Every year, the President addresses the country in a State of the Union address. The occasion gets a lot of media hype from just about every possible story angle, including speculation before the address, post-address coverage, analysis of what was said/should have been said, what Joe the Plumber thinks about the speech, the minority political party’s official response, what the First Lady wore–the list goes on. With a few exceptions, it’s a trumped-up public service announcement with no surprises, delivered by the most powerful man in the country, if not the world.
But what if the State of the Union was meaningful, revealing not only our most serious problems but also ways to fix those problems? What if it came from the members of a class that is frequently repressed, marginalized and recast according to the convenience of whoever happens to be in power? Finally–what if it was done by someone who wasn’t concerned about getting re-elected or attracting funding?
That’s where the Girls’ State of the Union comes in. It’s a video contest being run by our friends at the Women’s Media Center, where girls between the ages of 14-22 create and submit their own 1-5 minute video about the condition of the United States today–with special emphasis placed on the condition of girls in our country. The videos, due by November 30, will be judged by a panel including former NBC anchor and Women’s Media Center founding president Carol Jenkins, current Women’s Media Center president Julie Burton, actors Marisa Tomei and Kyra Sedgwick, and Women’s Media Center co-founder and activist Gloria Steinem. The winner will be flown to Washington, D.C. to present her address at the National Press Club in January, and will be added to the prestigious SheSource online braintrust of female experts on a range of topics.
2011 has seen a lot of dialogue and controversy around issues relating specifically to women and girls. Women were crucial leaders in the Arab Spring uprisings. In the wake of the Lara Logan sexual assault and the New York Times’ inflammatory coverage of a girl’s rape in Texas, we saw a lot of discussion around how media treats (and doesn’t treat) crimes against women. The “personhood” amendment in Mississippi was voted down in a surprising failure, Saudi Arabian women got the right to vote and the war on women’s health care still burns brightly. International female leadership has also been in the spotlight, as with the aforementioned Arab Spring, German Chancellor Angela Merkel who is at the center of decision-making in the Euro Zone debt crisis, the rising star of the Democratic party is Elizabeth Warren and this year’s Nobel Peace Prize is shared by three women.
All of which is to say that there is plenty to talk about regarding the role of women on the national and international stage, and the young women leaders of today will have some serious issues with which to contend. As Women’s Media co-founder Gloria Steinem says, “We can’t be what we can’t see – media tell our stories and influence how girls imagine their future possibilities.”
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