Written by Nicole Steinberg.
You’ve probably noticed the little yellow house parked across Safeway on N. Adams St.
The Girl House is the summer research project of Emma Piorier ‘21 and Miranda Karson ‘21. The installation is a resistance to rape culture through the telling and sharing of experiences of coming of age, gender, sexuality, and sexual injustice to create community in a society that seeks to isolate narratives of girlhood and womanhood. The installation, a 7’ x 14’ tiny house on a trailer, creates a physical space for the submissions they received on anything related to gender, sexuality, and coming of age. Submissions were encouraged in any form such as anecdotes, poems, essays, etc.
Inside, the house is playful and welcoming with brightly painted shelves, framed photos, and a small table and couch on the far side of the house. The submissions are printed out and displayed throughout the space: peeking out of a drawer, hanging from the wall, and bound into a booklet that sits on the shelf.
The Trail sat down with Miranda Karson to hear a little bit more about the process of creating the Girl House and her intentions and takeaways from the project.
The Trail: How has putting together this project and interacting with narratives of coming of age, gender, sexuality, and rape culture added to your own understanding of girlhood?
M: The biggest conclusion I came to—after reading all of the submissions multiple times, engaging with the diversity that is present in the stories, and seeing where the common threads are throughout stories, is that there are common themes that can be identified throughout stories—but there is no one girlhood.
This was kind of the basis of this project — to create collective biography — and share experiences that aren’t talked about, instances where we haven’t been able to benefit from the collectivity. To actually be able to name and identify what rape culture is, and therefore, be able to resist it, was a guiding question throughout our project.
It was very impactful to have my experiences and beliefs validated. Our stories have overlap and can find community, but community does not mean the same. Narratives about race, or from older women that grew up in a very different time than now, really solidified the idea that there is no one girlhood.
The Trail: What is the most surprising or unexpected thing you have learned throughout this project?
M: We found the ways we put the submissions throughout the house, tucked away in drawers, hanging from clotheslines, and bound in booklets on shelves, revealed a really beautiful metaphor — these stories or narratives are everywhere. People that have had these kinds of experiences walk through the world and see little things, “triggers” that bring up their narratives and experiences and there is no way you can’t interact with them. We found the way we placed the submissions in the house was a metaphor for how people interact with these stories in our everyday lives.
The Trail: If you had to tell your younger self one thing after doing this project, what would it be?
M: I still struggle with school, and feeling like I can accomplish things with ADHD and anxiety. [The project] was a ton of work; we were doing a lot of things we hadn’t done before, like building a website, and curating a social media presence on Instagram. I wasn’t in a structured working environment, like the university or a job, just working intimately with one of my friends where we were setting our own schedule, and own goals, and it was a project I cared about.
Despite doing a lot of things for the first time,I felt very capable and accomplished and had a lot of fun doing it.
I would tell myself that being a student in the classic academic system we are placed in doesn’t have to be an essential part of my identity, that there are other ways to be a student. I want her to know, she is capable of doing things on her own and to resist the gendered and patriarchal aspects of the personal shame that I felt growing up.
I spent a night curled up in the chair in the corner of my living room, reading through the submissions on my laptop. I didn’t have to read all of them at once, but once I finished one submission, I had this unexplainable urge to read more, to continue to add to the collective narrative that became more robust with each submission. The submissions were diverse in both experience and execution. I realized, it was one of the only times I had encountered narratives and stories of rape culture, gender, and sexuality in one place where I could identify common themes. I think about how isolating stories and instances of sexual injustice and patriarchal power takes away the power of collectivity in processing and reconciling those experiences. The Girl House seeks to reject a culture that silences and isolates experiences of rape culture and to find power in the collective.
If you would like to submit to the Girl House Project, their website is thegirlhouseproject.com. Or follow their instagram @thegirlhouseproject.