The new Riot Grrrls?
Tavi Gevinson ... founder of Rookie Magazine.
When I was about 14, I had a sense that somewhere in the world, something “more” was happening. It turned out to be feminism and the riot grrrl movement, though the extent of my involvement in both was to borrow lots of Germaine Greer books from the library, and paint “F-CK YOU :)” on my stomach with my period.
See, even though I lived in suburban Melbourne, the resources available to a budding feminist were fairly limited. Yes, I’m sure there were zine stores and consciousness-raising activities happening under my very nose, but I was cripplingly shy and terrified of public transport (the latter of which I credit to the Ivanhoe bus-driver who was rumoured to have yanked a Kew High student’s arms clean out of their sockets as punishment for pressing the ‘stop’ button too many times).
For all those reasons, I often find myself wishing I were a teenager today. Not because I relished the high school experience or found particular joy in navigating puberty, but because of the astounding level of access - to music, film, art, and, yes, feminist theory - that young people have these days.
You see, so often our public dialogue about feminism in the 21st century seems to focus on its failings (real or, more often, perceived): is feminism responsible for [insert modern ill here]? Is feminism dead? Is feminism still relevant? More worrying still, such commentary often focuses on the ways in which millennials are letting the side down.
A cursory cruise around the internet reveals that such inflammatory ideas couldn’t be more redundant: if certain corners of the internet are to be believed, feminism is alive and well, and in the hands of a very promising generation of young people.
I expect we have the internet to thank for enlightening these young people in the first place. When I was a teen, the net was only just firing up, and seemed to be best used to find poor-quality GIFs of Jonathan Brandis. Now, young people are using it to learn about movements and ideologies that were previously only available to us as earnest undergrads.
Indeed, two impressive and enterprising young women, Sarah and Alyson (both 16), have set up the sort of website that would have blown my mind at age 15. Their Small Town Grrrls blog has a wide following, and the pair set it up to provide an outlet and a resource to young feminists living in isolated or conservative areas.
“I am the only feminist I’m aware of in my tiny town of 100 people,” Alyson told me via email. “After my sexual assault in January of 2011, I looked deeper into learning about rape culture, slut-shaming and feminism. It helped me heal and feel more independent than ever!”
Both girls discovered feminism online, and credit blog platforms like Tumblr for facilitating their feminist education. “Zines are awesome,” Sarah said via email, “but they also cost money and can be hard to find, depending on where you live. I think blogs are definitely a great way to connect with people, and I know that for me, Tumblr played a huge part in getting involved in the feminist community.” Alyson agrees, stating, “I would love to see more girls blogging and getting out there! I want to see more ‘Today I started a feminist club’ submissions, instead of ‘People at my school are making rape jokes’. I’d like to see our blog grow and turn into a young crowd of riot grrrls and feminist movement activists.”
Elsewhere online, former fashion wunderkind Tavi Gevinson (at the ripe old age of 16) runs the astounding Rookie Magazine, in its own humble words “a website for teen girls” that harks back to the glory days of Sassy Magazine. Dig this, from Tavi’s post, How To Not Care What Other People Think About You: “Feminism isn’t about pretending we all feel like Wonder Woman, it’s about being honest when we don’t, and having the conversation on why that is.”
Articles about self-actualisation, sexuality and feminism rub up against incredibly cool playlists and DIY guides about making flower crowns. The ‘Live Through This’ tag (named for the Hole album I had only vague awareness of at 16) offers up wise treatises on things like growing up, coming out, and surviving rape and sexual assault.
These two sites are just the tip of the iceberg: there are thousands, probably millions, of young women and men doing similar things on a website or blog near you. Which is my way of saying that next time you feel like decrying the state of feminism and Gen Y, maybe Google it first? What I would have given to be able to do the same at 15.