Guest post: Conversations about education and possibilities

This is a guest post from Meaghan Byrne. Meaghan (@Missmjbyrne) worked for 10 x 10, a social action campaign that co-produced “Girl Rising,” for a few months out of college. She works for R/GA, and tutors at The Lower East Side Girls Club.

With Sheryl Sandberg’s upcoming book Lean In, and on-going debates about the so-called opt-out movement, (opt out of what? living? Existentially, this term continues to confuse me), there has been quite a lot of buzz around women’s professional progression and their choices, particularly in the United States.

These are critical discussions – and people like Sheryl and Marissa Mayer make it possible to aspire. They create the sphere of new possibilities. The point is not that you will make it, but that you could. That you might be able to if you have the gumption, the right resources, and quite a bit of luck.

Notable articles in Dissent Magazine and The Atlantic have pointed out that we can’t all be Sheryl Sandberg (or even Anne-Marie Slaughter) in the workplace, too, emphasizing the type of service industry jobs that women do not because they’re opting-in, but because they have to in order to support themselves and their families. These are all valid arguments in that they’re being argued at all. I love to see people speaking out passionately about women’s options to excel.

Less attention has been paid to the root of all these discussions. That is, education and mentorship of young women and girls in all social strata, and in various geographic locations, many of which offer almost zero options to young women who are would-be computer scientists or novelists.

Girl Rising is an attempt to shift those conversations, particularly toward young girl’s education and opening their worlds to the possibility of making choices, like attending middle and high school, that many of us take for granted.  In some ways, it is both the chicken and the egg of Sheryl Wu Dunn and Nick Kristof’s Half the Sky, which focused how investing in women leads to economic progress and greater re-investment girl’s education.

Having already garnered quite a bit of attention at Sundance, Girl Rising is a must see not only for anyone interested women’s education and the “developing world” (I hate that term), but also for friends and family who have not had exposure to these types of stories.

Transcript below the jump

If Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, and Hillary Clinton have made it possible for the archetype of the powerful woman to exist, and for young women to aspire to pursue any kind of career, Girl Rising should flip that optic and make us think about what resources and mentorship girls, in the United States, Peru, Ecuador, Egypt – world over – need to succeed. Maybe then the conversations can focus on not what is possible, but how to make more possibilities available to girls in both New York City and Papa New Guinea.

It’s also just a thrill to watch a mix of young girls go out into the world and kick ass.

[Voiceover from newscasts]

Tonight, one of the bravest girls in the world. Became renowned for demanding girls be given the right to education. Shot in the head on her school bus. She was a student who wanted to learn, but now she’s fighting to live.

[Narrator]

On screen text: She is not alone

I was 11 years old when my father arranged for me to be married.

On screen text: Teach you

I had heard about the thousands of girls sold to men in those places.

On screen text: Suma – Nepal

I can’t really talk about everything that happened to me here, but I will never forget.

On screen text: Change you

We have come to this house, the house of her master, to say you must set her free.

On screen text: That can’t be stopped

There is no miracle here, just a girl with dreams.

On screen text: In March 2013

I will read, I will study, I will learn 

If you try to stop me, I will just try harder. If you stop me, there will be other girls who will rise up and take my place. I am change.

On screen text: One girl at a time

I am my own master now.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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