Four years ago in Sheffield, a small group of girls planned a fun event around the film Mean Girls. In a fully decorated venue, the screening included interactive elements, workshops and pop up performances and was awarded Best Single Event at the national Cinema for All Awards. This success was the starting point of what has become a powerful and inspiring platform for women. Girl Gang grew organically to Manchester and has now branches in Leeds and Edinburgh too. In February, we celebrated our third birthday and we think that it’s about time to start a Manchester specific Girl Gang blog. Starting something new provides a nice opportunity to look back, so let’s have a peek at what Girl Gang Manchester has done so far and what’s to come in the future.
Manchester’s Girl Gang kicked off their first event in March 2016 with a similar success, selling out two screenings of Mean Girls at Hope Mill Theatre. In case you forgot, Mean Girls is that film where Gretchen Wieners tells us that ‘ex-boyfriends are off limits cause that’s just like the rules of feminism.’ Now we all know that feminism is more nuanced and complex than that, nevertheless, Mean Girls has a few important things to teach us, some of which you can find in Girl Gang´s manifesto.
Mean Girls is set at North Shore High where typical high school problems around friendship, love, bullying and cliques are at the order of the day. Now these problems may seem irrelevant once you’re out of school, but in a way, the film reflects larger societal issues. It deals with problems of belonging and exclusion and shows how peer pressure and the wish for approval can make us struggle with our integrity. When Miss Norbury makes the girls in the auditorium raise their hand if they have ever 'had a girl say something bad about them behind their back' or 'said something bad about another girl behind her back', it reminds us that feelings of betrayal and exclusion are more common than we think, and conversely, few of us are without fault ourselves. As Miss Norbury points out to her students, bringing others down won’t raise you up and is harmful to all of us. Ultimately, we all have things in common and we are stronger when we support each other. So remember #7 of our manifesto, to celebrate accomplishments of others: Someone else’s successes are not your failures. This blog is set up to celebrate and support all the wonderful things women create and take part in.
Creating a community
Girl Gang is committed to creating a community that is empowering and where people can be who they are. We think that Manchester has a lot of awesome gals who can make magical things happen. Our project Women Rule Manchester provided a platform to portray just some of the intelligent and inspirational women who are shaping this city. Their diverse identities and opinions, their relationships to the city and their hopes for the future are captured in a durational interview and live performance project. We have a blog-series planned called ‘She Made It’, which will introduce you to women artists and the movements they have influenced.
Speaking of awesome women, our events are facilitated and attended by an amazing crowd and every single one of them comes with a unique set of skills, knowledge and talent. We believe in learning from each other and like to share and exchange our expertise. Mean Girls has shown us that it’s not necessary to dumb yourself down and that anyone who is intimidated by your intelligence can bugger off. If you want to show off your knowledge, come along to our Trivial Women Pub Quiz in May.
Now Girl Gang may sound like it’s just for girls but it’s not. In #3 of our manifesto, we pledged to be all inclusive: to involve any person of any gender. Being inclusive is also true for the kind of feminism we believe in. We want our blog to be considerate about the multifarious and intersecting experiences women make and look at things from diverse perspectives in our think pieces about current issues and everyday activism. So if you are missing an important point of view and feel like you can contribute a piece of writing, do let us know.
Celebrating and making friends
We not only welcome people of all genders but also of all ages. At our past Mother’s Day Discos, mothers and daughters conquered the dance floor together, which is a rare and beautiful sight if you ask me. With our creative club nights, we try to create safe party spaces with an extra bit of fun. Party games with a feminist twist like popping the pay-gap or pooping the patriarchy are just as much fun as a midnight pillow fight at our Slumber Party. We love a themed party and encourage dressing up. We promise not to laugh at your costume, even if you didn’t get the briefing like poor Cady.
Mean Girls is clearly a film about friendship and demonstrates how complex they can be. Our Galentines Disco is not only Girl Gang Manchester’s yearly birthday party but just as important, a glittery celebration of female friendship and lady love. Now we know that larger cities like Manchester can easily make us feel lonely. Girl Gang is dedicated to tackling loneliness and wants to create a safe space where you can meet new people and make friends. Our signature social event Speed Mate-ing is basically a tinder for friends, just a lot more fun and less stressful. With conversation starters, challenges and games it becomes easy to step out of your comfort zone and make new connections. The next one is going to be in mid May.
Let’s do rad shit and change the world!
Let’s do rad shit and change the world is #10 of the Girl Gang manifesto and even though we know that things won’t change in the timespan of a Hollywood film, we do believe that we are strong together and that an uplifting and empowering community helps us to fight inequality and suppression. One of the biggest lessons that Mean Girls has taught us is to ‘never let the haters stop you from doing your thang!’ We see so many amazing women at our events who do rad shit but it’s definitely not easy to ‘do your thang’ in a society that keeps telling you that you’re not good enough. But remember when Regina George wore that top with holes around her boobs as if nothing had happened? It tells us, with enough confidence, you can pull off just about anything. We aim to instil confidence and positivity in all our events. We are proud of our community that doesn’t believe in the social hierarchy of a high school cafeteria and the blog will work in the same way. We will therefore share the work of others so keep your eyes peeled for previews and reviews of cool things happening in Manchester. Thanks for coming to our past events and we hope to see you all in the future when we do rad shit together and change the world!