yesterday’s grrrrrls studies class was a little small, just myself and four other girls.  i hadn’t adequately prepared for class and threw it out to the girls.  we’d spent the last week talking about our friendships with other girls.  and this week when asked what they wanted to talk about, one girl blurted out “boys!”  the others were happy to follow on that path and i stifled a groan.  we started by talking about our crushes.  then when a friend with a “boyfriend” was discussed we were all a little shocked.  what does it mean to be someone’s boyfriend at age 10??  to be someone’s girlfriend??  a little sheepishly but with complete honesty i talked about my own elementary school “boyfriends.”  the girls looked at me suddenly as somebody apart, someone they hadn’t seen before.  they asked me questions and i offered my 23 year old wisdom, about how romantic relationships are now more important within the web of my other relationships.  that a boyfriend is no longer the be all end all of my relationships and that they actually are much healthier when i have a handful of other strong relationships: friend or romantic, alongside it.

we side noted then for awhile about girl friendships again.  one girl shared a story about painful dynamics with a girl who used to be a close friend of hers and now has another group that she hangs out with, and how those two groups are small enemy groups.  other girls shared similar stories, others still offered sympathetic advice.  we explored where those dynamics come from and why girls are often taught they need to compete against each other.  and it brought us all the way back to…boys!  the girls quickly recognized that it was stupid for girls to fight or compete over boys, that we shouldn’t let boys get in the way of our friendships.  but that seemed easier said than done.

again we talked about boys.  spiraling around in concentric circles of relationship talk.  and i’m not actually sure how we got there, but we were talking about saying “no.”  i explained that it was always my weakness, how to turn down a boy without hurting him.  that i often found myself stuck in relationships i didn’t actually want to be in.  and how that was not ok.  i shared a little about my progress in that field when i was interrupted by a clearly vulnerable and earnest question from one of the most outspoken girls in the class.  she looked at me with clear concern and asked, “but how do you do it?  how do you say no?”  i started to explain my tactics and then shifted gears.  we did some role playing.  i played the boy, asking each girl in turn if they would go out with me.  initially the responses were simple: no or maybe.  then i modeled a little more dialogue as the girl being asked out and little by little, we got more in depth responses from the other girls.  but it is clearly something we need to work on more, because there were still girls who it was clearly hard and uncomfortable for.  girls who by the end of class had not given a clear answer.  

we talked more about consent and how saying no wasn’t mean, but merely a reflection of our own truths.  i shared an experience i had when i was probably 14 or 15, at a teen dance club.  how the culture was for the girls to start dancing with their friends, how the boys circled and often would just come up behind you and start dancing, without asking at all.  how i often didn’t even know who was behind me.  and then at one point i was dancing with someone who backed up and then came back to me with his penis exposed.  we talked about how as girls we sometimes really need to hold onto our voices and make them heard, how we have to be able to say no and feel powerful in that expression.

it was a really incredible experience, to explore concepts of consent and saying “no” with girls who are already trying to figure these things out.  i think we’ll probably give both topics more attention in future classes.  if you have any ideas about how to guide younger girls through these conversations and exercises, praytell!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristina
    Nov 18, 2011 @ 02:36:56

    Wow! Sounds like some theatre of the oppressed work could be really interesting here… I might be up for working with you on incorporating that sometime if you and the class are interested!


  2. Sara Tansey
    Nov 19, 2011 @ 20:51:17

    Kristina, that would be soooo incredible and i would LOVE it! We should talk more. I think it would be really interesting and rich to do with the girls!


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