Kamala Lopez is Goddess of the Week!

“I have always been motivated by the desire to improve the world for women, in particular in the media — because the media is the “face” of the collective philosophy; watching media tells you what we think of ourselves and our “ideal” images and states of being. Right now women’s place within that context is deeply troubling on a symbolic level and this translates to trouble for women in society and all over the world, as media is our most powerful export.”

— Kamala Lopez

Kamala Lopez, U.S. National Program Director for Global Girl Media

Kamala Lopez, U.S. Program Director for Global Girl Media, is on a mission to nurture the voices and self-expression of young women in underserved communities and developing nations to speak out about the issues that affect them most. Global Girl Media is a non-profit organization that links young women, ages 14 – 20, with seasoned broadcast and print journalists, documentary filmmakers, and digital media professionals with the bigger goal of  inspiring the future generation of female citizen broadcast journalists. Currently, Global Girl Media is training 20 girls in Soweto, South Africa and 10 girls in Los Angeles.

Tabby: What inspires you to do this work?

Kamala: I am inspired by the reality that actions we take in the real world, no matter how seemingly small, can have impact on people’s lives in a positive way. I have always been motivated by the desire to improve the world for women, in particular in the media — because the media is the “face” of the collective philosophy; watching media tells you what we think of ourselves and our “ideal” images and states of being. Right now women’s place within that context is deeply troubling on a symbolic level and this translates to trouble for women in society and all over the world, as media is our most powerful export.

Tabby: Is there anything else that motivates you?

Kamala: I also love the spirit of young girls and women and try to keep that spirit alive in my life and in my own personality as well as facilitate that spirit to have a place of respect and honor in our society. I am a firm believer that if we turned the running of the world over to the women things would improve markedly in many of the areas in which we find ourselves in trouble:  war, poverty, hunger, illiteracy, sexual violence, prejudice, etc.  I am not suggesting that there wouldn’t be other problems that would arise, perhaps even female-centric weaknesses that would be negative when given free reign. However, it is clear to me that the imbalance of power between the genders is a major part of the world’s problems right now. Anything out of balance is going to eventually be bad for us and presently the male energy and the worship of maleness is in fact a major contributor to the decaying state the world finds itself in. I could give you more analysis on this if needed but I think it’s pretty clear.

Tabby: Can you say more about women’s place in the media being deeply troubling on a symbolic level?

Kamala: First of all, if you look at the media landscape — what kind of women are being given the opportunity to be in media?

If you look at it, I would say in the world of narrative media there are certain female stereotypes that are always present. There’s usually the young girl who is very beautiful and somewhat innocent and then comes along a love interest; then maybe they’ll be a villainous who is overtly sexualized and uses her sexuality to manipulate men in some way or to achieve her agenda; and then there’s the crone. The portrayals of women really haven’t changed much in thousands of years.

I think just being out in the world as we are, we know so many more complex female characters — women whose interests extend beyond men and clothing and how they look – but these women are very rarely seen.

Tabby: How is the mission of Global Girl Media addressing this?

Kamala: The beauty of Global Girl Media is that the voice of the young woman — the 14 to 20-year old woman — is pretty much entirely absent in the social discourse. You do have some characters in bad television shows that are in that age range, but to actually hear the voices of these young women and what is concerning to them is extremely valuable to us in the society. Global Girl Media’s entire purpose is to provide guidance and give a forum to that absent voice worldwide — and to see whether giving that voice a platform will have an effect.

Tabby: Do you think it will?

Kamala: Yes. What’s been remarkable as we’ve been training our Global Girls is to hear the types of things these young women care about. For example, sexual violence, trafficking, peer pressure, eating disorders, immigration, the class wars, and race wars. You would never, ever guess this if you read Seventeen. You would think that what they care about is lip gloss, sandals, boys, and so forth – which I am sure they do on some level — but if you ask them what kinds of stories they want to tell, or what kinds of things are happening that they want to address, it’s extremely profound stuff.

Tabby: Much deeper than the current media would have us believe.

Kamala: We’ve been led to believe that we have a very dumbed-down society – and that people are not thinking and are just sort of interested in escapism. However, if you look at this young generation, what I’ve been noticing is that they are extremely compassionate. They are extremely globally aware and interested, and they want to participate in making the world a better place — but they don’t know how. As adults we are failing them by not providing them with any sort of guidance, any map, or any blueprint to do this stuff. That’s precisely what Global Girl is about.

Tabby: So the idea is that as the voices of these young women are heard more, there will be more of an acceptance and understanding of their true concerns and values?

Kamala: Right now we are operating on the advertising industry’s picture of a young teenage girl. The way we see teenage girls is based essentially on what products we are selling to them. But we are not really hearing from them at all. So when you do actually hear from them, you think, “Wow, that’s a completely different picture than I am looking at.” This is someone who is concerned about her mother, and how much her mother works every day. Concerned about her father who is drinking all of the time. Concerned about her older brother who dropped out of school and now he is a gangster. These are serious things.

Global Girls in South Africa

This isn’t only endemic to girls in the United States. These are issues that are affecting girls all over the world. Once these girls understand that they have these commonalities, and we can forge these alliances and build these bridges … can you imagine in 10 years if we were to have 50 Global Girl Media News Bureaus operating in the most economically disadvantaged places in the world, and those girls connect and form almost a network of support, education, and power? Well suddenly we really are affecting change.

Tabby: Yes, that would make real change.

Kamala: Amie Williams, who is the executive director of Global Girl Media, said when she was traveling and seeing news bureaus closing down everywhere, she thought to herself, Well, Global Girl Media is going to be opening up. We are going to be taking their place. Maybe CNN or ABC have to get out of Ramala, but we are going to go in.

We’ve left it in the hands of men for entirely to long. I love and adore men. I think their energy is so sexy, and fabulous, and active. But the imbalance in the male and female power is deadly. It is literally taking us to extinction.

Tabby: Tell me a little more about this.

Kamala: It’s really about the immediate rush to action versus deliberation. For example, if we look at 9/11, some hideous people come and destroy the lives of thousands of people. What other response could we have had in that moment that would have kept the world on our side? What other response could we have had that would have built empathy and compassion and would have supported another way to go that wasn’t about retaliation, revenge, and violence? There is another response. I believe if the female energy were more valued, that response would have been at least up for debate. Now any response that is not immediately aggressive is considered weak and a failure, and this is the shift we need to make.

Tabby: Do you think its important for adult women to be mentors to this younger generation?

Kamala: As conscious adult women, if we really do care about the state of girls and women worldwide, we need to train this next generation of girls because they are going to be the ones taking over and they are going to be the ones that shift this paradigm. Unfortunately for our generation, we’ve been raised in a society where greed trumps all. In other words, where the bottom line is money … where money affects how we perceive each other, and how we perceive ourselves and our value. We need to break that now with this younger generation.

I feel very strongly that it is that mentality that has led to the sort of breakdown that we are experiencing right now. If you make the measure of every single thing money, you end up with an extremely vacuous, and extremely dangerous place for human beings to live in because it doesn’t allow for any other value system.

As conscious adult women, we need to instill a different value system. Actually, it is an innate value system. We need to tell the world that being compassionate about other people does not make you weak, and it is not intrinsically a female trait. It is a trait of the evolved human being, and it is a trait that we need to hold up as something of great worth. As women, we need to promote that, emphasize that, and nurture that. This is part of what we are doing with Global Girl Media.

Tabby: What have been some of the major challenges in building Global Girl Media?

Kamala: Our major challenge is funding.  Everything else, no matter how impossible, I seem to be able to do pretty easily and I have a lot of fun doing it. For example, three weeks ago we didn’t even have a space to work out of. Now we not only have a beautiful space, but we have the girls, the instructors, and I have a wonderful young woman, Daniela Choclan, helping me.

Tabby: Tell me more about the funding that you need.

Kamala: Right now we need about 80K for the Los Angeles program to pay for cameras and other film and sound equipment, internet, editing, meals, transportation, other staff, utilities, and other hard goods such as paper, pens, etc.

Tabby: How can people contribute?

Kamala: People can donate on the website at www.globalgirlmedia.org. All of the donations right now will go to the Los Angeles-based program, since the South Africa program is already funded. Anything from a dollar to a million, we’ll take it gratefully and give you a sweet tax deduction. Equipment donations are also very needed and welcome. We need computers, cameras, microphones, tripods, and a van or some sort of vehicle where I can move a team of girls around to do stories. The goal is sustainability so that we can continue to train girls in Los Angeles at the rate of maybe 10 girls every six months.

Tabby: What are some important leadership lessons you’ve learned in doing this work and what advice can you share with other women?

Kamala: As far as leadership goes, it’s important to know that we don’t have to act like men to be leaders. Since men have been all we have had to look to as examples of leaders, that’s how we think we have to act. But generally that’s not how we have to act. We just have to act like ourselves. We do have to maintain a collaborative spirit. Also, at the end of the day you do have to step into your own power and say, “Okay, I’ve listened to all of these different opinions, advice, and so forth, but I am deciding this and this is how we are going to go.” You have to get comfortable with that. Ultimately women have to start to trust themselves more and believe that they know what they are doing, and do it.

Tabby: So true. How can we as women help each other?

Kamala: I think we have to fight the idea — that I think a lot of us have internalized — that it is difficult to work with other women. We really need to embrace collaboration with other women. We need to seek out other women to promote. Just like you are doing with this column. It’s exactly what we need to be doing because if we wait for men to do that for us, it’s not going to happen. We have to work together. We have to support each other. When we hear about a wonderful woman, we have to tell other women about her. Help her, prop her up. Give her what she needs. That’s a big lesson.

To learn more about Global Girl Media, you can visit the website at www.globalgirlmedia.org.


Kara Isreal is Goddess of the Week!

“Despite surviving the misfortunes that my family and I had to endure, I know that this world will throw more adversities and challenges not only at minority women but women in general. But now I also know that I have a solid foundation of confidence and strength that will allow me to overcome anything that gets in my way on my journey to success.”

— Kara Isreal, 2010 Step Up Teen Scholarship Recipient

Kara Isreal, 2010 Step Up Los Angeles Teen Scholarship Recipient

Kara Isreal is the recipient of the 2010 Step Up Women’s Network Los Angeles Teen Scholarship. Step Up is dedicated to connecting underserved teen girls with professional women mentors and enrichment programs to empower the girls to become confident, college-bound and career-ready. I had the great pleasure of hearing Kara speak at the Step Up Inspiration Awards last week in Beverly Hills. As Kara presented her winning essay, there was barely at dry eye in the room. She is truly a goddess of strength, determination, and grace.

The following is Kara’s winning essay that she shared with all of us last week at the 7th Annual Step Up Inspiration Awards.

Written by Kara Isreal

I wake up on the morning of October 4, 2008 feeling so excited – it’s my sweet sixteen! But then the reality of where I am kicks in. I’m in an unknown territory. I hear more sirens outside than normal, I hear the neighbors arguing about where the last drop off of drugs was and who was going to change the baby’s diaper. I look out of the window and see the transactions of narcotics and money from one hand to the next. I think to myself, this is why this neighborhood is called “the jungle” – people make up the animals in a jungle fighting over drugs, property, women and even parking spots. And this was supposed to be the start of a good day.

I close the blinds, having seen enough. I start to reminisce about birthdays of the past and think about how much I always love the annual call from my granddad who enthusiastically congratulates me on making it through another year in life. I sigh, knowing that I won’t get the call this year because he doesn’t have my number….NO ONE does because one month earlier, my family was evicted, and we have been bouncing from place to place, eating dinner in our car in McDonalds parking lots and on this morning, my 16th birthday, my family and I are staying in a two-bedroom bedroom apartment making room for 7 people. It was supposed to be my sweet 16 but it was more like salty tears and a super wet pillow. This was the beginning of the most challenging time in my life. Things got worse from there and I experienced the unimaginable, including being raped………more than once.

But through my pain and innumerable tears I found a way to walk with my head up and not have it hung in constant shame. In between the unpredictable travels between school and maybe a hotel room. I began to appreciate school and a new found safe haven in an organization called Step Up and the support system and stability it provided.  On a weekly basis I looked forward to Tuesdays because I knew I was going to be in a stable environment for an extra two hours after my school day. Step Up offered me refuge in programs such as Spoken Word and Poetry where I was able to write down all my feelings, kept in a place no one could criticize, grade or comment about. Step Up gave me the microphone I needed to either reach out for help or encourage my fellow Step Up sisters; which includes my younger sister who also found a safe space in Step Up.

Through Step Up I have gained mentors that have shaped my ambition, built my confidence and who I will never forget. Powerful Step Up women like Shannon Gabor; who I worked for last summer in Step Up’s internship program. Her achievements taught me no obstacle is too big and she pushed me to be a strong writer by having the confidence in me to give me important projects. Powerful Step Up women like Michelle Centeno, my Step Up SAT Prep and college applications instructor who guided me through the stressful processes. She is the first in her family to graduate from college and as I saw her walk across the stage at her UCLA graduation I was reminded that I have to set the standard for my younger siblings as she did for her own. Powerful Step Up women like my Step Up young luminaries mentor Reese Alexander who always keeps me on track with setting my goals and making sure they are realistic.

The most impactful thing Step Up has given me is the key out of Los Angeles. On our spring break Bay Area college tour during my junior year I finally realized that it was totally okay to leave the only place I had ever known. I wasn’t scared to step out of my boundaries and I placed myself in a picture without Downtown L.A. as the backdrop for my college home.

2009 Step Up Teen Scholarship recipient, Shalisa Craig, hugging Kara. Shalissa is currently attending Cal State Northridge & received a 4.0 GPA during her first semester of classes!

My goal in life is either to become a child psychologist with a private practice helping sexual, mentally and physically abused kids; or be a part of a marketing and advertising company. I set my sights high! Thanks to Step Up I am already on my way and can clearly see myself achieving these goals because I am proud to announce that this fall I will be attending Bethune-Cookman University a Historically Black College in Daytona Beach, Florida founded by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune a civil rights leader and an advisor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dr. Bethune is the educated, influential black woman I strive to become.

Despite surviving the misfortunes that my family and I had to endure, I know that this world will throw more adversities and challenges not only at minority women but women in general. But now I also know that I have a solid foundation of confidence and strength that will allow me to overcome anything that gets in my way on my journey to success. I have escaped the dark place that they call the jungle, survived abuse, am optimistic about all of the brighter birthdays I will celebrate in the future. With my success I hope to reach down and help the women behind me. We have the power to rise above our circumstances. We have the power break down barriers. We have the power to break down barriers and crush all statistics that rise against us. We are women of manner and nobility. And I thank you all for your support along the way.

To learn more about Step Up Women’s Network, please visit www.suwn.org.

All photos by Maya Meyers.

Meade Palidofsky is Goddess of the Week!

My Interview with Meade Palidofsky

By Tabby Biddle

“These are kids who have enjoyed risk-taking – the thrill of drugs, the thrill of being in a street gang. One of the things we are trying to teach them is that there are healthy ways to take risk. A lot of the kids are scared before they go on stage, and then it’s thrilling to hear other people applaud you, particularly for kids who have never really been applauded before. So you are trying to transfer the feeling of thrill into something that’s healthy.”

— Meade Palidofsky,
Artistic Director of Storycatchers Theatre

Meade Palidofsky, artistic director of Storycatchers Theatre

For more than 30 years, Meade Palidofsky has been helping young people find their voice and tell their stories through performance art. In 1990, she started working in prisons. She says that was a real turning point because she felt like she met the population that she was meant to work with. Since that time, she has helped hundreds of incarcerated youth heal from past traumas and pave the way for a brighter future. I learned about her incredible work through the powerful documentary, “Girls on the Wall.”

Tabby: I was so moved by your work when I saw Girls on the Wall. What inspires you to do this work?

Meade: I have always been interested in working with teens, especially teens from challenging backgrounds. Many people want to write this age group off: which is why you can be tried as an adult in some states as early as 12 or 13! I think it’s an amazing age to work with. They are still capable of so much insight and change and mature enough to be able to process their lives.

The first time I walked into a detention center and saw the teens incarcerated there, it struck me that it was a tremendous opportunity to reach kids who are not easily reached otherwise. You will not find this population in schools or park programs. Locked up, they have plenty of time on their hands and a desire to fill that time, often volunteering to do things they wouldn’t on the outside — like writing and performing in a show about themselves.

Tabby: This is intense work. There must be some challenges. What are they?

Meade: Prisons and the justice system are political. Some places can be hard to work in. They are full of corruption or just believe more in punishment than rehabilitation. I have been fortunate to work in a state [Illinois] that has established a Juvenile Justice Department — and recently, the Governor took this department completely out of Corrections and put it in the Department of Children and Family Services. Hopefully, this will be a good move and the system will become evermore child centered.

The Aftercare system (or lack thereof) is the biggest challenge. We work with these kids to make better, healthier decisions and then they are released to the same dysfunctional families and neighborhoods — but with no services to mentor them.

Tabby: How have you overcome some of these challenges?

Meade: The biggest thing I have learned is to only work in institutions where there is a champion — someone in administration within the institution. It’s important when we leave — and on the days we aren’t there to have people support the teens. My staff and I go early to program in order to spend time with the institutional staff. It’s important to know everyone from security, dietary, and on up so that everyone supports what we are doing and helps us to accomplish it.

Tabby: Why do you think a girl or young woman telling her story is so healing?

Meade: A lot of the stories that the girls tell are being told for the first time. So it’s not just telling a story, it’s like telling a secret. These kids have been sexually abused and assaulted, and that in particular is often an unspeakable trauma. What we do is provide a safe way for the girls to tell their stories.

If you’ve held on to something forever, it just festers and you don’t heal. But

Rosa raps her story

once you tell the story, then you let it go. By sharing stories, you also hear that there are other people in the room who have had similar experiences. This is strengthening and empowering.

I think the biggest thing is that you are able to let it go. You tell the story on stage, so it’s formalized, it’s universalized, and other people relate to it. Then it becomes a story that exists in the world outside of yourself and so, you can kind of walk away from it. Furthermore, it becomes not just a story but a song or a scene in a show — and then it becomes artistic. It’s something that, although it reminds you of a time that was painful in your life, it also becomes beautiful.

Tabby: You are a woman helping young women tell their story. Do you find a healing and empowering element for you?

Meade: Oh yes. Even though I am hearing a lot of trauma, it’s enjoyable because I see kids who really seize the opportunity to tell their stories to work out trauma in their lives. I see kids who go from being scared to be on stage to feeling good about it and feeling good about telling their stories. You see them change. It’s really a remarkable thing to watch. When you see a light go on in somebody’s eyes and they understand, or they feel safe to tell something for the first time, when they reach out to other people and support them – it’s a wonderful feeling. When everybody gets on stage together and they become a team and really support each other – especially kids in jails that have been tearing each other down — when they begin to empathize with each other, it’s kind of a high for everyone.

Tabby: I notice from seeing Girls on the Wall that you have great instincts about when to push the girls and when to back off. Where does that come from?

Meade: I love to solve problems. If I have a kid where something isn’t happening, I go home at night and think about it. The next day I try a new approach. You have to be patient. I think what’s important is patience and realizing that everyone comes around in their own time. You can’t predict exactly when it will happen for everybody.

These kids need love. They have been abandoned by everybody in their

casting for the musical

families and have been left behind, and so they don’t trust people. So you really have to build their trust. And you have to love them. They really need to feel like you care about them. Even when you are disciplining them, you have to do it with love. I use a lot of terms of endearment, like “Stop it sweetheart.” They have to know you are doing it because you care about them, and not just because you are ordering them around. They don’t like to hear harsh tones in people’s voices.

It’s important to be the adult in the group. These kids are not looking for peer friends from you. They are looking for someone who will be a guide, and will assume an adult role in their life that has been missing.

Tabby: What are some important leadership lessons you’ve learned in working with these girls?

Meade: When I first started working I was really absorbed in it being my own work and absorbed in all of the one-on-one stuff with the kids. What I learned over time is that the more people you bring into the process, the more you get the staff involved and the administration involved, the better off the kids. You really need to do that to support the kids. You need to have a bigger structure. You also need to work in institutions where you have a champion – where people believe in what you are doing so you are not fighting the system.

Tabby: What are some of the common misperceptions about the work that you do?

Meade: I think when people think of kids that are locked up they think of them as bad kids, evils kids, or dysfunctional kids. They think that for anyone who is locked up, there is something wrong with them. I think what people learn when they come in to work with the girls is that what’s dysfunctional is our system. What’s dysfunctional is that we don’t have a lot of systems that work for kids on the outside. They learn that these kids are kids. They have potential. They learn that these kids are really likeable and smart and could be somebody if society helps them out.

When the girls tell their stories it becomes so clear why they are locked up. It usually starts from a trauma they have experienced causing them to be angry and depressed, which causes them to drop out of school, do drugs, join gangs, and eventually become incarcerated. It’s a pretty clear cycle. It can be surprising for some who come and work with the girls since they’ve never thought about it before.

Tabby: How has this worked changed your life?

Meade: Well, this is my life. [Laughter]. It’s my mission in life. When I first started doing this work it was more with kids out in the community and in high schools. When I started working in prisons in 1990, it was a real turning point because I felt like I met the population that I was meant to work with. From that point on it’s been a personal journey figuring out … I feel like I’ve been given a gift that I am a playwright and a lyricist. It’s a real gift to be able to use what you love to do to get other people to not only learn playwriting and songwriting, but to actually use that process to heal themselves. That’s joyful for me to do that.

Tabby: What’s your best advice to other women who want to follow their mission I life, but are scared to for one reason or another?

Meade: My best advice is that if you want to do something, you just have to do it. I grew up in Flint, Michigan with a father who always said ‘no.’ I used to tell him, “I’m not going to ask you about this, I’m just going to tell you because otherwise you’ll just say no.” My advice is don’t allow yourself to accept ‘no’ as an answer when you want to do something. Ask yourself the question: “What’s the worst that’s going to happen?” If you can live with the answer, then you should do it.

Tabby: What’s some of the best advice someone gave you in your life?

Meade: When I was a kid my teachers always told me that I could be anything I wanted to be. Having been told that, I believed it. I feel like that is one thing I have to do in life is to tell other young women the same thing: You can do it. Believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid of failure — see failure as an opportunity to learn.

To learn more about Meade’s work, visit www.storycatcherstheatre.org.

To see Girls on the Wall, visit www.girlsonthewallmovie.com.

Tabby Biddle, M.S.Ed., is a writer/editor dedicated to amplifying the voices of women making a positive difference in the world. Her work has been featured by The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, USA Today and other national media. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.

Woman vs. Girl

Written by Tabby Biddle

I’ve noticed lately that I have been calling a number of women … girls. It was my husband actually who first pointed this out to me. One day we were jogging past a woman pushing a double stroller on the sidewalk, and I called back to my husband, “Watch out for the girl.” My husband quickly replied, “She’s not a girl, she’s a woman.”

A week after this incident, I received a Facebook message from a male friend with the subject line: Woman vs. Girl. He (I’m going to call him Dan) wanted to know my opinion about whether it was ever appropriate to address women as “girls.” The irony here is that I had not been in touch with Dan for months, so he would not have known that I was currently in a phase of calling women “girls.” I figured this was life’s way of getting me to look deeper into the issue.

The feminist movement worked hard for women to be called “women,” and never girls. The term “girl” was considered diminutive and disempowering – a term associated with being a victim. The use of “woman,” on the other hand, was associated with confidence and power. In fact, as I understand it from those who were a little older than I was in the 70s, calling a woman a girl was like spitting in her face.

While I understand the argument of the feminist movement, I am wondering if today we actually give something up if we insist on being called a “woman” all of the time? Could we be abandoning our girlish playfulness and sensibilities? Could we be disenfranchising an important part of us that actually holds the key to our ultimate power as women?

The other question that comes to mind is: Is it okay for a woman to call other women girls and not okay for men to do this?

“I see many of my friends and acquaintances still using ‘girl’ when speaking of women, and sometimes when talking to a woman directly. I feel it’s disrespectful … Now, when I catch my friends speaking in this manner, if it’s an appropriate environment, I will call them on it. I try to be humble and considerate with this suggestion,” said Dan in his email.

How we address each other is important. There is no doubt about that.

I think my occasional turn toward calling other women (myself included) “girl” is a way to reclaim some of my own girl power. To me, this means a person who is fun, adventurous, exploratory and bold. A woman to me is strong, confident, responsible, nurturing and global in her thinking. Probably the most important piece to all of this is the integration of girl power with woman power in each woman herself, allowing a dance between the two.

While feminists made “woman” a hard and fast rule, could it be time to reopen the case? Could we be coming to a time when we need to reclaim “girl” to embrace all of the woman that we are?


Tabby Biddle is a writer and editor living in Santa Monica, CA. She specializes in helping women entrepreneurs and first-time authors get their message out. Additionally, she is the founder of Lotus Blossom Style, a yoga lifestyle company created to support women in their journey of personal transformation.

Healthy Aggression in Girls

Written by Tabby Biddle

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Gray, called my mom at home one day to tell her that she was worried about me playing soccer all of the time with the boys at recess. “She’s the only girl and I’m afraid it’s too rough for her. She might get hurt,” she said. Thankfully my mom just reported this call to me, and made no judgment or set any rules that forbade me from continuing my recess behavior. The next day, I was back out on the soccer field.

whip-it-sceneLast week I went to see Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut, “Whip It.” The story is about a teenage girl (played by Ellen Page) who has pretty much resigned her 17-year-old life to pleasing her mom through entering beauty pageants. She is suffering from boredom and self-esteem issues because she hasn’t found anything that really inspires her in her small Texas town. One day she tries out (in secret) for the roller derby and makes the team. She learns how to skate fast, weave in and out of other derby girls, do some tricks, and occasionally knock down some of her opponents. Ultimately she finds her power through the physical activity (and friendships) of the derby.

I am not advising knocking other girls down as a self-esteem tool, but I am suggesting that it is crucial for girls to have an outlet to express their physical drive and aggression.

Anger and physical aggression in girls and women are typically deemed inappropriate. We are taught to deny, suppress and hide these feelings. When they do show up, we tend to feel shame or guilt and try even harder to rein them in. This doesn’t always work out so well.

TheSecretLivesofGirls“Girls’ aggression comes out in other forms when it is reined in physically … Girls turn it against themselves: through eating disorders, self-mutilation, hypercriticism about their talents and bodies, and depression.” says Sharon Lamb, clinical psychologist and author of The Secret Lives of Girls. In other words, when not permitted to express their aggression outwardly, girls aggress against themselves.

The taboo of physical aggression for girls and women can show up in another form called “relational aggression.” You got it – The Mean Girls stuff. “This is not about guns. Rarely even about fists … the weapons are subtle and sophisticated — whispers, lies, the upward rolling of an eyeball, the kind of backstabbing that does not require a knife,” says Susan Wellman, national expert in the field of relational aggression and Founder of The Ophelia Project.

There is one place where aggression in girls is generally supported: sports. The GirlsSoccerroller derby is a fine example. The problem is that many schools across the country, in order to save money, have either eliminated their physical education programs or drastically cut them. Not only is this a physical health issue for girls (and boys), but a psychological one. “When we deny women aggressive possibilities, we potentially diminish their being,” says University of California anthropologist Victoria Burbank.

“Being a full human being means having the capacity for both compassion and anger and frustration. Along with the former comes the ability to care; with the latter the ability to act aggressively and be angry,” says Sharon Lamb.

What if girls could own their aggression and even felt entitled to it? What would that look like beyond the playing field? What would that feel like?

I don’t think I’ll be joining up with the roller derby anytime soon, but I am sure glad I played some soccer in my school days.


Tabby Biddle is a writer and editor specializing in helping women entrepreneurs and emerging authors get their message out. Additionally she is the founder of Lotus Blossom Style, a yoga lifestyle company created to support women in their personal transformation. She lives in Santa Monica, CA.