Like many people, I didn't becoming interested in feminism until I was a young adult, but I could have used it much sooner. Sexism starts off at an early age, and so should feminism. Research has found some compelling reasons to start feminism young, and the younger we can start it, the more equipped people will be to handle the injustices they'll encounter later.
I remember experiencing sexism at a young age myself. I was told that boys were stronger, smarter, and better at sports. Some of the boys in my class tried to get me to stop playing soccer with them even though I was better at it than many of them. And based on what I looked like, I was told that I was a girl and would one day want to date boys, not given the chance to determine how I identified. As a teenager, I was both complimented and criticized based on my looks, which led me to tie them to my self-esteem. Feminism would have been useful in all these circumstances.
Here are some reasons why feminism must start young — not just for girls but also for kids of any gender:
1. Because Teenage Girls And Boys Prefer Male Student Council Leaders
According to Harvard's Leaning Out report, both boys and girls are more likely to want to increase the power of their student council if boys lead it. However, girls who are aware of gender discrimination are less likely to have this view, which means teaching girls feminism can have a huge impact on themselves and their peers.
According to a report by Common Sense Media, over half of girls ages six to eight and a third of boys this age believe their ideal weight is thinner than their current size. The idea we get from the media and even sometimes form our peers and families that the prettiest girls are the smallest starts very early on. Feminism and body positivity can provide an alternative to this toxic way of thinking that's all around us.
3. Because Little Girls Want To Go Into STEM Careers
According to a national survey by Fatherly, 41 percent of girls — compared to 32 percent of boys — want to go into STEM careers. Yet, as it stands, only 24 percent of STEM workers are women, according to the Department of Commerce. This means there's a discrepancy between what girls are interested in and what they get to do (or at least believe they can do). It's important to foster girls' interests from a young age so that they don't get discouraged down the line by stereotypes that say they can't pursue their goals.
4. Because A Quarter Of Young People Think Pressuring Girls Into Sex Is Normal
A recent survey by the organization Our Watch found that a quarter of people ages 12-20 agree with the statement, "It is normal for guys to put some pressure on girls to do sexual things." One in five women reported having been pressured into sex. Feminism can help teach people of all genders that this is not normal to do or to have done to you. In short, feminism can provide a new "normal" during the time in life when we learn what "normal" means.