March 24, 2009

Don't Blame Teen Girls For Not Finding Feminism - It's our Fault for Not Showing It to Them!

Judith Timson published this article in the Globe and Mail about Feminism in the internet age. It's not really about feminism in the Internet age (There's no mention of or any other of the numerous feminist blogs out there, like ours!). What it's really about is Ms. Timson lamenting, "Where have all the feminists gone?" Her evidence that feminism is dead in teen girls is that some teen girls want to forgive Chris Brown for hitting Rihanna and say Rihanna MUST have brought it on herself. What's weird is that Timson doesn't seem to acknowledge that 30 or 40 years ago, when she was a teen girl, there probably would have been teen girls saying the same thing. I can't think of a golden age of feminism when every woman bought into it and there was not a single one propping up patriarchy, can you?

To be fair, Timson doesn't explicitly harken back to a feminist utopia of years ago, even if it is implied that things used to be better. What she does do, however, is assert that young girls should "know" better today. That they have all the tools and role-models they need to achieve gender equality, but they just won't use them. Yeah, Timson thinks they have all the knowledge, education and supportive family networks of professionally successful moms they need to take on the world. Um, excuse me, Judith, but have you walked into a public school lately? I have taught teen girls at public schools how to debate in the UK and Canada for about 5 years now. Extra-curriculars are very hard to come by in public schools today, and the girls I met told me their teachers often just instructed out of the text book, and sometimes didn't even do that, because there WEREN'T always enough text books. The kids I work with now have to worry about knifings at school and many of them speak English as a Second Language and are desperately trying to stay afloat. At the schools I worked with in Canada, some kids had to take a whole week off in the fall to go hunting with their families so they could have food for the rest of the year. Poverty is real, problems with public education are real, violence is real - these are all things that might distract your average 15 year old girl from developing a suitable feminist consciousness by Timson's standards.

Not only this, but most kids DON'T learn about feminism at all in school. It's not like we have a mandatory three-week unit on feminism in every grade 9 civics or history class that teaches kids what it means. And yes, Ms. Timson, some privileged middle-class girls have moms with fancy jobs who can be professional role-models, but that doesn't make these moms feminists by definition and doesn't mean they necessarily spend any time with their kids. Yes, now I'm blaming your generation, Timson. Perhaps if grown-up feminists did more to transmit and communication feminist principles to their children and younger relatives, these girls might be a bit more sympathetic to Rihanna today? Take some accountability for how your children turned out, please. Don't blame it on the "internet age." Blame it on the fact that your kids are on the Internet all the time all alone because you are never at home or just aren't attentive.

Timson ends her article by saying "Shame on you" to the young girls who sympathize with Chris Brown and not Rihanna. I say, never shame a 15 year old I have shown you in this post doesn't necessarily have all these feminist "tools" the middle-class Ms. Timson asserts they have. I have never met anyone who felt "Shamed into feminism" but I have met women who have felt "Shamed out of it." If we are going to say "Shame on you" to anyone, I say we should say it to any older, established middle-class women who identify as feminists and judge younger women for not doing so without doing anything to help young women find feminism and ignoring the problems in our society that prevent them from doing so...

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