What do girls really want? Michelle Obama for President!
Teenage girls talk about role models, abortion rights and Kim Kardashian
What’s great about being a girl? Girls “don’t have to look hard or tough”. Transition year students from Mercy Secondary School, Inchicore, Dublin, speaking on the UN International Day of the Girl. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Hard as it is for some of us to believe, there is a whole generation of young women for whom the Spice Girls mean nothing. Sure, some of the girls at Mercy Secondary School in Inchicore, Dublin, have heard of them, but Mel C, Mel B, Emma Bunton, Geri Halliwell and Victoria Beckham got together in 1994 – seven years before this group was even born.
Some of these 15-year-olds have seen Project Everyone’s recent remake of the Spice Girls’ iconic Wannabe video as part of a UN campaign to eradicate injustice and poverty around the world, but all of them will have rely on their mums to remember the original.
Yet while they might not be acquainted with the ageing girl group, these young women have no problem with the concept of “girl power”. They will tell you what they want, what they really, really want. On this International Day of the Girl, all you have to do is listen.
They actually quite like being girls, they say.
“Girls find it easier to express themselves through their emotions, through their clothes and their make-up than boys do,” says Kym Fallon from Drimnagh. Alessandra Diaz from James’s Street says girls have “more control over their own minds”, and she loves that.
Diana Gabor from Inchicore pins the joys of being a girl down to having more options than boys because girls “don’t have to look hard or tough”. They are able to show more emotions than boys and can change the way they look at the drop of a proverbial hat.
The girls think being able to carry and have children is a gift that will keep on giving. Many love the idea of eventually being pregnant.
“Boys will never give birth to a human being,” says Stacey Torres from Cork Street. She quite likes that feeling of power.
VProject Everyone: #WhatIReallyReallyWant...
The girls agree before segueing into a period of mourning for their, yes, periods. Periods are one of the bad things about being a girl, they say. They can hurt, so they are literally a pain. Boys are spared that one, which must be nice, they think.
Hit by hormones
Hand in hand with periods go hormones. Ella Shannon and Karla Byrne from Inchicore agree. So does Saoirse Doona from James’s Street. “Going through your teenage years and the changes in your body and hormones is hard. Trying to control your feelings and emotions is a constant battle.”
As the girls talk about being on the cusp of physical changes, their thoughts move from painful periods to the joy of pregnancy to the choices they have, as girls in Ireland, over their reproductive systems.
Kym Fallon is annoyed. “Abortion should be available here for you. What if you are sexually abused or raped? What if you are too young or too poor to have a child? You shouldn’t have to go to another country to get an abortion. And girls will not abuse that choice. That is insulting.”
Many heads nod.
Meanwhile, music transports them to a new place. They might be too young to know the Spice Girls, but they certainly get girl power. They have their own role models for their own generation.
There’s a lot of love in the room for Beyoncé. If I Were a Boy is one of their favourite tracks. Amber Rose and Demi Lovato get a shout-out for their involvement in the slutwalk and anti-bullying movements. And Saoirse says Adele should be right up there for saying that “it is okay to be sad when you want to be”, and for being herself and showing body-shamers where to stick it.
“Harry Potter girl” Emma Watson is popular, while Kim Kardashian gets mixed reviews for being her own woman yet being adjudged to do little for the rest of her gender. Nobel winner Malala Yousafzai gets a bigger shout-out, especially as the group went on a school trip to see the film He Named Me Malala last Nollaig na mBan. They all agree that Yousafzai is awesome.
Hillary and the 2 Marys
Jodie White from Fatima Mansions says she doesn’t know any female politician before she launches into a Hillary Clinton appreciation speech. Pushed, she also mentions former Irish presidents Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese. Go Jodie, we all think.
Niamh McGuirk says Michelle Obama is excellent. Everyone agrees that she should be the next president of the United States, but as that job is probably taken, the girls look to the future. May be they can persuade the US’s current First Lady, one day.
Bringing it all back home, Kym Fallon says local TD Joan Collins is a great role model. Unfortunately for Collins, Kym wants to be a politician herself and may well be looking for a local seat down the road.
The girls think there is no reason girls shouldn’t get paid the same for doing the same jobs. They move quickly on to the topic of female pilots, and agree that they actually prefer women drivers “as they are more careful than men”.
The future of air travel looks bright, as does the future for these girls. And then Diana Gabor says: “If a boy can do something, why can’t a girl?” and they are off.
One hundred years after the 1916 Easter Rising, we are sitting across from Richmond Barracks and someone just mentioned the war.