Help the GRRRLs Conquer the World

I’ve written many times about Act Like a GRRRL, a fantastic autobiographical writing and performance camp for teen girls.


The amazing GRRRLS of ALAG

Why do we need a writing camp for young girls, you ask?

Because even in 2012, women are still strangely, disturbingly absent in certain fields and strata of our society. We hold only 17% of seats in Congress, which puts the U.S. behind 77 other countries in percentage of women in national legislatures (behind Tunisia, Belarus, South Sudan, and…wait for it…Afghanistan). At least we’re doing better than France and Australia in the boardroom, with females holding 12.6% of directorships.  And only about six percent of U.S. commercial pilots are women.

Last week, I met Geena Davis briefly at an event promoting her Institute on Gender in Media—which got me thinking again about women and our relative silence in the halls of power. Of course, a Hollywood insider like Davis tends to look to popular culture for evidence of this disparity: According to her Institute’s research, males outnumber females 3:1 in family films, and girls and women are far less likely than males to be portrayed as professionals or leaders and far more likely than males to be sexualized in film. (Even cartoon heroines are bizarrely and comically voluptuous and ill-clad.)

It’s tough to tease out a cause-effect relationship here, of course. Women are underrepresented in positions of power, so they’re rarely portrayed there; girls rarely see those portrayals, so their ambitious imaginings don’t tend to extend to boardrooms or the Oval Office—a vicious cycle; a chicken-egg scenario.

Which brings me back to Vali Forrister and the Act Like a GRRRL program she created. For a month every summer, a dozen-or-so teen girls gather in an old industrial space to talk straight with each other about their lives, find their honest words, and share their stories with each other and the world. Forrister also invites grown-up women living bold and creative lives to speak to the GRRRLs—to stretch their imaginations about all sorts of ways we women can live and work and add something lovely to the planet. These conversations often lead to mentorships and friendships and, potentially, help to shape youthful, ephemeral hopes into tangible ambitions and the practical how-tos that bring them to fruition.

Sarah Souther speaks to ALAG about entrepreneurship and marshmallow-making

At the end of the month, the GRRRLs perform their highly personal, heart-shatteringly lovely and painful writings for a rapt audience; to all present, it’s clear these teens are trying out their clear, courageous new voices and learning to cry out for all to hear, THAT is what I want, World! Stand clear!

I’d get out of the way, if I were you.

But if you’d like to do more than just step aside, hear this: Vali’s running her camp on a shoestring, and doing her best to extend scholarships to girls from families who can’t afford even a relatively small operating fee. So if you’d like to help out in a very tangible checkbook sense, please click here.

I’m still not sure I understand all the reasons that we women don’t participate more fully in all strata of society, especially the loftier ones. Maybe, in some ways, we’re holding ourselves back, through some failure of nerve or imagination. And if that’s the case, I’m pretty certain that the powerful nerve-sharpening and imagination-stretching properties of ALAG are doing their small part to shatter the glass ceilings that we sometimes construct for ourselves.

Please give, if you can.


Related post: Happy Women’s Day!

Related post: Vali takes her writing program to a women’s prison—with startling results

3 thoughts on “Help the GRRRLs Conquer the World

  1. Fabulous idea, really hope and wish that such workshops can be extended to other places around the world. Women are often silenced, and this ‘legacy’ (if one may say) gets passed down from generation to generation. Way to go GRRRLs!

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