15 Feminist Icons Under The Age Of 20
Today's teenage girls can be overwhelming to anyone who isn't prepared for them. They're loud and they're proud and they have access to more information than any other generation before them. But what may seem intimidating to some has bred some of the most powerful feminist minds The newest crop of teen feminists embody the best parts of their generation: they're loud, delightfully proud, and smart as whips. Indeed, the unapologetic young woman is proving herself to be a mighty force for feminism.
One of the best things about the young women featured below is that they're a community. As you'll see, many of them are friends, have interviewed one another, or have all worked for some capacity for the tie that binds — Rookie Magazine. There's something very comforting about seeing young women build each other up, refusing to conform to that tired stereotype that women are threatening to one another and are obligated to compete. This new generation of women refuses to fit into those pre-prescribed roles for femininity, and if you're ever feeling hopeless in the current state of feminist issues, this list should give you faith that the next generation is taking care of business.
Here are 15 feminist icons under the age of 20 that you'll want to be when you grow up:
1. Jazz Jennings, 15
Dazed Magazine's February cover star Jazz Jennings is inspirational, and not in the cheesy way that quotes you wrote on your high school notebooks were, but in the very real sense that she is brave, articulate, and very down to earth despite being such a force. When she was just six years old, Jennings appear on Barbara Walters' 20/20 to tell the world she identified as trans. Now, at 15, Jennings has her own show, I Am Jazz, and is a fierce advocate for LGBTQ rights. Wise beyond her years, Jennings told Dazed (in an interview with Rowan Blanchard, but more on her later), "I feel like kids are much more open to change, because they’re learning about the world and about themselves. But adults can be so stuck in their own realities and what they’ve lived in the past that they don’t realize how things change, times change, ideas change, and that they have to open up their minds and move on from the era they grew up in."
2. Amandla Stenberg, 17
You might remember Amandla Stenberg as Rue in the first Hunger Games movie, but her legacy as a voracious intersectional feminist will be her legacy. Last year, Stenberg floored the world with a video that went viral, asking the question, “What would America be like if it loved black people as much as it loves black culture?” in which she fiercely challenged white appropriation of black culture. A self-possessed teen who doesn't bend to meet social expectations or any backwards sense of propriety, she has come out as proudly bisexual, and was memorably accompanied to prom by a skirt-wearing Jaden Smith. Stenberg is nothing if not marching to the beat of her own, wonderful drum.
3. Malala Yousafzai, 18
After being shot in the face by the Taliban at age 16 for advocating education for girl children in her native Pakistan, Malala Yousafzai became a sheer force of will and intellect. Since surviving the brutal attack, Malala has gone on to be a global activist for female education and the youngest person to ever with the Nobel Prize. For the last three consecutive years she's been named one of TIME Magazine's "100 Most Influential People in the World," and continues tirelessly and relentlessly to secure access to education to young women all over the world.
4. Mars, 15
If you haven't heard of Mars, now might be the time to get acquainted. She's just set up an art movement called "Art Hoe", which is designed for people of color to explore, create, and appreciate art and how it relates to their identity. It should come as little surprise that Amandla Stenberg is involved in the #arthoe movement. Mars identifies as gender fluid, and is a contributor to Rookie Mag (more on that below!), and is vocal about gender, sex, and race issues, especially with respect to cultural appropriation. Speaking on intersectionality, Mars told The Guardian, “I’m a womanist. If you’re a woman of color, or a woman in the LGBT community, you have more things on your back, basically. It’s not just gender for you.”
5. Tavi Gevinson, 19
Tavi Gevinson started her blog Style Rookie at age 12. What were you doing when you were 12? She quickly became a sensation, not just for being an adorable 12-year-old with eclectic style, but for her thoughtful insights and before-her-years writing skills. In 2011, at age 15, she founded the website Rookie , a feminist website for teenage girls to explore pop culture, gender, sex, race and everything in between. Tavi has spoken openly about women's issues, with Rookie aiming to give all different types of young women a voice and a chance to be a little bit unruly.
6. Girls Against, 17-ish
There's a pretty boring stereotype that teenage girls are petty and preoccupied with their hair and boys. Girls Against surely destroys that toxic idea of female teenage-hood, as their Twitter bio states they are, "Five intersectional feminists fighting against sexual assault at gigs." The group was created when one of the founding members, Hannah Camilleri (17), was harassed at a show. Now their Twitter has over 11,000 followers as the girls promote their anti-harassment message at the same time creating a safe space for other women and girls to share their experiences.
7. Rowan Blanchard, 14
Rowan Blanchard is another one of those bright young women that make your formative years look frivolous by comparison, but who you know would still make you feel good about yourself and validate your experiences by being so warm and full of wisdom and all reasonable and no nonsense. The Girl Meets World star wrote an essay about intersectional feminism (posted to her Instagram) and how white feminism can stifle or even silence the voices of trans women and women of color. "'White feminism' forgets all about intersectional feminism. The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women," she wrote. "We are so quick to applaud white women for commenting on race issues/discussion like #BlackLivesMatter, and #SayHerName, but when a black girl comments on it — she is told she is overreacting or being angry." Blanchard has also written about feminism, and a woman's propensity to say "sorry", for Rookie Magazine.
8. Lily Rose Depp, 16
The daughter of Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis, Lily Rose Depp has had a lucky life. She recently identified as sexually fluid, and used her position and privilege to advocate for LGBTQ issues. Depp posed in an awareness-raising campaign called "Self Evident Truths", a photo series documenting 10,000 people in the U.S. who don't identify as being 100 percent straight. The project's photographer, iO Tillett Wright, wrote in a caption of the photo he took of her, "She decided she wanted to be in @selfevidentproject because she falls somewhere on the vast spectrum, and I couldn't be happier to welcome her to the family. She's a tiny gem of a good human."
9. Willow Smith, 15
Willow Smith has some attitude on her (in the best way), thanks to empowering parents Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, the former of whom wrote a message for Willow on her birthday, saying, "Thank you for correcting my heart — and teaching me how to love without constriction or condition." Given her way, Willow would "correct" the world's heart, as she promotes freedom of expression, sexuality, and love. Most recently she took to Twitter to talk about Kesha, writing "We live on a planet where the incubators of our species are constantly abused. If we keep down this road we will ruin our planet to the point of no return #FreeKesha." In January this year she also caused a stir when she promoted the #freethenipple campaign with a photo of herself in a top with breasts painted on it. You know, just Willow Smith being her bad self.
10. Mithsuca Berry, 15
Going by the alias Foxyfries, Mithsuca Berry is a 15-year-old illustrator whose work has appeared in Rookie Magazine. Berry is know for her provocative illustrations, which you can buy prints of at Society6. Grappling with issues of femininity, race and how those are intertwined with identity, Berry uses the visual medium to empower people of all colors, genders and sexualities. Her beautiful artworks include images of Adventure Time characters reimagined as people of color and faces scrawled with the words "I love my blackness and yours".
11. Lila Perry, 17
You might have heard of 17-year-old trans teen Lila Perry from the time she wanted to use the girl's toilet at her high school in St. Louis, only to have more than one hundred students and their parents storm out of the school in protest. Despite being the victim of inexcusable transphobia, Perry has become a symbol of courage for the trans community and indeed, for the more tolerable cis people in her own community. Indeed, the publicity from Perry's case put her on a national press circuit to raise awareness about trans issues in schools, sparking a country-wide conversation about what more can be done to protect LGBTQ teens and promote acceptance in their communities.
12. Sophie Thomas, 13
When Sophie Thomas identified as a feminist, wearing a t-shirt featuring the slogan "Feminist" scrawled across it, and was allegedly told by her school principal to cover it up for a school photo, she became a hero. Thomas fought back against the alleged arbitrary instruction, organizing a protest at which students wore t-shirts that read "Feminism isn't offensive." Her vocal brand of activism has spread from her home in Ohio across the country, and even inspired the viral hashtag #IDESERVEFREEDOMOFEXPRESSION.
13. Lorde, 18
Unlike some of her older contemporaries, teenage Lorde, even when she was just beginning her career in the spotlight, never shied away from proudly calling herself a feminist. She's spoken openly about feminist issues on her Twitter, and in an interview with Tavi Gevinson for Rookie she said, "I think I’m speaking for a bunch of girls when I say that the idea that feminism is completely natural and shouldn’t even be something that people find mildly surprising. It’s just a part of being a girl."
14. Maisie Williams, 18
We all want to believe that Maisie Williams is just as precocious as her onscreen character, Arya Stark. And while she might not be out for revenge in real life, Williams is still an advocate for strong women. She recently hosted a #LikeAGirl Summit in New York, and while she wasn't "Stabbing bad guys in the eye" or "Selling oysters but really spying" like a girl, she was promoting the idea that doing something "like a girl" isn't a negative thing, as it's so often intended in use. As she told Today.com, "To be like a girl means you can make decisions in your life without having to worry about what anyone says. Because I know my brothers don't. Not at all."
15. Sonita Alizadeh, 18
Sonita Alizadeh is a brave young woman. She escaped a planned, non-consensual arranged marriage in Afghanistan by penning a rap song called "Brides For Sale". The heartbreaking song and accompanying video begins with Alizadeh wearing a barcode on her forehead, with a black eye, rapping, "Let me whisper, so no one hears that I speak of selling girls. My voice shouldn’t be heard since it’s against Sharia. Women must remain silent… this is our tradition," and telling the story so many young women are too familiar with. It's a story of abuse and ownership, and it caught the attention of the Strongheart Group, who offered her a student visa so she could study in the U.S., where she currently resides. An Iranian documentary filmmaker, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, has made a documentary of her life, to be released this year.