When 10-year-old Alice Paul Tapper noticed that girls in her classroom were raising their hands with less confidence than the boys, she decided to do something about it. Working with her mother and the head of her local Girl Scouts chapter, she created the RAISE YOUR HAND patch. Soon after, The New York Times invited Alice to write an op-ed for the newspaper. “I’m 10. And I Want girls to Raise Their Hands” appeared in the October 31, 2017 issue. Alice also published a picture book called Raise Your Hand, which came out in March 2019.
Reading Alice’s op-ed brought back uncomfortable memories of my own school days. I was a good student and I loved learning, but even though I raised my hand over and over, teachers seldom called on me. This pattern continued throughout high school and college, and it didn’t matter whether the teachers were male or female. They all called on male students more frequently than female ones.
As Alice writes, “I also think [girls] were being quiet because the boys already had the teacher’s attention, and they worried they might not be able to get it.” Girls who watch this happening in their classrooms conclude that different rules exist for them. They receive the message that when they finally get called on in the classroom, they must answer the question perfectly.
In their ground-breaking book, Failing at Fairness: How Schools Cheat Our Girls,Myra and David Sadker write “Sitting in the same classrooms, reading the same textbook, listening to the same teacher, boys and girls receive very different educations. Teachers interact with males more frequently, ask them better questions, and give them more precise and helpful feedback. Girls are the majority of our nation’s schoolchildren, yet they are second-class educational citizens.”
“People say girls have to be 90 percent confident before we raise our hands, but boys just raise their hands,” Alice wrote in her op-ed. “I tell girls that we should take the risk and try anyway, just like the boys do. If the answer is wrong, it’s not the end of the world.” That’s only half the problem, though. Teachers need to make sure they call on girls as often as boys. Once when I was observing a 4th-grade classroom, the teacher said, “I notice that my girls aren’t raising their hands much today.” Instead of just calling on the students – mostly boys – who didraise their hands, she identified the problem and encouraged the girls to participate.
An often-repeated phrase, “We cannot succeed when half of us are held back,” applies directly to the problem of girls’ lack of confidence in school. Girls must be heard, valued, and encouraged. Bravo to Alice Paul Tapper for correctly identifying the problem, and for reminding girls to raise their hands.
On February 15, I attended “Stronger Than You Know,” the annual conference organized by Ophelia’s Place. The theme was “Relationships: With Peers, Self, and Community.” The keynote speaker, Rosalind Wiseman, wrote Queen Bees and Wannabes, the classic book about girls’ puberty, and the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls. The conference took place in Eugene, Oregon.
Adolescence has never been easy, but today’s teen girls face a world filled with new and often dangerous realities. Consider these statistics:
- 46% more 15-19 year-olds committed suicide in 2015 than in 2007.
- 56% more teens experienced a major depressive episode in 2015 than 2010.
- 1 in 4 17-19 year-old-girls has an emotional disorder.
- 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to porn during early adolescence.
- Exposure to social media leads teens to compare themselves to unrealistic standards.
Today’s girls have opportunities their grandmothers could hardly have dreamed of. At the same time, they face pressures unknown until just a few years ago: cyber-bullying, sexting, and what Wiseman called “the invisible audience” of social media: always present, always judging, never satisfied.
Many things stood out for me during the conference. In Ophelia’s Place’s Training & Education Coordinator Kyra Kelly’s presentation, “Supporting Youth in Developing Positive Friendships and Romantic Relationships,” she discussed the lack of understanding of the word “consent:” too often, boys do not comprehend – or pretend not to comprehend – its meaning. Oregon Center for Educational Equity’s Elaine L. Rector’s presentation, “Micro-aggressions and Their Impact,” highlighted the effects of the “covert, contemporary sexism pervasive throughout day to day encounters.”
River Aaland, Ophelia’s Place’s After & Out of School Program Director, conducted the presentation “Promoting Youth Empowerment,” which included several teen girls as part of the panel. The discussion revolved around issues of access, self-esteem, and girls’ hopes and dreams for the future. We also spoke about how adults can help teens, and the presentation’s handout included helpful suggestions such as “Focus on self-compassion (not self-esteem),” “Avoid social comparison,” and “Capitalize on specific skills.”
Ophelia’s Place is a prevention-based nonprofit dedicated to helping youth make healthy life choices through empowerment, education, and support. From Teri Conklin, OP’s Communications Coordinator:
“Ophelia’s Place has learned that it takes a holistic approach to give kids the support they need to feel empowered to make healthy decisions as they grow up, like building healthy relationships. That means if educators, parents, and youth all work from the same messaging and use the same tools, there’s a greater chance our kids will be better prepared to navigate challenges while they grow up. The conference is our way to reach educators and other youth-serving professionals with those tools.”
At Ophelia’s Place, girls can participate in programs such as Girls Empowerment Group, Young, Amazing Women of Color Group (YAWOC), and others such as the after-school drop-in program, therapy and leadership opportunities.
I returned from the conference with a signed copy of Rosalind Wiseman’s Queen Bees and Wannabes,lots of great information, and a renewed commitment to my goal of empowering teen girls. I highly recommend the conference and plan to attend next year.
Ophelia’s Place, a community for girls, has three locations: 1577 Pearl Street Ste. 100, Eugene, OR 97401, 1497 Kalmia Street, Junction City, OR 97448, and P.O. Box 113, Albany, OR 97321.
I finally finished editing the video I took at the 2019 Women’s March in Eugene, Oregon. I filmed it using my iPhone 5 camera, did the preliminary editing in iMovie, and then finished it in Adobe Premiere Pro. I’m happy with how it turned out, even though I kind of wish I’d used my Lumix GH4. I hope you enjoy it!
“8 Ways to Encourage Girls to use Use Their Voices” by Allison Riley, from Girls on the Run, describes how important it is for adults to change how they speak to girls. I especially liked #1. Ask her, #2. Teach her that her voice matters, and #8. Encourage her to think critically when she sees conflicting messages.
These are simple ways adults can help girls feel strong, valued, and empowered. Girls need to know that their voices are important, and unfortunately, they receive the opposite message every day. Consider this list from an article by Grace Weaver (also at Girls on the Run:)
Girls like pink.
Girls wear frilly headbands and bows.
Girls assume the role of a damsel in distress, not a superhero.
Girls are not messy.
Girls should be quiet.
Girls play inside with dollhouses, not outside with skateboards.
Girls like to look pretty.
Girls aren’t as tough as boys.
Girls like to read and do crafts.
Girls don’t need wilderness or survival skills.
Girls should be careful that their clothes don’t distract boys.
Girls are vulnerable targets.
When girls have the same opportunities as boys to explore, get messy, and experiment, they grow stronger and more confident. They become more self-reliant and daring. They are far more likely to think for themselves instead of accepting someone else’s opinion. These are the skills they need to succeed in life.
I’m happy to share Visionaries: Female Filmmakers 1910-Today. Girls’ Voices Matter staff member Kacie Clark researched and wrote this compelling and interesting account of eight important women in film. From Alice Guy Lache, born in 1873, who started her own film company in 1910, to Best Picture winner, director Katherine Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty) these women have broken barriers and created some of the most memorable work in film today. We hope this document will inspire you!
I’m happy to announce that our Summer Camp is scheduled for July 22-25, 2019, in Eugene. The camp will take place at the director’s residence in Eugene’s Southwest Hills neighborhood, which features a large backyard with water fountain, plenty of shady places to write and film, a vegetable and flower garden, and six friendly hens!
- Basic filmmaking: direct and star in your own short, personal videos
Enrollment is limited to 16 students. Enroll here.
Questions? Call Girls’ Voices Matter Director, Erica Goss, at 408-205-1957, or send an email to email@example.com.
The visual haiku is a video art form that follows the rules of haiku poetry: three short scenes, each a few seconds in length, that illuminate a moment in time. Traditional haiku finds its subject in the human experience of nature, but poets have written haiku about many other topics.
At Girls’ Voices Matter, our students will learn how to create their own visual haiku. It’s an easy, fun and endlessly creative way to make lots of beautiful, short videos.
Using a watercolor I made a few years ago and a couple of scenes of my backyard chickens, I made this haiku video last weekend. I used Adobe Premiere Pro to edit and color-correct.
Girls’ Voices Matter is the daughter of Media Poetry Studio, an arts-based educational program for teen girls that started in 2014. Here’s the story of how Media Poetry Studio came to be:
In the Spring of 2014, California Bay Area Poets Laureate Erica Goss, Jennifer Swanton Brown and David Perez had an epiphany while discussing their plans as community poets. We wanted to reach out to young people, to involve them in creative writing, and make opportunities for them in the literary arts. Over several discussions, we developed a two-week summer camp for teen girls, one where they learned how to make short films based on their own poems. We called it Media Poetry Studio, and our students’ work can be viewed here.
In 2017, Erica moved to Eugene, Oregon, and began Digital Storytelling of the Pacific Northwest, which changed its name to Girls’ Voices Matter in 2018. We offer a summer camp and workshops throughout the school year. Our first Fall Workshop for Teen Girls begins on Tuesday, September 25, 2018.
Our mission: We empower young women to find their voices though filmmaking and literary art.
Our values and community focus: We value each student’s unique voice, talents, and abilities. Our workshop is a safe, supportive community for girls to experiment with creative writing and technology. We give students the opportunity to tell their stories and show us what they think and feel.
You can sign your daughter up here.