The Center For The Advancement of Women has launched an amazing campaign to make the voices of women and girls heard over the misinformed commentary of Ann Coulter.
The Center For The Advancement of Women has launched an amazing campaign to make the voices of women and girls heard over the misinformed commentary of Ann Coulter.
Over 1300 girls.... An amazing day of girl power and social change!
Workshops on social issues, body image, self esteem, anti-violence, and many other topics.
Being a girl meant being powerful!
our keynote, Cupcake Brown with some girls at the opening ceremony
I’m not wealthy. Oddly enough, that makes me somewhat of a minority in my town. I live in a town in the northwest, population around 23,000 people and growing. Because most families here can afford to send their kids to top colleges, and most parents themselves attended college, the pressure to succeed in school is great. My high school consistently tests as one of the top two in my state, and my high school is loaded with expectations. The community expects kids not just to graduate, but to graduate with honors. Kids who are not team captains, honor roll placers, club presidents, distinguished musicians, artists, or thespians are often considered mundane.
I know my community is probably one of the few in the world that is like this. On one hand, I feel lucky to live here, where education is a priority for taxpayers; on the other hand, after living here since Kindergarten, I’m finally beginning to get fed up with all the expectations. To graduate from high school is a great achievement. That alone should be worthy of praise, but my community seems to demand more, more, more.
I have a friend who is in all honors classes, opinions editor on the school newspaper, president of Amnesty International, a dedicated member of the crew team, and participates in seven other time-consuming activities on top of that, among them dance lessons, more clubs, babysitting jobs and community service. Every adult who meets her absolutely adores her. She barely has time to eat dinner every night.
What’s the point of working yourself to the bone to please others and get into college? People should participate in activities that make them happy. I was in National Honor society for a year. When I joined, I thought NHS would be a place for kids who genuinely wanted to help the community and prove that teenagers can positively contribute to society. Rather, I found a group of kids who joined the club solely because it would look good on their college applications. I left the club, and I’m glad I did. Now I do community service because I’m passionate about it, not because it’s required for NHS membership.
Working hard in school and maintaining leadership positions are wonderful things. I just wish the adults in my community could all understand that those things aren’t for everyone and, in fact, college is not for everyone either. I have a friend who absolutely loves cars. His greatest dream is to become a mechanic. Just because his passion isn’t academic, and just because his career of choice doesn’t require six years of expensive college tuition, does he deserve any less respect than the math whiz who plans on attending Stanford? My car-loving friend has found his passion and wants to live it, and I think that is every bit as amazing as attending an Ivy League school.
As for me, well—my passion is writing. And I do want to go to college, and I do work hard in school. I guess, in a way, I’m falling right into the mold my community set for me. But expectations have nothing to do with it. I just want to live in and contribute to a world surrounded by books, paragraphs, articles and semicolons. It’ll probably be easier with a college education, and I’m thankful that I have that opportunity. It saddens me to know, however, that should I choose to pursue a career in fishing, my community would view me as a failure. I wish my community could better understand that academics are not everything, and recognize the passion and intelligence in every teenager, not just the so-called shining stars. College isn’t everything; there’s a big world out there.- Lilly
In the past few years, social networking sites like Myspace and Facebook have absolutely boomed. Their creators are millionaires, thanks to the millions of people—largely teenagers—who log on daily to message their friends, update their photos, write personal blogs and so much more. Many people have gripes about these sites—they worry about safety, for instance. My chief concern, however, is not about safety. I worry instead about the opportunity these sites have provided for young women and girls to objectify their bodies.
I have a Myspace to keep in touch with out-of-state friends, and though I rarely log on, I’m always taken aback when I begin to explore the site. Every user is allowed twelve open slots in which to upload photos, and literally millions of teenage girls use this space to showcase their bodies. They take pictures of themselves sucking lollipops suggestively, or bending over in short skirts. Some even pose practically naked. Myspace’s rules regarding nudity are shockingly lax; some of the pictures are borderline porn—all featuring young women.
And why do they display themselves this way? Obviously, to win attention from boys—and it works. A girl at my school posted a picture of herself in high heels, a thong, and nothing else. Within a week, she’d become a mini-celebrity at my high school. Boys who had previously never even heard her name were suddenly lining up to talk to her and vying for seats at her lunch table. The boys’ attention even caught the interest of some girls; they decided that if this girl was so popular with boys, she was someone they’d like to have on their side.
Nudity isn’t the only way to objectify yourself on the internet. Many girls, inexplicably, post pictures of themselves drunk and falling all over a gaggle of sneering guys. The pictures have a clear message: look at me! When I drink, I’m easy! Again, the objective here is to gain attention from the opposite sex and, unfortunately, it works a frighteningly substantial amount of the time.
There are also those girls who use up their twelve shots with cute self portraits. Their smiles are nothing taboo—but the fact that they have twelve solid shots of themselves trying to look pretty indicates a clear desire for attention, a desire every bit as strong as that of the nearly-naked or intoxicated girls. There’s nothing wrong with a few pretty self portraits—we’re all entitled to a pinch of self promotion—but why those exclusively? Why not post pictures of your friends? Your pet? Your cousins? Why not, at least, a picture of you doing something you love—skiing or sketching or laughing or cooking?
It saddens me that at age seventeen there are still girls who so desperately need male attention that they present themselves to the world as just pretty faces or faceless bodies. I figured out early on that if you want others to respect you, you must first respect yourself. By displaying ourselves as sex symbols on the internet, young girls will never gain the respect that we—every one of us, because we are all beautiful and amazing with something to offer the world—deserve. - Lilly
In my high school gym, there’s a huge wooden sign nailed onto the cement block walls over the orchestra’s section of the bleachers. The sign is painted in our school colors—white with gold and blue trim—and it’s always sparkling clean. “BHS SPARTANS FIGHT SONG!” it says in fat blue letters, and below are the two stanzas.
The beginning and middle lines of the fight song are standard—rah rah rah, yay for the mighty Spartans, go, fight, win, and all that. But here’s where I get mad. The very last lines of the song are these:
So fight, fellas, fight fight fight
To win this game!
I’m assuming this song was written some time in the 1940s or 1950s, when “fellas” was an oft-used slang word for “fellows”—meaning guys, men, boys. Essentially, males. Now, I can understand that things were different fifty years ago—I don’t even know if there were any girls’ varsity teams at my high school back then—but it’s 2006! We’ve got hundreds of female athletes at our school, and our girls’ varsity teams have won a staggering amount state and even national titles. So why aren’t the girls included in the fight song along with their male classmates? As serious, hardworking athletes, aren’t they worth enough to be included? And why, over a span of more than six decades, haven’t any students challenged this before?
I don’t play on any school sports teams, but I am involved in plenty of extracurriculars—for example, our student newspaper, for which I put in a lot of time and effort. I can only imagine how rotten it would feel if our principal came to talk to the staff one day and said, “I’m proud of you fellows!” Our principal would fundamentally be addressing all of us, using “fellows” as an all-inclusive phrase, but it would still feel wrong, exclusive and unfair.
No one actually bothers singing the fight song at my school, but there wouldn’t be a need to alter the words even if people did sing because the orchestra, which plays the fight song every year, doesn’t bother showing up for any girls’ sports events. And I’m sure my school shares this philosophy with every single other high school in the nation: cheerleaders must cheer only for the boys’ teams. Even though the girls’ varsity basketball team consistently makes it to the State Championships and our boys’ basketball team seldom wins a game, only the boys are granted the presence of cheerleaders and, with them, a gym full of roaring spectators.
It’s sexism, pure and simple, and I don’t want it at my school or anyone else’s. - Lilly
At times I believe that people in our country take all the freedom and rights we have for granted. Although there is much inequality in our communities, there are other cultures and countries that have extreme views on the rights for women. Compared to these countries, the United States flourishes in opportunity. A country like Afghanistan has locked the doors of opportunity for women. Their structure has molded young women to become a very particular way with no room to experience leadership; no worries because this is beginning to change drastically. In 2005 something happened that would change Afghanistan into becoming a place for men and women to work side by side at the decision-making tables. The first woman provincial governor was appointed by President Karai. Habiba Sorabi was a minister and now governor of Bamiyan province. Sorabi was born Mazar-e-Sharif and spent her childhood traveling with her father around the country. She attended high school in Kabul and later studied medicine at a university. As a graduate she received a fellowship by the World Health Organization. She then moved to India and successfully completed her work in hematology. She also worked underground as a teacher for girls secretly in Afghanistan and in refugee camps. This woman has taken risks in order to help young women receive opportunity and equality. She became General Manager of the Afghan Institute of Learning. Sorabi expresses the day she was appointed governor,"Today is a very good day for me. It is another important step towards women's rights in Afghanistan." The country already has three female Cabinet ministers and many females serving as deputy ministers. Ambassador Jawad says, "The appointment of Governor Habiba Sorabi is another step forward in the government's continued efforts to increase and strengthen political leadership by women in Afghanistan." This country has been through dangerous turmoil that must be worked on. In order to reconstruct Afghanistan, women must be involved to make decisions also. Habiba Sorabi has proven that women can truly take a stand and be heard. Women are no longer just creating social change in their communities; we are now creating international change around the world. World...here we come! - Steph
In 1910 Baltimore, Maryland would undergo a change forever as Pauli Murray was born and would grow up to become a civil rights advocate, lawyer, poet, feminist, teacher, and ordained minister. Murray was of African, European, and Native American decent. She attended segregated public schools and graduated from Hunter College in New York. After college, Murray could envision changing the world from its racial segregation into a place of peace and opportunity for women and minorities. She became active in the National Urban League and the Workers Defense League. She advocated civil rights for all races in struggle. She dedicated her entire life to create change within the world during a time of oppression, segregation, struggle, and violence. She accomplished many goals and was first at some of them. Murray became an attorney, a professor, an activist for rights of minorities and women, a founder for NOW, a poet, and a priest. In the 1940's she was arrested for protesting segregated seating on buses. She was a professor at Brandeis University and Vice President at Benedict College. She was first woman to graduate in 1944 at Howard University Law School, first African-American to be awarded a Doctor degree from Yale, first African-American woman to serve as assistant attorney general of California, and at age 66 she was appointed the first African-American woman priest of the Episcopal Church. She died in 1985 and it was no longer just Baltimore that changed, but the world. She demonstrated leadership, risk, and passion. Pauli Murray has helped in this revolution; the revolution that GFC is standing in the middle of today. This "woman revolution" has been going on for centuries and we are just another century that needs to make more change - Steph
Girls For A Change started out in the small communities of Silicon Valley in California. Today, GFC is now replicating to another location in Phoenix, Arizona. It is quite amazing to GFC grow and expand creating change around our country. I have been with GFC for four years and I am currently interning for them this summer. Something ground breaking has occurred this summer and not too many people know about it yet. Within the past month I have been communicating with a woman by the name of Aminata Hydara. She is the coordinator of a national youth organization called Girls Platform. Not only is GFC connecting with other national organizations, but GFC has now broken through the limitations of our own country.
Girls Platform is located in Gambia, Africa! Hydara is also the Deputy Speaker of the Western Division Youth Parliament of the National Youth Parliament of The Gambia. Hydara was born in the village of Panchang. She was exposed to many social clubs during her senior secondary. She has served on many committees as executive members and she has found great passion in creating change within her community by reaching out to young women. She said in her e-mail: "My dream is to contribute to the improvement of the life of my fellow young people especially teenage girls whose early development is hampered by traditional beliefs and practices." She believes in sharing experiences and discussing issues that young women deal with. I have been connecting with Aminata and some of the girls who are members of Girls Platform. Recently two girls sent me their profiles and photos. I am going to save that exciting information until next blog. GFC has begun a life long partnership with Aminata and this organization. We have now expanded our communications internationally. Good job Girls Platform and GFC! - Steph
Did you ever wonder who is actually watching over our cities? I am sure that most citizens imagine a person who is dedicated to their community and hopefully advocates equality and positive change. What about our city of San Jose? There are numerous people in public service who contribute to the safety of our neighborhoods. I want to shine light on one Latina woman who takes social change seriously and to a new level. Cindy Chavez is the Vice Mayor and is now currently running for Mayor. When Chavez was younger, her family moved from New Mexico in hopes for higher equality and better jobs. Cindy's father was a carpenter and her mother did a lot of volunteer work during her free time. Cindy attended San Jose State University, right in the middle of downtown San Jose. This led to a career in community work. Chavez sat on the Board of Supervisors and worked as a policy aid on health and human services. She also joined the South Bay Labor Council as Staff Director. Chavez helped design, along with others, Working Partnerships USA. This was all of Cindy's early work within the San Jose community.
In 1998 Cindy won her first election to San Jose's City Council. She focused on building beautiful urban centers, affordable housing, and promoting higher education while cleaning up San Jose schools. Four years later she was elected Vice Mayor! She works to improve downtown neighborhoods and businesses. She is Chair of the Valley Transportation Authority and she constantly works to enhance our community. Chavez sits on the Board of Directors for: Joint Venture, Silicon Valley Network, Statewide Blue Ribbon Task Force on Nanotechnology, and Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. In 2004 Chavez was in Business Journal under "Influential Women in Business" and she is on the board of the Silicon Valley Women's Alliance. This article is not too try to pursue anyone regarding the elections. This woman is just one out of many in our community that deserves to have her story told and given recognition. Girls For A Change is all about women becoming leaders in our communities and creating social change. Cindy Chavez, aside from the election, is a woman of passion for change and social reform.