Letter to the Editor: A gang is not a trendy hashtag

Megan Downey

You have more than likely seen laptops decorated with pink and purple Redbubble stickers or Instagram captions proudly displaying “Girl Gang”.

Gangs are associated with toughness and grit, which counters the feminine and often innocent connotation that comes with the word “girl.”

However, the phrase “Girl Gang” is unknowingly used with privileged differential meaning. If you Google “girl gang,” cute pink and black cursive appears along with pictures of tough-looking, yet feminine, women.

Searching “girls in gangs” yields quite a different answer. Young women who are in vulnerable positions, whether from abuse, structural disadvantages, sexual assault, or other uncertainties may turn to gangs.

Gangs offer these at-risk or underprivileged youths protection. They often have no other option but to enter into a life characterized by violence in order to survive.

The fact that other women are able to use “Girl Gangs” is a form of privilege, and while there is something to be said for reclaiming words that oppress women, this particular phrase is heavily stigmatized for the girls who enter the criminal justice system as a result of gang-related crimes.

For young girls with next to nothing, a gang is not a trendy hashtag.

So, if you truly want to support your local girl gang, consider supporting a charity that works with at-risk girls.

If one woman is losing, we all are, and that includes women in the criminal justice system who have been unfairly treated due to structural disadvantages and gender constructs.

Megan Downey is a senior criminal and justice studies major, contact her at [email protected].