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The Most Powerful Force For Change Is A Girl

girl effect projectThis post is part of a collaboration with The Girl Effect Project, something I have come to love dearly in the last couple of weeks. Please read thoughtfully and think about the influential females in your lives.

Female strength. Confidence. Assertiveness. All undervalued in this country, in my opinion. I grew up with lovely sisters, a beautiful mother, and had plenty of brilliant, attractive girls that I was involved with both as friends and as romantic partners. These were all privileged women who had never wanted for much, and yet they were still hindered mentally, emotionally, and at times spiritually by the way their societies view them.

Objects. Biological toys. Burdens. Necessary evils.

My mom did her best to raise my brother and I as gentlemen. I won’t say whether she succeeded, but I know this: I am never closer to losing it than when I see a man pressuring, bullying, or disrespecting a woman. The joke at work is that I am “everyone’s big brother,” because I am constantly telling men to back off when they start getting sassy with the females I work with.

I take that as a compliment.

But backing up again, these girls I grew up amongst had few strikes against them compared to girls in other parts of the world. If they found ways and reasons to lack in confidence, the situation elsewhere is profoundly more dire. There is another level of objectification in existence. Places where women are commodities actually owned by men. Receptacles for babies and expected to be empty vessels otherwise. Each one of them contains all of the sublime potential and mysteries that any human being is born with, but they are reduced to the needs and appetites of others.

When I think of the women I love being married at age 12 to a grown man, or abused by a husband who “owns” them, or doing their best to be neither seen nor heard until someone else deems it appropriate, I feel crazed. Misogyny and bullying nauseate me.  And then I stop thinking about it, because it is too painful to dwell on. Because I realize that their are massive systems and countries that essentially act as bullies and misogynists.

This is part of the problem. I am part of the problem. If everyone avoided thinking about the things that were too painful to think about, how would anything ever get solved? For self-preservation and quality of life, I am conflicted: I want to help where I can and I selfishly want to avoid engagement with pain that I cannot alter, whether it is my own or that of others.

The most cynical among us, and myself at times, will probably just think “Wake up. There are problems without solutions.”

I don’t want to be that person. I’m really not one for causes, but if I had to call myself anything I would call myself a feminist.

The strong women in my life have been largely responsible for any positive trajectory I have followed. They have always been the anchors in my family, and those of my family members. They are usually the level-headed, the rational (mostly), the ones that retain their sense of purpose when things are challenging, and a constant reminder that no matter how bleak a situation is, there are some things that remain beautiful without effort, and that gives me hope.

I believe every female on the planet could have the same effect on another person’s life, if given the chance. The Girl Effect Project is about finding solutions so that every girl can eventually have that chance, freed from restraints, leashes, and objectification.

The Most powerful force for change on the planet is a girl. I believe it.

Please visit the Girl Effect Project and spend some time thinking about how we might be able to help. I will be doing the same.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tara Mohr November 16, 2010, 10:01 am

    You are such a remarkable writer, and your humanity is huge. I’m so grateful that you are sharing with the world in bigger and bigger ways. We need it. Keep writing and keep being you.
    I’ve known for a quite a while that you are the world’s strongest librarian, but now I know you are also the most noble, most fearless, and most brilliant.
    Hugs to you,

    • Josh Hanagarne November 17, 2010, 9:52 am

      Thanks Tara. This is a wonderful project and I’m proud to be part of it.

  • Michelle November 16, 2010, 11:19 am

    Thank you.

  • Marianne November 16, 2010, 8:29 pm

    Amen to what Tara said. It takes courage to write about female strength, misogyny and feminism these days. More power to you Josh.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 17, 2010, 9:52 am

      Marianne, why do you say that it takes courage to talk about these things? Just curious. I know why I would say that, but wonder if your reasons are different.

  • Alise November 17, 2010, 9:55 am

    Fantastic post here.

    When my daughter started school, she heard the “boy/girls rule, girls/boys drool” line and used it around the house a few times (I have two girls and two boys). I put the kaibosh on it pretty quick as soon as I heard it, knowing that it would pick up in no time.

    One night the kids were all playing a game together and my son started, “Boys…And girls are equal!”

    Love it.

    Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • Julie Daley November 17, 2010, 4:20 pm

    I can’t find any words to write here that fully express how I’m feeling right now after reading your post. On one hand, it feels so simple and clear. How could we not see the situation in the world and feel the pain it engenders, and together want to find a solution? On the other hand, the system(s) seem to make a simple picture so stupidly complex. You’ve said what you needed to say with such strength and conviction, and might I add, heart.
    I don’t know why Marianne wrote about courage, but I know why I echo her sentiment…over and over again, it takes great courage for me to write about these things…feminism, misogyny and how it makes me crazy, and fills me with grief. I don’t know if that’s because I am a woman speaking into this systems that devalues women, or not. But, I see courage in your words, courage in a heart kind of way. Words written from the heart of a man that is human, first.
    Thank you.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 18, 2010, 9:15 am

      Thanks Julie. Glad you can get something out of this. Once in a while I seem to write something that isn’t sheer nonsense to someone:)

  • Heather Plett November 18, 2010, 2:04 pm

    Thank you for this Josh. Thank you for being one of the few men who stepped up to participate in this campaign. I have just written a second Girl Effect blog post that is in honour of compassionate men like you. We need more of you. Desperately.


    • Josh Hanagarne November 18, 2010, 3:06 pm

      You’re welcome, Heather, and thank you. You made my day.