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What do you say to a 15-year-old who is afraid to be feminist in public?

The Discourse members write back

In our Oct. 27 newsletter, “Let’s be feminist in public,” we shared a quote from 15-year-old Sophie Bezanson, a Girl Guides National Youth Council Member on feminism. She said, “Although I advocate for women’s rights, I sometimes find it difficult to do this openly in a public setting because people will often make comments such as: ‘men matter too,’ etc. and give loads of backlash. I am afraid of being criticized for advocating for women’s rights or called names by men who believe in double standards and by boys who do not value girls. I hope to one day see the change in society where I will be comfortable calling myself a feminist in public.”

We asked you to respond to Sophie.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to write us such thoughtful emails. Because it was so hard to choose which messages to share, we took all your responses and pieced parts of them together. Here is your collective response to support Sophie:

Dear Sophie,

I am afraid of the world that I grow up in.

I am afraid for all the women whose freedoms and opportunities are limited because our society is too reluctant to expel patriarchy and the double standards that complement it.

I’ve always felt there was a weird aversion to declarations of feminism.

I think that often when we claim the label it puts us under pressure to prove or defend our position.

Language matters.

Dismantling the “hairy, scary, ‘psycho’ feminist woman,” which is a prevailing stereotype that I think successfully deters young people away from feminism.

Being a feminist means:

A battle cry for women’s liberation,

a demand for equal rights,

a world where gender differences are celebrated but not used as a way to justify exclusion.

Black and brown girls. Indigenous girls. Girls of colour. Trans girls. Queer girls. Girls that are under the LGBTQ+ umbrella. Fat girls. Disabled girls. Poor girls.

We need to be inclusive in our feminism and be direct in our language, or we wind up “othering” a lot of girls. If our feminism doesn’t include all girls, it’s not feminism.

It is a bit like this — we do not discriminate against people who have cats . . . they just . . . have . . .cats. No one really cares if they do or don’t. They have the same opportunity as dog owners, rat owners, or fish owners.

Who wouldn’t want to strive for a world like that? Under that context alone, shouldn’t we all be feminists?

I would love to see:

More people, particularly those of us generally on the same ‘side,’ actually discuss ideas and disagreements in a compassionate way,

more opportunities for learning all skills (mechanics badge, bike repair, carpentry, financial planning, public speaking etc),style=”font-weight: 400; color: #000000;”>feminist songs for kids/youth/adults inclusive of all the in-between,

to connect with girls from other schools,

treat women and girls with more respect.

You won’t always get the response you want, but don’t let that deter you.

Never let someone else’s fear hold you back.  Someone else’s idea of who you are does not define you.

Trust yourself, take care of yourself, keep your sisters close, keep learning, and say what you need to say.  

Young girls should not be afraid of their self-worth, and they should never devalue it, no matter whether they’re being told to do so by boys their own age or teachers, coaches, parents far older than them.

The right people will support you, and they will work hard alongside you while you build the life you want.

Times change, and for that I am grateful.

The work of feminism takes time, but it is worth doing.

Signed,

The Discourse members.

 

This was part of our weekly Discourse newsletter. Make sure to share it and subscribe here.

Editor’s note, Nov. 8, 2018: We’ve updated this piece to include another member’s response.