Although the term “Girl Power” first emerged from in 1990s pop music scene, it in fact refers to a force as old as time: the power that girls and women everywhere have called upon whenever their worlds treat them as “less equal” than males. (try to deprive them of the power in the face of gender oppression, poverty, and violence.)
Some Girl Power-inspired movies like Cinderella Moon, which tells the story of an orphaned girl who rises above her meager station in life without the help of Prince Charming, seek to explore the roots of these oppressive conditions. When girls are oppressed, the film suggests, it’s a sign that society as a whole is ill. So it follows that when the protagonist gains strength and gets in touch with her girl power, she’s able to help the world around her.
But more often than not in the movies, Hollywood translates girl power into violence. It’s ironic that although Cinderella Moon is based on an ancient Chinese fairytale, its vision of girl power is more rooted in modern reality than are the representations of many Hollywood films, films whose recent love of violent heroines seems to spring more from their directors’ fantasies than from real life. Take the film role that made Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman famous. In The Professional, Portman plays Mathilda, a 12-year-old who is taught by her neighbor how to be an assassin after her parents are killed. Given the real struggles that girls face all over the globe, this plot line is not exactly a story ripped from the headlines.
Cinderella Moon and Half the Sky — the charity director Richard Bowen co-founded with his wife Jenny that helps Chinese orphans— both celebrate something about girl power that is more true-to-life than a vision of girl power as violence. Girl power tends to be constructive rather than destructive. When an underprivileged girl gets a second chance at life — she often pulls everybody up with her. Just look at this statistic: “Young women have a 90 percent probability of investing their earned income back into their families,” one report found, “while the likelihood of men doing the same is only 30 – 40 percent.”
There is hope, after all, for even the poorest and weakest girls and women among us, and with innumerable organizations around the world like Half the Sky’s work in China, girls are being lifted up and given opportunities to live and work to their fullest potential. Girls all over the world, as Half the Sky argues, can have “a second chance at childhood.” Girls around the world are becoming Cinderellas every day.
Let’s take a look at both the challenges girls around the globe face, as well as what’s being done to change their plight.