“These are things I want to be when I grow up: number one, a pop star, number two, a rock star, number three, a writer, number four, a doctor, number five, a vet, and number six, a mommy.” -Ruby Carr, feminist, seven and three quarter year old
Amy Poehler’s new web series from ON Networks, “Smart Girls at the Party,” is pretty great. In each installment (of which there are so far just a few), Poehler along with two of her friends, Meredith Walker and Amy Miles, interview a pre-teen girl (or girls) on a specific topic about which each girl is passionate or has particular knowledge. So far, episodes have featured a young writer, a budding feminist, and a pair of sisters discussing their relationship and future episodes are set to feature girls passionate about everything from gardening to music to yoga. The episodes definitely skirt the fine line of cutesiness sometimes, but I think Poehler does a pretty good job of taking the girls seriously and not really talking down to them. She manages to keep a genuinely straight face during introductions like: “With us today is singer, actor, dancer, musician, feminist, entrepreneur, and skate boarder, seven and three quarter year old, Ruby Carr.”
It’s just great to see a forum which represents the voices of engaged, interested, quirky, opinionated and, yes, smart young girls as opposed to so much of what is geared to girls these days (the whole Bratz mentality–provocative message tees, makeover spa packages for 7 year olds, etc). To me, this sort of reminded me of New Moon magazine, a magazine for pre-teen girls that I subscribed to oh so many (more than ten!) years ago (and which a quick Google search reveals is still going strong). This magazine was a similar kind of forum, sort of for-girls-by-girls, with most if not all of the content, including editorials, factual articles, creative writing, poems and art generated by young girls. I think it’s really important for girls at this age to be reminded that their worth lies in more than just how cute or skinny they are. There are so many societal messages screaming exactly the opposite at young women even before they hit adolescence and adulthood that it’s vital to provide these kinds of counterpoints.
Speaking from personal experience, I know that it’s incredibly hard for young girls, even smart girls, to hold on to a sense of internal self-worth and a belief in their entitlement to speak up and voice their opinions, especially as they reach the cusp of childhood and begin to enter adolescence. This is a time already fraught with confusion and insecurity for children, but these things are magnified for girls who cannot help but become increasingly aware of the values systems, the codes, models, and expectations of acceptable femininity imposed and enforced by our culture in myriad forms.
I agree with Jezebel’s assessment that it’s pretty jarring to find that the sponsor of this show is Barbie. Indeed, Barbie advertisements bookend each online episode. I know that in order to get worthwhile things done it’s often necessary to take funding from less than ideal sources, but in this case, the sponsorship seems absolutely antithetical to the message the show is trying to forward and it’s pretty disappointing. But, I suppose I’ll just have to give the shows viewership credit and assume that these girls are aware enough, smart enough, to be selective and discerning viewers.