Monday, June 18, 2012

Smart Girls Have More Fun

Think back to the first time you fell in love with Amy Poehler. Was it when she dazzled you as the precocious pre-teen Kaitlin alongside her stepfather REE-ICK? Perhaps it was when, with utter flatulence, she boasted in her one leggedness (jealous?) as the grossly loveable Amber. Your heart definitely skipped a beat when you watched her co-anchor Weekend Update with the separate-but-equally awesome Tina Fey, and you’ll never forget the moment you first heard her say, “Your stupid space car locked me in!”

What's not to love?
You are in love with Amy Poehler. We all are. And like the best kind of love, we continually find new reasons to love her more. I thought that her performance on Parks and Recreation was just it for me. I truly thought if I squeezed anymore love in my heart for Amy Poehler I wouldn’t have room for more practical loves like my love of hygiene and my love of plucking my potential unibrow.

But dadgum, she’s done it again, and my eyebrows are still separated by a substantial distance, thank God. I think I’m a little late to this party, but have you guys heard of Smart Girls at the Party? If you have, you already love it. My sister told me about it last week, and I watched every episode in one night. It was pretty easy to do considering that each episode is less than ten minutes long.

For those who haven’t seen it, Smart Girls at the Party is a web series created by best friends Amy Poehler, Amy Miles, and Meredith Walker. The show is essentially an interview between Amy Poehler and a girl…who is smart. These smart girls are kids with special abilities and interests who deserve to be celebrated with a dance party (which is how every episode ends). The show’s tagline is probably the best way to describe its intent: “the show that celebrates extraordinary individuals who are changing the world by being themselves.”

There was this episode with a rock band comprised of twelve-year-olds that call themselves Care Bears on Fire (I mean, in terms of branding, that’s probably not a great name, but whatever. They are freaking TWELVE and amazing). Another episode focused on these two sisters who actually liked each other and didn’t want to freeze each other’s training bras or fart on each other’s pillows. In still another episode, this wonderfully sweet girl takes the Amys and Meredith to the community garden she created. It made me wish for just a second that I wasn’t the accidental plant-murderer that I am.

One episode I would particularly like to direct your attention to is this one with the effervescent Ruby:

While I think we can all agree that Ruby might need to take a few deep breaths, this is pretty much amazing. From the moment the word “feminism” crawls across the screen, it is clear that this girl is here to talk about something important.

I love how comfortable she is with that word. Feminism. When I was Ruby’s age, I had heard of feminism, but it wasn’t even close to an accurate understanding. From what I had heard growing up in central Texas, feminists were women who burned bras a long time ago for pretty much no reason. For me, this was particularly offensive because I couldn’t wait to wear bras. Come on, feminists!

It wasn’t until I got to college and took an intro to sociology class that this notion was truly abolished. For the first time in my life, I feel like I recognized that some level of unfair treatment of women actually existed. All of a sudden I became furious about the historical discrimination against women, and I became even more furious when I realized that some of this crap was still happening! In the workplace, on television, in classrooms, and in my daily life. Why was it that my only association with feminism had involved some charred bras?

The thing is I am lucky I was awakened in that sociology class because some people in there were totally unaffected. I went to Baylor University, and I don’t at all regret it (in fact I loved it), but diversity is not exactly its strength. In almost any class, 1/3 of the female population is comprised of former prom or homecoming queens. In that class where my brain was exploding, there were other girls there saying, “I mean, like, I just don’t feel like it’s that big of a deal anymore” and “Yeah, but since the man is the leader of the woman in a relationship, isn’t it fine that they are paid less? You know, since Eve came from Adam’s rib and all…” I sat there dumbfounded and also fearful that if they found me out, they might try to steal my ribs to make an even lesser sex.

What I love about little Ruby here is that there is really no ambiguity about what feminism means to her. While feminism is classified by like a million subgroups, Ruby simplifies the underlying reasoning of this movement perfectly: that boys and girls are of equal value.

Ruby means not to diminish in any way the value of boys but instead to illuminate the value of girls. If there is a situation where a woman is treated like she is worth even slightly less than her male counterpart, Ruby doesn’t like it, and she’s going to write a book about it and probably a song too.

I love the activism of Ruby, but I also love that Smart Girls at the Party is not all about fighting the system. Ruby is the sweet exception, but otherwise the show just celebrates these kids for who they are. The disparity between male and female salaries is not discussed. The phrase “glass ceiling” is never uttered. It is assumed that girls are awesome, and that is just a fact of life.

And it’s true, girls are awesome – especially the smart ones. In my time working with kids, I have met some amazing girls. I have met girls who get lost in reading for hours at a time and can talk about almost nothing else. I have met girls who can dance and play guitar and sing like freaking superstars. I have met girls who can paint abstract works of art (intentionally) and girls who play rugby and are missing permanent teeth as a result. I have met girls that dream of being geologists and paleontologists and biologists and, in one rare case, a proctologist. I have met girls who have shared their struggles and cried together. I have met girls who laugh so hard that they can't breathe and girls who cheer each other on no matter what. I have met girls who at first didn’t know each other but ended up becoming sisters.

I love when Ruby gets asked what it means to be a good friend, and she decides it’s when someone is crying and you ask, “Are you okay?” She’s right. I’ve seen it happen with girls Ruby’s age and it is beautiful.

The problem comes when that is not our response. When we see someone crying, and we instead decide to exploit her or say something awful to her or about her or about her family or about her decisions – that is the worst thing we can do. This happens a lot with girls, and I totally get why. In a world where we recognize, either consciously or subconsciously, a need to prove ourselves, we sometimes attempt to outperform our own kind – to disassociate ourselves from women.

This type of thinking does not work and it will never work. As Tina Fey says in the pretty-much-perfect film Mean Girls, “You all have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call you sluts and whores” Run and tell that, Tina! Jealousy, subtle secret-fights, deceit, and eye rolls will never advance women. Friendship will, and it is the most powerful tool we have.

I am encouraged by Smart Girls at the Party in the same way that I am encouraged by all of the incredible young girls I have met. I see in these kids things that I struggle to do as an adult like believe in myself and talk to Amy Poehler without crapping my pants. It may be too soon to tell, but I kind of think these girls are going to kick ass when they grow up, and I’m so excited to live in that world.   


  1. Replies
    1. I love your unbridled enthusiasm, Chelsey Joy!

  2. Replies
    1. And I love you! You were the first woman who I knew would appreciate Smart Girls at the Party.

  3. I showed this to my two supervisors and they loved it! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Love this! Believe it or not, I'm from Helotes, Texas and am currently a sophomore at Baylor. The atmosphere is exactly how you described! Being the odd one out in a sea of prom queens and pageant princesses is quite the experience.

    1. Wow! Glad to be able to relate. Baylor is a wonderful place to learn and grow, albeit tough for exactly the reasons I described in this post, but you've just got to embrace it. Tell Judge Baylor I said hi, have a Dr. Pepper float for me, and sic em!


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