I started ROAR as a platform for women’s voices: women of different ages, ethnicities, sexual preferences and identities, socioeconomic backgrounds, faiths, etc. Every other month, five women take to our stage and bare pieces of their souls to the audience. In the marrow of my being, I believe that by using our voices, speaking up and out, we can change the world. There is palpable power in standing in our own space and truth, something denied to generations of women who came before us.
After two adult ROAR shows and receiving a warm and enthusiastic reception from audiences, I started to think of the teen girls I know and the issues they’re facing. They were all born in a post–Columbine and 9/11 world. School shootings. Internet and real-world predators. Pressure from social media, marketing, and advertising. Bullying. Parents divorcing. Anxiety and depression. What did they have to say about the world around them?
I wanted to include these young hearts and minds in the conversations the adults were having, to listen and learn from each other, to form a bridge between all women. America is brilliant at dividing people, and I feel a strong sense of responsibility to unite where possible, and to strengthen people’s belief in themselves. Empowered women are more important than ever, and what better way to empower women than to empower our girls?
This was the birth of Girls ROAR, an intensive workshop experience culminating in a live-performance show. The girls approach us with topics they’re passionate about, and we help them craft their stories. For our most recent show, we had 12 participants from every background possible. Within one day, they were bonded. Within three weeks, they were a force. They are the most inclusive generation I’ve ever witnessed, and they have grave concerns about the way adults are handling things. As well they should.
During the last workshop, I asked the participants a series of five questions on film, and we edited it together for a short intro to the show. I asked each of them how they felt adults are missing the point. Every single one of them responded that they don’t feel heard. When they speak up about issues affecting them today, many of the adults around them dismiss their concerns, stating that they were teenagers once too, that the kids will live, and that they should stop being so dramatic.
Parent/child relationships are complex, and I understand that both sides have their own perspectives about each other. The girls’ answers were fascinating, nonetheless. I discovered that when kids talk about gender labels (including non-binary, pansexual, asexual, and queer), anxiety and depression, bullying, and violence, they frequently hear that they’re trying to get attention or making too much of the situation.
I disagree. These kids don’t see why they should be put into boxes created by people who don’t understand them. They don’t understand why whom they love is an issue to anyone. They’re terrified to go to school, and active-shooter drills add to their dread. They’re tired of adults who are too busy arguing to listen to each other. They’re tired of endless social pressure. They’re tired.
These brilliant young people are also a constant source of inspiration to me. They’re a big part of how I get through these troubled times. They have infinite courage and compassion, and I’m resolute in standing beside them as they find their places in this world. I will lend them my privilege in any way useful to keep them safe and advocate for their rights, dignity, and well-being. I will lend an ear whenever asked.
They are the future of this country, and I am in awe of their possibility. Girls matter, and they ROAR.
Find out more about Girls Roar and upcoming events here.