Back in August, Rowan Blanchard (aka Riley Matthews on Girl Meets World) set a high bar for 13-year-olds everywhere when she wrote an amazingly nuanced discussion of intersectional feminism on her Instagram. Here’s that essay in full:
“With as many issues as feminists have succeeded in adopting, many of us seem to have not accepted the fact that police brutality and race issues are our issues too,” she writes. “The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with trans-women and Hispanic women.”
The essay went viral, transforming the Girl Meets World star into a role model for all people everywhere, no matter the age. She recently talked to MTV about the response to her post — it was, of course, awesome and kind and perfect.
“Personally, I think what I wrote stands out at any age,” Blanchard said to MTV News. “I don’t think it gets more credit because of my age or less credit because of my age, and I don’t think there’s an age limit for education. I learned about feminism a year ago, and I’ve become passionate about it within this year … at the end of the day, I think it’s good when anyone has this conversation, whether they’re 10 or 45.”
She then name dropped a just a few of the people she looks up to, like Emma Watson and her equally socially conscious and well-spoken friends Amandla Stenberg and Zendaya. Blanchard also discussed how young girls are portrayed in the media, and how she’s going to change that.
“Look at the way that we’re portrayed in a lot of kids’ TV! That’s why I’m very proud of my show because on so many shows, they portray teens, but especially teen girls, as these idiots,” she said. “Why would you want those kinds of girls to be representing us on television when I can name you 200,000 of my Twitter followers who are well-grounded, brave and strong girls?”
Along with an upcoming Disney Channel movie Invisible Sister and continuing to star on Girl Meets World, Blanchard is also working with friends to start a teen-focused magazine written by teens.
Let’s just say we would be all over that.
The 13-year-old star of ‘Girl Meets World’ just made an excellent point about race and feminism
And in one tweet, Zendaya perfectly shuts down sexist remarks
[Images via Instagram and Facebook]
When I was a young feminist – working at my first job in a women’s nonprofit and eager to single-handedly take on the patriarchy – there was a common refrain from the older generation that infuriated me and my peers: Where are all the young feminists? We were right there, fetching coffee and making photocopies to help the cause, and yet we’d hear over and over again that young women simply weren’t interested in the movement.
The idea that young people are politically apathetic on feminist issues has always been a myth, of course, but today only the most out-of-touch person could claim as much.
Over the weekend, 13-year-old actress Rowan Blanchard, star of Disney’s Girl Meets World, wrote a thoughtful and smart essay (posted to Instagram) on the importance of intersectional feminism – feminism that takes into account how oppression impacts different people depending on their identity. She wrote:
The way a black woman experiences sexism and inequality is different from the way a white woman experiences sexism and inequality. Likewise with transwomen and Hispanic women. While white women are making 78 cents to the dollar, Native American women are making 65 cents, black women are making 64 cents, and Hispanic women are making 54 cents.
Blanchard also cited academic Kimberlé Crenshaw, discussed transphobia and police violence against women of color. In other words, she rocked it. And the world noticed, the mediajubilant that such a young woman could articulate such nuanced feminist ideas. But while Blanchard is clearly incredibly sharp and knowledgeable, she’s not an outlier.
A new generation of young feminists who came of age online are tremendously more informed than their internet-less predecessors. Whereas women my age and older were lucky to hear nominal mention of the feminist movement during women’s history month at school – the likes of Susan B Anthony and Gloria Steinem – all young women and girls today need to do is log on to Tumblr or do a Google search and all of feminism is at their fingertips: blogs and Twitter accounts, memes and YouTube channels. Within moments, young people can watch a talk between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry or take part in an online protest.
And while the media continues to ask female celebrities of all ages if they identify as feminists as some sort of zeitgeisty litmus test, young people like Blanchard are using their fame to push the conversation forward rather than let someone else control the narrative.
Black women on magazine covers in September showcase our greatness | Morgan Jerkins
Take Hunger Games actress Amandla Stenberg, who published a video on cultural appropriation that went viral and has pushed back against racist stereotypes. Stenberg, 16, told Dazed that “social justice has always been incredibly important to me but it wasn’t until recently that I realized I could use my platform to start conversations.” Stenberg also told fellow young feminist Tavi Gevinson, founder of Rookie, that it was reading the online magazine that, in part, sparked her interest in feminism.
We should continue to applaud young and teenage feminists who are speaking out about complicated and serious issues. But let’s not not treat them as anomalies. They’re representative of younger people – both men and women – who care about social and political justice. They’re younger than we are, they’re smarter than we were, and they’re certainly more informed. So lets leave the head-pats at home, and fetch our own coffee, and instead focus on what we can learn from what will certainly be the most brilliant feminist generation.