Why Teen Feminists Are The Ones To Watch

by Eliza Castile
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Outside of being asked to teach adults how to use Snapchat (or whatever the social media du jour happens to be), teenagers have to fight to be taken seriously — but in many ways, teen feminists are the ones to watch right now. It's all too easy for adults to equate a lack of life experience with ignorance, and honestly, having been a teenager once myself, yes, they do dumb things sometimes. But that doesn't mean they live on a different planet where everything is perfect and nothing hurts until they turn 18.

Millennials tend to get the all the credit (or disparagement) for being socially progressive, but by all indications, the current generation of teenagers is just as forward-thinking. For one thing, they kind of have to be — research has shown that the proportion of multiracial teens is going to increase sharply by 2050, and according to a 2016 study, less than half of teens identify as straight. In my experience, it's a lot harder to judge a group of people when your best friend is one of them, or if you're a member of that group yourself. Furthermore, an international survey of adolescents shows that 40 percent of Generation Z considers climate change the biggest challenge facing the world in the next ten years, and 80 percent believe current leaders haven't done enough to protect the environment.

And beyond the statistics, a quick sweep of any adolescent-dominated corner of the internet shows just how important gender equality is to young people today. Here are seven signs young feminists are the future.


They Don't Stand For Sexist Dress Codes

For years now, teenagers have been speaking out against the double standards listed in most high school dress codes. The rules for male students typically take up a paragraph or two, while female students are required to follow pages of directions, as if the very sight of their shoulders renders other students incapable of learning.

Fortunately, adolescents have started fighting back against unfair dress codes, often in hilarious ways — and sometimes, they even manage to get the standards changed. How's that for taking action?


Young People Identify As Feminists

There's little data on how many teenagers identify as feminists, but research on young adults indicates that they're far more willing to describe themselves as feminists than middle-aged women are. Furthermore, a national survey by the Washington Post suggests that young women feel more connected to it as a movement; according to the survey's results, nearly 60 percent of young adults agree that feminism focuses on the changes they want. Furthermore, a number of young celebrities, like Rowan Blanchard, aren't afraid to use the word — but more on that later.


They've Grown Up With Intersectional Feminism

Intersectional feminism — a part of feminism that stresses the importance of overlapping identities on someone's experience in the patriarchy — was first coined in the '80s by civil rights advocate Kimberle Crenshaw. Decades later, it became a feminist buzzword, then part of the vernacular; you'd be hard-pressed to find a discussion of gender equality that doesn't mention intersectionality.

The current generation of teenagers has grown up listening to feminists discuss the importance of intersectionality and watching this play out in events like the Women's March. Undoubtedly, this will influence how teenage feminists shape the movement as they age.


Young Celebrities Embrace Gender Equality

Like it or not, it's no secret that celebrities function as role models. Luckily, a growing number of young, female celebrities have openly embraced gender equality. In addition to already-mentioned Rowan Blanchard, Amandla Stenberg has become such a prominent feminist that she spoke with Gloria Steinem for Teen Vogue last fall, and Will Smith's children, Willow and Jaden, are known for breaking down gender barriers and speaking out against cultural appropriation. This is not a generation that will sit by and conform to society.


Teens Rule The Feminist Blogosphere

While there are thousands of blogs out there, if you start paying attention, you'll notice that most are run by younger people. Teenagers run some of the most prominent feminist blogs — take a look at the popularity of Queen Feminist or the thousands of people following trans activist Nicole Maines' Twitter account.


They Understand Gender Fluidity

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Trangsender people have been present in virtually every society, but there's no question that the current generation of young people understands just how fluid the concept of gender can be. In February, the New York Times reported that nearly 150,000 teenagers between 13 and 17 years old would identify as transgender if survey takers asked. It might not sound like much in terms of the overall population, but it's an indication of teens' overall attitude towards gender these days. There are still enormous obstacles facing the transgender community, of course, but as transgender activist Janet Mock wrote in the New York Times, adults are usually the ones to have a problem with nontraditional gender identities.


They're Changing The Face of Feminism

Although politics is seen as the pursuit of older people, a number of teenagers have emerged as the new faces of feminism. On top of celebrities like Stenberg and Blanchard, young activists like Jazz Jennings, Sophie Thomas, Lili Evans, and dozens of others have become integral to the movement. I don't know about you, but I'm excited to see what happens next.