In 2001, when she was 6 years old, my daughter wrote: “only boys are allowed to be presidents, a lot of girls want to be presidents.” How do girls that young learn there's a limit to their aspirations? This question is always relevant, and especially now as we are address revelations of sexual harassment and issues long hidden by silence and denial.
Rise Up is an homage to the fierceness in girls, who with all their imagination and joy, rise through the perils and everyday sexism of patriarchal culture. I’m interested in picturing the subtle oppression that permeates the lives of girls, and the ways girl can transcend that oppression to gain agency and advocate for themselves.
Still, the everyday sexism and oppression of growing up female persists. Girls are sexualized early on, internalizing that sexualization to be perceived as worthy. We see how girls are touched, how they are bombarded by stereotyped ideals.
There’s been hopeful progress in the last several years alone with the rise of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, record numbers of women elected to office and girls’ participation in sports. We read about feminist artists, activists, athletes and writers every day. Feminism is popular now. Girl-power tee shirts and feminist baby books are everywhere.
With Rise Up, I add my voice to a powerful narrative that celebrates girls’ strengths, while acknowledging the challenges that remain.