girls to be treated equally with men and boys; to get the respect men and boys get. We want girls to be encouraged to become scientists and mathematicians. We want girls to be allowed to play any sport a guy can. We want equality in the workplace, at school, and in sports. We want equal opportunity and equal pay. We also want equal representation. Women should be expected and encouraged to take political positions. We want to walk down the halls at school and the streets of our city and feel safe from violence against us. We want to end stereotypes against girls and women.
Equality will not only improve society's view of girls and women; equality will also help us speak upfor ourselves and for other people.
We have great dreams for how the world can be a better place. Together, we can make these dreams real.
As Catlyn, 13, of Seattle, Washington, says, "The world would be a better place if girls understood that we are the ones who can make a change!"
ANA GROSSMAN (born 1987) loves to read and chat with friends. She wants to be a defense attorney and someday run for president. Ana joined the New Moon Girls Editorial Board (GEB) when she was 11.
EMMA PETERS-AXTELL (born 1987) joined New Moon's GEB when she was eight. She loves to write poetry and draw. Emma has many dreams for the future, like becoming a politician, lawyer, social worker, or teacher.
The Duluth, Minnesota-based New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams was founded in 1992 by Nancy Gruver, Nia Kelly, Mavis Gruver, and Joe Kelly. Its unique editorial board puts girls (ages 8-14) in charge of the award-winning magazine's content (http://www.newmoon.org).
Copyright © 2003 Robin Morgan
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