I spoke to the executive producer of Girl Gang Manchester, Megan Marie Griffith, who has lead the team in organising the immersive screening of Mean Girls at the Wonder Women festival this weekend.
As a creative and a feminist, Megan was first introduced to feminism as a child when her mother stuck Because We’re Women by Joyce Stevens on her wall and dressed her as Emmeline Pankhurst for a friend’s fancy dress party at age 8. However it wasn’t until she got older and understood the true meaning of feminism that she identified as a feminist. “I don’t think I really considered myself a feminist until post university. I remember saying things like “I’m a humanist, not a feminist” as I was in the fortunate position of never having felt hindered by my gender. I think being a teenage girl is such a complex thing, which is probably one of the reasons we’re so interested in showing films from that period in our lives as Girl Gang” Megan told me.
Sexism is such a huge issue, despite the immense progress that has been made there is still a long way to go. Megan pulls on her experiences with sexism to create an event so focused on celebrating women and their achievements. “Growing up, I was consistently called ‘bossy’ or ‘too big for her boots'” Megan said. “For having ideas and being confident, something which makes me insecure to this day, but for one reason or another I don’t think it was until after university that I properly thought about this and the fact that boys demonstrating the same traits were never called out like I was, and were often praised instead.”
In terms of modern feminism I asked Megan what some of the biggest issues women face in the 21st century are: “The fact in 2016 we still see women faced with a huge variety of problems and injustices depending on their situation, their social environment, their sexuality, race, appearance, everything. Women are often judged and impacted in a way that men simply aren’t. We believe society is still way behind in terms of equality, we live in a world still dominated by gender constructs, hetro-normativity and patriarchy.”
Megan touched upon the harsher issues women today still have to struggle with: “Rape and paedophile culture (men going after teenage girls, or the sexualisation of pre-pubescent girls as opposed to children) and vistim blaming are real issues.”
Megan created the community of Girl Gang Manchester in order to support and empower women. “We’re here to give women opportunities they might not have had, to encourage friendship, team work and collaboration and to encourage women to shout about their triumph and stand their ground during struggles too. We’re definitely all about positivity and celebration and our community and event series are definitely about having a good time together, and focussing on what we can do and how that might go on to impact the things which we find frustrating.”
It is set to be an exciting weekend, it is the company’s first big event in Manchester and they are hoping to make it a regular event that brings women together to creative a positive place. Megan emphasised the importance of having a community like Girl Gang Manchester: “Our whole ethos is that there’s room for everyone and to encourage women to support and befriend one another rather than feeling threatened or competitive. It can be difficult, but we’re so much stronger together!”
The event itself is very focused around female role models as the night will end with a danceathon to iconic female anthems. I asked Megan who her female role models are and which women inspire the works of the company: “The first three people that came into my head were Bjork, Malala and Kate Bush! We’re inspired by so many different women! I don’t think we have particular woman who we see as our high priestess or anything though, more like a mash up of different elements of different women.”
She obviously couldn’t forget Tina Fey, the writer of Mean Girls. However they have also been running an event on their twitter page called Wonder Woman of the Day or #WWOTD “Every day we shout out an amazing woman who is inspiring for one reason or another. These are women from our local community, from history, internationally all sorts!”
But don’t worry, if you can’t make the events this weekend Girl Gang Manchester have a bright future ahead of them. “We plan to continue instilling positivity to our community both through our events and through our social channels.” In terms of future events: “Upcoming we’ve got a collaboratve project with our Girl Gang Sheffield sisters called #SeeMySelfie, launching in May. The project is a social experiment surrounding selfies. We’ll also be creating more fun networking opportunities and engaging with like-minded women through immersive screenings of films that inspire us, and hosting fun events that throw women together in a positive way.”
“Ultimately we’re a community, and we’re here to love and support anyone who wants to be a part of it. What we do next is very much steered by who chooses to engage with us and get involved! Come join our gang, we’d love to have you!”