Tag Archives: girls

The Girl Effect Impact

I’m lucky – I have conscientious friends. People who are invested in their communities both immediate and global; people who care deeply about education, human rights, and child development; individuals who believe firmly in these principles. I’m grateful for that, and grateful that they remain open to hearing about violations of these principles and what can be done to work towards eradicating circumstances that allow these inequities to thrive. Which is what I’m doing here.

By now, many of you have likely heard of The Girl Effect. The Novo and Nike foundations, partnering with the Coalition for Adolescent Girls and the UN Foundation, started the Girl Effect a few years ago, and since the movement started they’ve garnered a healthy following on Twitter, Facebook, and via non-profits and educational institutions. One of the organization’s most essential functions is raising awareness – they do this through their profiles of young girls around the world, their easy to understand presentation of facts and country profiles, and the way they create a storyline of cause-and-effect that shows us how the subjugation of girls is multi-faceted and interconnected.

Statistics can be powerful. If there’s one thing I’ve learned working in both public health and education, it’s that statistics can redirect money and help gain political endorsements; they can garner media attention and can heave weight behind opinions. But they can also leave people cold, and can create some emotional distance between the problem and one’s understanding and relation to it. This is where I think the real impact and power of the Girl Effect comes in.

I’d encourage my readers to do two things. First, check out the basic information the organization offers – the nuts and bolts, the facts and outlines. Then head over to the videos page and pick a profile of any one of the girls. Watch it a few times, to see if the second or third time you catch something you missed the first time. Instead of focusing on the fact that girls who do not attend secondary school in India are nearly 70% more likely to be married as children, focus on Anita or Sanchita and what they’re actually saying to you. The fact that in Chad, Guinea, Mali, and Niger half of all adolescent give birth before 18 – and that girls who give birth before age 15 are fives times more likely to die in childbirth – is a frightening statistic – one big enough to think that the problem is too overwhelming, too all encompassing, too massive and systemic to be solved or challenged. So instead, watch the interviews with Kidan, Shumi and Addis. Hear them describe the internal changes they went thorough when they pushed against the status quo, the familial and community influences they have had as they developed despite monumental odds stacked against them.

Lastly, I’d invite you to check out the connect/mobilize page – see what small contribution you can make, while keeping in mind the profile of the girl you just watched. Focus on the element you found most meaningful. The seconds you felt most connected to her, the point at which you most admired her. Think about that moment when you feel overwhelmed by the statistics, think of that emotional response if you feel overwhelmed by the task at hand. Move to change one step at a time, with that feeling as your guide.

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Filed under Child Development and Child Health, Education, Feminism, Public Health, Sexism

Beyonce: A Word.

Last night, Beyonce apparently put on quite the show at the Billboard Awards. This is not an awards show I watch (or remember exists), but it’s gotten so much attention that I checked it out.

I’ve never been a big Beyonce fan or a big Beyonce hater – I’ve always thought she had a solid voice and I liked that she wasn’t dropping lbs. in a rate directly correlated to her rise to fame. I have a couple songs, no albums; have taken cursory glances at her interviews, but was never really drawn in.

However. A few things popped into my mind this time around. The first and most obvious was, of course, that girls don’t run the world. By any stretch of the imagination, [especially] not here. This part has been dissected by bloggers and vloggers since her performance, so I just wanted to reiterate that point.

But this wildly off-base claim also made me think of two things near and dear to Beyonce’s heart. Her clothing line and her husband.

Remember when the ads for her company’s line of kids clothing came out, and there was an appropriate uproar? Let’s tackle this one first. This is not how girls should dress:

Photo courtesy of Dereon

Those are not natural little girl poses. Look at the stiffness of the stance of the one in the red, glittered heels. Frankly, she also looks a bit confused. To me, this kind of pedophilic sexualization, promotion and presentation of small young girls, encouraging them to be seen as someone ready for a life and experiences a decade before they are developmentally capable of understanding what those experiences mean, is scary and very risky. Here is how I see them in ten years:

Courtesy of Celebrity Pics Blogspot

Or, if not yet pregnant:

Photo copyright WireImage, via Daily Mail UK

If I am not mistaken, she is not running the world. If I recall correctly, she’s had a few public breakdowns and made more than a few startlingly poor life decisions. Which I feel pretty sure had something to do with how she raised and managed. And she wasn’t even dressing like Beyonce’s kiddies (though she as encouraging dudes to hit her one more time, which may have had something to do with her outcome), this is how she looked at 16:

Photo courtesy of Jive Records

Here is a picture of someone I see as actually ruling the world:

Photo courtesy of U.S. State Department

Aaand, here’s another:

Photo Courtesy of U.S. Government

I could be wrong. But I don’t think they were doing or wearing the same things when they were 8 years old as Britney and the toddlers-in-tiaras in training in the Dereon ad. They were probably doing things that got them into and prepared them for Wellesley, Princeton, and Yale. That then prepared them for the careers that launched these two superstars into actually ruling the world. A different path than girls who…I don’t know, rule the catwalk?

Now we can address Jay-Z. This will be quick. But, for as much as she loves herself some Jay-Z, I feel pressed to ask Beyonce how these girls can rule the world if her hubby keeps dismissing them as bitches, as problems to be “dealt with,” even if he does concede that they aren’t one of his 99. Just to make sure that’s hammered home, you are really into girls running the world, but your husband thinks they’re bitches, sees “2 Many Hos” as a real hindrance to his big pimpin’ lifestyle, instead of seeing, as exemplified above, seriously brilliant folks who have a shitload of skills to offer and should be looked at as partners in progress. But Jay-Z is more on this side: “Catch me in the parkin’ lot / Hollerin’ at bitches, parkin’ lot pimpin’.” (As an aside, pimping them out is also not the best way to prep girls for ruling the world.)

Also, while I don’t think lying about the current state of girls and women’s leadership is the way to change the status quo, I also don’t think championing one gender’s supremacy over the other as the ideal power dynamic is good – whether it’s all men or all women. Let’s shoot for striking a nice balance. Maybe have the rally cry of “Who Run the World – A Group of About 50% Women, 50% Men, Who Support Nationalized Healthcare and Public Education and the Funding of Social Programs That Benefit Even Those Who Don’t Run the World.”

Too political for pop, I know. But let’s try to avoid the “if we say it, it’s true” and “sex is power” and “girls are bitches and problems to be dealt with” roads as well.

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Filed under Defining Gender, Pop Culture