This article from last weekend’s NYT has been on my mind lately. And not just because it’s filed in the “Fashion & Style” section. The Girls Leadership Institute is a summer camp for teenage girls, teaching them how to act assertively, deal with conflict, stop self-hating talk, etc.
Everyone would benefit from this sort of information, and I’m glad that young women are coming together in a non-competitive environment and having experiences that apparently they deeply need. And I heartily recommend safe spaces in which people are encouraged to act like dorks.
That said, I don’t know what is this “Girlworld.” I don’t recognize it. The closest thing is the bullshit my friends and I pulled in 4th grade when we ganged up on a classmate for being poor. (I still feel really shitty about that. Really.) But in high school? No way. Movies like “Heathers” and “Mean Girls” might have been entertaining, but I certainly didn’t identify with them.
Maybe it was because I had as many male friends as female. Maybe I just really suck at “let[ting my] hair fall over [my] face, cover[ing my] mouth when [I] speak, and always end[ing] declarative sentences like this?” Or maybe it was because I was a proto-feminist. Or maybe it was because I knew I was never going to be in the popular clique, so I went on my merry way as a band/choir/theatre-fag, did my homework, and attended summer camps for mega-nerds.
It’s possible that I’m mis-remembering my own adolescence, and it was positively crammed with drama and tears about my relationships with other girls. But I can only recall two such incidents: once in high school when I said something that upset a friend and I had a hard time apologizing because “I didn’t mean it like you took it,” and once my first year of college, when my BFF from high school came to visit and hooked up with the guy I had a crush on. Most of what I remember was a lot of stupid fun, running out for off-campus lunch, streaking through a county park, going to games and dances and sleeping over and making corny videos for French class.
So, tell me, erstwhile girls: did you grow up in Girlworld? Would the GLI have changed things for you? Was my experience exceptional? And do you think things have changed–for the worse–in the era of the internet and texting and IM? And, perhaps most importantly: wherefore Girlworld?