Feminism vs Girl Power: The Big Difference

by Cassandra Gagnon

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All squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares. All queens are royalty but not all royalty are queens. There are large categories that visually are a big circle containing smaller circles of contained categories. In this instance, feminism is the larger circle in which girl power lies. All girl power is part of feminism, but feminism is not solely girl power. Think of it in the sense that girl power is how girls are taught sisterhood and supporting each other, and this is just one skill set needed to understand and further feminist agenda.

Girl power now seems like a cheesy lesson taught in that episode of Zoey 101 where the girl’s basketball team was cut and Zoey wanted to prove that girls could play just as well and hold their own on the boys team. It’s girls telling their secrets into a password diary at their sleepover and their dumb little brother can’t get into it because of its stunning voice recognition technology. While these instances may seem cringe inducing now, they were important for kids to see as we develop as young women in society.

An easy way to further a definition is to provide antonyms. Girl power is not saying “I’m not like most girls” or “I only hang out with boys because they are drama free.” Such phrases imply there is something inherently wrong and catty about being a girl. Girl power is however, building up other girls. Not calling them sluts, but supporting their sexuality. Not judging their appearance, but rather giving a genuine compliment. Not thinking that girls are lesser for being in a sorority and wanting to be a housewife or mom, or studying biochemistry and never wanting children.

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Feminism however, is much broader. It started quite simply: with white, upper class women wanting property and voting rights to protect their assets. This has evolved into something so much more, through second wave sexual revolution, to a more inclusive third (and debatably fourth) wave feminism that is based on intersectionality.

While feminism is all about establishing equality for all genders, inclusive of ability, sexuality, gender identity, race, religion, and more, it can not exist purely without girl power. As feminism started as a way to address female grievances, and has evolved to so much more, girl power is about joining together, in strong, supportive harmony towards a common, fantastic goal.

A goal where girls aren’t pitted against each other to be the prettiest or most popular or define themselves by the hottest athletic boy toy. A goal where girls empower girls, find interest in each other’s goals to start a family or work for NASA, hell, do both. I want to see girls like girls and love girls and be in love with girls and never think any less of each other’s inherently feminine traits. That is girl power. It’s unapologetic, like feminism. And feminism needs it.

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Cassandra Gagnon