What to do about the boys? Advocating for system change when doing social justice work with girls


  • Britney G. Brinkman Chatham University
  • Kandie G. Brinkman University of Utah
  • Shannon Toomey Chatham University




Action research, Girls, Boys, Resiliency, Empowerment


Girls‟ Studies has been a quickly growing field, which has included work focused on interventions designed to improve the lives of girls. Programs have been developed and utilized to address eating disorders and body image concerns, self-esteem, access to math and science mentors, experiences of sexism, and others. In this paper, we describe a social justice intervention designed to recognize and increase girls‟ resiliency. First, we provide a brief overview of current research and programming with girls and boys to provide a context for the intervention and the challenges that arose. Next, we describe how we navigated within a school system, managed mixed support from school personnel, and addressed male students‟ backlash about the girls‟ participation in the program. We include information from workshops and interviews with the adolescent girls to highlight their voices regarding their experiences of interpersonal sexism with their male classmates. We conclude with three key lessons we learned from this work, including the need to: address the systems in which girls live, consider the implications of an “empowerment” model, and anticipate possible areas of resistance. We pose these lessons in the hopes that we can contribute to dialogues amongst researchers, counselors, and scholars who are engaged in social change work and face challenges or barriers that may arise while doing this work.


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How to Cite

Brinkman, B. G., Brinkman, K. G., & Toomey, S. (2011). What to do about the boys? Advocating for system change when doing social justice work with girls. Journal for Social Action in Counseling & Psychology, 3(2), 53–70. https://doi.org/10.33043/JSACP.3.2.53-70

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