Ask A Feminist: Getting young women involved

Feminist pillow from lookhuman.comLast month, I asked for your questions for a new series, called Ask A Feminist. I have now gathered together a few suggestions – from Facebook, Twitter and the comments thread on that post – and will be answering one a month with the assistance of a team of willing feminist volunteers. The first question is: How do we convince a wider demographic of young women that feminism is a real, continuing thing and not The Past?

Feminist #1 – Melaina
I don’t think we need to convince young women, we just need to talk to them. Most young women probably actually are feminists but just don’t realize it OR they are affected by objectification, discrimination and the wider patriarchy but just don’t realize it. I think as feminists it is our job to educate and support and not to judge. We can’t say that only one brand of feminism is better than any other. We are all in this together and if we all work together hopefully more young women will decide to claim their feminist identities.

Feminist #2 – Lori
As Melaina says, it’s all about education. Many young women don’t understand what feminism is really about and have no understanding of the broader issues. It’s not their fault if no one’s told them about the current size of the pay gap, the issues affecting women who are older/poorer/overseas, or that they don’t have to just accept being yelled at in the street for simply being female. Writing for Huffington Post about the backlash that ELLE magazine’s campaign to rebrand feminism received, Hannah Ewens said: “People do need to be educated. They need to be educated about feminism and what that means. The information should also be brought to them in as engaging a mode as possible, just as ELLE’s campaign does. […] They are making it more accessible, more understandable.”

Campaigns like ELLE’s rebrand and Everyday Sexism are slowly raising awareness amongst a younger demographic, but I think if we could educate some celebrities first, it might help to speed things along. What we need is someone like Ellen Page to speak to a few singers and movie stars who young women admire, and convince them that it’s not scary to call yourself a feminist… it’s necessary.

Feminist #3 – Claire
I think it’s important to talk more to young women about how feminism can have a direct impact on their lives. As far as I can tell the term feminism has a bad reputation, particularly among younger women – it is associated with being anti-men, with being humourless or with aggressive Internet debates. I think this is changing – high profile role models like Jennifer Lawrence and Beyonce standing up and saying they are feminists is important as are high profile campaigns like Everyday Sexism and No More Page Three which have engaged young women. We’re fighting a different fight these days, against more subtle forms of discrimination and as feminists we need to make young women feel welcome rather than telling them off for using the wrong language or claiming that being a feminist is incompatible with liking cupcakes or boys or makeup and so on. We also need to listen to their voices and make space for the causes that matter to them.

Image via lookhuman.com