Why are headlines about girls always bad ones, asks Girl Museum’s Katie Weidmann.
Girl, 10, dies ‘after going into cardiac arrest’ on plane to London on Christmas Eve
The Boko Haram Girl Hostages Nobody Talks About
Homeless Man Hits 6-Year-Old Girl on Bus, Pulls Her Hair: Police
Man gets 27 years in girl’s prostitution case
Man jailed for sex with girl, 14
I have a daily Google Alert set for the word ‘girl’. As social media manager for Girl Museum, it’s an easy way to get a quick snippet of what’s happening with – and to – girls around the world.
Those headlines are from my 26 December alert. There was also a girl killed in a car crash, and another who shot herself with an unsecured handgun.
In more positive news, a country singer got engaged, a former Disney child star had a baby, and some Girl Scouts sang Silent Night. There’s a review of a memoir by a female scientist, a story of a police officer helping a young girl, and an article about a “Girl Gang” (a female art collective) recently formed in Des Moines, Iowa.
The positive headlines aren’t about girls – the Girl Gang founders are 25 and 31, and the author of the memoir is 47 – or are lacking substance. That’s par for the course. Except for the occasional puff piece, it’s rare to see girls in the news unless they’ve been assaulted, raped, or killed.
Would you know the name Malala Yousafzai if she hadn’t been shot? Probably not. She would be just another girl in a long line of those who are ignored, dismissed, or forgotten. Yousafzai is celebrated because she had the misfortune of being shot.
This is particularly depressing, as she had been an activist for girls’ education since 2008, four years before the Taliban shot her. Sadder still: if she had died, she would be just another person killed by the Taliban.
Founded by our ‘head girl’ Ashley E Remer in 2009, the online Girl Museum is the first and only museum in the world dedicated to celebrating girls and girlhood. Remer, an arts and museums professional, was frustrated by the lack of girls in museums. Girl Museum was her solution.
Though there are women’s museums and museums of childhood, there were no museums specifically about girls. In a world with museums for hammers (in Haines, Alaska), instant noodles (Osaka, Japan), and penises (Reykjavik, Iceland), there’s space for a museum dedicated to the experience of girlhood. Arguably, in a world where we have to explain why we need a museum about girls, not grills (though there’s probably one of those, too), there’s a definite need.
Although Girl Museum was created to fill gaps in the historical record, advocacy has always been a central part of our mission. We want to remind people that girls have always existed and contributed to society. They are worthy and deserving of not only having a voice, but being listened to. For every Bana Alabed, the seven-year-old who tweeted about the war from Aleppo (@AlabedBana), there are thousands of girls with no voice. Through our exhibitions we show girls they have a history of their own and are part of the greater culture.
Our approach to programming allows us to give today’s girls a say in how they are seen. Created in conjunction with the American Poetry Museum, Girl for Sale explores human trafficking by using the art and poetry of survivors. Both Surfer Girl and Gamer Girl look at the history of their topics, but also include stories of contemporary girls and young women. Girls have a forgotten history, but they also have a present to acknowledge, and a future to plan for.
This year holds a lot of promise for Girl Museum. Besides five new exhibitions, we’re launching Girl News International, an e-paper with stories of girls around the world. We’ll continue to produce our GirlSpeak podcast, highlight amazing girls and women on our Tumblr and publish blogs on girl-related topics throughout the week.
Lastly, we hope to schedule screenings of the documentary Girl Rising in some of our home cities. Beyond that? We’ll see what presents itself, and then we’ll remind the world that girls should be seen and heard there, too.
Girl Museum believes girls are the key to a brighter, better future and that girls deserve to have a museum of their own. By giving girls a space in which they can document, preserve, and present their history and culture, we empower girls to lead healthy, happy lives dedicated to creating a better world for all.
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Katie Weidmann is a writer, feminist, environmentalist, and general ‘ist’. She is continually looking for ways to justify the expense of two university degrees. When she's not wearing her social media manager hat for Girl Museum, she's attempting world domination through baked goods.