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International Women’s Day: Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures

March 8, 2012

The wonderful people over at Gender Across Borders are hosting a what I would like to call a “Blog-In” for International Women’s Day. I couldn’t be more ecstatic.

Under the theme of connecting girls and inspiring futures, I could write for ages. From a  personal standpoint, I feel like much of my growth as a feminist has been rough-and-tumble because, unlike many other stories I have heard, I did not have a mother who was a vocal feminist. Yes, my mom is invested in equality for women as are my sisters, but I didn’t have anyone telling me about feminism, what it was, what it meant to them, what it could do for the world. It wasn’t until I got to college and explored my investments in feminism that I dove headfirst into literature and knowledge around something I felt was elemental to who I was but had missed out on for so long!

I have also come to share my fellow students dismay as we witness the increase in people of our age cohort saying the ubiquitous “I’m not a feminist but…” statement. Where has feminism gone for the millenials? Why don’t they feel like it’s important to them and how can I change that (or does it need to be changed)? Is feminism (like most of them say) past it’s prime and unnecessary? And if this is how they feel, how do I (and other self-identified feminists) reach out to them surrounding women’s rights and equality without immediate dismissal because of the “f-word”?

This brings me to the question of inspiration? How do we inspire and compel girls (and other genders!) to continue fighting the good (feminist) fight?

Well, firstly, we’ve got to come to terms with the future being online. It will be in the streets too, of course. But if we want to engage the next generation, I think we’re going to have to meet them halfway. There’s a lot of research out there about where teens are online, how to cater to them, how to get them to be interested in whatever you have to say. If you know me at all, you know how much I resent technology. I’m obsessed with it, I want to write a book about it someday, the way people use it fascinates me. BUT, it frustrates me to no end and I am often angry at how much time I spend in front of a screen. Yes the world outside is waiting for me, but the world on my screen is just as important these days. Living in all of these worlds exhausts me.

That being said, I’m definitely not one to promote catering to and finding ways to engage youth online. Google anything about teens use of the internet and you’ll find them being described as fickle and difficult to market to because of their digital native-ness. They know the games you play to get to them and they don’t want anything to do with it (unless you offer some sort of fun or social capital for them being involved). Not only do I not completely believe these commentaries, but I also cringe at the thought of having to develop new (and probably more obnoxious) ways of marketing to engage teens online. I’m probably being a terrible internet-user when I say things like that. But there’s a difference between how I feel and what I do. I know we will have to be more innovative and change the game, that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it.

So what do we do?

We engage them where they like to be. We make feminist Ryan Gosling “Hey Girl” memes. We create places where they can express themselves. I’ve tweeted about this one website who knows how many times and have fallen in love with it’s format. Off Our Chests to me is a sparkling example of how we are going to refurbish what we know about the internet in order to engage teens in issues that we know they care about and that impact their lives.

People are social, they like to talk, and if they’re anything like me or you other bloggers out there, they’re a little fond of hearing themselves talk (or write, really). So, if we want to continue to stride forward in involving and educating teens in what goes on in the world around them, we should make spaces where they can be expressive to a community that will interact back with them. And it’s already started to happen.

Hop on over to Scarleteen and you’ll see Sex-Ed for the real world where people can ask questions they want the answer to without shame. Take a YouTube tour of vlogs (video blogs) dedicated to how to come out to your parents, what it’s like being a trans* teen in Texas and watch the users interact with each other in comments or video responses. Take a stroll through the amazing blogs being written by teen girls for teen girls at SPARK. Google the infinite blogs dedicated to people talking about their lives and others talking back. Peruse through Policy Mic and watch how the way we even get our news is changing into a conversation.

The internet world is changing, my internet world is changing. It’s no longer the status quo to talk at someone, you have to talk to them. In a lot of respects, maybe this means the internet world is morphing into a version of “online” that’s a little closer to the “offline” lives we all lead. I, for one, am completely on board with that shift. And though I don’t know exactly how to move forward and best engage the next generation on issues that matter, I do know that it’s happening and we’ve got to either grab the reins and follow suit or risk becoming antiquated and useless.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 2:58 am

    Thanks for the post! I’m with you on having a mother that didn’t promote feminism, in fact, my mother cringes at the word feminism and that just makes me sad, but anyways….

    I was back and forth about the word feminism for a while. I identify as a feminist, and when I first found feminism claimed it wholeheartedly, but with all the backlash against it, I have wondered if women might be better served starting over with a different word.

    Lately though, I see the backlash as a result of the way people are programmed under patriarchy and that we should’t re-invent the wheel- So YES I think we should claim the word feminism and identify as “feminists” and promote the hell out of feminism to girl and women everywhere to get this movement going- in person of course, but definitely on the internet- that’s where it’s at- though yes, I also spend way too much time in front of this screen. Happy International Women’s Day. In Solidarity! Liza Wolff-Francis, Matrifocal Point

  2. April 5, 2012 7:34 pm

    I’m 16, I came from Italy and I found myself there looking for pictures about what feminism is on Google Images. I’ve created an album on my Facebook profile and changed my profile picture into an image saying “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people”. I want my friends to think about this simple sentence. I want to scream out loud that I’m a feminist and I’m proud of it.
    Girls see feminism as something old and boring, they think that boys will never like them if they talk about things like women’s rights or why pornography gives a negative vision of women. Some of my classmates simply deny the mere fact that we still need feminism.

    This is the environment I live in. My mother simply didn’t care about feminism, while my father seems to live in the 50’s, and this is the main reason why I became interested in feminism and studied it until I decided I could call myself feminist.

    In my opinion, to get the new generations involve there’s only one way. School should give some time to think, read and discuss about causes that involve feminism (rape culture, pinkification – as PinkStinks defined it – right to choose in case of unwanted pregnancy, and so on). There must be no differences between genders at primary and secondary schools. Teachers should encourage boys and girls to play together with all the toys, not only dolls for girls and robots for boys.

    The Internet is surely important, but, to me, we should educate kids to feminism when they’re younger. Then, they will be able to find their space on the Internet, discuss together, tear down barriers and create new worlds.

    I promised myself that I will keep on fighting for equality and respect. That’s what I believe in.
    PS: I apologize for any mistake I could have done. I have been studying English for only three years and I’m not good at it yet. Sorry!

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  1. Final Roundup #5: Blog for International Women’s Day #blogforiwd

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