Teen activist Madison Kimrey answers questions from young aspiring activists.
Today, I’m sharing some of the questions I’ve gotten recently from young women regarding feminism.
“You said girls who don’t wear revealing clothing aren’t boring girls but I do feel boring sometimes compared to other girls. Sometimes I even get made fun of. How would you deal with that?”
What you wear doesn’t define who you are. It can be an expression of how you feel if you choose, but sometimes clothes are just clothes. If you feel boring and that’s truly coming from inside you, not coming from how other people are trying to make you feel, try different ways of expressing yourself that you feel confident and comfortable with. I just bought a pair of socks that have manatees in space on them and they’re fabulous. There are other ways you can express yourself too that have nothing to do with what you wear, like through words, music, art, or sports. As for the being made fun of, that’s going to happen regardless of what you wear, unfortunately. Do something nice for yourself every day and focus more time on finding out what makes you happy than on people who aren’t making you happy. If you find that you feel unhappy the majority of the time, talk to someone you trust. Focus on yourself inside because that matters much more than the outside.
“I’m 16 and my mother won’t buy me tampons. She says I shouldn’t be putting anything ‘in there’ at my age. HELP.”
Wow, that’s unfortunate. I’m sure you know that using a tampon is in no way sexual. Maybe you could do some research on the subject together with your mom. You could offer to buy your own feminine hygiene products. It might also be a good idea to schedule a lady checkup and talk to your doctor about this with your mom.
“How do you know when someone is sexist and handle it personally?”
I’ll use some recent words from my mentions as an example. A 13-year-old boy said I don’t answer his “love letters” and we “weren’t meant to mate.” A friend of mine saw this and said, “Ew” and I agreed with her that it was disgusting. The boy replied by calling us “feisty” and telling us to “work on that.” It’s obvious the original message was sexist, but the follow-up reply was just as much so. See, when women don’t give misogynistic males the attention they seek, call out their sexist behavior, or refuse to feed their egos, they use name calling or some other deflection in an attempt to blame or shame the woman. When a couple other people called this out for exactly what it was, a cry for attention and online harassment, the response was, “It was just a joke. Get over yourself.” That’s common too, the refusal to take responsibility for one’s behavior, and again, you can see the deflection. As far as dealing with it, identify the behavior; and then, instead of using your energy engaging with them, use it to engage with people who respect you. Know that any man who treats you this way is not worthy of your time and attention, and it should be a red flag because their attitudes toward women and failure to recognize appropriate boundaries means their behavior could escalate.
“How many times can a girl have sex before she’s considered a sl*t in your opinion?”
9,999,999 and then that one-billionth time… No, really, neither you nor I should be judging anyone based on what she does or doesn’t do in the bedroom. What we can do is encourage our friends to make healthy decisions that make them happy. If you or a friend are looking for sex-positive information that you can access privately without fear of judgement, try going to a website like Scarleteen, Planned Parenthood, or SexEtc.
“What exactly is rape culture and how can we protect ourselves?”
Rape culture is society’s reinforcement of the attitudes that lead to blaming victims of sexual assault and excusing the perpetrators. For example, when people say a woman was “asking for it” because of the way she was dressed or because she drank alcohol, this is the effect of rape culture. What it’s really saying is, “Act a certain way and maybe the rapist will rape another girl instead of you.” It’s ridiculous. The responsibility for sexual assault rests in one place only — with the person who chose to commit the sexual assault. To protect ourselves against sexual assault, we need to combat the attitudes that excuse it by teaching about consent and respect. We need to urge our lawmakers to strengthen and enforce laws and to provide the resources law enforcement needs to collect and test evidence to help prosecute perpetrators. We need our schools to take incidents of sexual assault seriously and assist the victims in seeking justice.
“Can I be a feminist too?” (This question was sent on behalf of a 6-year-old by her mother)
Absolutely! If you believe that boys and girls should have the same opportunities and rights, you’re a feminist. When you go look at toys, there are a lot of choices. There’s Barbie, Batman, My Little Pony, Star Wars, and all kinds of toys. Some people think that certain choices are “for boys” or “for girls,” but when you’re a feminist, you want boys and girls to be able to choose the toys they want even if it’s different than what some people think they should play with based on them being a boy or a girl. When you get older, the choices get a little more complicated, but the general idea is the same. I bet you’ve learned about the Constitution in school. Right now, there isn’t anything in the Constitution that says boys and girls should have equal rights and opportunities. There’s something people are working on called the Equal Rights Amendment. Once the people we elect to represent us in our government help us make the Equal Rights Amendment part of the Constitution, boys and girls will have more rights and opportunities. I bet even the older kids at your school don’t know anything about the Equal Rights Amendment. That’s something you can learn more about and tell them about.