Friday, August 27, 2010

The Young Feminist Diaries

My colleagues at FMF often tease me about coming out of the womb with a raised fist, ready to take on patriarchy from the beginning.

I first decided women's rights was my thing when I was 8 years old. As the editor-in-chief of my 5th grade class paper, I decided that all the sports reporters should be girls, to prove that we could do it. As a middle schooler, I would pass around petitions against teachers I thought were sexist (I'm sure this was just charming). When assigned to write a biographical paper in 8th grade, I had trouble deciding whether my subject should have been Emma Goldman and Margaret Sanger (Sanger won out). In short, I was a bit of a rabble-rouser and a general pain-in-the-ass. I was also a young feminist--yes, one of those rare, unicorn-like creatures that so many people claim to not exist.

Today, I am still a young feminist (like Shelby Knox, my 24th birthday is looming next week, but I think I still count!). I continue to passionately advocate for feminist causes, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated way than I did as a kid. My definition of feminism has expanded; I now view sexism as one of many systemic oppressions that keep people down. I see issues of race, class, sexuality, and disability as a crucial part of feminism.

I have also moved on from just harassing the teaching staff at Eastchester Middle School. My feminism evolved and grew through my activism as a part of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance at Brandeis University and my women's and gender studies courses there. Today I'm a National Campus Organizer at FMF, where I work with students around the country, helping them expose fake clinics in their communities, protect abortion clinics by escorting and acting as legal observers, create comprehensive sexual assault policies for their schools, and so much more. As part of my job, I have traveled through the Northeast, South, and Midwest, from Wisconsin to Massachusetts to Alabama, and met so many remarkable young people the way. As part of an amazing online young feminist community, I am exposed to the intriguing and sometimes brilliant opinions of my peers, and I am challenged every day to reexamine own privilege and experiences.

So when I am faced, yet again, with the tired old line that "young women aren't feminists," it stings. That's a cliche that takes my experiences and passions, as well of those of my friends and colleagues and acquaintances, and immediately discards and discredits them. Maybe we don't fit the prevailing narrative propagated by the media, but that doesn't mean we aren't here. I am so tired of having this same conversation over and over again (I wrote another version of this post less than a year ago). Feminists have real problems to face, and instead we keep fighting each other, caught up in talk of waves and apathy and all that other stuff. It's exhausting and unnecessary.

I encourage you all to check out the full This Is What a Young Feminist Looks Like Carnival over at Fair and Feminist to read the insights of those aforementioned brilliant young feminists, who are probably much more eloquent and less ranty than me. And remember that the best way to move beyond this argument is to get involved with feminist activism in your community, and to continue working for a better world. We don't do this for the credit, or the praise of older feminists, or glamor and money (ha!). We are activists because there is something in us that recognizes that the world has a lot of problems, and we cannot sit there and do nothing. So keep fighting.

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