Don’t F*** with Young Feminists
We say they have a voice, that they are engaged, that they are leading in their own right, that they are strong and unrelenting.
We assume they are a monolith. We assume we’ve adequately supported them and paved the way for them to take over. We assume we have fought hard for the rights they now enjoy. And, we assume that they will finish the job that we haven’t been able to finish.
I wanted to test some of these assumptions. Who are “young feminists” – and have we actually given them what they need to get the job done?
I spoke with two dynamic young women, both 16 years old, to better understand where they’re at – and what they want from us.
I assume you identify as feminists, I asked them. And if so, what is feminism, to you?
… the idea that any woman should be able to do what she wants to do, go where she wants to go, be who she wants to be, and be respected in all that she does. It sounds like such a simple, fundamental thing, but it hasn’t been accomplished anywhere – and that’s why it’s so important.
What about being a “young” feminist? We use that label liberally, but what does it actually mean?
… to know my worth as a young female individual. It is to not stand for any limitation to my potential or future based on my gender and sex. It means to not let other people or any system try to diminish my goals or voice based on gender roles or expectations. I am not afraid to let people know that I will not stand for that!
No doubt the world is far from equal. From your perspective, what are the biggest challenges women and girls face today?
… women and girls are underrepresented in positions of power. Also, restrictions on reproductive rights continue to be a persistent challenge for women and girls. And they are getting worse!
… women are too often seen as less than – less qualified, less credible, less able to lead, and so on. This means time and again women’s abilities to hold positions of power over communities or economies are doubted; women’s issues are not prioritized; women’s access to healthcare or education is limited; and women’s testimonies or experiences are not listened to or believed. Women constantly have to work twice as hard just to prove themselves capable or credible.
… I have known for many years that I face injustices in the world, but also that I have the capacity to fight them.
What about school? What’s working in our education systems – or not?
I think kids need to learn early on that sexist attitudes can often be invisible, but they still must be addressed.
We need to talk about gender equality in sex and relationships. Consent is a large issue that is not talked about… Do it early, before it’s too late.
Being a feminist isn’t about grandiose actions. It’s in the little things. The “daily feminisms” you implement as part of your life. The small stuff that is contagious. What daily feminisms work for you?
Every morning I check the news to learn about women’s rights around the world, to understand what feminists in other countries prioritize and believe in, and how to support them if I connect strongly with their cause.
On a daily basis, I keep myself up to date with women’s rights movements globally through my keen use of social media and obsession with feminist journalism.
You both are incredible role models. What support do you need now? How can we – the older generation of feminists – help you build a better world for women and girls? A world we’d all like to live in?
I think that older generations need to listen to the unique needs and aspirations of younger generations, and accept that the definition and context of feminism might have shifted from when they were young. At the same time, older generations have more experience in advocating for equality, so I think keeping an open dialogue on the best strategies for having your voice heard is best for everyone.
I wish in the future that all women will be able to be seen and heard in the feminist movement and that we all will be able to see the changes we desire in our communities and around the world. To reach full equality, everyone has to be listened to equally.
After all, a world that we’d all like to live in is a world that must be built by BOTH young and old feminists, as one united front.
What did I learn from this conversation?
It’s this: the younger generation of feminists are force, fuel, and fire. They will finish what we could not. The challenge for us is in what we’re leaving behind, and how to help them fix it.
As always, the full piece lives here: https://linaabirafeh.medium.com/dont-f-with-young-feminists-64cf60c910a2
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