Elevate Difference

Girls, Feminism, and Grassroots Literacies: Activism in the GirlZone

Set in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Girls, Feminism, and Grassroots Literacies follows the short life GirlZone, a nonprofit in Central Illinois. Founded by two women living in Urbana-Champaign, GirlZone offered nontraditional workshops and other hands-on learning opportunities for girls in the area and its outskirts. Ranging from skateboarding lessons to a bi-weekly radio show, GirlZone sounds like it was very cool indeed.

I was really excited to receive this book, but it was disappointing in a number of ways. First, it's a real downer to read about how a neat nonprofit that was girl-centered simply flopped. Second, you have to plow through an academic, dry writing style to get to what should be the exciting meat of the book. It's written like a case study—notwithstanding the absence and misuse of punctuation, which grates on the nerves—rather than a narrative of what really seems like groundbreaking social work.

What is exciting is reading the interviews with girls who were activists in grade school, and finding out that they went on to become employed as journalists, radio DJs, and independent media producers. What's sad is that many of GirlZone's internal debates centered around whether or not to openly call themselves a feminist organization. While it's clear that the organization never had a solid funding or board structure, it's maddening to think that, being a nonprofit that focused on girls exclusively, they never really had a fair shot at funding. The author and one of GirlZone's founders, Aimee, both argue this point, and the statistics agree: Sheridan-Rabideau cites the fact that for every four private foundation grants to boys' groups, only one is given for girls.

One thing I did like about this book is that it made me, as a fundraising professional, want to go out and do something about that. It's high time for those numbers to change.

Written by: M.L. Madison, April 12th 2009