Ask The New Girls: “Girls” and Some Praise
Dear WaWaWC,Dear New Girls,
Why did you choose to call yourselves “girls”? Is this intended to be an organization of and for children? Since that is so often used to demean and disparage women, I don’t understand why you would select that name.
Wondering and Worried about Word Choice
I originally called the group the Wise Women, but I intentionally included women from a wide range of ages, from their mid-20s to their 70s. The name Wise Women didn’t adequately express the mission of the group or the diversity of voices included. Rachel came up with the name New Girls’ Network as a counterpoint to the Old Boys’ Network, which is quite literally how the group functions: as women’s answer to the sense of community and the wealth of experience professional men have shared in the workplace for generations.
When we first suggested the name in a meeting with the Wise Women/New Girls, the response was mixed. Some women loved it; others reacted exactly like you. We had a good discussion about it then, and ended up sticking with it. But we’re a diverse and opinionated group, and the conversation continues. From my perspective, I think it’s interesting and even encouraging that younger feminists often embrace traditional usages—from “girls” to super-high heels—that older feminists like myself worked hard to abolish. I have thought a lot about why. Is it because those femmy things don’t seem so threatening to them, now that women have more power? There is a long history of disadvantaged groups re-purposing demeaning and disparaging names into something positive and empowering—we hope to follow in that tradition.
Joan Williams, of The New Girls’ Network
Dear YFF,Dear New Girls,
I just want to say how delighted I am that this site was created. I am an associate at a large national law firm, on top of being a single mom to two young children. I went through a painful divorce during law school (to someone that felt I was getting a little too “important”) and since then I have been trying to reestablish myself and my children (who were impacted by the divorce). To say that it is difficult being a woman of color attorney with young children and no spouse is an understatement, but I strive every day to be the best mom, friend, daughter, sister, and attorney that I can be.
Just in reading the bios of the “New Girls,” I gained inspiration and hope that I am not alone. It gives me hope to know that women before me have paved the way for my success, and that I can contribute by further widening the path for others to follow behind me. I have several mentees that I am invested in and that have received internships through my firm, and I am very proud of that.
Please keep up the good work and blessings to all of the women that contribute to this great effort.
Your First Fan
You are not alone. I, too, went through a painful divorce and custody battle during my first semester of law school. My children were seven and five at the time. They are now 31 and 29. We have wonderful relationships, and they tell me that their memory is that I was always there for them while they were growing up (even though I had a lot of guilt at the time about long hours, travel, etc.). To my amazement, my younger daughter went to law school. We take each day as it comes, and do the best we can, which often is pretty darn good. I am still at the same firm I joined after law school, have a wonderful practice and had a lot of support from my colleagues along the way.
Laura McMahon, of The New Girls’ Network
Your moving e-mail underscores the daunting challenges that confront women lawyers in trying to balance their professional and family obligations. I am so glad to hear that our blog has helped inspire you, and am confident that your dedication and commitment to both your career and your two children will enable you to continue to overcome the hurdles you face and to succeed. Also, I was particularly pleased to see that you are acting as a mentor to others, as it is important that we all “pay it forward.” Best of luck!
Roberta Liebenberg, of The New Girls’ Network
Would you like to ask a question or send us your thoughts? Then Ask The New Girls!