Showcasing diverse voices of girls and young women from North America, Tatiana Fraser and Caia Hagel shift the focus from media’s sensationalist stories to highlight real-life accounts of how girls are making positive change and shaping a new world. Girl Positive looks closely at topics from social media, sexual violence, hypersexuality, and cyberspace, and offers stories of struggle and victory, bringing to light where today’s girls are finding new paths to empowerment.
Girl Positive launches in Vancouver Thursday at the Historic Theatre. To find out more about this unique publications, Women’s Post caught up with co-authors Tatiana and Caia and asked them a few questions. Here’s what they had to say:
Can you tell us more about your new book, Girl Positive?
Tatiana: Girl Positive was published in September by Random House. It explores the political, social, and cultural realities facing young girls and women today. We cover a range of topics; from pop culture to the Internet, to girls and sexuality and we dive into topics such as poverty and racism. We talk about girls as leaders and changemakers. Girl Positive also takes up issues pertaining to girls, power, and relationships and unpacks issues around sexual violence. So, its quite broad in terms of the issues we tackle. We really intended to center girls’ voices and experiences; to hear from them about how they see their world and the issues that they’re dealing with. It was important to get a feel for their inspirations, actions and visions for change.
What was your inspiration behind the book?
Tatiana: As founder of Girls Actions Foundation, I was working with girls, young women, and organizations across the country for many years. It was very clear to me that the issues or the stories and the popular culture and the narratives about girls didn’t line up with girls’ realities. This misalignment was outdated. What we’re doing in the book is re-framing the issues that girls are dealing with in a more complex and holistic way.
Caia: Tatiana and I met when she was still acting director at Girls Action Foundation and I was—and still am—the co-founding creative director of Guerilla Pop Media Lab, an ethical media group. We enjoyed working together and the approach we took to creating a dynamic media platform for the voices of girls and young women and their messages, cross-pollinated in an exciting new way. I’ve been working my whole career in media creating space and visibility for the less visible and often most pioneering voices Girls are an emerging force. In Girl Positive, Tatiana and I merged our skills, our passion for girls, and our belief in their crucial role in co-creating our future, to provide a platform for them to speak from the truth of their experiences. We hardly ever hear from girls themselves about their own lives, even when the stories are about them. In our book, girls speak from their diverse realities. In Girl Positive, all the people who care about girls, including girls about each other, get to know them, get to understand their struggles, see their visions and learn about practical ways to support them in their leadership as they move in to their power.
What was it like to collaborate with each other?
Tatiana: It was a very creative experience for both of us. What’s unique about our collaboration is that by combining our backgrounds and expertise, we were able to make this work accessible to new and broader audiences. Oftentimes, the learning that’s happening around girls and young women is happening in the margins and on the fringe. We wanted to reach every parent and educator across the country- and everyone who cares about girls. That is what is really special about our partnership together.
Caia: We managed to create a holistic space where storytelling could be the means to seeing, hearing and feeling the issues that are at stake in our book, and in the world. We were able to do this because we brought culture and politics together through our backgrounds and complementary expertise. When ‘issues’ are made personal and heartfelt—and we love how the book is just brimming with girls voices, they’re all in there with us, navigating us through their worlds—big things like ‘activism’ and ‘policy change’ become tangible to everyone and like ‘wow, I really get this now and I can be part of it too!’ which is something we really wanted to offer all readers.
You speak about many problems that girls face on a day-to-day basis in your book. Can you tell us more?
Tatiana: We’re both parents. We both have daughters. And so, it was really important for us to focus on girls’ voices and hear their stories. The book weaves together many and diverse experiences that girls are living. Our role is to provide the context and draw on the analysis and the thinking that’s out there. In terms of experience, I can say for myself, that the inspiration for doing and creating spaces for girls and young women came from my own experiences growing up a young woman and a girl. I ended up in Women’s Studies by accident at university and it was transformative for me because I began to see that my experiences growing up with a single mom and seeing issues around violence that my peers were dealing with, or my family had dealt with, issues related to gender violence that often become internalized for girls and young women were in fact social and political issues that I could help change. So, I think we all have our personal journeys that connect to the many issues that we talk about in the book.
Caia: It’s a unique time in history to hear from girls and young women. Technology has allowed them to create a new space for their self-expression that is unfiltered, honest and real—and all over social media and mainstream media feeds, generating attention, noise, controversy and discussion. After having been left out for so long, girls are now able to speak up and push their agendas into culture on their terms. I would have loved to have had the same direct line to participating in collective dialogue as a girl! Tatiana and I both grew up with single moms who were feminists. We happened to have role models who could help us think critically about who we were and what we needed. Resources, mentors and good role models are a crucial part of a girl’s ability to actualize her dreams and the often practical and brilliant solutions she has to some of her own, her community’s and the larger world’s problems. Trusted mentors and resources are also necessary in helping girls live up to and back up what is said on social media, or what we see there because celebrity feminism is so hip right now. There is still a lot of progress to be made that requires all us. Structures can only shift to give these voices real power to lead if a lot of us are involved in supporting this movement, and the girls within it. We hear incredible stories of girls and by girls in our book, who are re-imagining social, cultural, political and economic issues from their unique points of view, informed by their diverse realities and their resilience. Our goal with Girl Positive is to celebrate this by bringing their stories together in one dynamic place. With this, and reflections from experts on some of the topics we cover, as well as our own analysis, we aim to give tools to all of us to support girls so that all girls can be part of shaping the future.
Do you have advice for girls who aren’t feeling so positive, especially in the wake of recent political events?
Caia: We were devastated by the election of Donald Trump. But the truth is that through his alt-right agenda, we are finally seeing and having to politically negotiate with what has always been there but bubbling silently (and violently) in the background. It’s easier to fight what is in the open. Girls, women and the many marginalized groups that are most deeply affected by this administration are feeling a call to action that is unprecedented, and an urgency about using their resources to organize, protest and build against these regressive forces. We see this time of darkness as a great opportunity for large-scale transformations lead by the people who are carrying the visions for a world that is innovative, inclusive and progressing because it reflects our true diversity. The Women’s Marches and the movements of resistance at the Dakota Pipeline and Val D’Or are a great start. It’s as if Trumpmania has opened the door for all of us to use our voices, to get our toolboxes together, and really organize ourselves to make change part of our agenda.
Tatiana: It’s definitely an opportunity. There’s momentum. It’s a unique time. A time for young women and girls leadership for change. It is a time to build on where we’ve come from and to really push for change on many levels. At the same time, it’s a calling to recognize there’s work to do. Part of that work is recognizing the intersecting realities girls and women experience from diverse locations and identities. Women who are coming from issues related to poverty, or women who are dealing with racism have an important perspective, experience and contribution to make to the change. There’s work to do.
What message do you hope to pass on with this book?
Caia: One of the simple ways of accomplishing the goals of the book that we’ve listed above, was to create a ‘survival kit’ at the end of every chapter that offers practical tips about the issues of that chapter to everyone from girls themselves to grandfathers, friends, mothers, teachers, political leaders and coaches—to support those issues and get involved in changing them to empower girls. You don’t have to be wearing a pink hat and a pussy riot scarf and be marching on the streets everyday to make change happen. You can do it in small and large ways, which are equally as meaningful. We took a very passionate and practical approach to creating a book that we hope becomes a handbook for everybody in our collective quest to shape a future that is sustainable, enlightened and populated with leaders who are, and were once, girls.
Your book launches today! What can we look forward to?
Caia: The Cultch theatre (hyperlink to https://thecultch.com/) has started a Femme February month and our panel will be the first event. We will host
an amazing line up of three generations of women who work in the arts, and we will link the stories from our book told by girls to the storytelling they do as writers, actors, activists and directors – and hear from them about the realities they face in the workplace where racism, sexism and ageism are still alive and well. We’re really excited to be participating in this event and having Girl Positive make a splash in Vancouver!