Debate Magazine

Youth and Feminism: Ignorance Is Bliss

Posted on the 19 September 2011 by Juliez
Emmeline Pankhurst, anyone? ANYONE?

Emmeline Pankhurst, anyone? ANYONE?

Today’s youth culture encourages females and males alike to embrace their sexuality and allows a freedom of expression. But it seems this freedom of sexual expression has ended up glamorising the idea that females are nothing more than sexual objects. Or at least, it seems that’s what girls our age think.

I have to wonder – how have girls our age not heard of the efforts made by Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th century? Or the women’s liberation protest demonstration at the 1969 Miss World beauty contest?  I have discovered that there are very few teenage girls out there who fully comprehend the feminist movement and its effects on society, and, more importantly, its hopes and aspirations for the future generations of women.

I wanted to see what our generation really thinks about feminism, and why they feel they have to be sexual objects, so I pinned up questionnaires about feminism that I had written at school for my peers to complete on a voluntary basis. However, I unfortunately received only a small sample of responses which were completed primarily by females. It soon became apparent to me that even amongst 17 and 18 year olds in my own sixth form, a stigma existed regarding feminism, as there was a serious lack of interest in my questionnaire, especially amongst the boys.

The single male who did answer my questionnaire was clearly influenced by the echoes of a hundred out-dated attitudes as he referred to feminists as “petty, whiney, naggy, desperate,” and that feminism was “more sexist than what they stood against in the first place.” This is the voice from the present generation, a young man who, though he was the only one to answer the survey, is definitely not alone in this attitude.

Any evidence of conscientiousness of feminism that I detected only came from female respondents and even then very few had heard of Third-Wave feminism. This lead me to believe that there is a significant level of ignorance about feminism amongst young people which will prevent any continuation of the feminist movement unless something is not done now.

I also picked up a contradiction on the question of whether pop stars such as Rihanna and Beyoncé promote equality between the sexes. A third of my questionnaires stated that they agreed that such pop stars do promote equality between men and women and that they also “sing songs about female empowerment and being proud of being successful women.” Indeed, there is nothing I love better than punching my fist in the air as I sing along “Who run the world? Girls!” to Beyoncé’s new single but there is no denying that Beyoncé and her fellow female pop artists promote little more than ‘Bimbo feminism’, which Maureen Dowd defines as “giving your intellectual pretensions to a world where the highest ideal is to acknowledge your inner slut.”

Feminism is alive, but it has taken a new form. It seems dungarees and hairy armpits have been replaced with fake tan, hair extensions and fake nails because young girls are linking sex with success, a proposition that couldn’t be further from the intentions of women like Germaine Greer.

After all, would Beyoncé still be ‘Queen B’ if it wasn’t for her notorious booty shake?

But I’m not talking about hairy armpits verses vajazzling, I’m talking about the increasingly dominant pressures in society which are felt by young women and young women only: am I pretty? Am I sexy? Am I fat? We live in a media-ruled world where magazine headlines everywhere are declaring what is and isn’t sexy, what you should and shouldn’t wear. And it doesn’t stop with girly magazines such as Cosmopolitan or Glamour. Lad magazines are just as guilty, arguably more so. Have you ever seen a guy’s magazine feature and promote feminist values?

The media has created an obsession with sex and as a result, there is now a right and wrong, how to be and how not to be. The media has encouraged the belief that to be a feminist is to be a radical, an anarchist, an untouchable. If society and the media continue to brainwash the generations of young women with such empty prejudices, us girls are going to have to get angry again, fast.

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