Maggie Connolly ’21
The midterm elections gave women a lot of firsts in the world of politics. The first two Muslim women were elected to Congress, the first woman senator was elected from the state of Tennessee and so on. Needless to say, women are making progress in politics, and will do so in other realms of society with these kinds of women in positions of political power.
So how did these women mobilize to make these firsts possible? It is clear that these women had a platform and a history of supporting and advocating for women’s rights. For most women in politics, the teenage years are a vital time of development in understanding what it means to be a woman in today’s society, both in the United States and abroad.
Creating a platform for young girls to learn about and understand the true definition of feminism is an essential facet of getting women and girls involved politically, but simultaneously important is teaching young boys about the same things as these women and girls. Many young girls are deterred from feminism because of the way it is depicted by many of their male peers. Stereotypes of feminists create a basis for teenage girls to turn away from feminism for countless reasons.
Many young girls feel if they identify as a feminist, they will fall victim to some of the classic stereotypes of feminists: they hate men, they are obnoxious or aggressive and that they are anti-femininity. Although not all teenage boys or girls agree with and perpetuate these stereotypes, there are plenty of young people who agree with and spread these stereotypes. Grouping all feminists into a certain box of ideology and traits is problematic and frankly, false.
These kinds of attitudes deter girls from feminism at a young age, preventing things like future political participation and activism. As a young feminist, it is much easier and more likely to become politically active and aware of the issues facing women today as opposed to the mindset that feminism will only bring bad associations from peers.
If a girl is introduced to feminism at a young age and outwardly shows it, she will undoubtedly feel some form of these stereotypes whether it be in the workplace, in school, or just in her social life generally. However, these will only become tools to become stronger in her own ideals and educate others on what it means to be a feminist without these stereotypes. Although it is not an exact science, when a teenage girl begins to advocate for women’s rights and gender equality, it will open the door to a whole new political avenue. Speaking from personal experience, my introduction to feminism is the reason I am politically engaged and will continue to be for the rest of my life.
So, what do we need to do? Open the conversation. Talk about feminism in school, at work and in social settings. Do not just talk about the United States, introduce people to issues facing girls and women around the world. Get girls involved politically, and, equally importantly, get all-encompassing male support for females in politics. If we do this, we might just see a few more firsts for women, both in and out of politics, the next few years.
Photo Courtesy of Time Magazine.