Lyn Mikel Brown: Powered by Girl Review
Growing up, I was raised by my mom. She was a single mom going back to school to become a nurse, while also raising three very rambunctious children.
My mom is a loving, compassionate woman, but she also is a fighter. She taught how to stand up for myself and others when people and systems were unfair. She taught me that it’s okay to be angry, and how to use this anger to try and make things better.
And while all the things I’ve accomplished are in part because of my own hard work, none of it would have mattered without my mom’s support, guidance, love, and patience. She taught me how to stand on my own two feet, how to use my anger and my voice, and how to push back when things needed to be pushed back against. I am very lucky.
This is the exact kind of intergenerational relationship that Powered By Girl: A Field Guide for Supporting Youth Activists advocates as the only way to achieve real, lasting systemic change. The book offers one simple, but incredibly powerful mandate: in order for activism to affect real change, women and girls need to combine forces. Lyn Mikel Brown draws on research and case studies from real activists, both women and girls, to look at the important ways we as women can nurture and empower young girls to be capable, confident activists.
Right off the bat, Powered by Girl challenges the myth of the “special girl” – the young girl activist who seems to rise out of nowhere with a petition, a drive, or a fight, and shouts louder than the rest about injustice – to dissect how this actually hurts girl activists and impedes further change. This myth ignores the reality behind these girl activists – that they do not rise out of a vacuum, but are instead a part of a complex system of other activists, both girls and women, who are teaching them the necessary steps in fighting for change, while also providing them with material and immaterial resources.
Upholding this myth of the “special girl” creates a story that girls cannot possibly attain, and disconnects girls from the real networks that they need to become stronger. We need each other. We need our networks, our resources, our knowledge, and our collective strength to make change. We cannot do it alone, and women must work with girls in a collaborative role to make this change. Just being leaders to girls isn’t enough. We need to listen to girls, learn from them, and understand how they see and experience what they’re facing, and support their creative energies in challenging injustices.
Powered By Girl is inherently, intrinsically, and inevitably intersectional. It doesn’t fall victim to easy platitudes about what it’s like to fight for change as a girl or a woman, and it doesn’t ignore the complexities of difference (age, race, class, sexual orientation, ability, etc.) in these relationships. Supporting girls and fostering effective activism must be intersectional, and it must be collaborative.
A must read for any woman even remotely close to being an activist, Powered By Girl demands that girls and women need to work together, learn from each other, and inspire each other to disrupt ingrained systemic injustices and oppression against women—all women. And that’s the key. Alone, we are doomed. But together, we are unstoppable.