[EDEQUITY WEEA Project Dialogue]Reaction to the article..

From: Diana Melvin (gut1@dakota2k.net)
Date: Wed Feb 13 2002 - 10:21:37 EST

Ann thank you for sharing the article. I have just a thought I would like
share. A friend of mine who studies and teaches female and male development
has told me that "Fathers give their daughters permission to achieve" I
cant help but wonder about the significance of that when we look at the
numbers of single parent households headed by women and the often lacking
leadership by males in our daughters lives. Compound that with what our
daughters see constantly which is exploitation of themselves as females. I
see a lot of confusion in the lives of the young women I work with. Also
who is preparing our sons to behave any differently? I see that time spent
parenting all our children is often not a priority or a possibility
depending on the circumstance. I think it 's wonderful that you're helping
your participants discover what is respectful and also examine what
respectful means as a parent and in our homes.
Diana Melvin
South Dakota Women Work

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ann Muno" <annmuno@earthlink.net>
Subject: [EDEQUITY WEEA Project Dialogue]Another project....

Respect in Girl's RAP Culture
An old friend recently asked if there were any challenging things about
the work we do at PV. She continued, "I mean, you work with girls, they
So awesome." Yes it's true, I thought, girls are awesome. But the myth
that "girl culture" in single sex programs is somehow free of the sins of
the larger culture needs to be dispelled. The most challenging aspect of
the work is girl culture. Well, by that I mean creating a true culture of
respect within the program. In any culture, language and rights are
distinctive, and in Girls RAP Culture, respect is the common language
girls and instructors must create and then speak together for an entire
year. Respect for self, others and girls' rights forms the core of our
curriculum. Yet, as a group of girls and women from different life
experiences, we are forever learning that respect has many faces. Here I
want to share how the struggle to create a common culture-a great

we undertake-shapes and defines the girls and women in this program.
The way each girl experiences respect at home deeply influences how she
gives and receives respect elsewhere in her life. It is critically
important to take time to learn how she answers questions such as: What
does respect mean in her family? and How does she give and receive respect
at home? Most girls will tell us that "listening and taking turns" are
signs of respect in their home. But this means different things in
different homes. One girl feels she is being respected when she is allowed
to play her own music; at another home, giving respect means you would
never play a certain type of music. How do we bridge so many different
definitions of respect when some directly conflict with one another? To
add to the complexity, just because a girl feels she is listened to at
home, does not mean she knows how to listen to others. In fact, learning
to listen may be the most important lesson she learns in the program.
Girls will tell us that getting respect at home implies some type of
yielding to her heartfelt need for self-expression and power. Since this
a language we have always cherished at Powerful Voices, we try to help
work with these words and develop the life skills that go with them.

For adult participants in the program, then, the next layer of challenge
has been to identify a few truths about respect and the common themes that
relate to self-expression and power. These themes successfully bind Girls
RAP culture. In Girls RAP self-expression means a girl has found space to
let down her defenses. One girl uses silence as her defense; another
speaks so loudly that she denies self-expression to others in the group.
Developing a culture of respect gives a girl the space to use her voice in
a way that is powerful to her and the rest of the group. And when a girl
successfully finds her voice in RAP, she no longer feels the need for
protection from others. She learns that somewhere in this balance of
silence and speech lies what we mean by respect in girl's culture. Our
role as adults is to help her learn this lesson and this is an extremely
challenging part of our job. In order to be effective in this area, we
adults have deeply considered questions the same questions ones we ask of
our girls: "How is respect shown in our homes", "How did we know we were
listened to when we were growing up?" "Are definitions of respect bound
to culture (and age) or are there universal elements?" and "What ways can
build our abilities to bridge cultural differences related to respect?"
Our answers to these questions have become an action plan for developing
skills for building bridges between the ways respect is learned in a girl's
and the ways we strive to create it in Girls RAP culture.
Given these challenges, one might wonder why it feels like a privilege to
work with girls to develop a common culture of respect. The answer is
simple; we know there are very few places where girls have to agree on a
set of behaviors that they call Respect. Girls in our program seldom
interact with one another outside of our program. They often don't live in
the same neighborhoods, ride on the same buses or hang out together at
church. As Joanna Kent, one of our instructors describes it: "The group
is our house. When the girls talk about their households, their cultures,
their expectations and their norms, we need to remind them that together
we created the house rules for our time together. Together we agreed on a
system of behavior and expectations that we thought would help us grow.
If this system is not working, if the rules seem to be failing us, then
together we can rewrite them. But we need not blame the rules. We
created them together and together they can be changed." We'd like girls
adults to be able to leave the RAP Group and create other spaces where
respect and girl's culture have common roots.

Ann Muno,
Program Director
Girls RAP (Rights! Action! Power!)

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