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Project Girl

Below is an interview of Kelly Parks Snider from Project Girl by Peggy Moss. The image is a sample of art from Kelly Parks Snider titled “Commercial Land.”

What is Project Girl?

Project girl is an organization that I co-founded with video producer Jane Bartell. Project Girl is a national girl led initiative that combines art, media literacy and youth led activism into a movement aimed at encouraging girls to be more critical interpreters of this world.

Project Girl helps girls become literate in all media forms-TV, internet, movies…. Project Girl helps girls become better interpreters of this world, more critical consumers. We also expect young girls to be the reformers. I believe they are the solution.

What made you start Project Girl?

The origin of an idea is often difficult to define. But Project Girl was born in a box of old stuff that I was rummaging through in a junk store. I found some old yearbooks and as I looked through the old books, I noted some comparisons between my youth and the complex lives of our children’s culture. That moment got me thinking about today’s culture, the word wars and our kids’’ contemporary culture, a culture that wrongfully normalizes and often glamorizes disrespect. From the moment our kids begin speaking, they are exposed to cartoon characters with big bad attitudes, negative tendencies, scowley grimaces, images of over sexualized young girls, TV shows that glamorize violence, the stereotypes perpetuated by advertisements, excessive consumption and attitudes in the media that show nothing but girl fighting and competing. I am the mother of four teenagers. It seems that the absurd has become the living reality for many of our kids. I asked the question “why”

Why are girls dissatisfied with their bodies?
Why do we stereotype?
Why are girls having trouble getting along with each other and their parents?
Why are young girls so sexy so soon?

As Jane and I talked to parents, other kids and educators there seemed to have a girl will be girl’s attitude. I found this appalling and not a true representation of the lives of the girls that we knew. We didn’’t agree with this. My household is surrounded with girls, active girls, interesting and wonderfully unique girls. So we looked into it further. We started researching, obsessing, networking, going to leading thinkers around the country and asking questions, gathering information. We knew what we had to say was very important but we also know that we must say all of this in a way that youth can hear the message. When our kids were born in 1992 advertisers were spending $6.2 billion marketing to children. By the time our kids were ready to go to Kindergarten just five years later, that amount had nearly doubled to $12 billion. Now it’s over $18 billion. We felt vindicated, and angry. We also found out that in the ‘80’s, right before our kids were born, kids were being exposed to 1500 commercial media messages a day. Today, that number has grown to 3,000 images. Our kids are growing up in this cultural field that’’s firmly rooted in high stakes marketing. They are being shaped by it, defined by it, and in many cases, harmed by it. I realized that interrogating and thinking critically about the only culture that you have ever known can be difficult. So we collected a diverse group of girls who met once a month for a year to act as our board of advisers. The girls taught us how to say things in ways girls could hear it. They taught us how to network with other girls. And most importantly, they showed us that girls are hungry to have a meaningful and significant role in improving the lives of others.

What do you dream of it becoming?

Our vision is to increase the momentum and reach of Project Girl’s youth based mobilization. We will continue to work community by community. We do this four ways:

The Project Girl Art Exhibit travels from community to community. It consists of mixed-media canvases, sculptures, multi-media art installation, and video reflections, and very importantly, art produced by local girl artists. When we bring the exhibit into a community we precede it with workshops, trainings, partnering with local organizations that serve kids. This organizes and mobilizes the community, creating enthusiasm and presents a platform for kids to have a voice and play a meaningful role in reform. The traveling art exhibition explores media literacy themes and offers community groups, schools, and organizations the opportunity to explore and reflect on relevant, fundamental themes, and encourage essential social reform.

Project Girl Workshops have been developed to train the trainers. These workshops are for educators, girl group leaders, girl allies, and concerned parents. These half-day or full-day training workshops are designed to equip program facilitators with the necessary tools to successfully conduct independent Project Girl workshops.

Project Girl Supporting Curriculum Materials. To help spread the love and because Jane and I actually have families and lives of our own and can’’t be all places at all times waving the Project Girl flag, we’’ve created supportive and easy-to-use curriculum, companion DVDs and other workshop facilitation materials for girl allies and group leaders, educators, and concerned parents looking for help in navigating the sometimes choppy waters encountered when critically examining today’’s popular culture and help attack the negative effects of media messages on the lives of adolescent girls. Done in collaboration with Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., co-creator Hardy Girls Healthy Women, author of “Girlfighting” and “Packaging Girlhood” (with Sharon Lamb), Professor of Education, Colby College.

What is unique about Project Girl’s approach?

The media education movement in the U.S. focuses on kids as consumers of culture. The effort has been to change young persons from being passive viewers to being questioning consumers. While these efforts have created an indispensable foundation for all of us working in media education in the U.S. We believe that we need to broaden that role for our youth. Rather than limiting kids’ role to being mere consumers of our culture, we expect them to be reformers, —the activists and the story tellers of their world. Their story is a real story, not a Hollywood contrived story. Youth participation in Project Girl is central and the girl’s ideas are paramount. This is the magical difference that defines Project Girl. This is art in action and this is the powerful difference. Project Girl is challenging issues that young people care about and are willing to give their time and energy to. The key to mobilizing young people, giving young people leadership roles as organizers, planners, advocates and educators. The Project Girl art created by girls is the mobilizing component. The forceful expression. We seek out ways to shake up the status quo, share power with youth, and using the project girl traveling art exhibitions, community outreach programming, project girl workshops and the project girl curriculum. Project Girl promotes youth voices throughout communities in America. The goal of Project Girl is to make it possible for more girls to become smarter consumers of media. What makes Project Girl special and unique is its arts-based approach. We use art as a means to educate, inspire, reflect, and transform.

What’s your advice for girls today?

Advertisers will do just about anything to get you to buy their products including sales techniques that rely on illusion, deception, and false promises. The advertising messages and images created with these techniques are intended to get girls to react emotionally, rather than mindfully.

To explore the deception and trickery in advertising we focus on the image of the rat in the art collage (see attachment). The rat image becomes a reminder for the girls to always be suspicious – “I think I smell a rat.” Advertisers aren’’t concerned with helping girls. Their primary concern is to sell them products!

I would also suggest to girls to go to our website ProjectGirl.orgWe have an online gallery, animations, interactive activities and our Project Girl workbook: A Guide to Un-Mediafying your life. This is a great place to learn about art, activism and creating change. We also have a Project Girl Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ProjectGirl and a youtube channel: http://www.youtube/projectgirlusa.

The media education movement in the U.S. focuses on kids as consumers of culture. The effort has been to change young persons from being passive viewers to being questioning consumers. While these efforts have created an indispensable foundation for all of us working in media education in the U.S. We believe that we need to broaden that role for our youth. Rather than limiting kids’ role to being mere critical consumers of our culture, we expect them to be reformers, —the activists and the story tellers of their world. Their story is a real story, —not a Hollywood contrived story. Youth participation in Project Girl is central and the girls’ ideas are paramount. This is the magical difference that defines Project Girl. This is art in action and this is the powerful difference.

Project Girl uses art as the vehicle to attract girls, to promote thoughtful dialogue, and to give girls the means to reflect and express their views. It challenges and gives girls the means to be producers of their own real culture, not just passive receivers of a culture that’s created for them to sell them products.

We’’ve found through our workshops that the issues Project Girl is challenging are issues that young people care about and are willing to give their time and energy to. The key to mobilizing young people giving young people leadership roles as organizers, planners, advocates and educators. The Project Girl art created by girls is the mobilizing component. The forceful expression. We seek out ways to shake up the status quo, share power with youth, and using the project girl traveling art exhibitions, community outreach programming, project girl workshops and the project girl curriculum. Project Girl promotes youth voices throughout communities in America. The goal of Project Girl is to make it possible for more girls to become smarter consumers of media. What makes Project Girl special and unique is its arts-based approach. We use art as a means to educate, inspire, reflect, and transform.

Tracee Sioux is a Law of Attraction Coach at www.traceesioux.com.  She is the author of Love Distortion: Belle, Battered Codependent and Other Love Stories. Contact her at traceesioux@gmail.com.

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