What I Learned From The Teenage Feminist
Yes, This Is Still A Relevant Discussion
Many young people are hesitant to label themselves as feminists, due to a muddled history. I however, don’t struggle with that. If I look at what the current feminist movement stands for, my question is, why wouldn’t you be a feminist?
Just to be clear, by current feminist movement, I don’t mean white feminism or any other form of so called feminism that doesn’t value or silences people of different races, sexuality and gender expression or identity.
This may seem contrary to what some think of when they think of feminism. But that is only because they are looking to the past. Feminism truly lies in the hands of teenage feminists that continue to push our society forward; the ones who wish to rid feminism of its exclusive past, and move towards an active conversation that leads to action. These young activists can range from a girl at my high-school who runs an Instagram account (@feminist.teenager), to public figures such as Willow Smith (@willowsmith)and Amandla Stenberg (@amandlastenberg). Stenberg is able to convey this idea in its’ entirety, in one sentence.
“I feel it’s less about equality between the sexes today and more about liberating people from any type of discrimination caused by patriarchy…”.
This quote came from a conversation between Gloria Steinem and Amandla Stenberg, that served as a link between the early feminism and its’ new wave.
All of these young and current feminists speak the same message. One of acceptance and rehabilitation.
These role models and inspirations taught me about these very concepts. Society and the media are constantly telling people of color, women and LGBTQ individuals that they have something to be ashamed of. This ranges from the government’s restriction of reproductive rights to a preconceived notion of how one must look or even behave. Feminism validates those feelings of unhappiness with our current society, while acknowledging the subtleties of the movement, and tells all that their rights are non-negotiable and that diversity only works to create a more complete world.
The human body is beautiful, in all its un-edited glory. For many, the very idea that our bodies are made for a purpose other than to be aesthetically pleasing, is still, sadly, perplexing. Feminism praises our physical greatness, celebrating us for all that we are. This includes our sexuality, our brilliant minds and our inevitable capability for success. And this is quite the tall task. Feminism has to tear down layer after layer of misogyny, slowly, to reach a world where all individuals have been restored their dignity.
Feminism taught me that education can truly fix our world. Know your facts. Without feminism I would be living in a white blanket of naivety. In school, I learn, my core subjects, the ones that receive all the praise. But in order for that knowledge to have its all encompassing effects, that are praiseworthy, those subjects need to be linked to current injustices in our communities and world. Without these ideals, I wouldn’t know about the detrimental prison system in the U.S. and the mass incarceration of black men, the forever agonizing war against abortion and the falsities that accompany this war, and the hurtful effects of cultural appropriation. Or that our cityscapes are dominated by men, “perpetuat(ing) the gendering of New York City” (Solnit), and other cities across the country and world. By no means am I finished with this education. I have just begun to delve into the different scary twists and turns of our society, that many have reluctantly come to accept. My question is, without the knowledge of these systematic problems, how can our generation grow to be the ones who solve them?
I am my own best advocate. It’s alright for me to be assertive. I don’t have to hide my opinions for fear of being “bossy” or “bitchy”. Feminism shouts that I can ask for what I want in life. Feminism also preaches that you should go a step further and advocate for those who don’t have a voice, in addition to yours. My “bitchiness” is an asset for success and change.
For those that continue to persist with the idea that there is no need for feminism any anymore. I have one question for you, in the words of Amandla Stenberg, do you see everyone freed from patriarchy? Take a hard look, not just within your household, your community or even your country. Can you honestly say that all systems of oppression have been dismantled?
I needed feminism when a high-school teacher shamed students for their bodies. I needed feminism when classmates felt they were entitled to have a say in my body. I needed feminism when a boyfriend constantly needed to prove he was academically superior to me. I needed feminism when magazines continue to praise certain body types and stress Eurocentric features. I needed feminism when our future president felt that he can refer to women as “nasty”, a “highly gendered” term (Garber) and has shown to perpetuate the “rape culture laying out before us.” (Khazan). I still need feminism.
We still need feminism.
Chicago, Judy. The Dinner Party. 1979. Mixed Media. Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York.
Feminism. Dir. Denver Team. Perf. Ashia Ajani, Tolu Obiwole, Abby Friesen-Johnson and Alexis Rain Vigil. Brave New Voices. Youth Speaks, 24 July 2014. Web. 20 Nov. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fiOSGvYMBA>.
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Garber, Megan. “‘Nasty’: A Feminist History.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 20 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
Khazan, Olga. “The Lasting Harm of Trump-Style Sexism.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 4 Nov. 2016. Web. 20 Nov. 2016.
Solnit, Rebecca. “City of Women.” The New Yorker. Condé Nast, 11 Oct. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.
Strehlke, Sade. “We Paired Feminist Icon Gloria Steinem with Amandla Stenberg and This Is What Happened.” Teen Vogue. Condé Nast, 10 Aug. 2016. Web. 18 Nov. 2016.