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Women - Can we Focus on Uniting Now?

Meghan Arrigo, GFC Phoenix Program Director
April 2008

I have always admired the journalistic style of Andy Rooney (not to mention his total disregard for eyebrow maintenance) on 60 Minutes, for being blunt, often unpopular, and focused on the “everydayness” of life.  For this reason, I am compelled to address the recent string of girl attacks being plastered all over the web and mainstream media outlets.  I was shocked and saddened by the situation concerning the Polk County Florida teenage girl that was videotaped being beaten by fellow female classmates.  The apparent justification for the beating; the victim had posted something against the six girls on MySpace. The retaliation for the MySpace posting resulted in a brutal physical attack that was later posted and popularized on YouTube.

So, hear comes the six hundred pound elephant in the room.  In a country where women are often paid less than their male counter parts, grossly underrepresented in boardrooms and at decision making tables, and recognized more often for the size of their posterior rather than their IQ, how is it that rather than banding together, women are tearing each other down?  Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of hearing the same old argument that it’s “a man’s world.”  While I would never dismiss this argument and do find merit in it, I want to know what are WE, as woman doing about it?  Too often I find myself in the same conversation over and over again.  The context of the conversation may vary; the woman may vary, but it’s almost always the same.  One woman throwing another women under the bus for being too bossy, weak, emotional, selfish, unorganized, organized, needy, introverted, extroverted, fat, skinny…the list goes on and on.  I have to ask myself REALLY? I mean come on…is this REALLY what we as women have resorted to.  A teacher of mine often jokes about how progressives stand in a circular firing squad rather than a straight line. Why do we feel that in order to get ahead, to be taken seriously, that we need to step on one another?

Despite all of the obstacles, Girls For A Change (GFC) is proving that girls of different ages, races, ethnicities, and backgrounds can work together to create social change. The program model embraces diversity; diversity that can be seen and also heard.  Girls attend meetings and are invited to participate in activities that strengthen and broaden their sense of community.  A sisterhood is formed over the 8-month program. By participating on a Girl Action Team, girls combine their strengths to identity a problem in their community, determine the root cause, and then implement a solution through a team project.  During this process, conflict and disagreement may accrue between girls.  However, this conflict is often valued and seen as a teaching tool, an incident that can unite rather than divide.  With the help of their two women Coaches (which also represent a cross section of the local population), the girls work through conflict and begin to see each other as allies rather than enemies. 

I hope we continue to learn from suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.  According to Anna Howard Shaw, another suffragist who wrote a description of the relationship between Stanton and Anthony in The Story of a Pioneer: "She [Miss Anthony] often said that Mrs. Stanton was the brains of the new association, while she herself was merely its hands and feet; but in truth the two women worked marvelously together, for Mrs. Stanton was a master of words and could write and speak to perfection of the things Susan B. Anthony saw and felt but could not herself express."  These two pioneers had different ideas on how things should be done - that is certain - but they found strength in the differences rather than division.  We all have assets and weaknesses; all the better for collaboration!  Rather than focusing on differences, we need to unite and lead by example.

It is with great hope that I invest my time, energy, and passion to being part of a movement at GFC that empowers girls to work together to improve not only the condition of their community, but the status of women around the world.   

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