At a meeting of our 8th grade Girls Coalition Group early this fall, my co-muse Taylor and I planned a discussion of “the double standard,” per the girls’ request to talk about the presidential election. Over the next 45 minutes, the girls identified the sexism in media coverage of the election and then voiced their concern over the double standard in their future high school’s dress code. We suggested they create a skit about their observations, and I quickly found myself near tears–both in awe of their brilliance and in disgust at our reality–as they built a story that deconstructs the way sexism in dress codes controls girls’ bodies and limits their education. In the skit, one girl is told repeatedly to cover up (beginning with a bra strap and ending with her “scandalous ankles”) until she is completely tied up in sweatshirts and collapses on the ground, lamenting “I can’t even learn like this!” The skit’s teacher then admonishes her for distracting the class and sends her to the principal’s office. Taylor and I sat in silence, recognizing that our group was truly working in coalition to change their realities; Hardy Girls was working.
I joined Hardy Girls during my first month at Colby, and my participation in the organization has influenced my educational and activist pursuits more than any other experience. Between leading groups, trainings with Christine, our program director, and classes at Colby with Lyn Mikel Brown, HGHW’s co-founder, I have seen the power of creating spaces to give young people not only a voice but also the tools for activism.
One of our girls recently observed that our girls group allows us to build our “feminist umbrellas” to protect ourselves from the “sexist rain” that surrounds us.
In none of my gender theory classes in college have I heard such an apt and intelligible analogy. Our group works together to identify the sexism and injustice in our lives and then, just as importantly, to imagine how to resist and remake our surroundings.
Our work at Hardy Girls has never felt as urgent as it does as 2016 comes to a close. Over the past few months, Taylor and I grappled with how to support our girls through the objectification and devaluation of women’s bodies that we saw praised in the news everyday. We talked about LGBTQ and immigrant rights, topics personal to members of our group. A lot of the girls I work with are scared for their safety and the safety of their family, but they come to Hardy Girls programs ready to make a difference. Few other places in their lives trust their voices and experiences in the way we do.
I often think about how Hardy Girls has served me in so many more ways than I could serve it. I found the organization as an 18 year old college student, but I wonder what would have happened if I had been given the space in 6th grade to explore feminism, activism, and coalition. However, I am wholly confident that creating these spaces for young girls today is the most effective social activism I can be doing. As our political climate gets increasingly more frightening, I find hope and energy in our girls’ resiliency and resistance. Thank you for your support of Hardy Girls Healthy Women’s programming; together, we will support a generation of Maine girls who recognize their brilliance and ability to speak up and act out.
Adrienne Carmack, HGHW Board Member, 3rd year Muse, Colby ’18
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