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By Ashley Yenick
Many college-aged women have a skewed view of feminism and how it might apply to them. Millennial feminism was brought to my attention by an article at CNN.com written by Hannah Weinberger entitled, “Where are all the Millennial Feminists?” She argued that millennials believe in equal rights, but often shy away from the “f-word.” Many find difficulty identifying with the movement, and some “don’t think there’s anything left to fix.” And still others think being a feminist means becoming “manly.”
This year at my college, my writing professor asked us to research a topic of choice. I chose contemporary feminism, or more specifically millennial feminism, which focuses on those born between 1982-2000. While previous generations had prominent spokeswomen like Gloria Steinem and Marlo Thomas, my generation seems to lack feminist leaders with this sort of visibility and fame. In the words of Weinberger, where are all the millennial feminists? There’s still plenty to fix.
I’m currently in the process of launching a campus-wide campaign at Merrimack College that will raise this very question. In preparation, I reached out to Weinberger and others. When asked how she defines millennial feminism, she said the following:
From what I’ve seen, contemporary feminism is a celebration of a woman’s right to choose. In saying that, I mean not only her rights regarding use of her body and mind, but her right to define feminism for herself. There are SO many fringe strains of feminism today that it’s difficult to rationally group them together as one movement, which I think is going to make it difficult to mobilize certain strains. But overall, contemporary feminists are focused on changing gendered language, ensuring that the legal gains their predecessors made are able to be realized in real life (so that these ‘gains’ aren’t just things on paper), stomping out sexism and the cultural understandings that tolerates sexual assault, and encouraging women to lead their lives as they please, as long as they’re doing it for themselves and people who matter to them. Overall, because feminism has so many branches, it has come to be a movement hinged upon human rights — ALL human rights.
What I’m learning through my research and campaign is that millennials have the power to change the future. We have the power to make our feminism more visible. We have the power to create a movement that works for us. And, we have the power to add a positive connotation to the word “feminist.” Many young women think becoming a feminist means throwing away your sense of self and adopting “the” ‘feminist stereotype’, which unfortunately still includes going without deodorant and shaving. Many find this unappealing. What is appealing, however, is advocating for things like gender inequalities, sex trafficking, domestic violence, and reproductive rights. Speaking up about these issues—which is exactly what I intend to do with my campaign—can be life changing for everyone.
While conducting research for my campaign, I also interviewed Kara Brown, author of the Jezebel.com article, “Don’t You Dare Ask Me Why I Look Mad.” Brown posits that young people forgo branding themselves “feminist” for various reasons, however, those that actually decide to declare feminism for themselves sometimes don’t necessarily know what to do about it.
[…]you probably have a lot of women who are quote unquote feminists, but either don’t declare it outright or don’t necessarily recognize that they are. You can be a lot of different things and still be a feminist, but I’m not sure how many women believe that. Either way, you don’t have to declare yourself a feminist to still be advancing the cause, which is where I think a lot of millennials stand.
My research centers upon the idea that many millennial feminists do not know that they (or their actions) are feminists. I hope my campaign changes this. I want to use my voice and my campus to change the world by doing something simple: speaking up. There aren’t many visible millennials because we aren’t speaking up enough. Yet, we have to speak up in order to make a difference for our generation. We have to speak up and be the prominent millennial feminists that I/we’ve been waiting for.
Millennial feminists, Stand Up!
Ashley Yenick is currently a junior at Merrimack College earning a B.A. in Mass Communications with a minor in Public and Professional Writing. She developed a love for writing at an early age, and strives to be a magazine journalist. Ashley is a newly-discovered feminist and was recently nominated at her college to attend a Women’s Leadership Seminar. In her Introduction to Public and Professional Writing class, her professor suggested researching a topic that she cared about. It was suggested that she start at Jezebel.com, an edgy feminist website. Ashley’s research led to researching contemporary/millennial feminisms. She hopes to launch a photo and video campaign informing young women on her campus about feminism. Ashley hopes this will make a lasting impact on other young women and that feminism will become something positive, and change the minds of young women and men across her campus.