Please note: Gender is a social construct and for centuries it’s held onto a binary (boys & girls) system. HGHW does not believe in the binary; the deep history of systemic sexism and transphobia has uniquely harmed self-identifying girls and gender expansive folks. This is who we work with. As consistently learning intersectional feminists, we welcome and celebrate folks across all identities, abilities, races, ethnicities, religions, economic statuses and sexual orientations.
The back of a packet of seeds tells you how much light, water and spacing a plant needs to grow and thrive. This information is based on a USDA standard, called hardiness zones, which considers the environmental conditions that plants need to thrive in certain locations. Ignoring the instructions and putting the seeds in unhealthy soil without sunlight and water could be the difference between
Big difference, right? But you wouldn’t blame the seed for its inability to grow in that environment. Yet, that’s what our society does to girls every day: plants them in misogynistic soil, pits them against each other, demands they look a certain way, and forces them to shove down their roots. And when a girl doesn’t bloom, we ask what’s wrong with her?
At Hardy Girls, we believe it’s the environment that’s in need of attention. Girls and nonbinary youth aren’t the problem, they’re part of the solution.
Curiosity, Thinking Critically, Building Coalition, and Challenging the Status Quo
Allowing girls and nonbinary youth to tell you what they need gives them ownership of their story. Listening means not assuming you know all the answers or that your way is the right way. Pay close attention to what young people are saying and ask them to elaborate on their thoughts and feelings.
In spite of what the media shows us every day, girls and women come in all shapes and sizes, from diverse family backgrounds and social situations, and have different needs and interests. Value these differences and encourage girls to draw on their experiences to teach one another.
Teach girls to question the narrow images (girls as sexy, as divas, or boy-crazy shoppers) they see on TV, in the movies, online, in toy stores, the mall, and in magazines. Offer them examples of real people who are not constrained by stereotypes.
Girls learn about womanhood by watching and listening to the women in their lives. When you make negative comments about your body, you’re teaching girls that women judge themselves (and other women) on their looks. Girls will learn to love their bodies if they see women doing the same.
Before “helping” girls, women first need to work on our own stuff. We can’t help girls practice healthy conflict resolution, teach them to stand up to bullies, or expect them to create healthy relationships if we can’t do these things ourselves.
If your daughter comes home upset about an injustice she experienced or witnessed, use that situation to brainstorm ways she can fix things. Again, listen first. Don’t overreact or jump in to fix the problem for her. Think and plan together.
Today, the media is rife with catty, backstabbing girls. As a result, it’s getting harder for them to trust one another. Affirm girls’ relational strengths and their potential for coalition and collective action. Provide stories about and create opportunities to see and experience such girl power in action.
Contrary to messages girls are getting from everywhere, anger should not be silenced. Help them identify anger, know how it feels, and how to stay clear and centered in their disagreements. Offer constructive ways to express strong feelings – ie. speaking up directly and respectfully, writing letters, or organizing a rally.
One of the most powerful things you can help girls realize is their own ability to create change. Support them in their efforts to make change in their schools and communities. Teach them to draw up a petition, show them how to write a letter to the editor, help them think about other ways to use their voice to speak out. Show them their opinions matter.
We all make mistakes. Girls are likely to learn from their mistakes if they have a safe, non-judgmental place to practice, try on new roles, and find their own voices.