Can Our Passion For Equality Really Exist Outside The Playground?

Feminism has become a modern trend, slowly intertwined with pop culture — from Taylor Swift slaying sexism in her interviews to Queen B announcing her feminist identity to the entire the world during her “Flawless” VMAs performance. The recent feminist wave has crept into the magazines in our shops and the hashtags on our social media and has influenced teenage girls across the world, including me and my friends.

We are inspired by female role models like Shonda Rhimes and Emma Watson, who have battled through barriers and have gone on to encourage greatness from other women. Through the Internet and some forms of media, we have learned to spot social injustice and prejudice and strive to achieve empowerment and equality within our own lives.

The stereotypical lives that teenage girls like us are expected to have, however, have now been overpowered. Our vain bathroom mirror visits have been infected with self empowerment and self-love; our girly sleepovers with chick flicks now have been suffused with added commentary on strong female characters and the Bechdel test. Even our “boy trouble” gossip sessions have rapidly mutated into feminist rants on double standards. Our adolescence has developed a sense of awareness and we are now young women who desire a better future for all. Teenage girls are already introduced to cat-calling and sexual harassment within the school corridors, but we have now realised that we shouldn’t have to simply shrug it off.

However, we are also conscious of what happens next. And we are terrified. We have to go beyond what we learned in the classroom and actually survive in the “scary grown up world.” All those fabulous female role models in the coming of age movies that we worshipped might not stand a chance against real adult problems. When we have to learn how to deal with sexism in the workplace, we might have to leave our gender equality ideologies in the yearbooks.

Can we really afford to be fired when we incessantly complain about the gender pay gap? Will we have to put up with our male boss being a little too close for comfort? Might we have to praise our male colleagues for taking control of a project but apologise if we decide to take the role as leader and are then perceived as bossy? What if shattering the glass ceiling leaves cuts, bruises, scrapes and scars on our skin? Can our passion for equality really exist outside the playground?

I’ve always been proud of how me and my “gal pals” have become attentive to sexism and other social issues and have featured the motivation for gender equality in our identities — even though we haven’t been able to declare it to millions of people through a 17-minute Beyoncé medley in front of a massive “FEMINIST” banner. But we have incorporated it into our daily lives and tried to be unapologetic about it.

However, there is still the fear that in the future, our perspective and ideologies won’t act as the bulletproof vest against discrimination, but instead the gun we use to shoot ourselves in the foot. The thought of having to ditch my enthusiasm for a more just and fairer society terrifies me. I’m afraid of growing up and losing my passion for equality. But I also refuse to simply allow my fears to act as my obstacles.

My teenage girlfriends and I are determined to continue with our tenacity and achieve as much as we can in our careers and our lives in general. We shouldn’t have to experience this fear of wanting to be strong and successful independent women who are not accepted by the people around them. It shouldn’t petrify us to wish for a more inclusive and equal society, it should petrify us when others do not wish for this. In the short time we have before we are not protected by our teachers and parents, we must learn to embrace our fears and use them to drive us further.

As we go beyond the borders of our classroom, I also wish that we create the opportunities to go beyond the borders of our country and fight for equality in other places across the globe where sexism isn’t just a problem in the office but a life-threatening issue for some women. I hope that we grow up to inspire our children and the next generation of teenage girls through our own accomplishments and also support those around us who come across hurdles that they will have to jump over in order to be rewarded with recognition. I pray that my fear to be great does not silence me but provokes me to conquer magnificent things. I dream that one day I am proud of the mindset that my friends and I gained in our teenage years and that, if anything, it played a part in helping us to succeed.

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