SPARK and Teenage Activism
My name is Lexi St. John and I am currently a senior in high school. I have been an environmental activist throughout my high school career. I am the co-founder and president (with my twin sister Liza) of S.O.S. Go Green Club Inc., a 501(c)(3) non-profit that raises both money and awareness of the growing problems of drastic climate change, to educate schools and the community about practical everyday solutions that can solve these problems, and to help students assemble to aid the environment.
It was not easy starting an environmental club as a freshman girl in high school. It was difficult to get people to sign up let alone come to the meetings. But since then, our club has developed into an international non-profit, with three chapters in the US and one chapter in Thailand. We have raised thousands of dollars through water bottle drives, athletic shoe drives with Nike that turn rubber soles into playground surfaces, citations from Los Angeles for purchasing and planting trees in our neighborhood park, LA riverbank clean-up events, and a $2,000 grant from Wells Fargo Bank for community service work. Through this work, I have realized how important it is for young women to know they can make a difference, no matter what cause they choose to support.
Unfortunately, the media doesn’t support that message for girls based on the young female characters they choose to portray. I have always wanted to see a show on TV about a girl like me – smart, funny and focused on my goals (kind of like a Tina Fey character that teenage girls can relate to). I like clothes and make-up and boys as much as other girls, but there’s so much more to me than that. So I decided to extend my activism to try to influence the way girls are portrayed in the media.
When I read a book with a teenage female character I really identified with, I decided to see if I could turn it into a TV movie. I met with the author, Sabrina Bryan, an actress/singer known for her Cheetah Girl role on the Disney Channel, and explained my take on the story and how I would adapt it into a movie. She and her writing and producing partners were impressed enough to let me come up with a pitch. We took it to the Disney Channel over the summer, complete with a theme song that my sister and I wrote and recorded. I was in the room pitching when it hit me – I was sitting next to a Cheetah Girl! I grew up watching Cheetah Girl movies and Disney Channel shows, and I hope that one day I can develop a movie that will have the same effect that those shows had on me. We are currently writing the outline after getting notes from the network and are waiting to hear if they will make it.
Regardless of whether the project moves forward, this experience has taught me that being pro-active about something is the way to encourage change, no matter how old you are. Now that I am a senior in high school, I am already approached by new freshmen girls at my school who are excited about joining my non-profit environmental club and who are even encouraged to start organizations of their own. It’s important to let people in powerful media positions know what girls are really about and to give them alternatives to the kinds of young female characters they often put on TV and in movies. Real girls are so much more interesting than the grown-up or advertising world images we are surrounded by. I am proud to say that I have witnessed it, first hand.
This post is part of the SPARK blog tour: look for tomorrow's post at YES MEANS YES.
SPARK stands for Sexualization Protest: Action, Resistance, Knowledge. SPARK is both a Summit and a Movement designed to push back against the increasingly sexualized images of girlhood in the media and create room for whole girls and healthy sexuality. SPARK will engage teen girls to be part of the solution rather than to protect them from the problem.
The SPARK Summit will launch a grassroots movement to support and stand with girls. Scheduled forFriday October 22nd at Hunter College in New York City, the Summit is a day to speak out, push back on the sexualization of girls, and have fun while igniting a movement for girls’ rights to healthy sexuality. The Summit will give girls between the ages of 14-22 the information and tools they need to become activists, organizers, researchers, policy influencers, and media makers.
The Summit is focused on working with girl leaders and activists to jump start an intergenerational movement. Attendees will be girls (ages 14-22) and those working closely with them. There will also be a virtual Summit so that girls and adults who can’t make it to New York City can participate.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Environment, Feminism, Girls, Media
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, News, Sexuality, Gender bias, Television