I don’t know about you, but my New Year’s resolutions sure have changed over the years. In fact, I can track the evolution of my feminism just by remembering the resolutions I’ve made throughout my life. For this reason and others, I feel like the feminist resolutions you made at different ages are empowering to think about when you’re all grown up. At least, they are for me.
When I was in kindergarten, I resolved to be as awesome as my favorite Disney princess. When I hit double digits, my resolution was to be the most badass gymnast I could be. In high school, my resolutions were about taking charge of my personal style. (I wasn’t going to let anyone tell me that my fingerless gloves and plaid skirts weren’t cool AF.) By 20 years old, I was Hermione Granger IRL, so my resolutions were about keeping scholarships and getting published in my university’s student journal. And at 25, I just wanted to be more successful by the time I was 26. This year, my resolution is to be kinder to myself.
Of course, everyone’s different. The feminist resolutions I’ve made since childhood might not be the same as yours, and that’s totally OK. One thing’s for certain, though: the feminist resolutions we made when we were growing up helped us become the awesome women we are today. Here’s the feminist resolutions you make when you’re five, 10, 15, 20, and 25.
When you're five, you're (hopefully) young enough that you don't have too much internalized misogyny built up inside of you. So instead of feeling like you should resolve to work out more or find love every December 31, all you care about is being as awesome as your heroes. At least, that was the case for me.
I think this is probably the case for a lot of kids, though, because children like to mirror their heroes when they're four and five. It may sound like an over-generalization, but it's a real thing: five year-olds are obsessed with superheroes. Psychologists think it's because five is the age we start wanting to assert ourselves and figure out our place in the world, which is pretty dang feminist.
Personally, I don't think I knew what the word feminist even meant when I was five years old. But I did know that I wanted to be brave and go on adventures like Pocahontas. I also knew that I wanted to get better at reading, like Belle. (I have since managed to do both, fyi.) Basically, my New Years resolutions back in '95 were feminist AF and I didn't even know it. Yours probably were too.
If you were anything like I was at 10 years old, then your New Year's resolution had something to do with gymnastics, volleyball, or beating all the boys you knew at arm wrestling. Not only does our culture place a ton of value on youth sports and other extracurricular activities for kids, experts agree that 10 is a huge year for social development and goal-setting — which pretty perfectly describes the whole premise of sports in middle school.
Even if it wasn't about excelling in sports or mercilessly crushing the egos of young boys, the New Year's resolutions you made at 10 years old probably had something to do with excelling in some kind of competitive team of your peers. (That was for you, my fellow band geeks and drama nerds.) If this sounds like you at 10 years old, then the resolutions you made back then were probably about working really hard, developing new skills, and/or learning how to be supportive of other girls and boys — which is essentially Feminism 101.
In my experience, the average girl has been sexualized multiple times by the age of 15. On top of that, everything from sexism in advertising to the pressure to be thin starts to become unbearable by high school. This is perhaps especially true here in the U.S., where women reportedly have the worst body image.
Unfortunately, most 15 year old girls understand that the objectification of women starts long before you're actually a woman. This is part of the reason I feel like the feminist resolutions we make when we're 15 are mostly about owning our appearances. For me, this meant dressing as much like Avril Lavigne (as my fundamentalist Christian parents would allow) and dying my hair four different colors in one year.
Not everyone chooses to go to college right after high school, (or ever) and that's more than OK. Women have been outnumbering men on college campuses here in the U.S. for awhile now, though. In fact, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, 71 percent of American women enroll in college after completing high school.
So statistically speaking, the majority of 20 year old women are enrolled in college. This means "earn a spot on the Deans List" or "maintain a solid GPA while juggling a part time job and applying for summer internships" are all pretty standard feminist resolutions to make when you're 20. I know they definitely were for me.
By the time a feminist gets to their 25th New Year's celebration, the chances are pretty high that they've had their heart broken multiple times. On top of that, pretty much no one reaches 25 without experiencing some failure. It's not at all uncommon these days for people in their mid-twenties to be living at home with their parents, and I think it's fair to say the majority of 25 year-old's aren't exactly in love with their jobs. All of this crap combined creates the perfect conditions for a nasty quarter life crisis, which can really suck.
That said, hitting your version of rock bottom kind of forces you to get your sh*t together and start making better choices. This usually translates into loving and nurturing yourself so you can build up the confidence required to create a healthier, happier life for yourself.
Basically, 25 is a difficult age for a lot of people. On the upside, 25 is also the age you resolve to start being the boss of your own life, and there's really nothing more feminist than that.