The U.S. Embassy is proud to support Wendy Jehlen and the Run Like a Girl program working with youth in Bobo-Dioulasso and Ouagadougou to break down gender stereotypes and empower young creativity. Fluent in American Sign Language, Wendy also works with talented Deaf students who will perform side by side with Hearing students at the French Institute in Bobo.
Around the world, the experiences of girls are belittled by simple, everyday phrases. To say that a boy runs or plays or screams or cries “like a girl” is an insult. “Girly” means weak and superficial. This view that to be girl-like is to be weak worms its way into girls’ self-image. It affects the way that boys treat girls, and the way that girls treat themselves. These wounding assumptions are often carried into adulthood, and adult relationships. Boys and men are also harmed, restricted in their ability to express emotion without fear, and their ability and willingness to feel and express intimacy, particularly with other boys and men. Through this project, we hope to begin to build new language around what it means to be “like a girl.”
Run Like a Girl is a multidisciplinary project that looks at the words and phrases permeating our cultures that chip away at the self-esteem of girls, creating a false image of girls and women as “weak.” We will work in collaboration with schools and organizations that promote gender equality, as well as sports and dance-centered organizations, to gather and share stories. The resulting performance work will evolve as these stories are woven together into a common narrative. In performance, Run Like a Girl will be an energetic, emotionally and physically-charged, dance and spoken word piece.
Run Like a Girl has a mission to break down the perceived boundaries between people, cultures and art forms. Her work has so far extended to the USA, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Canada, France, India, Italy, Japan, Mali and Turkey. The program weaves together music, dance and storytelling to create works that pull from the full range of the body’s communicative capabilities. Run Like a Girl incorporates traditional forms, internalizing them and then allowing them to reemerge as part of a new movement vocabulary. The result is work that is resonant of deep-rooted traditions, without being bound to any particular genre, place or practice.