For the past few years I’ve been tracking organizations that genuinely support girls — as opposed to those who purport to support girls — while actually leveraging cultural concern about girlhood to advance other values. Only recently I learned the term “astroturfing” to describe a faux grassroots organization that covers its tracks, and I can see, often enough, where it applies. So nothing could have thrilled me more than learning about the newly formed alliance Brave Girls Want, which harnesses the energy of multiple organizations and individuals all working to change the expectations girls are both subject to and sold on material and deeper levels.
Brave Girls Want came together quickly as Executive Directors Melissa Wardy and Ines Almeida rounded up a coalition of allies (including our own Deborah Siegel) who are all passionate about refusing gender stereotypes and reframing childhood. Recent triumphs include tapping into consumer outrage over a t-shirt marketed to girls and sold at The Children’s Place which left “math” unchecked among a list of “My Best Subjects” (with “shopping,” somehow, part of the intended curriculum). Through the power of their numbers, the campaign went viral and the shirt was pulled from back-to-school shelves. Many of the members included were active in the pushback against LEGO’s Friends line, released to “appeal to girls” but in ways that were shockingly unprogressive. Through the power of petition, (over 60,000 signatures), social media, and persistence, a team of SPARK girls and their allies met with LEGO representatives and they have closely been tracking their progress ever since.
United, the power behind the Brave Girls Want alliance feels electric, fueled by collective passion and commitment. Their current undertaking is to go straight into the media heartland and rent a billboard in New York City’s Times Square which will flash messages counter to the current gender expectations now set, and advance ideas that impel real progress. Importantly, girls will be actively involved in the campaign. Their goal is to raise $25,000 in time to have the billboard light up on October 11th, the second International Day of The Girl.
There is so much work still ahead to advocate for gender equity and steer change from deeply embedded stereotypes, but I’m excited to share their passion and hope for what yet can be. “The hashtag that makes your heart smile” is part of their slogan; advocating for real revolution within media feels to me more like a full-body jolt that hopefully will wake up the world.