From a base in Manchester, and with a focus across the North West, a collective of academics, youth work practitioners and young people have come together to ‘do something’ about young women and girls’ youth work.
“When OFSTED came into the youth club, the boys we playing on the pool table and the girls were hiding out in the toilets”
“In the session there were young women who had never worn make-up in their lives, and they had all been given by their youth worker a ‘Girl’s world’ head to practise putting make-up on… and I thought… have we stepped back to the 1950s?!”
The increasing emphasis on crime and disorder within youth work has meant that agendas, focus and, inevitably, funding, is being directed toward work which is diversionary, targeted at young men, and starts from an ideology of ‘prevention’.
Good youth workers on the other hand, start from a position of possibility, creation not consumption and participation. But the support for ‘progressive’ work is patchy.
In youth work settings, the inevitable dichotomy emerges therefore, of boys at the pool table or playing football, and girls doing make-up or creating raunchy dance routines.
An end to sexism…. are we nearly there yet?
So this is what we have done: we have created an online archive and resource for young women and girls’ work from a feminist perspective at www.feministwebs.com which includes ideas, session plans, tools and levers for change. We are now in our phase two (or ‘second wave’ if you will!) in which young women from across the North West are being trained in oral histories and are going to go out across the north west collecting archive materials and stories from older feminist youth workers that were active in the 1970s-1990s. So spread the word, get involved, and urge young women you know to go out there and learn how to fly a plane instead of always doing their hair and nails… it’s time to bin the beauty box!