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Powered By Girl, the book!

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By Yas Necati

Hi, I’m Yas, editor here at the Powered By Girl blog. When I first started calling myself a feminist, I was 15. It was confusing, inspiring, life-changing – as you can imagine. I began to campaign with, and make friends with, a lot of people who were a lot older than me. Some people thought this was weird, but it taught me something really valuable; when we work across generations, we learn so much more. There’s power in intergenerational communities.

Around the same time I labelled myself a feminist, I reached out to an online community that I’d come across through googling “teen feminism” on the Internet. This community was called the SPARKmovement, and through connecting with them, I began writing for Powered By Girl. I met someone called Lyn Mikel Brown, an older feminist who became like a mentor to me, and 5 years later, we’re still working together on PBG.

Lyn’s one of the wonderful co-founders of this website, and she made me feel at home as an activist. It was pretty daunting as a teen to step into a community I knew nothing about. At first I felt young and silly, but a year on, when Lyn interviewed me for her book – also called Powered By Girl – I felt confident, welcome and even like my voice and my actions could make a difference to the issues I cared about.

As well as working with Lyn to write for PBG, I started campaigning too. I learnt a heck of a lot from the people I campaigned with, mostly because they showed me how to campaign effectively by treating me as an equal member of the team. When I was 16, I started campaigning for No More Page 3. I was the youngest team member, the oldest was in her 50s, and I really believe the campaign was as successful as it was because we learnt from one another, and reached out to people of all different ages to get involved. It was a revelation being on that team because I was treated and respected equally to everyone else, whereas in most spaces I would have been dismissed because I was still a teenager. No More Page 3 made me feel welcomed and supported, and this helped me gain confidence as an activist. After all, how many other mainstream campaigns do you know of that would take a 16-year-old onto their main organising team?

I think the best thing about the teams at No More Page 3 and Powered By Girl was that they trusted me, respected me, and treated me like an equal, rather than trying to tell me what to do. I can’t speak on behalf of any other young people, but I for certain know that I’ve never liked people who think that just because they’re older, they understand everything better than I do. I think if at 15, the adults I’d met had tried to lecture me/act as if I was naïve compared to them, I would have shunned away from the movement. Instead I was lucky enough to meet people who were much more experienced, but didn’t treat me like I was immature in spite of this. Instead they used their skills, knowledge and networks to bring me into the community and support me to make my own decisions as an activist, by having faith that I could.

PBG is a perfect example of this. Powered By Girl is a community of 13-22 year old activists, supported by a few adults who overlook everything, and support us along our activist journeys. Powered By Girl has always been about us, the young women. From the moment I started writing for them I knew that our voices were central, and from the moment I took over as editor I knew that our choices as young women would be respected, and it was up to us how we shaped the organisation, what we wrote about, and what we wanted to get across.

This year I turned 20, and it feels really strange not being a teenager any more. For the first time, I feel like one of those adults who might be meeting teen feminists, and I’m not sure I’m prepared for that. I’ve started reflecting on how I was supported, and how I can offer this support to young activists. I often look back and wonder how Lyn made me feel so included and empowered when we first met 5 years ago. I take inspiration from her when I say that intergenerational activism is about supporting and respecting each other, showing not telling, and sharing what we know with others, generously and with kindness.

I’m really proud that I could be a small part of her new book “Powered By Girl: A field guide for supporting youth activists”. The thing about Lyn is that she’s always showed young people different opportunities, rather than trying to tell them what to do. It’s scary thinking that soon, or even now, I might be meeting teen activists, and in the same position tat she was when we first met. I don’t think I could do as good a job as she did at supporting me. But at least I’ll have her book to help!

“Powered By Girl: A field guide for supporting youth activists” is published by Beacon Press. You can buy it here: http://www.beacon.org/Powered-By-Girl-P1228.aspx

Childhood Flashback

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By Kara Chyung

Manners-book

Did anyone else grow up thumbing through American Girl’s guides to health, friends, and manners, or poring through their quiz books with your friends? I certainly did. Funnily enough, The Care of Keeping You, A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friends, A Girl’s Guide to Money, and a few others still have a place on my bookshelf, although they remained untouched until recently.

The other day, as I was rummaging through my room, I came across A Girl’s Guide to Manners. I smiled as I looked through its pages, remembering fondly how well-informed I felt after reading about which foods should and shouldn’t be eaten with your fingers. I then went and found The Care of Keeping You (this seems to be by far the most popular American Girl book), and as I read, I was amazed at how different it felt to read it when I was no longer a scared eleven-year-old, when my friends and I combined had experienced the eating disorders, the hormonal moodiness, and the acne described in its pages.

At first, you may not think that any sort of girl-empowerment would be found in a product of American Girl, whose dolls are often criticized for their exorbitant prices. But as I looked through my other American Girl guides, I realized that many of the basic messages about self-respect, self-esteem, kindness, and empathy were first imparted to me through these books. It’s nice to know that there is a company out there that seeks to nourish young girls physical, mental, and emotional health and help guide them through difficult situations.

I wish that there was an equivalent series for boys. Perhaps one exists, but if so, it isn’t nearly as prominent. Should boys and girls be educated differently about how to approach difficult topics? How different would A Boy’s Guide to Manners be from the female equivalent? Does the fact that these types of guidance books are more available girls than to boys girls indicate anything?

They may seem like silly books full of trite advice, but it’s important to be aware of the messages that we are imparting to children. These are the ideas that they will carry with them into their adulthood.

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We are Powered By Girl. We're young women who write for young women. We do it because we believe there's more to 13-25 year old women than clothes, boys and celebrities. So please have a look at our stuff, and join us!

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