"We have a lot of conversations about things that don’t matter—what if once a week, we talked about things that did? Would you want to be a part of that?"
This was a question posed by Alexis Jones to her college sorority sisters, after reflecting on a role she had in “The Vagina Monologues," by Eve Ensler. "I was so angry and humbled that there were atrocities happening to women around the world that I knew nothing about and I realized I could spend a lifetime fighting to change it," says Jones.
Six girls immediately agreed, and in less than two months, Jones was hosting conversations "that mattered" with nearly 400 people. Recognizing the necessity to develop a larger platform that gave girls a voice, Jones and Emily Greener co-founded I Am That Girl (IATG), a global, on- and off-line community that integrates a message of empowerment and provides inspiring media that ignite conversations that matter.
"We're all struggling and going through things people aren't talking about. We wanted to create an inclusive community; a mutual respected environment for honest conversation," says Greener, Executive Director of IATG. "The first step was to infiltrate mainstream media messages that break girls down, which is about 90% of what’s out there."
IATG has rebranded feminism in a powerful way to inspire a generation of girls to resurrect the women’s movement for the 21st century, including historical tenants and also adding new imperatives most pressing to our generation.
"We decided it was our goal to translate the women's movement argot to address the language of our generation. We want to make it trendy, edgy, and sexy to be the smart girl in class. To do that, we have to leverage the entertainment industry as a vehicle to promote this vision," says Jones.
IATG engages girls and women seeking support in their struggles and triumphs, transcending boundaries of ethnic diversity, social status, and age. IATG has gained momentum through celebrity ambassadors including Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill), Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars), Emmanuelle Chriqui (Entourage), Josie Loren (Make it or Break it), and Ruth Wiley from the WNBA, who have humanized themselves by discussing issues they are passionate about.
Through constant innovation within pop culture, IATG profiles honest and sensitive articles, images, and sound bites on their website addressing concepts like "collaborating, not competing." One article advises against prefacing a statement with "No offense," or ending with "just kidding," pinpointing phrases girls have used for years as a way of saying what they want to say, no matter how hurtful or mean, without having to apologize for it. "These phrases are the equivalent of get-out-of-jail-free cards," says the article's author, Jess Berger.
Another article, by Jones, instructs readers to reflect on the silver lining of a perceived weakness. Jones shares how her own impatience led her to complete a two-year master's program in one year, and how her disdain for sitting in traffic waiting prompted her to travel most places on foot—with health benefits to boot.
In October 2011, IATG was invited to the White House as part of a Healthy Media Initiative, hosted by Tina Tchen, Executive Director of the White House Council on Women and Girls to discuss advocacy, content, and depiction of girls and women in the media.
The first project that evolved from this White House initiative was That Girl Rocks. Utilizing the power of media, anyone—female or male—could create a "shout out" to a woman in their life they love and admire by posting a video or a photograph, tweeting, or updating a message on facebook with the hashtag #thatgirlrocks. According to Greener, "Our goal was to make a tidal wave of uplifting content in celebration of girls and women worldwide." Once the "Call to Action" was out, contributions to #thatgirlrocks poured in—from athletes, nonprofit founders, and celebrities. Greener explains that this project serves as a long-term vision that will span the life of the organization.
Greener and Jones have engaged over 100,000 girls in in-depth conversations, yet it is their hope to give others the tools to have meaningful, topic-driven conversations. I AM THAT GIRL: Local is a chapter program that puts into practice IATG beliefs—collaboration instead of competition, contribution instead of consumption—on a local level, led by girls 18 and older.
In addition to IATG: Local, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit is launching a YouTube network of multiple channels including topics related to relationships, health, fashion, and current events on a national and global scale, as well reaching out to professional organizations and companies that share IATG values and profiling their commitment to hiring college graduates who share these values.
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