Defining Power

Introduction:

Talking about power doesn’t come easily or naturally for most girls and women. Yet, whether a girl talks to you about it or not, she is digesting ideas about the power she possesses - or lacks - every day. This activity provides a way to have a thoughtful conversation about what she’s digesting, be it the traditional, media-driven notions of power, more next-generation, progressive ideas about power, or both. 

Conversation Tips:

Please note, almost any discussions of power can be emotionally heavy for you, the adult. But strong opinions or “telling” a girl what to think defeats the purpose here. Let a girl go first in sharing opinions and use a 3:1 rule. For every 3 things she says, you say one.  

Goals:

• Develop a deeper understanding of how mainstream culture defines power

• Develop a fresh perspective for how to define power in life as a girl

Do This Together:

1. Together, decide on a definition of power.

2. Fold a piece of paper into thirds.  On the tops of the page write the words “power-over”,“power-under”, and “powerful”.

3. Flip through magazines to pull images that represent these words.

4. After you’ve both finished your collages, ask some open ended questions:

- What did you notice about their collage?

- Are there any themes?

- Who did they mark as powerful and why?

- Do certain groups of people have more power in our society/or community?  (i.e. men, white folks, rich people, police officers, etc). If so, why do they think that is?

4. Now read these ideas of power - Power Circle, Power Source, Power House, Power Surge and Power Play. Ask her these closing questions:

- How do these definitions of power support or defy more traditional ones? 

- What do you think is powerful about yourself? 

Defining Play: Public Speaking Skills

Introduction:

“Speaking While Female” (SWF), a recently coined term, diagnoses the problem of women being interrupted and silenced in corporate environments. Whether it’s being constantly interrupted or a fear of being perceived as too aggressive, being silenced comes at a cost. This can be missed opportunities to share promotion-landing ideas or feeling chronically excluded in a workplace culture. For many girls, long before they encounter being silenced in the workplace, a fear of speaking up takes root. Speaking up in class becomes problematic for many. But a girl needs to understand that speaking out – in public or in a small group setting – gives her valuable cultural currency, a tool for being able to help alternate between differing cultural norms for behavior.  This activity prompts practice in speaking up with confidence and provides context for ways the broader culture can make it challenging for a girl to do so.

Conversation Tips:

Tell her about a time where you felt great about speaking in public – a small group counts. Tell her about a time where you felt lousy about speaking in public. Explain what helps you overcome your fear or hesitance in speaking up. Teach her about phenomena such as “Speaking While Female” and “The Imposter Syndrome."

Goals:

• Develop a deeper understanding of the importance of public speaking as cultural currency

• Develop a fresh understanding of ways to practice public speaking so she’s less likely to silence herself

Do This Together:

1.  Ask, what is an issue she cares deeply about? Why? It’s helpful to ask open-ended questions; you are aiming for deeper responses and explanations instead of yes or no answers. Draw on a past conversation where she expressed a passion to get her thinking about issues she’d want to speak up about.

2.  Ask her to develop a 2-3 minute personal story that sums the issue. Teach her to tell a simple, personally meaningful story – one that is concrete and personal – before she inserts data she knows.

3.  Challenge her to practice it in front of you. For many girls, a huge part of confidence comes from speaking truths to a friendly, even possibly like-minded audience first. Developing confidence in her idea will make her less concerned with “likeability”. A huge part of practice is working through the emotions – the fear – that diminish her confidence, and teaching her to name her fears as she moves through them.

4.  Listen actively and give feedback. Stay focused on what she is saying. Bookend praise – “your point about the rainforest was crystal clear” with critique – “next time shorten the part about China’s role in climate change because you lost me.”

5.  Now read Power Play and the skills that it takes to build this power. Closing question: What is a skill she needs to develop related to this power? Who can help her?

Defining Surge: Using Choice Not Chance

Introduction:

A big part of the coming of age experience for a girl is battling a vague sense of powerlessness, of things feeling out of her control. Outwardly she may look like she is succeeding in school or elsewhere, but this can be deceiving.

Psychologists and youth development researchers alike describe the power that comes from replacing a things-happen-to-me mindset with an I-make-things-happen-for-myself mindset as self-efficacy.  

Since a big part of developing confidence for a girl is learning to make choices for herself, the activity conveys how chancy it is to not consider your own ability to say yes or say no, essentially the control you do have to make decisions that reflect what you value.

Conversation Tips:

Give some thought to your own triggers when it comes to words like choice and values. Stay conscious of the ways you may want to judge or control how she responds to the activity questions.  Remind her that you are not judging her.

Goals:

 

• Develop a deeper understanding of the concept of choice

• Develop a fresh understanding of when she makes decisions from a place of choice

Do This Together

1.  Write up a few questions like these on slips of paper:

Will I try out for basketball?  

Will I sign up for drama camp?  

- When a girl is being bullied on social media, do I stop reading it, or do I hit ‘like’?

- If I was asked to smoke pot to keep a friendship, would I do it?

- Others can be far-fetched, presenting a life-or-death ethical dilemma, like “If there were people trying to escape a burning building, and the only option was to leave an elderly person behind so others could get out, what I would?’

2. Pull up the online magic eight-ball. Then ask her to write up more questions. Play a few rounds using the questions you both wrote up. Once you are done playing, ask, when is a time you made decisions from a place of choice, not chance? Or used personal not popular values as a guide?  

3. Now read Power Surge and the skills that it takes to build it. Ask the closing questions: What is a skill she needs to develop related to this power? Who can help her? 

Defining House: Body Talk

Introduction:

We live in a culture where a girl can end up with shame about, or fear for, her body, a culture of criticism, objectification, “locker-room” talk - and in the extreme - gender-based violence.  

No matter who you are or how you identify as a female, the media and society tell you a perfect girl or woman is “skinny, white, blond hair, blue eyes, sexy but innocent, childlike, and submissive." With so many contradictory messages, it’s no wonder that a girl often choose behaviors that are harmful to or completely disconnected from her body. This activity opens the door to media literacy and how the media influences standards of beauty and self-image.

Conversation Tips:

If strong emotions about body image come up for her during the conversation, don’t downplay these. Don’t say things like “you’re being hard on yourself”. Instead, listen and let her express her feelings. If she talks about being strong in her body, praise her for the effort that goes in to playing sports or eating healthy. And don’t make body shaming comments about yourself. Accept compliments about your own body size and – this is important – express that satisfaction within earshot.  

Goals:

• Develop a deeper understanding of how the media influences standards of beauty and self-image.

• Develop a fresh understanding of the messages a girl values about beauty and self-image for a girl

Do This Together:

1.  Watch the Evolution of a Model commercial with a girl. Talk about what you saw in the video:

- How did the model transform?

- What does the media tell us about ‘beauty’ and what we are supposed to look like?

- How has that shaped your personal identity of beauty?

2.  Reconstructing: If you were to write a script for a new commercial about beauty for girls what would it be?

3.  Think about who would you cast? What would your message be? What would you want girls your age or younger to see on commercials, magazines, or tv?

*If you have access to a video camera or phone camera, have the girls shoot the commercial and share it under #MyPowerStory.

4.  Read Power House and the skills that it takes to build it. Ask this closing question: What is a skill she needs to develop related to this power? Who can help her develop it?  

Defining Source: Building Identity Instead of Image

Introduction:

When a girl digests the stereotypes she encounters in the world around her, she can develop a false image of self that diminishes her aspirations and limits her potential.

Pride in one’s identity is a potent antidote. When a girl unburdens herself of the (often unconscious) shame she has internalized because of the lower status historically assigned to her by her gender, race, class, or pressure to assimilate, she develops resilience and a feeling of worthiness.  This activity is a firsthand way of beginning to explore history and identity in the face of culture-bound expectations.

Conversation Tips:

Be careful NOT to assume your experiences of discrimination or the stereotypes you encountered growing up are the same. Avoid projecting your experiences on her. Try to stop saying things like, “I know exactly how you feel” and “That happened to me.”  Even if there are similarities, you likely don’t really “know” what she feels. Let her tell you.

Goals:

• Develop a deeper understanding of what truly makes her who she is - her history, beliefs and identities

• Develop a fresh understanding of stereotypes she has experienced as discriminatory and harmful and those experiences and people that help her gain pride in her true identities

Do This Together:

1.  Inspired by George Ella Lyon's "Where I'm From" poem, print out this template from Freeology and fill in the blanks accordingly.

2.  Share your poems. Ask her: What did you like and value about the activity? What was difficult or challenging?

3.  Explore the idea of building an image versus building an identity. Ask her: Are there times when you put up a front or false image for others? What are the circumstances? Can you name a time where you experienced a stereotype as discriminatory and harmful? What are times where you are doing experiences that help you show your brightest, most honest self? When’s a time you felt pride because you shared belonging with others based on your values?

4.  Now read Power Source and the skills that it takes to build it. Ask her this closing question: What is a skill you need to develop related to this power? Who can help you? 

Defining Circle: Raising the Bar in Relationships

Introduction:

One general difference between the way a boy and a girl relate to the world is the greater weight a girl gives to relationships when she makes a life decision. This can be a significant strength, but can also hurt a girl when she surrounds herself with others who bring her down. It is important for a girl to recognize the power she gains or loses from her relationships. This activity provides a way to have a thoughtful conversation about which relationships in her circle elevate her, which bring her down, or both. It also helps her reflect on skills she needs to develop mutual, healthy relationships.  

Conversation Tips:

Don’t step in too early or too much as a girl explores the healthy and unhealthy qualities of her relationships.  You may want to overprotect, interpret or “rescue” her from how she truly feels. Try to share using a 3:1 rule (for every 3 things she says, you say 1).

Goals:

• Develop a deeper understanding of characteristics of unhealthy and healthy relationships and people in her life who fall into these lists

• Develop a fresh understanding of skills needed to end unhealthy relationships and build healthy ones

Do This Together:

1.  Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper.  On one side write characteristics found in valuable and healthy relationships (i.e. fun, common interests, respect, you can say what you really think, you can disagree and still be friends). On the other side write characteristics found in invaluable and unhealthy relationships (i.e. 'I never feel good when I hang out with them, they are mean to me, etc.).

2.  Explore the differences in the lists. Have her write down three people in her life that fall into one list, the other or both. Ask her: How does she feel when she spends time with various people she's listed? Why does she spend time with people that are on the 'unhealthy' lists? What is at risk if she cuts off an unhealthy relationship? This can be complex, for example it could be someone that she doesn’t feel she has a choice about (i.e. on her team at school, in her family).

3.  Explore the idea of expecting more from relationships. Ask her: What are the skills she brings to relationships?  How could she use these skills to strengthen the relationships she likes or better negotiate the ones that she struggles in?

4. Now read Power Circle and the skills that it takes to build it. Ask her this closing question: What is a skill she needs to develop related to this power? Who can help her?

Power Play: Book and Movie Activity

Introduction:

When a girl values her own leadership style and can challenge cultural norms that isolate her, she has greater potential to access opportunity. To explore this power, pick out a book or movie from the power play category. Find prompting questions below to answer after you've finished one of the books or movies. 


Power Play: When a girl understands and has the power of deciphering unwritten codes of dominant culture, she can:

Define leadership for herself

- Navigate and challenge cultural norms and obstacles to access opportunity

- Speak confidently in public

- Negotiate for something she wants in the dominant culture


Questions:

1.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character using the power to navigate dominant culture?

2.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character lacking power in the dominant culture?

3.  During the course of the book or movie, how does the main character grow or change as a result of decoding culture and navigating norms where she feels excluded? Can she change these norms?

4.  In your life, what are ways you decode dominant culture and show leadership in a way that you are comfortable with? How do you challenge or try to change cultural norms when you feel excluded?

5.  What is one of the skills from the list above that you want to work on with a friend or mentor?

Power House: Book and Movie Activity

Introduction:

When a girl understands how her emotions impact decisions she makes about her body, she holds the power to make better choices for herself. To explore this power, choose a book or movie from the power house category. Find prompting questions below to answer after you've finished one of the books or movies.


Power House: When a girl connects emotions to decisions she makes about her body so she is better equipped to deal with body image issues and practice self-care. With this power, she can:

-  Know what body image, health and sexual wellness mean for her personally

-  Understand how she personally reacts to emotions and how that influences decisions about her body

-  Understand what desire feels like in her body

-  Define what self-care is for her personally


 

Questions:

1. Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character using the power in her body?

2.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character lacking power in her body?

3.  During the course of the book or movie, does the main character grow or change as a result of understanding how emotions impact her relationship to her body?  

4.  In your life, what are ways you understand how your emotions impact decisions you make about your body?  

5.  What is one of the skills from the list above that you want to work on with a friend or mentor?

Super Girl

Introduction:

One of the first activities I ever did with girls at Powerful Voices is an activity called Super Girl. In this activity, a girl creates a mythical superhero that reflects what she values and identifies what she fears. 

The point here is to be creative and imaginative in talking about power and how to combat real problems. You can also use these questions for a group conversation. 

Supplies needed:

Paper, Markers

Conversation Tips:

Give examples. Draw on past conversations where she may have shared what she fears or hopes as a girl. What are topics you’ve discussed previously, or issues she is facing at school? Ask her to identify when she used her power positively or negatively in different situations. I've heard girls mention powers like "eyeglasses that allow her to see another person's perspective and help others see hers so that there will be less fighting and more understanding" or "a magic ring that freezes time so that she can think before she makes big decisions." Listen actively. Stay focused on what she is saying. Don't answer the question for her. By jumping into answering the question for her, you are taking away her power. It may even lead you to find openers for future conversations with her. Challenge her to think beyond material and physical appearances. 

Instructions:

1.  Ask, what is a girl super power she wishes she had? Why? It's helpful to ask open-ended questions with young people. You are aiming for deeper responses and explanations instead of yes or no answers. Use pop culture references (songs, tv shows, ads that sexualize females) to engage her in thinking about issues she'd want to fix with her superpower. 

2.  Using the piece of paper, have her draw the outline of a Super Girl to reflect her superpower. The Super Girl may look however she imagines her to look, there is no right or wrong way to draw it. 

3.  Include a written explanation as to how, when, and why her power is used. 

4.  Discuss actions she can take to channel this superpower and decide on one that she can begin to do. Create an action plan for how she can become more like her Super Girl.

Power Circle: Book and Movie Activity

Introduction:

A girl who elevates the quality of her relationships elevates the quality of the choices she makes in her life. To explore this power, pick out a book or movie from the power circle category. Find prompting questions below to answer after reading the book or watching the movie. 


Power Circle: When a girl chooses people who elevate her game - friends, intimate partners, parents, teachers, and eventually co-workers - she can:

- Engage in healthy conflict

- Negotiate for what she needs

- Show vulnerability

- Proudly share her passions with those around her


Questions:

 1.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character using power in her relationships?

 2.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character lacking power in her relationships?

 3.  During the course of the book, does the main character grow or change as a result of who is in her circle of relationships?

 4.  In your life, who elevates how you show up in your life and the world around you?  Who lowers the bar?

 5.  What is one of the skills from the list above that you want to work on with a friend or mentor?  

Power Surge: Book and Movie Activity

Introduction:

When a girl uses Power Surge to make a decision, using choice to say yes or no based on her values, she grows to believe that her actions make a difference. To explore this power, pick out a book or movie from power surge books and movies. After watching or reading, answer the questions below.


Power Surge: When a girl understands that she has choices, she does not leave her life to chance and can:

- Use personal not popular culture values as a guide

- Understand media literacy skills

- Make decisions without concern for pleasing others

- Believes her actions make a difference


Questions:

1.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character using power in her choices?

2.  Reflecting on the list above, and using passages from the book or movie, where do you see the main character lacking power in her choices?

3.  During the course of the book or movie, does the main character grow or change as a result of the choices she makes?

4.  In your life, what are choices you’ve made that have had the biggest difference in improving your life? Which have made your life harder?

5.  What is one of the skills from the list above that you want to work on with a friend or mentor?

Understanding Adultism

Instructions:

Watch Adora Svitak's Ted Talk "What adults can learn from kids" with a girl.

Questions:

  • What do you think about Adora’s comments on adults and how they use their power?
  • Do you have any adults in your life that you feel respected by?
  • What does a respectful & reciprocal relationship with an adult look like?
  • What do you think is possible if adults listened to young people more?