The XX Factor

Operation Girl Power!

As DoubleX begins to create its new website identity, I’d like to shine the spotlight on the activities of the next generation of women, the so-called fourth wave of feminists, as today’s teens and tweens have been labeled.

On Monday night I took my two girls to a tween production of Keep Your Eyes Open, put on by the Arts Effect Theater Lab in New York.

The cast of nine girls ranged in age from 10 to 12, and the performance was a kind of mini stage-version of DoubleX . The heroine launched a website, complete with webisodes, to deal with the same issues that we talk about here. Her aim was to challenge the girl v. girl mindsets that take root in middle school and turn them into a girl + girl equation. She wanted to create a community, both on the Internet and in her daily life. And she did. She was discouraged by negative comments on her blog, to the point where she almost quit, but she came back and kept at it. In the process she took on mean girls, superficiality, consumerism, harassment, diet, and boys. Quite a feat for a two-hour show.

The play was created a couple of years ago by its cast under the writing and directing guidance of Katie Cappiello and Megan McInerney of The Arts Effect All-Girl Ensemble. The performance I attended marked the real-life launch of their new website, Operation Girl Power ! It’s been created to become for tweens and teens what DoubleX is for the rest of us. Or, to put it in the words of the creators, it’s “a girls-focused transmedia movement designed to empower, motivate and unite tween/teen girls throughout the mediums they LOVE most.”

So there are blogs, reviews, forums, news, social-networking, and videos. Best of all are the videos. Regular soap-opera style webisodes of girls’ lives are streamed onto the website. This week, if you want a quick dose of one girl’s highly entertaining trip to the school bathroom, go to the home page and prepare to laugh.

Anything that has women and girls supporting and listening to each other gets my vote, but Monday night’s show wasn’t aimed at me, it was meant for my daughters. I watched them as they were riveted during scenes of teenage fights over designer clothes, sad girls crying at their sense of isolation, and party girls dancing to highly sexist lyrics that were then deconstructed and revealed to be offensive and derogatory. Nicholas Kristof was the the show’s pin-up because he is “the only columnist who writes about women’s issues.” (Hard to believe any 10-year-old would actually say that, let alone know who he is.)

Middle school was shown to be a harsh, angry world. Middle-school girls were depicted as intelligent and articulate women of the future, prevented from being kind sympathizers by peer pressure. My girls thought the play was brilliant. I hoped it was an escape from reality, rather than a depiction of reality itself. I loved the fact that they will have their own website. There can’t be enough websites for women.