Feminist Fridays – Confidence
So the first, of what I hope will be many, Feminist Fridays begins with my niece. (If this is news to you I’d suggest reading the previous blog, or not, it’s not rocket science, I’m sure you’ll follow). We’ve decided that when we can, we will meet, if not we will have phone conversations. This was a compromise of her doing. I take no solace in the knowledge that she could, and probably would, put me on mute or make crackling noises and pretend she’s going through a tunnel when I say something she doesn’t like. (Side note: I do this to my mother, which means I am doing something similar to someone else as she does to me. But that is most definitely a blog in itself *shudder*)
So we meet at a coffee shop, I order a regular tea, she orders some skinny decaf mocka-latte chat and there is some generic jazz playing in the background, whilst our orders get repeated several times to several different people behind the counter. This is my attempt at imagery; we’re in a standard, chain, coffee shop, work the rest out yourself. The reason I highlight it though, is because I like this. It’s a modern setting for what, I hope, will be a modern discussion.
I come with no agenda, part of me considered putting together a weekly curriculum and my narcotic side wanted to, badly, it also wanted to make a Gantt chart, but I resisted. I call that growth (it’s been long overdue). You see, that would utterly disempower her, and the whole point is the opposite. I need her to feel that these conversations are her’s to control and take where she wants. Whilst having an element of control myself, obviously, God knows where it would go if I didn’t…
So we started the discussion about what she had seen on the news/online, since this was why she wanted to chat in the first place; this went through the saddening flaws of our justice system, when racism is actually racism, Iraq and pensions. Of course, again, I am no scholar and was essentially giving her bits I’ve picked up in press and personal, sometimes naive, opinion (perhaps not the best, but will do for now). The point is actually just encouraging this as conversation. We talked for a while and she had opinions, was articulate in expressing them and, most of the time, was quite accurate.
I then asked her why she even felt she needed to have these conversation, when she is perfectly able to as I do; watch, read, listen, discuss and form an opinion. What it came down to was confidence.
And maybe that’s where we need to start; giving young woman confidence. We’ve worked on women’s self-esteem before, many a time, but it’s always been about appearance. Now we need to make it about intellectual confidence, leadership confidence, confidence in themselves and in their capacity to make change. But this isn’t easy. A lot of effort and resource has gone into pushing healthy dieting and fighting size zero etc and still we’ve got a long way to go. The percentage of teenage girls who believe they would be happier if they were thinner is, sadly, astonishingly high -60% in a BBC survey in 2009.
Asking them to be confident, especially about their intellectual capacity, is even harder because we are asking them to do is not conform, we are asking them to not follow perceived stereotypes – and that’s not easy, it takes a lot of courage to stand up and say: “No, I don’t think that’s right, all of you around me have it wrong”, especially when you’re a young girl, between the ages of say 10-14, whose priority (rightly so) is to make friends and have fun. But, to make feminism relevant it’s at this age that we need to begin a re-education and an introduction to political confidence.
It must have taken an amazing amount of courage for a woman to stand up in the 1870’s and deduce:
- Society and British law is wrong
- I should be entitled to vote
- I am going to voice this against a majority that don’t agree
What today’s feminism needs is for much younger women to stand up and do the same (not for the vote, obviously, though I would like more young people to use it…I’ve just noticed my use of ‘young people’…I’d like to now point out I am not that old) But, it takes courage, it takes confidence. And that is where it needs to begin. A movement of confidence for young women, especially teenage girls, to be able to feel competent and secure in having opinions, questioning the world around them and debating how they want their world to be.
And then what will happen? Feminism will naturally blossom.