Code of the posse
A Reno woman wants to turn her Girl Talk Back project into a national movement
What do girls want?
Geesh, who knows what would make some of us happy?
Girls appear to evaluate themselves based on appearance and the success of relationships, according to some studies of high-school students.
That’s not terribly surprising.
“We teach girls in school about getting their period,” says Caroline Pozycki, founder and producer of Girl Talk Back, a life skills program for girls. “But we never tell them how to develop completely as a woman.”
Pozycki, who is “31 and tons of fun,” has suggestions for what “a girl needs to be really happy.” Her list includes economic independence, education, hobbies, sports, skills, independent mobility, a job or business, health, exercise, nutrition, independent-living experience, activities outside a relationship, family, faith, community and self-love.
Pozycki put her list, the “code of the posse,” on the Girl Talk Back Web site, www.girltalkback.org. She works on the site, a resource used by girls, teachers and parents that gets 4,000 hits per month, in her Reno apartment on the 12th floor of Park Towers in downtown Reno.
The apartment looks like a home office, from the computer in the living room to stacks of books, hip-hop magazines, Girl Talk Back stickers and a self-produced promotional video that Pozycki takes with her on the road. A snowboard is propped against the wall.
“I have something to show you,” Pozycki says.
She leads me into the kitchen to view her autobiographical collage of photographs.
“After I broke up with my boyfriend and shaved my head, I started this,” she says. “I always look good in photographs. I look good in my video, too. I don’t know why that is.”
Her confidence is so, well, anti-traditional. Women aren’t supposed to like their own pictures. It’s just not done.
“I’m interested in confronting the master narrative,” she explains.
Oh yeah, that’s right—feminists are into turning society’s dictates (like self-deprecation) upside-down.
“I’m making feminism a positive word,” Pozycki says. She adopts the street voice that she uses on her video and during presentations. “Bringin’ the F-word back.”
The photogenic female does look good in every single photo on the piece of tagboard stuck to the wall. She looks good with short hair, long hair, spiked hair, wearing a variety of head coverings and in bunch of different poses.
In a separate, framed black-and-white photo, a young Pozycki with cute, blond hair holds a bowl of popcorn in the back yard of her New Jersey home. Eating from the bowl is Bill Bradley. Yes, that Bill Bradley.
“My parents were both activists,” she says. “They taught me to address problems and develop solutions.”
Pozycki will be taking her video and high-energy, inspirational presentation on Girl Talk Back to Ark-a’ik on Nov. 14.
The video includes bits of interviews with girls and grown women such as rapper Princess Superstar presented in a style that Pozycki calls “edutainment.”
Princess Superstar talks, on the video, to Pozycki about entrepreneurship for women, community and body image. The rapper started a record label—with advice and help from friends. And she says that appearance is something that she still struggles with worrying about.
“Girls take self-hatred and they put it in their body,” she says.
The rapper is the kind of woman that Pozycki refers to as a “pioneering woman” or a “muse” for girls. A muse is an example of a strong woman, a woman who embodies many of the characteristics that form the Girl Talk Back code.
“I interview women who are very independent, who exhibit important human traits that are often regarded as male only, such as independence, autonomy, self-reliance, aggressiveness and courage.”
The video, Pozycki says, is intended to educate girls about health and self-esteem. It also serves as tool aimed at preventing teen pregnancy and juvenile delinquency. Nevada’s teen pregnancy rate’s high, and there’s been a marked increase in the arrest of juvenile girls. Pozycki is frustrated that more isn’t being done.
“The statistics are there,” she says. “But there’s no clear plan to address these problems that affect girls.”
On her Web site, she includes more interviews with such muses as Reno performance artist and art professor Joanna Frueh, publisher and co-founder of Bust magazine Marcelle Karp, feminist author and filmmaker Jean Kilbourne and author/activist Snakegirl, aka Beverly Yuen Thompson, a 24-year-old Ph.D. candidate from the New School in New York City.
Pozycki recruits local high school and college women to help her maintain the site. McQueen High student Jessica “Kitten” Gaunt, 14, met Pozycki during a Youth Artworks project.
“I was the only girl in the group,” Gaunt says. “We started creating stuff for Caroline’s Web site.”
Gaunt thinks the word’s getting out about Girl Talk Back. Working on the project has been a good opportunity for her.
“Not a lot of girls have high self-esteem,” Gaunt says. “I think it’s important to get that out there.”
While getting her degree in sociology at Smith College, Pozycki wrote a social-tolerance policy for the campus housing system. She says that attending Smith, a school that turned out such women’s activists as Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, instilled in her the need to make a life’s work out of empowering women.
Pozycki went on to get a master’s degree in public administration from New York University. She once worked in an office not too far from the World Trade Center, where she served as one of a team of five individuals charged with managing New York’s $3.2 billion Police Department budget.
When she moved to Nevada, she was working as the director of an environmental nonprofit. Her fiancé, an aspiring hydrogeologist, came to study at the University of Nevada, Reno. They moved here together, then broke up six months later.
Pozycki intends to stay. She does some consulting work to pay the bills and receives grants to keep Girl Talk Back afloat. There are few places, she says, that need a program like Girl Talk Back more. That the need here is so pronounced makes it a bit easier to raise funds to keep the organization going.
“Nevada has been good to me," she says. "I tell people I want to develop programs for young women, and many people see the need. They want to make stuff happen. I say we have to stand up and take care of the community."