Paper Title

The Politics of Girl-Serving Organizations, A Panel Discussion: Intersections of Fixing “the System” while Uplifting “the Self”

Moderator

Elaine O'Quinn, Appalachian State University

Location

Room 221, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

girl studies, organizations, non-profits, activism, feminism, corporate, politics

Abstract

Non-profit, girl-serving organizations (GS0s) find themselves at the intersection of corporate feminism and activist feminism. GSOs are often created with the mission of developing the individual girl – her independence, self-esteem, choice and empowerment (Goodkind, 2005). This is corporate feminist - focusing upon individual success within the existing society. Yet in uplifting “the girl,” GSOs inevitably confront the current social order and politics of institutionalized sexism, racism, classism, and more. This is activist feminism - challenging and working to change the social order for girls/women collectively. For example, a GSO working to uplift a girl’s self-esteem, empowering her to negotiate for equal pay, cannot fix the institutional policies and laws that perpetuate gender wage discrimination. Therefore, the fundamental challenge to such girl-serving organizations then becomes, “Affirming the girl won’t fix the system.”

Many modern GSOs find themselves struggling to negotiate this intersection. Dependent upon government, corporate and private support, non-profit GSOs must align themselves with the same entities that can exploit the exact girls they are trying to liberate and empower. Using the word “activist” or “feminist” in a GSO mission statement or literature is perceived by some (with reason) as a “don’t” and a liability. Yet ironically, that is exactly what these organizations are. How does a GSO negotiate this tension while remaining viable and able to fulfill its mission? Can a GSO do both (uplift the girl and fix the system), or does it have to choose?

This panel discussion will convene the founders of several, local girl-serving organizations from the Charlotte-Metro area, along with the Director of the Women and Girls Research Alliance from UNC Charlotte. This will be an informal, lively and candid conversation about real-world experiences, strategies, lessons learned and more.

WORKS CITED

Goodkind, Sara. (Winter 2009). “You can be anything you want, you just have to believe it”: Commercialized feminism in gender-specific programs for girls. Signs, 34(2). 397-422.

Comments

Panel moderated by Elaine O'Quinn, including panelists Kelly Finley, Dr. Heather Brown, Rosie Molinary and Carrie Cook

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Apr 1st, 3:30 PM Apr 1st, 4:45 PM

The Politics of Girl-Serving Organizations, A Panel Discussion: Intersections of Fixing “the System” while Uplifting “the Self”

Room 221, DiGiorgio Campus Center (DiGs)

Non-profit, girl-serving organizations (GS0s) find themselves at the intersection of corporate feminism and activist feminism. GSOs are often created with the mission of developing the individual girl – her independence, self-esteem, choice and empowerment (Goodkind, 2005). This is corporate feminist - focusing upon individual success within the existing society. Yet in uplifting “the girl,” GSOs inevitably confront the current social order and politics of institutionalized sexism, racism, classism, and more. This is activist feminism - challenging and working to change the social order for girls/women collectively. For example, a GSO working to uplift a girl’s self-esteem, empowering her to negotiate for equal pay, cannot fix the institutional policies and laws that perpetuate gender wage discrimination. Therefore, the fundamental challenge to such girl-serving organizations then becomes, “Affirming the girl won’t fix the system.”

Many modern GSOs find themselves struggling to negotiate this intersection. Dependent upon government, corporate and private support, non-profit GSOs must align themselves with the same entities that can exploit the exact girls they are trying to liberate and empower. Using the word “activist” or “feminist” in a GSO mission statement or literature is perceived by some (with reason) as a “don’t” and a liability. Yet ironically, that is exactly what these organizations are. How does a GSO negotiate this tension while remaining viable and able to fulfill its mission? Can a GSO do both (uplift the girl and fix the system), or does it have to choose?

This panel discussion will convene the founders of several, local girl-serving organizations from the Charlotte-Metro area, along with the Director of the Women and Girls Research Alliance from UNC Charlotte. This will be an informal, lively and candid conversation about real-world experiences, strategies, lessons learned and more.

WORKS CITED

Goodkind, Sara. (Winter 2009). “You can be anything you want, you just have to believe it”: Commercialized feminism in gender-specific programs for girls. Signs, 34(2). 397-422.