By: Ashley Spencer
I was thinking really hard about something, staring at the sparrows flitting about underneath my window this afternoon. It’s not a topic that’s uncommon; I devoted an entire blog to it when it was so pressing on my mind that it needed real, separate space to breathe on its own, mostly for the sake of silliness in the face of being incredibly panicked about the stress that I would never actually figure it out. (Although, for the record, I would still throw my boyfriend over for a Manning if the opportunity arose for me to become a football wife as that blog implied.)
What do I want to be when I grow up?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m really proud of the person I’ve become; I have surprised myself with strength I had no idea was buried deep in crevices and corners, ones I didn’t know existed. I know what kind of person I want to be. I know what kinds of activities I want to partake in. But I’m still troubled by how I will make a difference, how I can get to a place where I am making a difference (and still making enough money to eat food that does not come in a box. God as my witness, I will never eat Aldi boxed macaroni and cheese again.)
There has been a topic of interest, something that has been troubling me and pulling me in. An area where I’m feeling like maybe I might be able to make a difference. Girls, self esteem, and creating a safe space where they can go and figure out how to be awesome.
Ok, that’s a sunshiny answer to a problem that’s a little deeper and darker and goes into the interpersonal relationships of girls, which is a problematic area due to a culture of bullying, an outbreak of bad role modeling in the media and in real life, and a lack of understandable or relatable feminist perspectives on what it actually means to be a woman in 2013. Growing up is hard enough, but add to that the media’s presentation of rail-thin white bread models as a norm for beauty and the use of the female body as a political pawn scattered all over the front page and things are nearly impossible. And that’s without someone bullying you, telling you you’re worthless, making you feel bad about the person that you are and the woman that you will someday grow into.
Self-esteem is a treasure and we should be doing everything we can to help you women understand that they are special in a world that is so willing and ready to tear them down at every corner. (Seriously.)
I want to find a way to fit into that niche. I want to find a way to create this space and make it a place where girls can relate and interact and tolerate and understand. I want them to have opportunities that they might not be able to find in an overcrowded classroom, in a public school with budgets being slashed constantly, or within the confines or a neighborhood demarcation. I want girls to learn to speak to each other with respect, value books, find their bliss and talents. I want to empower young women to help them understand that feminism is about so much more than something that Katy Perry thought it was cool to denounce on TV, that they don’t have to get black out drunk in college if they don’t want to, etc. etc. I want to make this into something concrete, something like Smart Girls at the Party, but a few steps further into the community.
As I thought about making changes and what is broken that needs to be fixed, I realized I have no real idea how to even begin doing this.
So, I did what I always do when I’m at that kind of loss.
I texted my far-flung friend, Valerie, whose known me forever. I asked her what you are supposed to do to start doing the thing that you think you might want to do when you grow up when you figure out what that thing is.
She didn’t have an answer either. But she liked my niche.
And I was fired up too. I thought about all of the amazing little girls I know: Belle, Tessa, Kira, Eloise, Zoey, ranging in age from 8 months to 8 years old. I thought about them growing up in this current female climate and it made me sad for a broken system of misunderstood feminism and the culture of meanness and bullying that has been cultivated in its place. And maybe it’s been there all along. Maybe it’s why I didn’t like that episode of Girls I watched or why I’m so adamant about self-esteem and trying to love myself, even when I think it’s hard. Maybe this is a dream I’m supposed to figure out a way to chase in some big or small way. I guess I didn’t really think it through all that far. But I certainly am thinking now.