Portland now has its own chapter of the feminist organization I Am That Girl to help create a close community of like-minded women. Although the group isn’t officially run through the university, it’s made up of mostly Portland State students.
One of the main goals of the group is eradicating the cattiness that is the foundation for many friendships between women by replacing it with something more meaningful. Organization leaders hope to build a network of women who support and encourage one another.
“You hear it all the time, ‘girls can be so mean to one another.’ Why is it that you see someone that you would admire, or you think looks great, and you instantly feel in competition with them,” said Emma Johnson, chapter leader for the Portland group. “We as people form this weird bond; it’s almost like you’re creating a friendship by bashing another girl. It comes so naturally to us, but it’s destructive.”
I Am That Girl is an international feminist organization started in 2006 by motivational speaker Alexis Jones. Its website, IAmThatGirl.com, features daily postings of advice pieces, inspirational photos and profiles on people who embody the organization’s ideals.
To expand on and spread ideas expressed in the content on the website, the organization also has groups that meet in person to discuss goals regarding themselves and feminism. It also helps them work on forming healthy, positive connections with other women. They meet on alternating Thursdays around campus, including in the Women’s Resource Center.
The website’s mission statement outlines some of its goals: “By building community for girls to be seen, be heard, be loved and belong, to discover their innate worth, and to embrace and celebrate who they are, we will transform their lives and create a healthier, more powerful world.”
“It’s a global organization that brings girls together and promotes turning self-doubt into self-love,” Johnson said. “We get girls together to talk about things that matter, things we think are important in our lives…It’s about collaborating instead of competing.”
Johnson went on to say that I Am That Girl is attempting to build a community of acceptance.
“We love ourselves, and through that, we can learn to truly accept others for who they are,” Johnson said.
The meetings provide a safe space for members to self-examine and share with others who have similar values.
“It’s kind of like a support group, in a way, being able to talk about issues that you’re having without being judged,” said I Am That Girl member Kayla Smith. “Girls tend to go judge other girls on how they look, and it’s nice to be able to go to a group where I don’t feel like I’m being judged.”
New I Am That Girl member Christina Kavehrad agrees, saying that “the discussion group seems to prioritize honesty and openness, and it feels very supportive. It’s refreshing.”
The driving force behind I Am That Girl is to help women see themselves and others in a positive light.
“That Girl is the girl we all aspire to be,” Johnson said. “When you say ‘I am that girl,’ it’s a phrase of empowerment. You’re exuding self-confidence and you are accepting yourself, including all of your flaws.”
Johnson added that it’s also about discovering who that girl is to each individual.
“How can I be the best that I can be? How can I remind all my girl friends that they are amazing,” Johnson said. “Because you know, we all have those off days. We are not alone and we’re reminding each other how much we can really accomplish.”
Members’ involvement in other organizations also helps share alternative perspectives, and keeps discussion from becoming stagnant by introducing new ideas, while also adding to their own sense of accomplishment.
“I work at the YWCA, which helps domestic violence victims, and it’s great to see another program that helps women in general, and I think it’s something that all girls should do if they’re looking to be inspired and looking for a way to connect with others,” Smith said. “I definitely hope to see it grow, with more girls coming out to the meetings and inspiring other girls to be themselves and be comfortable with who they are.”
Ultimately, it’s member contributions that will determine the path the group takes. Since each group of people is different, each chapter is different and focuses on different aspects or different methods of reaching female empowerment. The Portland chapter has a particular focus on self-love and being your own cheerleader, Johnson said.
“I want to invite girls from all over Portland and PSU specifically to come check it out, discover what it means to be ‘that girl’ themselves,” Johnson said. “It’s really cool to be able to have the confidence to be yourself. At PSU, I really want to inspire other girls to love themselves as they are and make friends. I’m just curious to see what it will be when it takes off. Now it’s just getting established.”
For more information about Portland’s chapter of I Am That Girl, email Emma Johnson at [email protected]