Millennial women in America have grown up with access to higher education, birth control, and messages of girl power. The pink power ranger kicked ass across the galaxy and “girls rule” was a mantra we all grew up believing in. That being said we also grew up with Barbies, Bratz dolls, and easy bake ovens, and our toys often taught us how to be better mothers than astronauts or fire fighters. Our heroines included Belle — whose claim to fame was having a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome — and Ariel — who gave up her voice, her family, and her friends all for a nice pair of legs to impress some guy. Emerging from these mixed messages, with more freedoms than any other generation and entirely new means of communication, millennial feminists are unlike any other.
Writer Anna Quindlen and blogger and student Julie Zeilinger discuss in this fantastic podcast what it means to be a millennial feminist. The feminists of today are not just a new “wave” but an entirely new breed all together. We are influenced by 2nd wave feminists and, as Zeilinger puts it, “learning from them in real time,” yet we are crafting a movement that is our own, and that reaches out in new and innovative ways.
Much of the work that millennial feminists do is to combat the notion that women are somehow inherently inferior to men. Quindlen notes that her identification as a feminist grew out of the experience of being taken less seriously, simply because she was a woman, saying, “it’s in tiny little gestures, or a tone of voice.” Watching Lou Dobbs and Erick Erickson debate Megyn Kelly on women’s role in the work place, for example, is infuriating to millennial feminists, not only because of what is said, (namely that women should be at home with the kids), but the smug way in which Dobbs and Erickson smile as Kelly speaks, the “isn’t it cute that she thinks she deserves rights” look on their faces. Millennial feminists don’t think it’s cute, and we’re sick of the notion that only women are good at raising children (the myth of the “bumbling dad” and “incapable man” hurts men and women, and it is really starting to irritate us, not to mention the sickening stepford-esque role women are expected to fill).
Millennial feminism also entails more intersectionality than any prior generation. We seek not only to combat gender inequality but to combat race, class, and sexual oppression. We are inclusive of many voices, from the LGBT community to undocumented immigrants. Millennial feminists understand that oppression has many targets and we seek justice for all — from organizations that seek to end fistulas and maternal mortality abroad to fighting violence against transgendered people in the U.S.
Millennial feminists also work from a much different platform than our predecessors. Social media has allowed feminists to come together in new ways, and Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube and PolicyMic give us new ways of making our voices heard and creating a collective and diverse community. Feminists can fight oppression in many ways now, from hashtag campaigns to organizing slutwalks, the internet has helped to move campaigns forward in a uniquely far reaching way. Millennials can use new technology to combat inequality in surprising ways, from apps to combat subway creepers to this woman’s ingenious way of stopping unsolicited and sexually explicit photos from a man. Millennial feminists have techno-know how and we aren’t afraid to use it!
The feminists of today have many advantages that our mothers didn’t have, and we know that these rights were hard earned. We also know that we have a hard fight ahead of us. Women still get paid less than men, and have faced a huge backlash in terms of anti-abortion bills, attempts to defund planned parenthood, and efforts to change the definition of rape (only some rape is legitimate?).
We know that we need to create a media that isn’t saturated with the objectification of women’s bodies, a government and a work force that has equal representation, a national marriage policy that allows all couples to express their love, and a sex education system that doesn’t hide information about contraceptives and then bemoan the existence of teen pregnancy. We have new platforms to fight these battles and a diverse group of individuals who've come together to forge true equality and justice. We are millennial feminists and we’re pretty badass.