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PHOTO BY STEPHANIE NELSON

Chelsey Goodan on Gender Justice, Feminism and Finding Your Authentic Self

Books & Writing

Fri, March 08

Although we are increasingly moving towards a society that uplifts women, many are still under the long and institutionally oppressive force of patriarchy. This not only limits their opportunities but reduces their value and does not recognize their importance. Feminists across the world have advocated for not only women’s rights but also equality for all sexes.

I recently had the opportunity to have an insightful and informative conversation about these issues with Chelsey Goodan, author of the upcoming book - Underestimated: The Wisdom and Power of Teenage Girls.

Based in the bustling city of Los Angeles, Goodan is a mentor, activist, and educator with over 16 years of experience. We explored her passion for supporting young women, the importance of involving men in the conversation of gender justice, and her process of coming up with and writing this book. The book talks about the power of young women and how we can improve their experience in a society that does not allow them to reach their full potential. Endorsed by Oprah’s Book Club and Oprah Daily, the book is all set for its release!

Photo: Courtesy of Chelsey Goodan

Goodan’s journey of mentorship started with her doing academic tutoring on the side when she was screenwriting in Hollywood. “Volunteering has been an important value for me,” she said, reminiscing on how she has spent meaningful time supporting young girls. She began to spend time mentoring girls outside academic tutoring, and came across women from a spectrum of different backgrounds. “I realized that I could be their microphone for what they want to say to the world,” she said. As she worked with these women, she saw how much the world holds them back and found meaning in making a better world for them, knowing they were in a society that would limit them as they grew up.

Elaborating on why she specifically focused on teenage girls in her book, she spoke about how teenage girls are particularly dismissed, minimized, and controlled. “The wounds we give women in their teenage years carry into their adulthood. When we empower adult women, we heal a lot of baggage that they carried for a long time, but what if women did not have to carry that baggage in the first place?” The experience of women changes based on this treatment, and Goodan passionately discussed the importance of providing young girls with a safe space that does not judge or mistreat them so that they can truly explore their authenticity.

Photo by Stephanie Nelson

As we spoke about her experience writing the book and the build-up to its publication date, she described the process as exciting and miraculous. Taking advice that she received from a friend, she decided to write the book instead of first creating a proposal to sell the book to a publisher. “Starting the book first was important to me because I needed to know what was inside me, and what actual story was going to come out with ease,” she revealed, talking about how she wanted to truly connect to her authenticity since writing a proposal is often in sales mode.

The process was as fast as it could have been, with two years taken from writing to finally having the draft that would get published.

She also asserted the importance of the relationship of a writer with their editor, since this is something long-term. “I did not have social media or an established business identity at the time, I just had something to say,” she reminisced. She received a preempt offer, following which the book almost doubled in size and finally, once the draft was locked in, it was time to get into the marketing aspect of the process. She reiterated that it was nothing short of miraculous, and it has been an exhilarating journey. We also talked about her favorite location to write in, to which she responded: “I set up my desk in my office so that I have a painting I love, cool little statues on the desk, flowers, inspiring pictures, and things that matter to me to keep me grounded, centered and inspired.”

The introduction of the book mentions how many families may see the birth of a girl as a burden and may feel more pleased with a boy. “It’s unfortunate that we are still seeing this, and it’s not okay,” she said. “This is why I wrote this book.” Feeling deeply for the topic, she spoke about how many see women as ‘below’ men due to a long systematic and historical context. Power has been defined through inherently masculine traits like domination, oppression and physical strength. These narratives have allowed men to step into power; however, as a result, feminine leadership with traits like empathy and generosity is categorized as love without being seen as powerful.

Photo: Courtesy of Chelsey Goodan

“I want to redefine what power means. Power is not always dominant.

Emotions are also powerful, which is why we need to involve men in the conversation and also focus on how we parent them.” From a young age, men are taught that girls are lesser than them through phrases like ‘crying like a girl’. This not only further fuels the imbalance and how men see women but also discourages men from expressing their feelings and imposes ideas of toxic masculinity, leading them to box up their emotions. “We’re harming both men and women,” she concluded, suggesting that the thoughts propagated by adults towards little boys and girls are a part of the root cause of the negative experiences all genders face as they grow up.

When asked about what she would like people to take away from a book, she asserted that the book is not just for teenage girls, but for parents, educators, and anyone who has a teenage girl in their life. She is interested in reaching women who have not talked about these things before, describing her book as a ‘Trojan horse’. People may pick up the book thinking it would help them figure out their teen daughters, but would instead point a finger at them and make them reflect on their behavior. “I want people to think that they need to love teenage girls exactly how they are. This book is not to fix them, but to help adults understand and empower them.”

A message she would like people to get is that we need to stop judging and shaming teenage girls. They are told to make themselves small behave ‘perfectly’ and be more likable, but instead of controlling their behavior, they need to have agency over their own lives. Girls are raised to be people-pleasers which limits them in terms of how they can discover themselves. We need to create space for women to also experience feelings like anger which others may find uncomfortable. “It’s a normal human emotion, and it’s okay to sit in that discomfort,” she said.

Photo: Courtesy of Chelsey Goodan

Goodan also passionately advocates for involving men in the conversation of gender equality more than they are right now. Men are also victims of patriarchy, and the idea of toxic masculinity often comes out as a result of this as well as them not knowing that feminism is for all identities, not just women. She discusses this in the “Power” chapter in her book, where she says that “power has been particularly related to domination and self-interest” which are traits that we expect men to possess.

However, many men have loving qualities that are not in line with society’s expectations, which causes psychological turmoil for them too. “I tell girls to show their fathers the definition of feminism, and ask if they agree,” she said. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, feminism is defined as “the belief that women should be allowed the same rights, power, and opportunities as men and be treated in the same way.” When confronted by this definition, some men can realize that their understanding of it is not the same.

“I want to bridge the experience of men and women so that no one needs to put up a defense and have healthy conversations,” Goodan added, talking about how we should hold supportive spaces for all gender identities. These spaces can be achieved by getting rid of controlling and judgmental mentalities, and by encouraging people to work on themselves. As a believer in publicly advocating for such issues, Goodan focuses on speaking up. “We have silenced a lot of voices of women and people of color.

When they get the chance to speak and are heard, change will start, she said. The MeToo movement woke up a lot of men and made them aware of the gender-based violence that women face daily. Bringing awareness to all identities and communities is important in bringing about change.

Photo: Courtesy of Chelsey Goodan

“Gender justice and equality permeate through my life,” she said when asked about what else she strongly advocates for. She cares a lot about authenticity, and believes that we need to break boundaries to redefine what women can really be. “Laughter is a great space for people to grow because they are more receptive instead of defensive,” she added, wanting to focus on spreading messages with a positive attitude. “With a now public profile, I feel vulnerable, but I need to display my uniqueness and model it for young women,” she expressed, stating that she also experiences the fear of judgement but wants to continue to use her platform and skills to talk about what is important.

She also stressed on breaking generational cycles so that we stop being victims of a broken system that has failed many women.

Towards the end of the interview, Goodan had some words of wisdom for first-time writers. “The key to creativity is to honor your uniqueness. Think about what makes you weird, which I think is a fantastic word.” Using her book as an example, she talked about the importance of embracing her own authenticity so that people heard her voice through it, and that is a part of the success of her book. “Normal is the death of creativity,” she added. We concluded the interview by talking about what we can expect from Goodan after the release of her book! “So many opportunities I have dreamed of are coming at me, and I get to sit back and decide which ones align with my mission and make me happy,” she explained. She discussed how she has worked towards making the right decisions for herself, and how different microphones are becoming available for her to relay her message. We can expect to see Chelsey at speaking engagements, in particular, to go to corporate spaces and schools to have talks about topics of gender justice. “I’m an extroverted author, and I love going on platforms to have such conversations!”


You can find more about the book and purchase it here. Keep up with Chelsey on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, TikTok, and her website.

Sapna Kappal
10k+ pageviews

Sapna is a third-year student from India majoring in psychology with a literature minor. She enjoys discussing and writing about music, film, travel, language, and diversity and aspires to further study and do research in the field of language and intercultural communication.

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