5 Things Every Girl Needs To Hear In 2017
Anybody out there feel as if 2016 was a banner year for all womankind? Nope? Me neither. And it was a particularly grim one for young women, in particular. For all the excellent pushes forward, there seemed to be more and more steps backward, from the short Brock Turner verdict (and what it represented) to the continuing, brutal existence of the gender pay gap. And that's only focusing on the United States; the status of women worldwide continues to be drastically unequal, to put it mildly.
Cultures of misogyny, of open and concealed sexism, of embedded beliefs about the qualities of women, deeply affect those girls who are yet to become adults and forge their way in the world. We've got a long way to go, and everybody needs to feel empowered. If you have a daughter or know young girls, it can be tempting to protect them from the insanity that is the modern world; but there are things girls are going to need to hear in 2017, as defenses against the messages they may receive elsewhere, from the media, their peers, their Twitter feeds, the news, and everywhere else.
The year 2016 may have taken the wind out of our sails with hit after hit, but we're rearing up for a big new fight in 2017. Who run the world? Not girls, not yet. But soon.
"You Are Valued"
It's been, in many ways, a bad year for the value of women. We've been told definitively that a history of alleged sexual assault won't stop you from becoming the most powerful person in the world if you're rich, male, and white enough. We've been shown that being the best in the world at a sport, or a politician, or a high-powered news executive, doesn't protect you from sexist nonsense.
There have been, however, rays of light: the Supreme Court decisions that protected abortion access across Texas and elsewhere in the United States, for instance. And in 2017, those are the rays we're going to have to hold on to. Women as a gender have value; we are not just things, or objects, or routes to sexual gratification and children. In an atmosphere that may get increasingly oppressive for women in the United States, it's a message that needs to be reemphasized to girls especially, over and over again.
"You Always Have The Right To Say No"
The year 2016 was not distinguished by its rate of sexual assaults, but rather by the publicity surrounding them. Bill Cosby, Roger Ailles, hundreds of gymnastics coaches, Brock Turner: we're more and more able to discuss these things openly and in the fierce light of public opinion, and more than ever, the tide appears to be turning against those who refuse women that most important of rights: the right to consent.
It's still a rough world, though. Child marriage remains rife, Brock Turners seem to be around every turn, and there are apologists across every Facebook feed. Education about consent, what it means, how to establish it, and just how crucial it is remains vital for girls, for whom the words "slut-shaming" should hopefully not mean anything at all one day.
"You Can Protect Yourself"
As the world's turmoil seems to increase in scale and chaos (terrorism, the Syrian civil war, Trump's Presidency, the rise of the far right), there's a glimmer of hope: there's also been an increase in activism. The amount of people inclined to stand up and fight against injustices against women around the world has been on display this year in style: the Polish abortion protests, the Latin American marches against a culture of violence against women, the huge crowds around the U.S. Supreme Court as it made the Texas decision, the smaller social media protests against sexist dress codes and gender discrimination.
Girls coming into 2017 should be advised that they are not without civil weapons, that they can take action, and that there are ways to help: to donate to feminist organizations, protest like their lives depend on it, challenge the rules, take to the streets or to Twitter. Just because they're young does not mean they can't feel empowered to take on a world that may not see them as powerful.
"Your Voice Will Be Heard"
One of the most surprising elements of 2016 in the media, at least to people who know nothing about modern girlhood, was the rise of Teen Vogue as a stalwart of excellent political journalism about everything from Trump's gaslighting to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It isn't really a surprise at all, though. This is a girl's world, and their voices are powerful, far-reaching, more capable of finding willing audiences than ever before.
Young women need to be open and vocal, and the world appears to be ready: some of the most popular TED talks of 2016 have been from young women on topics as diverse as sexual assault reporting, coding, and the power of misfit existence. "Seen and not heard" may be a reality for many women around the world, but it's a silence that's cracking, and girls need to be told, more than ever, that their words are powerful, their thoughts are valuable, and they deserve to communicate their ideas.
"You Are Part Of A Worldwide Community"
There was a lot of soul-searching among the feminist community after Clinton's loss in America, but in large part, the feminist movement has rocketed out of the abyss of 2016 with empowerment, the vow to do better, to talk more, to be more intersectional, and the will to be inclusive. And girls should never feel as if, in their sense of their own power and worth, they are alone.
In 2017 more than ever, the consciousness of a global community of women supporting one another and pushing for equality, from the Million Women's March in January to lobbyists and organizations worldwide, is crucial. Whether they're in Bangladesh or Missouri, Venezuela or Australia, women fighting for a better life for women are not in this as lone actors. They are part of a global collective, full of brilliant and invigorated people pushing for a better future. Put that on your New Year's card and send it.