If you want to make sure the world is in good hands, I suggest you give it to young people who are already doing the work. Arguably more armed to change the world, teen feminists are the future. If you need evidence of that, just start with some facts about who they are.
People under 19 are the largest age demographic in the United States, making up roughly 25 percent of the population. The kids dubbed Gen Z are already one of the most diverse generations in history, according to statistics shared during SXSW in 2016 and reported on by Forbes. About 47 percent will be racial minorities, which is 10 percent more than the current overall population. Gender and sexuality are also more fluid for this generation. 48 percent identify as exclusively heterosexual; 65 percent of Millennials say the same. 44 percent of Gen Z say they always shop in the section for their own gender; the same is true of 54 percent of Millennials. These demographic shifts impact the way young people see the world.
For the upcoming generation, “socially conscious” is less a self-designated label and more just the way they live. 76 percent say they are concerned about human impact on the planet. In turn, 60 percent aspire to jobs that will impact the world. This is the generation where same-sex marriage and having a black president aren’t automatically equated to controversy; they are simply reality.
As a society, we often don’t take teens seriously, teen girls in particular. Not only does this do them a disservice, we’re hurting ourselves by not working with them. However, that hasn’t stopped young people from starting to shape society. Here are 7 reasons why young feminists are our future and how they’re already changing the world.
1They Aren’t Afraid to Call Themselves Feminists
The word “feminism” frightens a lot of people. (Specifically, older men.) However, trends show that young people are less reluctant to ascribe to the label “feminist.” Rowan Blanchard, now 15, is an an actress you might recognize from Girl Meets World. You should also get familiar with the work she’s doing for gender equality, like the above video from We Day 2015. Also, Blanchard’s Twitter is essentially an the epicenter for all things “feminism for teens.” Follow her @RowanBlanchard for your daily dose of young feminism.
2They’re Combating Institutionalized Sexism
If we can dress like them, they can dress like us. pic.twitter.com/owGIH155Et— Emma Sledd💕 (@EmmaSledd) January 29, 2016
You’ve likely seen a news story in recent years about students fighting sexist dress codes at school. From are calling it out in yearbook quotes to organizing dress code protests, students are calling out the sexism they’re seeing on a daily basis. After a school board in California noted not to revise outdated dress codes that prohibited things like male students wearing skirts, students fought back. As one student told CNN, “Hopefully, the board will see that we aren't blindly rebelling, but simply advocating for our rights.”
3They’re Calling Out Rape Culture
Young feminist are fighting rape culture in part by recognizing that things like sexism and dress codes go hand in hand. Last year, high school student Alexia Sambrano wrote a piece on why she is a feminist that garnered national attention. The piece is eloquent, impassioned, and shows what sexism looks like for young women today. One of the most powerful lines from the piece reas, “I am a feminist because most boys my age seem to be more disgusted with periods and menstrual cycles than they are with rape.” You can read the full piece “Why I’m a Teenage Feminist” here.
4They Understand Trans Rights
As Janet Mock recently wrote for the New York Times, “Young people get trans rights. It’s adults who don’t.” Young women like Jazz Jennings are examples of the increasing awareness of trans rights and growing representation of trans people.
5They Recognize the Importance of Intersectionality
Let's continue demanding space for women who are not thin, white, straight, able-bodied, neurotypical and cisgender. 💪🏾— Amandla (@amandlastenberg) December 17, 2015
Amandla Stenberg embodies the future of feminism. From videos on cultural appropriation to interview on the importance of intersectionality, Stenberg’s voice is an example all aspiring activists. Grassroots groups like the Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance also exemplify the growing push for inclusivity in feminism. Check out this interview in which members of the alliance provide a lesson in Intersectional Feminism 101.
6They Aren’t Afraid to Take the Lead
If you need a 20-minute pick-me-up, watch the above video about the Radical Monarchs by The Guardian. They’re fierce, they’re engaged, they’re ready to fight for equality. Also, they’re not even teenagers yet. The Radical Monarchs focuses on empower young girls of color, encouraging the next generation of budding feminist leaders.
7They’re Already Politically Engaged
The condescension and surprise directed toward @TeenVogue for publishing great writers is a measure of how women/girls are underestimated.— roxane gay (@rgay) December 10, 2016
Young feminists are not lacking peer role models. Thanks to young women like Malala Yousafzai and publications like Teen Vogue and Rookie, future generations have plenty of guidance when it comes to being politically engaged feminists.