About Our Name
We are sometimes asked (usually by men or adults over 35) about the meaning of our name. We believe that our name positively reflects our mission and commitment to helping young women and girls address real-life situations that impact their lives.
Affectionately referred to as "H.O.T.G.I.R.L.S.," our nonprofit was originally founded as the "HOTGIRLS Health Project" by Dr. Carla Stokes on November 21, 2001 while she was enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. A hip hop generation scholar-activist, Dr. Carla thought of the acronym while listening to the rap song, "I Need a Hot Girl" (1999) by the Hot Boys. In 2002, the HOTGIRLS Health Project was renamed, Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations, Inc. (HOTGIRLS)®.
What Our Name Means to Us
The term "hot" does not always have sexual connotations in youth culture, popular culture, hip hop culture, and within the community at large. For example, "hot" is often used among youth as a synonym for "cool," "tight," or "fly". Hip hop artists and youth in Atlanta (and around the U.S.) also use the term, "fire," "fiya,"or "fiy" as a synonym for "hot" (FIREGRL.com, our web site for girls, references this practice) (Alim, 2005; Morgan, 2008, 2002; Rickford & Rickford, 2000; Smitherman, 1997; Yasin, 1999).
Contrary to sexual interpretations of the term "hot girl" that are exploited by the adult entertainment industry and popularized by some segments of American culture, the name HOTGIRLS has special meaning among our youth participants and reflects our mission: to help teen girls by addressing real-life situations faced by underserved young women and girls and inspiring them to create positive changes in their lives and communities.
We are committed to defining what it means to be a "hot girl " for ourselves, while challenging sexualized and denigrating perceptions about women and girls (see girls' definitions below). In the words of the girls served by our program, "we're hot because we're on fire" (we are doing "good in the 'hood" and promoting self-empowerment among marginalized girls).
What Young Women and Girls Are Saying
- Click here to read testimonials from girls in our programs.
- Click here to read an essay about the Girls' Leadership Council (written by Amber)
- Click here to read an essay about HOTGIRLS (written by Aria)
Quotes from Young Women's Leadership Council members:
"To me being a "hot girl" means empowering girls who are the same as myself to see beyond music videos and sexuality as a way of expression. Its about celebrating African Americans girls for who they are and what they have to offer humanity." - Salimah
"To me, H.O.T.G.I.R.L.S. means exactly what it stands for: Helping Our Teen Girls In Real Life Situations. It is a spin on the traditional version of what it means to be a "hot girl" because we promote the empowerement of girls and young women in the community and soon to be, around the world. I am proud to call myself a HOTGIRL!" - Idia
"I like how HOTGIRLS takes something misogynistic and derogatory and makes it into something that's empowering. I dont think any other name would sum up what we represent and what we're trying to do better than HOTGIRLS. I think that with this name, we're realizing what hip-hop represents to our culture and the effect that it has and then dealing with it. We already know that hip-hop hypersexualizes women, so HOTGIRLS combats it." - Ashanda
"A hotgirl is someone who is intelligent, among other things. Our founder has taken a word that used to be negatively depicted and turned it into something so much more. We represent what it means to be an African-American teenage girl in this age, and we know that as long as we know we are Hotgirls, nothing or no one can stand in our way. "- Brittany
Quotes from Girls:
Above: HOTGIRLS workshop on gender and hip hop at the Diva Girls Summit in September 2007
For more information on the origins, definitions, and study of words like "hot" as well as other information concerning hip hop language ideology and/or African American discursive practice see:
Morgan, M. (2008) The Real Hiphop: Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the
Underground. Durham: Duke University Press.
Morgan, M. (2002). Language, Discourse and Power in African American Culture.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Other useful works include:
Alim, H.S. (2006) Roc the Mic Right: The Language of Hip Hop Culture. New York:
Rickford, J.R. and Rickford, R.J. (2000). Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Smitherman, G. (1997). The Chain Remain the Same: Communicative Practices in the Hip Hop
Nation. Journal of Black Studies, 28(1):3-25.
Yasin, J.A. (1999). Rap in the African-American Music Tradition: Cultural Assertion
and Continuity. In Race and Ideology: Language, Symbolism, and Popular
Culture. Arthur K. Spears (Ed.). Detroit: Wayne State University Press.
Please check back soon for more comments about our name from program participants.