Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nashers and Rockers

Check out two great solutions about how two Brooklyn, NY based organizations refer to the girls involved in their programs.

Sadie Nash Leadership Project calls the teenage girls who attend their program "Nashers" which is a great solution. Not only does it avoid the whole girls/young ladies thing, the word Nashers also helps create a sense of belonging to the larger organization, which is a key to success with all young people.

Girls at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls are often called "campers" or "rockers" which also works. Although campers is certainly accurate, I prefer rockers. It supports the concept that you don't have to be an expert at something before you can refer to yourself as that thing, whatever it may be. Also, it's sassy. Who thinks of girls as rockers?

Both Sadie Nash Leadership Project and the Willie Mae Rock Camp are What's Good For Girls. Check them out: Sadie Nash is a leadership program for girls 14 - 21 in Brooklyn which supports girls as they think through what they believe and how to take action in their communitities.

Girls ages 8 - 18 form bands, learn instruments, write a song, and perform it all in one week of camp.

Anyone else out there with some solutions?

Friday, September 29, 2006

What Do I Mean By Girls Anyway?

Let me be clear. I don’t mean women. Girls are 18 and younger, and anyone 19 and over can officially be called a woman. Programming for girls in the non-profit world typically encompasses the 6 – 18 year old age range with certain exceptions.

I’m intrigued by women who refer to themselves and their friends as girls, as in “Let’s go girls.” Often, the women who use the word “girls” are looking for an alternative to the word “guys” and are coming up short. What options are there? “Ladies” or “gals” smack of another era altogether. Saying “Let’s go, women” comes off as a little weird, formal, and somehow impractical for every day use.

Even if you think that women calling each other girls in every day life is not such a big deal (and many smart savvy women I know don’t have a problem with it) what about groups of women organizing and calling themselves “Wonder Girls” as a NYC group of women are doing? I am guessing it’s meant as a fun, Gen X way of responding to more mature established women’s organizations which could use an infusion of youthfulness. I'm all for young smart women organizing themselves to make a difference in the world, but women calling themselves girls is problematic.

Flip the coin, and you have the problem of what to call girls themselves. With young girls, you can simply say “girls,” but as girls hit 11 and 12, the word no longer fits. A tilt of the head and the look that says “I am not a child” is what you might get in response if you try. Professionals working with girls struggle for alternatives, often landing on “young women” or “young ladies.” There are worse things to call young people, but I think it is just as problematic to start calling girls, “women” or anything that intimates adulthood at age 12, as it is to call grown women, “girls.”

Why is this such a problem? Girls are growing up in a mediated culture which sells them adult clothing at younger and younger ages, in a world where the song “Candy Shop” is not about chewing bubble gum, and with high-pressure expectations in relationships, school, and staying on track towards a positive future. Professionals who work with girls can help preserve a girl's world by helping us to find language that recognizes their development into their teen years, but doesn’t place adult expectations on them. And women can help us by letting the word “girl” belong to those 18 and under.

What do you think?


What’s Good for Girls will raise the visibility of girls who are being themselves, building on their strengths, and taking action on what they believe. Girls rarely make it into the media for their accomplishments. When they do, I’ll link to their stories and celebrate their success!

WGFG will also highlight the work of the girls’ organizations that support girls that use a positive strengths-based approach. I’ll focus on the small neighborhood and community based organizations that lack the visibility of the large national organizations with Communications Staffs and National Budgets. I’ll start with NYC orgs, but plan to highlight programs from all over the country.

I’ll also keep an eye out for media trends about girls. What’s happening out there? And is it Good for Girls?