Girls State, Missouri program gets a documentary look

Several girls from Girls State cluster together for a selfie

Girls State follows many of the high school girls who attended a week long program for girls in leadership roles in the state of Missouri. This was an interesting year to document the program, because for the first time in Missouri Boys State and Girls State were on the same university campus during the same week.

At Girls State, young leaders from all over the state are allowed to run for offices – governor and legislators. They assume roles on a Supreme Court and have a mock trial. They debate issues and stage an election.

Having the boys on campus at the same time backfired on the organizers. The girls were quick to point out the inequalities in the programs. The boys had a bigger budget by a huge amount. The boys were in better rooms with better facilities. The boys had no dress code like the girls. Boys weren’t required to use a buddy system like the girls. The real governor of Missouri attended to administer the oath of office to the boy elected governor, but not to the girl elected governor. One of the girls investigated the inequities and wrote a lengthy expose of it for the student newspaper.

The event took place right before the Dobbs decision that did away with Roe vs. Wade. Much of the debating, campaigning, and mock trial dealt with the issue of abortion. The girls were as divided on the topic as the nation as a whole with liberal and conservative opinions of every kind. The unusual aspect of that was that Girls State fostered respectful discussion on the issues, which led to many girls hearing opposing ideas for the first time.

The Girls State poster shows a smiling mouth with red, white, and blue braces on the teeth

Abortion rights weren’t the only topic of discussion. Gun law, global warming, and many other issues concerned the girls and talk was animated on many topics.

Girls State is a program that allows small town girls a chance to be in a bigger situation and learn about what leadership means in a more open environment from what they might have known at home. The contacts with other girls from around the state were valuable and meaningful to the girls.

Good luck to every girl everywhere who participates in Girls State. May you run for office and lead us out of this mess we’re in!

I was interested in some of the unspoken things about the documentary. Most of the girls were white. They were required to have certain clothing and shoes for some of the events. They were expected to “behave.”

The film was directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, who also did the Boys State documentary. It’s streaming on Apple TV+.

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