Teen Feminist Survival Guide. Pugno patriarchus!
Hermione Granger can eradicate patriarchy with a single wave of her wand! Survival guide for teen feminists who have to do it the hard way.
“Pugno patriarchus” is, of course, latin for “I fight patriarchy”. Unless you’re Hermione Granger, you’re not going to magically make the world a better place overnight. But as a teen feminist there’s still so much you can do.
Feminism. It’s a funny word, isn’t it? One that triggers many emotions and images. We Mookychicks know that feminism is more about equal opportunities and eradicating gender discrimination’s double standards and less about burning our bras and hating all men (that’s misandry, yo). Unfortunately, not everyone sees feminism in such a positive light.
As with any label, the word comes bundled with a lot of misconceptions and negative stereotypes. Many people still see feminist as a dirty word. For those guys and girls and people of all genders brave enough to call themselves a feminist, it’s not always easy. Especially not in your teenage years. Ignorant comments seem to be the norm, from harmless and fairly amusing (if somewhat irrelevant) questioning along the lines of “If you’re a feminist, that means you’re LGBT, right?” to the outright offensive and just plain stupid “get the f*** back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich”. No matter how thick-skinned you are, all this patriarchal negativity can really wear you down.
So how on earth do you survive as a teenage feminist with your sanity and dignity intact?
Step 1) Make Friends!
There is no better amulet against patriarchal bullsh*t than making friends with other feminists. Whether you choose to befriend the most open and outspoken feminist in your year, or you stick by an already close mate who has strong feminist values, a friendship with likeminded people will save you when nothing else can. These are the people who will have your back in a debate, let you rant to them for hours uninterrupted when you need to vent, and most importantly, they will understand why you’re angry in the first place! Trust me, make friends with other feminists. There’s comfort in numbers.
Step 2) Pick your battles.
I hate to say this, but unless you’re Hermione Granger, you’re not going to magically make the world a better place overnight. Gender discrimination is not a problem with a quick-fix solution. Sure, people say stupid things, and yes, you should call out gender prejudice when you hear it, but constantly getting into arguments over everything is going to burn you out before you’ve had a chance to make an impact. Pick the issues that are most important to you, and focus your energy on those. Otherwise you’ll wear yourself down.
Step 3) Be an example.
Hi, I’m Judith. I’m a feminist. This is me!
Having said this, it doesn’t mean that it’s okay to let the little things slide. Monitor your own behaviour. Are you doing/saying anything that may be contributing to keeping the gender gap alive? Perhaps you might find yourself accidentally slut shaming, or maybe you sometimes don’t believe you’re as capable as a male colleague or class mate. None of us is perfect, but by monitoring your own behaviour you are setting an example for others to follow. In the immortal words of Michael Jackson, “If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change.”
Step 4) Educate.
Sure, some people are ridiculously ignorant, and perhaps others are just plain evil, but it’s important to remember that many of the unpleasant comments and negative stereotyping come from genuine misinformation. Before you blow your top and give up on humanity, make it your duty to educate the masses on what feminism really is about. Maybe that will stop the whole “But if you’re a feminist, how come you shave your legs” malarkey.
However, most importantly, educate yourself. A wise person once told me that it’s no use having an opinion if you cannot defend it. Read up on the history of feminism, find out what’s it achieved so far, watch the news and find out what we still have to achieve. If you learn nothing else, you’ll at least be able to back up your answer when someone asks you, “Who needs feminism?”
Step 5) Find your idol.
Most people have someone who inspires and encourages them, someone to look up to. Find yours. Whether that person is a celebrity, a fictional character or a family member, find someone who inspires you to keep going, even when the going gets tough. Obviously it would be supermegafoxyhot awesome if your idol was a strong feminist role model who’d done a bucketload for women’s rights, but seriously – anyone who’s kick-ass, inspirational and gives you the strength you need to keep standing up for what you believe in is more than good enough.
6 ) Remember what you believe and why you believe it.
When faced with constant negativity it can be easy to lose sight of the end goal. All you have to do is remind yourself why you put up with all this s**t. Talk to your new-found feminist friends, watch the news, or – better yet – go and talk to the most vocal misogynist you know. Anything to relight that spark and make you realise that gender equality is a cause worth fighting for.
Because we still need feminism. We really do.