A Statement on Girl’s State

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Created in 1937, two years after their counterpart, Boys’ State, Girls’ State works to teach young women about civic engagement and the government. 

But is a group meant to foster governmental knowledge and civic engagement in women giving girls the same opportunities as the boys?

Dr. Kostandrithes, the liaison for the Bolles representatives of Boys and Girls State explained his view on the programs.

The major difference he observed was with the security. “It’s almost like they’re [the girls] on lockdown,” he says to describe the strict security measures the Girls’ State program has in place. 

Kostandrithes noticed this change about four years ago when some of the girls came back from the program unenthused, claiming that they essentially could not leave their rooms.  Dr. Kostandrithes went on to say that this was a significantly different reaction than the boys, who had free reign over any spare time.

When I asked about the potentiality of sexism within the programs, Dr. Kostandrithes jokingly replied, “I don’t think anything nefarious is going on here.” 

But he further elaborated, claiming that what appeared to be a divide in the programs was due to the websites being outdated, and that both programs work to achieve the same goal.
But let’s take a look at those websites.  We can start with the boys. On their website, the mission statement includes:

 “Citizens of Florida Boys State not only will be required to review knowledge already acquired concerning the political machinery of the state of Florida, but they will find themselves running for office as real candidates do in the everyday world.”

When looking at the mission statement for the girls, we see this:

“American Legion Auxiliary Girls State is a nonpartisan program that teaches young women responsible citizenship and love for God and Country. As the government begins to take shape, these young women come to understand their roles in a democratic society.”

Take it as you will, and remember the time in which it was written but the boys’ statement includes words like machinery and assumes the boys arrive knowledgeable. The boys’ simulation activities are called “real.”

The girls program is called nonpartisan, which assumes nuetrality, not candidacy, but if that were not clear enough, just look at how they are instructed to be informed citizens and nothing more.

Gentian Fairman (‘20), who went to the most recent Girls’ State, conveyed a much different picture of the program than Dr. Kostandrithes.  While stating first that she believed she learned a lot and overall had a good experience, she also made note of the discrepancies between the two programs. 

 “Our chaperones were not shy about letting you know your skirt was too short all while preaching female
empowerment.”
Gentian Fairman ’20

First, Fairman explained that the boys had a relaxed dress code at the program, and did not have to abide by a strict 30 minutes of phone time per day policy. 

Fairman explained the dress code the girls had to follow.  “We had to have certain length skirts and shorts, and the women who were our chaperones were not shy about letting you know your skirt was too short all while preaching female empowerment.” 

One of the differences between the two programs is that some of the boys were chosen to meet the Governor of Florida during the program, while the girls were not offered the opportunity. Gabriel Bassin (‘20), Boy’s State attendee (full disclosure: Bugle co-EIC) relayed that only a select few boys could meet the Governor after standing out throughout the course of the program. 

The Bugle did reach out by email to the head of Girls’ State for comment, but did not receive an answer.

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