Girl Power or Get Out

The other day, I was talking to my amazing and incredible roommate, Carly, when I passionately threw my hands up in the air, and semi-yelled “GIRL POWER OR GET OUT!” We both laughed at the intensity of my exclamation and continued with the conversation.

Yet, I have not stopped thinking about this statement for the past week. And that’s partially because it’s a kind of catchy life motto that I’m excited to have coined (maybe?), but also because wow - I would NEVER have said something like that a year ago.

Even three months ago, I would have heard something like ‘girl power or get out’ and I would have thought to myself, “Hmmm...that strong of a stance will probably be alienating”.

And intuitively, I know that all of that still holds true. ‘Girl power or get out’ is probably not something that I should be saying, especially because I should be actively fighting the divisiveness of the country, rather than contributing to it. But ‘girl power or get out’ also feels right, for the changing point that I’m at right now.

RB, myself, and Carly
RB, myself, and Carly

I don’t know fully how I feel about my earlier statement, but I do know that this election has prompted an enormous change in the way I view the world, in my opinions, in my feelings, and most importantly in the way I am choosing to carry and present myself. Another one of my super wonderful roommates, RB, suggested that I write a piece on the changing perspective I’m having, and so here it is:

I believe the following three things, combined, have resulted in me feeling the need to state (momentarily) such an uncompromising stance:

  1. My attitude has significantly changed, prompted by the election atmosphere.
  2. Four years of a balancing act has exhausted me.
  3. We have literally no other option than to be girl power.

Okay friends, let’s break this down even further:

First, I feel as though there is a different kind of energy coursing through my body. The energy is a fierce, intense, growing kind of determination. And it’s truly taking me aback - I consider myself to be a pretty determined person, yet this election has ignited a level of utter commitment to do more that I didn’t even KNOW I had in me. I actually don’t even know what to DO with this newfound energy, but I do know that we fundamentally deserve better. My friend Chris reflected smartly the other day and said, “I think this election will bring out the fighters of our generation”. Well, that holds true for me. I know that I’m going to use this energy to fight, in whatever capacity I can, for a kinder, more respectful world where EVERYONE is given the opportunity and chance to reach their full potentials.

Letters from the MOVE girls - I fight and will continue to do so for them
Letters from the MOVE girls - I fight and will continue to do so for them

On a second note, I have spent the past four years of my life doing everything I can to present myself in a reasonable, approachable manner, in a desperate attempt to be taken seriously, and to have my ideas taken seriously as well.

But honestly, I am so tired of trying to get this impossible balancing act right. I’m tired of attempting to be ‘passionate yet reasonable yet also not too much or too strong’ just to get people to listen to or like me.

And I am smiling out loud, as I finally admit to myself in the middle of a coffee shop at 2:54 pm, that I really do hate that I have to carry myself in a different way, than men do, if I want to be respected. It’s not fair. We know (thank you Victoria Brescoll for your work) that men can get away with being angry and loud and are even respected for it. I mean, literally look at this election - Trump gets to yell about the things he’s angry about (CHINA! THE WALL! ETC!) and people love it (He says what’s on his mind! He doesn’t hedge his statements!) But I can’t do that. I have to be more careful - if I started screaming about the mental health crisis America is going through right now, people would call me ‘hysterical’, ‘over-emotional’, ‘a crazy feminist’, and much more.

I wish people listened to me because my ideas are important, and I wish that I didn’t have to constantly think about whether or not I’m coming off as ‘too strong’ or ‘too much’. I think that this election and this defeat was kind of my breaking point, as I really acknowledge how challenging it can be to be taken seriously, as a female leader.

Some girl power that I recently created/hung in my bedroom
Some girl power that I recently created/hung in my bedroom

And finally, I’m at a point where we need girl power more than ever, and I can’t accept anything less than that.

I am quite literally fueled by girl power and coffee. I say that jokingly, but I am actually dead serious - there are many reasons why I’ve accomplished what I have, but one is because of the sheer amount of girl power in my life that I use to motivate myself. My room alone is covered with pictures of inspirational women such as Leymah Gbowee, Malala, on and on. My social media is full of stories on positive change happening, my female friends are not only my friends, but my role models, I watch Parks and Recreation reruns all the time and love the ‘GIRLS CAN!’ attitude of the show, and I listen to music by powerful ladies like Lorde and Marina and the Diamonds. I do the best I can to surround myself with girl power.

After the election, I felt unbelievably discouraged. I felt like the world was dark and sad and I couldn’t stop thinking about the educators and parents who would have to explain to their kids how a person with such little respect for others was entering the nation's highest position. I felt beaten down, lied to, and desperately in need of girl power.

Some discouragement from me before Leslie literally came back to life
Some discouragement from me before Leslie literally came back to life

And then, my absolute HERO, Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation, CAME BACK FROM THE FICTIONAL DEAD AND WROTE A LETTER!!!

Reading her words, I felt like my best friend was giving me the pep talk of a lifetime. Suddenly, there was girl power again. I started to feel encouraged and even hopeful again. Through Leslie, I was reminded of the immense effect that girl power can have.

Quite frankly, we NEED girl power like never before. At least, I do. And I believe that we literally don’t have time to be anything OTHER than girl power. And by that, I mean I refuse to accept anything less than a world that is encouraging of girls and ALL individuals - regardless of race, gender, color, or various other social identities. While I will acknowledge it, I will not accept it. Fundamentally, I believe that we deserve better. And so, I am going to do everything I can to be as ‘girl power’ as possible.

And, more than that, is up to US to be girl power, because if we aren’t girl power, than WHO IS?! Our national leadership team?! We have GOT to work together and model girl power in all that we do, for the sake of the kids growing up today - they deserve a world where respect wins.

Two of our girl power summer program leaders and true role models
Two of our girl power summer program leaders and true role models

So what does this all mean?

Honestly, I’m not totally sure. But I do know that I’m in the midst of a turning point, and on the verge of something big. My friends, I really feel a fire in my soul and I am confident that it’s not going anywhere, anytime soon. This, and the MOVEment, is the beginning...and I hope you’ll be with me for the ride :)

Thank you.

If you’d like to join me, check out www.ashleyolafsen.com and sign up for my newsletter!

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