Looking Back: Advice For Teenage Feminists
Technically, I am done with high school. My classes are over. My AP tests have been taken (just barely...I pity the person grading my Stats AP). I am just a few weeks and random final presentations away from the day I actually graduate. My high school experience was less than ideal (and, really, whose isn't?) but a funny thing happens when you reach this point in time (or, at least, a funny thing is happening to me). You start to feel nostalgic and sentimental anyway.
Maybe it's the constant stream of slide shows consisting of childhood pictures that are presented. Maybe it was the bonding our senior class experience while planning senior pranks. Maybe it was the realization, every time I talked with somebody, that, "Huh, I didn't realize how much I liked you until it became apparent that I'll probably never see you again. Bummer." But over the past couple of weeks I've been reflecting on the past four years of my life and the one thing that has become apparent more than anything else is that my feminist identity played a huge role in who I was and the choices I made in high school (see how this is starting to get relevant...?). So, while I accept that I can't really do anything about the past - it is what it is - I can at least put some of my reflections to good use here.
So without further ado, here are three FBomb-approved suggestions for all of the still high-school-aged teenage feminists out there.
1. Don't Apologize
Don't apologize for being a feminist. Ever. And, obviously, by apologizing I do not mean literally asking for people's forgiveness that you happen to believe men and women are equal, I mean any of the following:
- Laughing at sexist jokes because it's easier than speaking out / you want to fit in
- Telling sexist jokes for the same reason
- Remaining silent in class discussions when you easily could have interjected a kickass feminist perspective
- Standing by as some injustice occurs, which in high school, probably includes but is not limited to bullying, watching a friend cultivate an eating disorder, talking about other girls behind their backs (etc).
Because being a feminist means that you have the strength, integrity and intelligence to rise above all of these things. I'm sorry to say that I'm pretty sure I've done every one of the aforementioned things at some time in my high school career, and looking back, I have no idea why the hell I did. Really, truly, I have no idea why I compromised my identity for the acceptance of people that in the large scheme of things don't matter in my life. In the long run, you'll be so much more satisfied if you stick to your beliefs than if you're constantly malleable to the attitudes of your peers.
I always thought it was so dumb when adults used to tell me that. But it finally makes legitimate sense. Because peer pressure doesn't have to be about sex or drugs. It's in the small, day-to-day things, too, and it's not always as obvious as somebody shoving a beer in your face.
2. Get Involved
My pessimism about how my high school peers will fit into the future aside, I wish I had gotten more involved in my school. As a teenage feminist, I've been pretty set in the mindset that because there's virtually no feminist presence in my school, nobody could possibly think the way I did and therefore there was no point in trying to reach out to people. Well, this year, I (almost inadvertently) got involved in a few leadership positions at school, and found that I actually did have a lot in common with other people and could learn from them about other things. So, if there's no feminist presence at your school start a club - MAKE the presence. And if not, try to get involved in something else. Chess club, perhaps (embrace the inner geek).
Being a teenage feminist, whether out and proud or not, can be an alienating experience. But it doesn't have to be. And I'm proud that the FBomb has created a community where many of us can gather if we haven't been able to find that presence and like-mindedness in school or in our towns. But I kind of wish I'd tried to create it at school, especially since I'm SURE that there are girls who would get on board the feminist train if they were more exposed to it.
3. Be Proud, Be Yourself
Okay, this is starting to get cliche and kind of repetitive, so I'm going to try to wrap this up. But seriously, looking back, I hate that I spent so much time being anybody other than who I know I really am. I ended up getting into relationships and friendships with people, even during my senior year (I should know better by now, right), who in retrospect were pretty obviously narcissistic, manipulative, selfish and honestly, straight up mean. I don't think I ever would have wasted 30 seconds on those people if the strength I've always felt on the inside were mirrored in the way I act externally. Especially at the end of these 4 years, it's pretty clear trying to be a "likable" person (i.e. being more concerned with how others are perceiving you than with how you perceive yourself) left me hurt way more than it actually benefited me in any way.
So, I hope this helps. I know if somebody had told me this when I was a freshman, or to be totally honest, even last year, I would've been like, "Yeah, okay, whatever, blahblahblah." But I hope you take it to heart, especially if any of this resonates with you. High school may just be four years of our lives, but shouldn't we try to make every year of our lives the best yet?
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Body image and body standards, Education, Feminism, Girls, Misogyny
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Title IX, Sexuality, Gender bias, High school, Social media, Women's leadership, College, Sexism, News