These Teen Feminist Groups Are Leading The Fight For Gender Equality & Intersectionality

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If you believed all the hype online and in the adult world, you’d be forgiven for possibly thinking feminism is a dirty and misunderstood word. While us adults may have to continually remind each other that it is simply a movement based on the social, political and economic equality of both sexes, i.e., gender equality, for the younger generation, it is a different story. Teen feminists are on the rise and it is an exciting indicator of where the movement is heading in the future.

Many anti-feminists claim there is no need for the movement any more because women can already vote, drove, work and live (mostly) equally. While some aspects of that may be true, there are other issues that are vitally important in the fight for equality.

Intersectionality is something that has become a big focus in modern day feminism. The issue of men being feminists, being an ally for LGBTQ rights and even on a broader scale issues such as immigration and healthcare, are topics that many feminists take seriously.

When we see younger generations taking up any form of social justice cause, we take notice. A group of feminists in the Sacramento, CA, area were recently highlighted by the Sacramento Bee and MTV News for their growing presence. The organization called the Sacramento Young Feminists Alliance has five groups under its umbrella. Their mission is to unite high school feminists coalitions and clubs from all around the Sacramento area, build solidarity and cooperation between Sacramento area high school feminists in order to empower young women, develop a sisterhood between diverse young women, and create equality between genders through the destruction of patriarchy.

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Inga Manticas from C.K. McClatchy High School is one of the founders of the alliance (along with Zelia Gonzales, a 17-year-old student at The Met high school) which meets regularly to discuss issues women face today such as the gender wage gap, violence against women, online harassment, racism and sexuality.

Inga said the idea for the SYFA came about after bringing up some of the aforementioned issues in her debate class and receiving a patronizing (and typically common) response. She realized there was a great need to break down myths about feminism and urge her fellow peers of the need for this movement even today.

“I think people have this misconception that feminism isn’t necessary anymore because we have the right to vote, we have our own finances, we can own property. But really when you start to look at the social aspect of the way women are treated, we don’t have full equality,” she said.

Earlier this year the alliance organized its first convention and invited speakers such as a feminist author and a transgender activist to speak to the audience. Also present at the convention were representatives from various anti-sexual violence and harassment organizations, two areas which have become a large part of what feminism is fighting against today. With the help of the internet and social media, as well as being armed with the right information and the history of the movement, the SYFA believe they can have a much greater impact on the teens of today than feminism ever has before.

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“I think social media has been extremely helpful in raising awareness about feminist issues. Nowadays, more and more young people are identifying as feminists in part because of the strong feminist communities and influential figures on tumblr and Twitter,” Inga told the SacBee.

Unlike other feminist groups in the past, these girls believe in starting young so that the rest of their lives has an empowered view of how women should be treated in society.

“We kinda wanted to set the stage for people while they’re young so that when they go to college they have a feminist mindset. So that when they grow up, they give a woman a chance when hiring or they stop harassment on the street,” said co-founder Zelia Gonzales.

And it’s not just women present at these meetings, there are teen boys getting involved in the SYFA which is what we need to see more of, as you can see in the video below.

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Teen feminist groups are not just happening in the United States, they are popping up globally. Earlier this year there was a great article out of New Zealand talking about the rise of high school feminist groups. Stuff.co.nz reporter Jeremy Olds shared how across the other side of the world, there are teens who are just as passionate about the same issues mentioned by the SYFA – harassment, catcalling, access to contraception, slut-shaming and eating disorders.

There are a number of different reasons why these NZ high school groups have formed, and many of these also have a few males in their ranks.

“The way women are portrayed on TV is a big thing for me. Watching shows where there’s only one woman who’s ditzy and can’t do anything, that really pushed me to join,” said Healy Jones, 17, from Auckland’s Western Springs College Young Feminists Club.

One issue that has dominated headlines all over the world when it comes to schools, is the obvious sexism toward girls when it comes to dress codes.

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“We had some friends who were continuously getting pulled up by teachers, and it was really unfair: ‘I can see your bra straps – you’re a distraction’. We had issues about the language teachers were using,” said the group’s co-leader, 17-year-old Thomas Rands.

After a few of these types of incidents happened, the group of students got together, created a Facebook group and started meeting on a regular basis in the school. There are many schools around New Zealand that have started similar groups and taken it to the wider community by participating in protests, and raising awareness of issues such as women’s reproductive rights.

The Wellington Girls’ College Feminist Club organized a counter-protest opposite a 40-day Pro-Life rally outside a hospital. They held up signs saying “my body my choice” and another which had an image of a coat hanger with the words “never again” above it.

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“Our grandmothers and mothers fought for the right to safe abortions. Having groups standing across from the hospital, infringing on a woman’s right to have an abortion peacefully. It was about supporting the women who went there to make a safe decision about their lives. We felt it was our responsibility to go and support them,” said Grace Belworthy one of the club’s leaders.

She added that their presence in the community, advocating for equality shows that they are not just typical teenagers uninterested in important issues.

“It’s a message to wider society that this generation, and young women especially, we do care about what’s going on. Sometimes, the older generations think we’re just smartphone-obsessed and living in our own heads. We are here, thinking about these issues and we want to shape our future world,” she said.

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Celebrities such as Lorde, Emma Watson and Beyonce who have spoken out in public about feminism have been a huge influence on these teens, as has social media, as stated by the Sacramento teens.

“With social media, not only do we have the hunger, but it’s so easy for us to access all of this education. We educate ourselves and become aware of these issues, and we can’t help but get involved and do something about it,” said 17-year-old Matilda Boese-Wong from the Western Springs focus group.

There is a subconscious bias in society to brush off the younger generation, especially teens, as not being critical thinkers or any sort of positive influence in the world. It is safe to say, looking at these feminist groups from Sacramento and across New Zealand, that is not the case. If these teens are what the future looks like, we can perhaps breathe a little sigh of relief that the fight for gender equality is in good hands.

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