After receiving hundreds of nominations for our Feminist You Should Know contest, the Feminist Campus team was able to sift through them, sit down, knock our heads together, and decide on ten finalists! This was no easy task: every single nominee was the most amazing person we’d ever met so far in our lives. No lie. Our awe-inspiring crew come from a diversity of backgrounds, universities, regions, and perspectives in the feminist movement – and it’s just not possible for us to choose a winner alone. And that’s where you come in!
Over the next week, we’ll be posting blog posts written by each of our stellar finalists; on Monday, we’ll launch an online voting form where members of our community – that’s you! – cast a vote for who moved you deeply, inspires you most, or simply has your favorite haircut.
I am unapologetically a millennial.
Those of you wondering why I would have to apologize are probably unfamiliar with the stigma that us Gen. Y’s are a lazy group of entitled teens and young adults who are both self-obsessed and selfie-obsessed, who twiddle away on their i-Everything’s, and who don’t care about… well, anything. To many Baby Boomers, millenials are a frightening trio of Whiners, and Criers, and Bloggers (oh, my!). While it may be true that I do spend my fair share of time on the interwebs, and that I have been known to take a damn good selfie, I think our true potential and power as young people is grossly overlooked. I am a youth activist; I have seen firsthand the amazing things young people are capable of, I recognize that the potential for a greater future rests in our hands, and I celebrate that – particularly when it comes to social justice.
Feminism has been an important part of my life from a young age. I was lucky enough to have a mother to facilitate that. However, growing up in Orange County made it difficult for me to connect with my peers on such a level. In high school, I felt my Teenage Feminism was as odd as Michael J. Fox’s Teenage Werewolf, which got me wondering why exactly that was. After initiating conversations about feminism with my peers I grew to understand that the issue was not that people didn’t care about women’s issues, but rather that people really didn’t know what new-wave feminism was, so I decided to create a forum to educate and discuss 3rd wave intersectional feminism. Thus, the Young Feminists Young Equalists Club was born.
The issue that I’ve seen with numerous social justice causes is that their target audience tends to neglect young folks, but if we’re looking to usher in a new era of thinking, shouldn’t we be focusing on the demographic capable of ringing it in? Through my work with and creation of the Young Feminists Young Equalists Club (YFYE) I experienced the captivating passion of my peers, I was able to witness the growth of conscious individuals, and – because I was their age, because I could talk to them as teammates – I was able to learn with them. In fact, when it came to topics I didn’t feel qualified to talk about (i.e. white privilege, trans* issues, racism, etc.), I was able to give the floor to students directly affected by it, thereby giving them a platform to have their voices heard and paid attention to. I was honored to be a part of that. I also made myself incredibly available to members of the group: I made sure club members knew that I was their friend and I was ready to listen to them whenever they needed. Doing so opened me up to the heartwarming and equally heartbreaking experiences of my fellow students. Having that open door policy was a constant reminder of the importance of having a safe space, and news of that significance grew. By the time December rolled around, YFYE had managed to implement two additional high school branches after it’s conception in September of the same year. Our club had an amazing attendance record, and discussions carried over out of the classroom and into our online group. Not only did we have an impressive amount of students present, we had a decent diversity to the club as well. We had members of the club who were trans*, queer, and/or people of color, and I was proud of that – especially in a conservative county.
YFYE also planned the first ever SlutWalk in Orange County. (SlutWalk is an international protest movement that began in Toronto and is geared toward ending sex-shame, victim-blaming, and rape culture.) With the help of our committee members, we were able to pull off the walk in April at the Yost Theater in Santa Ana. This 300-person protests was organized by a group of 14 to 18-year-olds. All the speakers we had at the event were under the age of 22. What was really moving about the speakers was that they were young people (most of whom were 16) speaking out about their assaults and being able to rejoin a crowd of their peers feeling supported, heard, and loved. That right there is a testament to the strength of our youth.
The truth of the matter is that young people DO care – but our society invalidates them by telling them they’re too young to understand or too young to matter. When you give young folks a platform to speak out against injustice, what they have to say will surprise you. Empowering our youth is empowering our future. I know: I’ve seen young girls give speeches that move crowds to tears, I’ve gazed at the art of young artists that describes their struggles in ways they’ll never be able to articulate with words, and I’ve listened to the ideas of young people that I know will one day change the world. My oh my am I proud to stand with them. It gives me hope knowing the future of feminism belongs to my fellow millennials. I know we can be the change we want to see in the world. I see it every day. I see the evidence not only in others, but in myself as well. I was able to organize a local action in an international movement, create a safe space for feminist discussion in my high school, and turn that safe space into a non-profit organization that now has multiple branches – and I did it all within a year before I was a legal adult.
Now that I’ve progressed into college (and into adulthood, yay!) I still continue to run YFYE. Our original high school club is still in motion, and is now in the trustworthy hands of an amazing young lady named Paige Miller. YFYE has many exciting things on the horizon, including the second installment of SlutWalk OC (April 19th 2014), a workshop program introducing intersectional feminist concepts that we plan to take to local middle schools, and a platform of publicity for feminist artists of all mediums as a means of reforming the media. (Our next big project will be the production of a film written by 16-year-old Samuel Moore in which the protagonist is a transgender young man and all the characters will be portrayed by people of color.) The future of activism is bright for Young Feminists Young Equalists, and I look forward to growing in tandem with 3rd wave intersectional feminism and plan to reflect that in the work YFYE does.
To those who continue to brush off today’s youth, I say: prepare to be proven wrong. My goal is to not only show the world what young people can do, but to reinforce that capability in young people themselves. Give them something to be a part of and what they can accomplish will astonish you. To many young people, YFYE is that something. As Young Feminists Young Equalists evolves, one thing is certain: we will never stop caring about the young voices of the social justice movement. I’m proud of our young people, I’m proud to be a millennial, and, most importantly, I’m proud to be a young feminist.