Social media has played a large role in shaping our lives, for better or for worse. But for teen girls and trans youth, how has social media, consent and shaming impacted them? In the play, Girls Like That, written by Evan Placey, we’re taken through the evolution of feminist consciousness and modern female friendships in the wake of advancing technology. Throughout the 1 hour and 40 minute play that’s on now at the Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, we’re taken through very real and raw situations which make us have a better understanding of why we must support growing young feminists as they navigate the waters of life.
We sat down with director Esther Jun to ask her about her experiences directing the play, what female friendship means to her and why our young feminists are the future:
Edit Seven: The play deals very intimately with the role of female friendships and how they can be the most important, fundamental relationship of a women’s lives. How have your female friendships shaped you?
Esther Jun: My female friendships are the most dear and formative experiences of my life. I had a lot of close male friends as well, but looking back at my BFF’s through the years, it is the females who: a) I’m still friends with b) and who have literally carried me through my life. They cry with you, laugh with you, call you on your bullshit. They have your back, they understand what you are going through and even though distance and lifestyles have changed they still check in and want to know you are OK. And not just “how are you?” but truly, sincerely want to know how life is treating you and if you are happy. c) They are my role models. They teach me what is possible and how we women have no limits to how much we can endure, carry and love.
E7: Happiness and feminism are so rarely paired together, even though most feminists are hilarious and full-hearted. Why is joylessness still such a go-to insult for women who are politically minded?
EJ: It’s just patriarchal bullshit. Men have always been terrified of strong woman, in any context. Calling us whores, ugly, bitches, joyless the list goes on, are just methods of control and after centuries of misogyny we have internalized it. So now women use this language on each other. We need to embrace our strength and each other and guaranteed, you will be happier.
E7: Young feminists are coming of age in a tech-focused and tech-literate world and using technology to organize locally and globally. What have you taken notice to and observed of the teen youth of today?
EJ: They have so much access to everything. They can be much more culturally and business savvy and mobilize themselves into action quicker. which makes them stronger, good or bad. They have to grow up a bit faster thanks to all the info BUT I don’t think the teenage brain has changed too much. They are still teenagers, and processing all the info still requires life experience and emotional maturity. I think adults & parents have to be aware of that.
E7: The play, Girls Like That, is very focused on teens who are experiencing many pressures and perils while going through puberty. What do you remember about your teen years and how was it growing up?
EJ: Junior high was a nightmare of desperately wanting to fit in and be “cool” and I was so NOT. But then I really got into alternative music (Smells Like Teen Spirit just came out) fashion and theatre so I had an outlet for not only my angst, but creativity. I found my niche. I was also lucky that I had a great group of friends in high school and a lot of trust from my parents. Of course those years were filled with a lot angst and drama but at least I had good people who helped me through it.
E7: It was recently reported on in Chatelaine that for many teen girls, maintaining their social media accounts can be a full-time job. Why are teens so focused on social media stats and popularity?
EJ: It’s just human basic instinct the need to be loved and validated, which is what popularity basically is- primal instinct to feel desired or loved more than anyone else. To be an alpha. And with teens, as their identity is developing social media is just an extension of that. I don’t think it’s much different for adults actually, other than SOME adults have matured enough not to care as much, or simply have less time to devote to social media as teens (thanks to jobs, rent, bills etc.)
E7: Why did you decide to direct the play?
EJ: I realized early in life that women are the most vicious to each other. I always wondered why that was. When I read the play I instantly recognized everything these girls go through and felt it really addressed that issue of women being harder on other women, which I have never really seen dealt with in a play. It also had an important reminder for all of us- our freedoms and advancements of rights have been hard fought and we should never take them for granted. We still have a far way to go in smashing the Patriarchy. “Us girls, need to stick together.” I also have a 5 year old daughter now, and this is something I would want her to see (ok, not like right now, but if she were 16).
E7: What were some of your favourite moments being in production?
EJ: Everyday in rehearsal with this cast and creative has been my favorite. Their energy, passion and commitment are inspiring and empowering. Women are stronger working together, and this production proves that.
E7: What advice do you have for teen girls and trans youth growing up today?
EJ: High school is only a blip in this glorious adventure of life. There is so much ahead of you if you choose to focus on the good in the world. Do not let others put you down with fear. The world is so vast, so beautiful and full of life go and explore it with curiosity, openness and kindness. Be kind to other. Seriously. It’s so simple but sometimes so hard. And always choose love.
(Story by Contributing Editor, Ama Scriver)