No one has ever said middle school is an easy time to be, well, anybody, and that includes feminists. But amidst all the awkwardness and awfulness that went into those infamous years, there are also some things that feminists did in middle school that were pretty awesome. Which is sort of the normal modus operandi for feminism when you think about it: Be a beacon of good things in a sea of awfulness.
Really it's no wonder your budding feminist consciousness was so active in middle school.
Obviously there is no single right or wrong way to be a feminist — or a future feminist as the case may be. By middle school some girls may already be identifying as feminist while others who may become feminists later haven't gotten there yet. But regardless, the middle school years are big for girls developing a gender-conscious worldview.
Middle school is the time when puberty hits, when clothes and makeup take on a whole new significance, when kids start developing real crushes and questioning their sexuality and trying to figure out what this growing up business is all about. And part of that is trying to figure out all the gender roles that supposedly go with that. Since gender roles are generally pretty unfulfilling and unfair, it really isn't surprising that a lot of girls — especially the ones who are or will become feminists — push back against them, in whatever ways they can.
Here are 6 things feminists did in middle school, because it's never too soon to start resisting the patriarchy.
Hated Gender-Based Rules
I remember middle school as the advent of things like strict school dress codes and beginning of the time when girls would be asked to do things like clean while boys were asked to carry heavy objects. It was the point when girls and boys got split into different activities during gym or played by different rules. And a lot of it seemed very unfair or arbitrary. Which doesn't tend to sit well with feminists.
Questioned The Need For Makeup
I don't have anything against makeup — in fact, I now think it's actually really awesome and fun — but when girls first start wearing makeup for real, not just for dress-up, it provokes some questions. Why do we need this? Why don't boys have to wear things to make their faces more attractive? Why is it so expensive? And that's all especially true since a lot of the time middle school girls are still too busy trying to learn how to do makeup and feeling pressure to wear it to really figure out how enjoyable and empowering makeup can be. And for feminists, the whole thing is highly questionable.
Got Ticked Off At Sexist Boys
Middle school marks not only the point when girls start trying to live up to adult gender norms, but boys start feeling the same pressure. Which often times means they start getting a lot more sexist. Whether it's making sexist jokes or claiming women aren't as smart or strong as men or just being disrespectful to their female classmates, boys can be pretty sexist in middle school. And it's enough to piss any middle school feminists off, big time.
Dove Into Feminist Books And Movies
As your cultural horizons expand in middle school, lots of girls find themselves drawn to books featuring strong female heroines and feminist themes. My favorite books during this time, for instance, were the Song of the Lioness fantasy series by Tamora Pierce about a girl who pretends to be a boy in order to become a knight. And in the years since I've found the same books — and many other feminist favorites — on the shelves of countless feminist friends.
At a time when the world is only piling on more pressure to comply with gender norms, girls are eager to find escape in books and movies and other works that defy all of those rules.
Stood Up For Yourself
Feminism is, from a certain perspective, about women simply refusing to be pushed around — and you can find that spark in middle school feminists, too. Especially since middle school bullying and just general unpleasantness is so rampant. Whether you never let anyone give you any trouble or were usually too shy to push back, most feminists can point to a moment where they stood up and said, "enough is enough." And all these years later, now we're saying it to things like the gender pay gap and rape culture.
Embraced Girl Power
Whether you went in for the "kicking ass and taking names" brand of girl power or the gentler, more esoteric "moon goddess" version or any other of the many varieties out there, you probably had a girl power phase in middle school — which, depending how you view feminism, maybe never ended. The world doesn't tend to send middle school girls the message that women and girls are powerful — so girls find a way to embrace that message for ourselves. Middle school girl power, while it hasn't had time to get very sophisticated yet, is still a beautiful thing.
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