I’ve been reading a book called Girldrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism by Nona Willis Aronowitz and the late Emma Bee Bernstein. In the book, Nona and Emma, two young feminists, recount their recent cross-country road trip. The goal of their trip was to meet with more than a hundred women—most of them young women—in order find out what women think about feminism. The book is a beautiful and thought-provoking narrative collage of interviews and photos, interwoven with pieces of feminist history and thoughts from the road. The book’s innovative format—it reads like a magazine, or like a blog really—makes it easily accessible and fun to read in both short bursts and for long periods of time. To me, the book makes feminism come alive: every interviewee has her own take on feminism, which demonstrates both the flexibility and the vivacity of the concept and movement.
Unfortunately, while Girldrive’s mission is to engage young women in conversations about feminism, Emma and Nona rarely interview people who I consider “young women”—that is, preteens and teenagers. Instead, Nona and Emma almost exclusively interview women in their 20s and 30s. Where are the voices, opinions, and musings of teenage activists? I don’t think that the omission was out of spite—I’m sure it’s logistically a million times harder to reach teenagers than adults. Still, only two 16 year olds were given full profiles in the book, and when Nona and Emma visit a summer camp, they condescendingly muse upon teenagers’ lack of feminist consciousness. Coming from a pair of women who strive to convey the wide variety of contemporary feminisms, this generalization about teenagers was both sadly ironic and really frustrating.
So to all the preteens and teenagers out there, whether or not you’re a feminist, activist, or a leader:
Are you in middle or high school? What are you passionate about? What do you think about feminism? Do you consider yourself a feminist? If yes, what is like to be a preteen or teenage feminist? If not, why not?
I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.
Image thanks to: http://www.girl-drive.com/app/uploads/2009/08/girldrive-cover.jpg
Hi Nona, thanks so much for responding to my blog post. I was thrilled that you wrote back to me and it helped me understand where you are coming from. You’re right, it made sense to limit your interviewees, otherwise your project would have been too huge to accomplish. And I agree that Girldrive avoided generalizations–I love that its a wake up call to people who try to pin down or negate the relevance of feminism. That said, I still think teenage feminists have astute thoughts on feminism. Too often people write off the passion, intelligence, and importance of teen activists. The Girldrive blog looks like a place that could help change that–I’m sure some of the attendees of GLI (and some of the bloggers here) would love to be interviewed.
Thanks again for your thoughtful response, I truly appreciated the feedback.
This post was very balanced and the issue you raise is an important one. I’d be interested to read the book myself if you’d let me borrow it! It almost sounds ethnographic and I really like the premise.
Hi Lauren, thanks for the review and your thoughts on teen and preteen feminists. Emma and I set out on the road mostly to talk to “our generation”–which we defined as twentysomethings. There are a handful of teens (including 18 and 19-year-olds, too!) and a handful of thirtysomethings (pretty much the same amount as the teens, or even less if you discount the “veteran” feminists we interviewed). We did this not only for logistical reasons but because spanning 20 years from 15-35 didn’t seem so useful to us. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t care about what teen feminists have to say!
Which leads me to your other point–we certainly didn’t mean to imply that teenage girls don’t have a feminist consciousness. If you look closely at that passage, we were really excited about how many young women at Camp Kinderland were engaged with gender issues. We also reminisced about our *particular* experience as teen girls, not as every girls’. We DID roll our eyes at the way the boys reacted in the workshops, but in none of these cases did we mean to generalize. Girldrive tried to avoid generalizations, period.
That said, I would LOVE to see a teen Girldrive in the future, and I definitely try to spotlight teen issues on the blog!