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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome guide and tool to youth community organizing and activism, April 8, 2011
This review is from: Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets (Paperback)
Hey, Shorty! is more than its subtitle suggests. It is not only about sexual harassment and violence in the schools and on the streets, it is a unique guide to youth community organizing.

Authored by Joanne Smith, Meghan Huppuch, and Mandy Van Deven, Hey, Shorty! begins with the Girls for Gender Equity's founder, Joanne Smith, explaining how the almost ten-year-old organization started on the premise of helping young girls, particularly in urban settings, change systems of race, class, and gender that they did not create. GGE's mission is:

"Girls for Gender Equity (GGE) is an intergenerational grassroots organization committed to the physical, psychological, social, and economic development of girls and women. Through education, organizing and physical fitness, GGE encourages communities to remove barriers and create opportunities for girls and women to live self-determined lives. A Brooklyn, New York-based coalition-building and youth development organization, GGE acts as a catalyst of change to improve gender and race relations and socioeconomic conditions for our most vulnerable youth and communities of color. Our work is a result of many gracious and courageous allies to whom GGE is forever indebted."

The book highlights their Sisters in Strength program: a group of young women in high school from New York City, banding together as interns to fight sexual harassment on the streets and in their schools. Back in 2005, the term "sexual harassment" was removed from the New York City Department of Education [NYCDOE] Citywide Standards of Discipline and Intervention Measures--a manual that all NYC public schools use to dictate appropriate student behavior. As Mandy Van Deven (former associate director of Girls for Gender Equity, Inc.) and Joanne Smith explain why the fight against sexual harassment had taken a central role in GGE's activism:

"The legitimacy of GGE's work was significantly undermined by this linguistic erasure, as students, parents, and school personnel no longer had the NYCDOE Discipline Code to back up their complaints."

Additionally, Sisters in Strength interns had chosen street harassment as the central issue of their activism because it affects the lives of girls and women daily. In 2007, they organized a Street Harassment summit and even premiered their own film, Hey, Shorty! about the underlying issues of street harassment--including definitions (try defining sexual harassment yourself--it's quite a difficult task) and interviews not only with victims of harassment but also people who perpetrate harassment.

The Sisters in Strength interns then took on the task of a large research project about sexual harassment in New York City schools by using the participatory action research (PAR) method, a collaborative research method with an activist approach. Meghan Huppuch, Director of Community Organizing at GGE, explains why GGE used PAR as their research method:

"We conducted PAR in order to amplify the voices of students. After data analysis and some difficult conversations, it seemed impossible that we could create the kind of change we wanted without the help of others."

Through the training, data collection, and eventual dissemination of results, GGE was able to determine that that not only does sexual harassment occur frequently (in and out of NYC schools), but youth want to know more about and how to prevent sexual harassment.

The best part about this youth community organizing guide is that it has a nontraditional approach. Instead of using the "how-to" style, Smith, Van Deven, and Huppuch tell us the story of Girls for Gender Equity, Inc. as a successful organization actively making a change in their community.

Hey, Shorty! is pertinent not only to those involved in community organizing but also those in the education field. As a future teacher, I plan on using this guide with my students. Why? Because Girls for Gender Equity, Inc., with their Sisters in Strength interns, show how youth community organizing is done right.
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Location: Chicago, IL United States

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