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Feminism

Dear Amy,

I love your website! It is very informative and has been helpful for me. I have a couple specific questions for you. I am a psychology student at the University of Oregon. I am taking a college course on Teen Girls and Pop culture. I have to do a group presentation on teen girls and their understanding of feminism. We are doing interviews and conducting surveys. In response to one question, "How would you define feminism?", a 15 year old responded: "For me there are two definitions, 1) feminists who believe in equal rights and 2) the man-hater feminist who hates models." She further explained that she does want to pursue acting and modeling as a career. How would you respond to this girl? Also, can you name any specific ways third wave of feminism has helped teenage girls? What do you think are the major issues that teenage girls face today? Lastly, can you think of any negative repercussions from the feminist movement in our society today? Do you know of any websites that talk about teenage girls and their understanding of feminism or other women's issues?

Thank you so much for your time,

LuAnn Wu Eugene, Oregon

 

Dear LuAnn Wu,

I think it's great that you are talking about feminism and teens. More often, people don't think that feminism gets introduced until the college level and based alone on the number of Ask Amy's that I receive that come from teen girls, I can confidently say that it is on their minds -- both the negative stereotypes and the unfair issues to deal with, but also proposing solutions and getting involved in projects and activism -- see previous Ask Amy's for examples.

To the 15 year old's point -- though I think the "man-hating feminist" is a stereotype, we can't ignore that this is the majority opinion -- and at a certain point it being a stereotypes is irrelevant because writing it off as such doesn't get us anywhere. So we have to listen to what she is saying -- and that is that she does want to be associated with the equal rights part of feminism not the "man-hating" part of feminism. In this instance, I think it's important to tell her that she can be one without being the other. And feminism really is what she makes of it. If her area of interest is modeling and acting then perhaps she wants to first prioritizing making feminism or equality a reality in those worlds. As for her desires or future career plans -- I don't want to diminish them, but at 15 that's what most girls want to be -- you still have such a limited idea of what you can be, plus you don't yet realize that being a model and actor is more competitive than being president.

I think that Third Wave feminism has helped teen girls by including them, not for their age, but for the experience and perspective they bring. Historically girls were included mostly like test-rats as an experiment or to look cute on the dais, but now we really want them to participate and not in a pandering way -- and I think this attention came within a Third Wave feminism and because girls demanded it. The book Ophelia Speaks is an example of this -- compared to the book Reviving Ophelia.

Teen girls face so many issues -- I just an email from a teen who was having sex with a much older man; I got an email from a teen girl who wants to start a girls club in her high school; another from many girls struggling with an eating disorder; I also got an email from a girl who was good at kick ball, but never got picked for the teams because she was a girl; and another from a group of girls in Florida who wanted their weightlifting team to be honored as a team so they could compete -- like the boys. As you can see, there's a lot.

I think that the only negative repercussion from feminism is feminism's inability to -- as explained in response to your first question -- not take itself so seriously as a way to understand that the false images are someone else's reality and we need to deal with that.

Amy

 

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