My niece is wonderful. She is your typical carefree/careless young adult and often looks like an extra from The OC (although being asian, she’d at least bring a level of diversity to the show) but she’s wonderful.
Last week she was chatting to me about our usual array of mundane things, but, somehow in the middle of discussing the (hilarious) Yo Valley advert, she asked me about the politics in Palestine. Now, this is new and caught me by surprise – I asked why she wanted to chat about it and here is how the conversation went:
Me: Why are you asking about this?
My niece: Well, I think it’s important that I know more about politics
Me: No, seriously, Why?
My niece: Well, I was talking to this boy and he’s really political, but I felt really stupid. I want to know more so I can talk to him more often.
My niece: and I thought I would come to you since you’re always talking about political things and know lots (now this is inaccurate, I merely read and regurgitate The Guardian like any good left leaning activist….)
My face was this warped mesh of anger, concern and optimism. Which, by the way, I can only imagine was not attractive – angry, sharp eyebrows, weary eyes and a smile…bizzarley the Joker from Batman has popped into my head…
Anyway, I was angry because anyone could, so easily, make this bright young woman feel inferior, I was optimistic since at least she talked to me about it and wanted to develop, and I was concerned because what made her do it was a boy.
Here, there was a young woman wanting to become more political to keep up with a boy or worse yet, impress him. I, of course, talked to her about this and she denied that this was the case and I should take that at face value. I do not. Because I’m her aunt and it is a divine right that I get to think the worst and dislike any boy within 50 yards. Fact. But it made me think about the next generation of women, the next generation of leaders and how we make them political and particularly how we make them feminists.
Political understanding/feminism isn’t something to consider thinking about in order to keep up with someone or because it sounds intelligent. It’s a belief system; a way of seeing the world and making your decisions about it. But how do we get that across to young women? I’m still trying to work that out and have been for a number of years. I know there are many people, in a certain national movement close to my heart, who do exactly that every day, but I’m not sure we are that close to figuring it out.
I know we need to make politics/feminism more personal, we need to make the, in the case, 20 year old apolitical woman, who enjoys spending time with her friends and going facebook, maybe going to a lecture (and for the love of God, maybe listening to her aunt and joining a student society or two….) understand that word ‘feminism’ is relevant to them today and what they are currently experiencing. Rather than telling them what they should be experiencing and how they should feel about it. But beyond that, I’m still searching.
Back to my niece and this conversation. We have decided (when I say this I actually mean I told her) that we are meeting/chatting every Friday to talk about what’s going on in the news that week and what that means for her. Naturally, I have every intention of making this all about feminism (you see, I have some time on my hands at the moment and no idea what to do with it, so this is now my project). I also hope I’ll learn from her and maybe figure out some answers to the questions above.
I’ll keep you posted on how this develops, you know, in case you’re bored.