“Maturity is more absurd than youth and frequently is most unjust to youth.”
Thomas A Edison
Gather round my sisters-of-a-certain-age. We need to have a chat about something.
It didn’t start with you Gloria Steinem when you decided to throw a whole generation of young women under a bus suggesting that by supporting Bernie Sanders, they are doing so to get attention from boys. And I’m not sure if it was ignorance or arrogance, but either way it was undiluted misogyny and frankly you should be ashamed of yourself.
But it’s not just you, of course. (And I’m looking particularly at you Julia Hartley Brewer and Louise Mensch: neither of you are exactly covering yourselves in glory with your shameful behaviour toward certain young women are you?)
See, we have a problem, and if some of you haven’t already stormed off in a huff muttering incoherently about our collective war wounds from battles past, or how unappreciated you seem to think we are, then stay with me because I would imagine a lot of the rest of you will have by the end of this too. Hopefully, some of you are going to reflect, and listen. And I am hopeful because we are treating our young women, our young feminists, like crap. And that’s because we’re being ignorant.
I know you don’t like hearing it but, well – tough. Because its true.
I don’t know what you see when you look at the young women out there – well, okay, I know what some of you think you see. You might hang your head in despair (that’s if you manage to remove it from up your own backsides long enough), but I don’t. I see these young women loving themselves and taking control of their own images and my heart sings. Don’t misunderstand me: I’m not here for a good old heart to heart so that we can all walk away from this feeling a bit better about ourselves and having a collective slap on the back.
We just need to stop being so bloody awful to young women. For their sake.
It is blindingly obvious that quite a number of us have imbibed of the patriarchal cup and gotten just a teensy bit drunk on the idea that being ‘equal’ (cough) to men means having an equal shot at shaming young women. ‘But no’! I hear you cry.
And I really don’t give a monkeys what you think about selfies either. Thankfully, neither do our young women. They do not need our approval to post pictures of themselves, any more than they need the approval of other men.
That’s kind of the point.
Next – it is also strikingly clear that you think their politics and feminist campaigns are somehow ‘letting the side down’. And this is where I need you to pay attention because a number of you seem to think that they have failed to learn something from us – and I’m going to say something about that will permanently make me the most unpopular girl in school. Just as well feminism isn’t some sort of popularity contest really, isn’t it?
They learned plenty. We are the ones who are failing to learn from them. We are letting them down.
And oh, I can hear you all already: but we did this thing! And won that battle! And got these rights!
Yes. And the fact that some of you think that they don’t know that is appalling. Of course they know that. Every anniversary of Roe v Wade, young feminists stream across my social media in celebration. (And that’s just one example). Of course they know it, and value it. For those so wilfully blind as to refuse to see it, whose future were you fighting for anyway? Because it can’t possibly have been theirs.
But some of you do know this: what you don’t like is how they don’t always agree with you about some stuff. You don’t like that they are exploring and generating and imagining new ways of understanding feminism, and their lives – how they are evolving the feminism you somehow became convinced was set in stone with us – because you’re not comfortable with it. Quite a lot of you don’t like being trans inclusive, quite a lot more of you get real squeamish around queer theory, and good lord I watch us as we tie ourselves up in knots over intersectional theory, and its painful to behold.
And the point is not whether or not you agree or disagree with what they are learning and developing, and it doesn’t matter a jot whether any of that speaks to your life because (again) they do not need our approval to develop the narratives of their own lives. (And how you don’t see that they have learned that from us better than we have learned it ourselves is completely beyond me).
The point is that we give them better than we were given – that we uphold them because they are, not because they have to agree with us first. (And that some of you carry on as though they ought to is just another example of how much patriarchy we absorbed without recognising it).
You might not want to learn anything from them, although I promise you your life and thinking and learning would be the richer for it. But for the love of all that is holy, will you stop with the sense of entitlement about what you think they owe us?
All of us have enough on our plates dealing with that from men. We damn well shouldn’t be giving our young women that from us either.