Navigating feminism and friendship

We all know how difficult it can be just being a feminist these days; the backlash is disgusting, and you have to deal with the assumptions and negative preconceptions (Hello? I don’t want all men to die, I’d just like them to not treat girls like shit!). Things get even harder when age comes into the mix, and being able to balance strong opinions with not being ‘that girl’.

‘That girl’ - noun : a girl who expresses her perfectly reasonable views about equality and is known for it. Often massively judged by others without valid reason.

Having been ‘that girl’ in three schools now, I’m starting to realise how painful it can really be. Being the butt of the jokes, drifting from friends, not being wanted in conversations and debates. It may seem like your only option is to d u l l d o w n, or to cut out the people who don’t respect your opinion. These are easy to suggest, but the reality of it is that girls do not need to dampen their flame for anyone, but that we also do not want to lose people in our lives.

We return again to the simple fact that education is key. So until schools get themselves in order and start educating young people on gender equality, I guess we’re going to have to do it ourselves. In my experience, when you sit down with someone and show them the facts, tell them the stories, they will listen. Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid to pull up stats and articles. Do not be afraid to prove that sanitary products should be free in schools. Do not be afraid to defend the existence of the gender pay gap and how it’s based on HOURLY WAGES ( Dear boys in my school, women are not just ‘lazy’ and working less than men). Do not be afraid to challenge gender stereotypes. Do not be afraid to empower the remarkable women around you. Do not be afraid to tell boys how feminism can help them, too. It’s okay to call people out, even if they are your friends, as long as the next step is education. And if after that, after information upon information, after hours of teaching, they still won’t listen? Well, maybe they’re not the kind of person you want to be friends with.

No young person should have to sacrifice their beliefs in order to feel accepted in school. Many people cannot help the bias, they have been raised with it, the media has enforced it since the day they were born. If they are good, they are willing to learn. Do not think that you do not have the power to change someone’s outlook. Maybe you feel like you don’t fit in, like your views do alienate you, but I promise you will find your people. And if that’s not right now? No big deal - they’re out there waiting for you.