August 27, 2010 2 Comments
This post is a part of the This is What a Young Feminist Looks Like blog carnival.
The Feminist Action Network at my alma mater gave me a sticker. It says: This is what a feminist looks like. I love those stickers. When everyone wore them, it showed that there’s no “look” to a feminist. We’re of different races, genders, backgrounds, religions, and…ages.
I put my sticker right smack in the center of my laptop, for the world to see, as long as this laptop functions. It’s sparked some conversations. I’ve gotten to dispel some stereotypes. One thing, however, has not changed and is not going to change for a long time.
I look young. I am a female college graduate at the age of twenty-two, which is awesome, but I look somewhere between the ages of 13-17. (Say I’ll love it when I’m older and I cannot take responsibility for my words or actions.) The conversations usually go like this:
Me: “Hi! Can I get a pack of Camel #9 menthol 100s/beverage of dubious content, please?”
Them: [skeptical expression] “Can I see some ID, please?
[sees date, eyes boggle, examines ID closely for holographs, boggle again] My goodness! You don’t look twenty-two at all! You look 16!”
Me: “Yeah, I know.”
Them: So what school do you go to?
Me: I graduated from WKU in May.
Them: [eye pop] Oh?! How old are you??
Them: Wow! You look 16, tops! You may hate it now, but you’ll LOVE it when you’re older! Congrats on graduating, what’d you study?
Some form of this conversation happens whenever I meet someone new, even with people my age. Its inevitable, though I’ve come to prefer it with younger folk, because once it happens, the shock and disbelief turns into a respect. With older folk, the condescension of talking to a minor turns into a different, though sometimes minor form of it. This condescension drips when speaking of politics, of feminism. You know what I’m talking about. Oh! You’re a feminist! Isn’t that cute! You think you’re an activist! Don’t worry, you’ll grow up and realize that in the real world, you have better things to do.
Further, I’m a young feminist in Kentucky, a conservative state. A red state. Not only am I young and a feminist, but I live in a state where religion and tradition abounds, where real work is the only kind that is valued, and I am often one of the few liberals in a circle. A feminist, too? Forget it. I was somewhat shielded from this in university. One of those liberal havens, you see, where silly kids go to happily receive their liberal indoctrination.
I’ve spoken before of being a liberal in a red state, and how abandoned I’ve felt by liberal organizations, especially feminist ones. There are plenty of feminists here in Kentucky, and we work hard to make things better for Kentucky, but we need help. We need the resources of the national organizations–their funding, their manpower, and their influence. Kentucky has Mitch McConnell, and he’s not going anywhere anytime soon. A longstanding incumbent is hard to get out of office, no matter the political affiliation.
Kentucky is not served by the divide between young feminists and old. The older feminists have resources that us young feminists don’t. We young feminists may not have a lot of money to donate, but we are willing and able activists. I receive the e-mails from NOW and other organizations of the like. I don’t read them anymore, because the “Action Alert” is invariably to donate money. Where are the protests? Where are the grassroots, door-to-door knocking and talking about feminist issues? Where are the organized trips to Frankfort to talk face-to-face with legislators? Young feminists are willing and able to do these things–hell, we’re eager to do these things.
I love protests. I love sign-making. I LOVE going to Frankfort and talking to my representatives. I have resources. I know people. I know people who have things to give, if only there were an organized effort to give to.
We can’t ignore young feminists, like we can’t ignore conservative states. Like the political map, ignoring us will only lead to more polarization, and less effectiveness.
Let’s work together. I’ve got the posterboard and markers. You’ve got the money. Let’s go do something.