This article is a part of the #ShareWhatMatters campaign, a movement dedicated to sharing positivity, gratitude, activism and the stories that really matter.
As girls who later become women, our first serious encounters with writing start in nursery school. After more or less grasping A-Z, with some discrepancies on what’s a lowercase “b” versus a “d,” we partake in exercises demonstrating how the 26 letters of the English language are taught. As we progressed in our learning, we went from “easier” writing tasks to more “difficult” ones, such as learning how to write a formal letter, forming a haiku or outlining a research essay. When we were younger, our creativity and open-thought processes were generally encouraged by our parents, older siblings and primary school teachers. It is perhaps only on the brink of womanhood that we find our ideas being challenged.
Historically, activities such as writing, reading, journaling or any actions based upon academia were viewed as inappropriate, frivolous, or dangerous to the health of women. Essentially since the establishment of organized education, there has been an ongoing debate as to whether or not it is “a woman’s place” to read, write, educate herself or be educated at all.
As we fast forward from the 17th century to current day, we still see not remnants of, but a living, breathing, seemingly eternal rejection against “smart girls” and women as writers. In wanting to #ShareWhatMatters to me, I want to call attention to the disparity of safe writing places and communities that exists for women and girls. I want to call attention to how we can participate in service, volunteer work, careers and consumption habits that support an open space where females can feel safe to explore and express their creative minds through writing.
The sad reality of education, the publishing industry and literary activities is that not all girls are so lucky to have their efforts prized at one point or another. There are girls for whom their work has always gone unread, unrecognized, undervalued and misunderstood to the extent of negative consequences. Although the stereotype that “girls are hard to understand” exists, the fact also exists that very little is done to understand them, especially in writing.
In today’s hard-hitting, hyper-publicized and instant news source digital age, we tend to only place value on writing “of substance,” and say “it’s about time” when someone of the female gender pens any work “worth reading” in a serious context. If we don’t shame a girl for not writing, we shame her for the content of her thoughts and expression. The adjective of serious is immensely subjective. Experiences are experiences, and the perception of them is relative.
We read between the lines about what types of writing gains traction and readership. Somehow, we receive the message that what we do as women is always not good enough in the eyes of someone else solely because we one day will be or are women. We have a tough time getting involved in serious writing conversations and in the dialogue we create ourselves in recounting a versatile female experience to others.
I want to make those reading this post, or any posts here on Her Track, aware that resources do exist that cater to the needs of aspiring or established female writers in whatever capacity they made need them.
We are one of them.
HerTrack is a collective of millennial-aged women who have experience in writing stemming from first time to seasoned blogger vets. Some of us like blogs exclusively, others of us want to get published and mostly all of us use our platform to share our experiences to connect with other women who share them. We tackle everything from making your boyfriend struggles to dealing with loss to getting into college and career advice. We have social media gurus, networking queens and impassioned editors who work tirelessly behind the scenes so that our content reaches the girls it needs to and brings onto the team those Her Track inspires most. We are always looking for new people to join what is quickly becoming an eclectic family of women across the United States who convene via social chats and video calls to discuss what matters to us and what we deem important. We trade drafts back and forth, have brainstorming sessions and are out to offer the external resources we have to one another, instead of keeping them to ourselves and fueling the ever-damaging life competition to see which girl can tear the other down the fastest to get to the top. We care about each other and our writing as a whole.
As a social content platform, we want you to come and create conversations on everything from which dog breed is the best to get as your first pet, to what to wear to your first job interview. Let’s face it: being a girl is hard. We think everything that every woman has to say – regardless of whether or not we all agree and share the same point of view – is important, news-worthy, and needs to be expressed in a voice unique only to the girl who experiences it.
As an English major and aspiring digital media writer, I can tell you that few places online will offer you as a woman a safe haven for the thoughts and emotions that others will tell you are “too much.” Take advantage of them, not only here at HerTrack by reading, sharing, asking and answering questions through our forums, but by getting involved.
Depending on where you live, there could be a library event, academic class, community outreach program, or writing workshop that suits the specific needs of a woman writer. Smith University’s Young Women’s Writing Workshop, running from July 10-29, allows girls to explore their writing in a creative and supportive environment that fosters a love of writing in a variety of mediums. Non-Profit Girls Action Foundation offers programs and writing tips that are adapted and relevant to the changing realities of girls’ and young women’s lives. WriteGirl is a creative writing and mentoring organization that promotes creativity, critical thinking and leadership skills to empower teen girls. The Intuitive Writing Project is an educational non-profit that facilitates writing-based empowerment programs for teenage girls. They create a safe space for girls to tell their story, discover their strengths and realize their capacity for leadership—to live and to lead with integrity, vision, and wisdom. Many non-profit organizations and foundations, including all those mentioned here, have links to institutional giving or volunteer events where you can put your wallet and yourself to action in the upkeep and conservation of girl-safe writing spaces.
A place near and dear to my own heart as their Development and Operations intern, Girls Write Now is the first and only writing and digital media mentorship program in New York City that targets underserved girls at high schools with low retention, high school graduation, and college acceptance rates and pairs them with a female professional in the writing or digital media world. In a world where women of color are the most underrepresented voices in media, Girls Write Now teens are 90% high need and 95% girls of color. Prior to GWN, some of them have not had a female to look up to at all in their personal lives, let alone in their writing exploration.
I may not have been a part of Girls Write Now as a high schooler, but as a college senior it is not until recently that I began making connections with women who shared similar lines of expertise and aspirations in terms of professional writing. Girls and women can benefit from participating in programs such as these by mentoring or being mentored.
Mentorship also does not have to occur in a traditional academic setting. If you want to #ShareWhatMatters, you can take it upon yourself to create a community of women writers in your town, your school, or your workplace where it might be lacking. All you need is some ladies who have ideas that need sharing, a pen and paper or a computer, and an hour or two weekly to dedicate to workshopping and brainstorming. If you’re no writing aficionado, there are writing resources, videos and tutorials that you can use to help successfully guide your new venture. If none of these sites suit your fancy, a quick Google search is never a bad idea.
As a woman, here’s your chance to flip the script and use resources predominantly made by, run by and designed for men to the advantage of women. Feel free to modify and bring new life to previously established styles, techniques, and platforms and style them to your needs. Don’t be afraid to take it digital, as hundreds of thousands of girls and women worldwide are looking for somewhere to be unequivocally themselves in a safe writing space. If that space does not exist, or rather it does not exist in the level of demand in which we need it, it is up to us to create and expand it.
The great thing about places like Her Track is that we are designed to empower women through what we know about our interests, what we know about ourselves, and what we want to know about each other. One of the best roads to self-discovery is allowing others to experience the authentic you that comes about through writing, which could be considered everything from constructive to therapeutic depending on who you ask. If you’re nervous about where to go to try it out, where to do it, or who to do it with, consider using HerTrack as your jumping point to a girl-powered writing community.
No matter how you choose to express your words and deliver them out into the world, never let anybody tell you how to #ShareWhatMatters to you.