I am 17 years old and currently living in Minot, North Dakota. I am doing a research paper on third wave feminism and what my part in it may be, and I came across your and Jennifer Baumgardner's book, Manifesta, and found that it was the most helpful of my research tools to date. Thank you for your hard work on the book, it has opened my eyes to so many things I didn't know about before.
I read about all of the advances there has been for women's rights and I look around and see wage gaps and friends who drop out of school to be mothers because they were too afraid/broke/"young" to get a safe abortion. In my town, even in my highschool I face ridicule every time I stand up for women's rights, and I wanted to know what you could recommend me to do to help people gain awareness.
There is a Women's Study department at the local college but it's full of older women who have told me I'm "too young" to know I'm a feminist. While I have found some amazing role models despite my situation, I still want a chance to be involved with the movement. I guess it's a little cliche and naive but I want to make a difference, somehow.
Do you have any ideas? Anything is appreciated, I get frustrated more each day I have to face the ignorance of my community and not know what to do about it.
Muted in Minot
The response from the older to your feminism is so interesting, because older women are usually saying that young women aren't feminists -- which is simply not true, but this adds a new twist, they won't let us. I actually get a few emails at Ask Amy from younger women, 12/13, who don't think they are old enough to be a feminist. This is just silly, anyone can be or become a feminist at any age. In fact, the goal of feminism -- equality -- requires participation from people of all ages. Hopefully, your example can straighten them out -- and please know that they are wrong, not you!.
As for what to do -- your comment about wanting to make a difference isn't silly -- in fact, I get emails almost every other day at Ask Amy from people like you who want to make a difference, but don't know where to begin. In fact, I have heard this question to many times, that it has led Jennifer and I to write a follow-up of sorts to Manifesta -- Recipe Tested: An Idea Bank for Activism -- where we will offer suggested solutions for others or "recipes." In general, our goal is to get people to locate their activism within themselves and their community, rather than creating another thing to do. For instance, given the little I know about you, a good starting place might be just public education, why do young women see little hope in their lives.
Maybe organize a community forum on what jobs are available to women in the community, by bringing together women currently working in the community. This will show them what awaits them beyond parenting. Also, the situation with the older women, maybe you need to do a panel for them on what feminism means today. Like we propose in Manifesta -- maybe you want to start with a Dinner Party with a combination of these individuals, so they can each get a better understanding of what is happening in their own community.
For instance, if the older women claim to be the feminists and the girls at your school are facing limited choices, then the older women should have a vested interest in presenting more options to them. There are other issues, too, for instance, is there a rape crisis center in town? Do girls' sports teams get the same attention as boys? These are issue that often get addressed by one person recognizing the need and bringing the attention of it to others in the community.
I hope that all makes sense and gets you start thinking about other ideas. It's hard to make random suggestions, when I have no idea what your town is like. But you do and that's what matters.
Take care and thanks again for writing,