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As our culture and media evolve, so does their audience. And as the third wave of feminism evolves into a full-out tsunami, and young people are forming new mindsets about this movement.
From early development onward, my generation has been saturated in media. I grew up with TV screens, computers, and Game Boys galore at my disposal, as did most of my friends.
Girls in ads get younger and thinner
… From childhood, girls are constrained by gender roles that can cause lasting damage to their psyche. From the TV they watch to the clothes designed for them, girls’ identities develop through their society’s media.
Sexualized toy marketing
… The problem with this exposure is that it influences how young girls view themselves and their sexuality without giving them the chance to form their own identity first.
Not only do media and product marketing create a need for a girl to be sexy and satisfying to those around her, but they provide unrealistic body ideals—an abundance of them. In all types of media, you will find images of “beautiful” women telling you to buy certain products: you, too, can be as glamorous!
False perfection idealized
Repeatedly, this theme reinforces a false perfection that girls often end up striving for. This can lead to low self-esteem and (too often) eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia. Sexist advertising also perpetuates the idea that beauty stems from material possessions and appearances rather than a woman’s (seemingly irrelevant) intellect or personality.
But media can also be a platform for empowering women. With the ongoing growth of the Internet, it is easier than ever to obtain information about gender studies. This is an important tool for young people, and it definitely was for me.
Social media a gateway to knowledge
… My understanding of the feminist movement grew slowly but surely, and by 13 I was telling my dad the definition of misgoyny. Because I was an argumentative yougster, this sparked a few household debates, which only furthered my passion.
Feminism’s third wave has advantages
In previous waves of feminism—notably the suffragette movement and the radical feminism of the sixties—it was much more difficult to both learn more about the movement and spread the word. Today, all it takes to get involved is the click of a mouse. The women’s movement and the term feminism can be regularly heard and discussed in my high school, where, miraculously, even teenagers can be passionate about a cause.
Awareness of gender inequality seems to be spreading rapidly between girls in the western world, as it is a cause most teens can get behind. Young-feminist blogs have begun to surface all over the web, such as thefbomb.org, a “community created by and for teen and college-aged women and men who care about their rights and want to be heard”.
Local media group empowers women
Besides blogging, there are other outlets for the loud-and-proud feminist. WAM! Women, Action, & the Media is an American organization that started its first Canadian chapter in Vancouver in 2011. I spoke with Natalie Hill, a WAM! representative. Her organization—made up of what she calls a “small but mighty” core of volunteers—works to create a “just” media landscape for all genders.
Hill voiced her desire to have “media represent the true spectrum of gender identity”, and to hear from more diverse voices, faces, and bodies. “Have a truly open mind, approach issues with curiousity…seek the truth but never be convinced that you’ve always found it,” Natalie advises young feminists. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘What I’m seeing here isn’t okay.’ ”
Public invited to get involved
… Being oversexualized and defined from a young age has made many teen girls from my generation unhealthy, self-conscious, and feeling subordinate in day-to-day life. But the ability to become informed about why this happens and what we can do to stop it has empowered us. All we need to do is use that power.
The teenage feminists are here—get ready.
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EMMY® Award-winning “Screaming Queens” tells the little-known story of the first known act of collective, violent resistance to the social oppression of queer people in the United States — a 1966 riot in San Francisco’s impoverished Tenderloin neighborhood, three years before the famous gay riot at New York’s Stonewall Inn.
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