by Matilda Branson
I often wonder about how to engage young non-feminists in feminism. When I say “non-feminists”, I’m not referring to people who are sexist, or anti-feminist – I refer merely to the majority of the world who just haven’t come into much contact with feminist principles or gender equality/equity debates.
That is not to say they haven’t been touched by feminism in their everyday lives, navigating gender roles and societal norms, encountering sexism or discrimination at work, or facing the baby vs. career question. They have been shocked and appalled by Half the Sky, or have campaigned for LGBT rights – it’s just they haven’t been exposed to Feminism as a concept with a capital F, and might not go out of their way to read a book or article on it, or actively define themselves as A Feminist.
It’s not a bad thing, it’s just how it is. I used to do the very same – from a young age I was highly interested in all issues promoting gender equality in every sphere of my life, but when I was 15, if someone had asked me, “Are you a feminist?”, I’m not sure I would have given a downright “Yes”. All I knew about Feminism were the negative stereotypes: feminists don’t shave their armpits, they’re often vegetarian or vegan, never wear high heels and generally come across as a bit prickly.
I delighted in smooth legs and underarms, pretty summer dresses and loved my steaks cooked blue. A lifetime of exposure to these negative stereotypes left me unconsciously hesitant to actively embrace that Matilda Was A Feminist, at the risk of being mistaken as a bearer of those negative stereotypes. It took those formulaic years at university when one’s identity begins to take on a stronger form that I gained a more nuanced understanding of the many shades of feminism, and where I fit into it all, and how I could identify proudly and comfortably as a feminist. Read more
Re-posted with permission from the Battered Women’s Support Services Ending Violence blog.
1. Use Social Media-Social media has an empowering effect send articles, with the click of a button, you can spread the word. Youth do not need the mainstream media to voice their views!
2. Report- Report photos that exploit girls and young women when you see them on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram
3. Be media literate and critical-Be critical of what you see otherwise it become normalized and we are desensitized! The media regularly uses images of violence against women and objectifies girls and women to sell products. Women are also objectified in movies, music and magazines. If you see an ad or commercial that is sexist and degrading towards women – write or e-mail the company and don’t by their products. Read more
by Ashli Scale
Last month I did something really brave – I set aside my fears of public speaking and co-facilitated workshops for junior high girls on body image and beauty standards. The workshop is a tool developed by Hopewell Eating Disorder Support Centre to raise awareness of body image concerns. It covers a range of topics such as:
- The unrealistically “thin ideal” for women and “overly-muscular ideal” for males which, when internalized, can create feelings of anxiety, shame and guilt since we are not able to achieve them (Cash & Fleming, 2002; Grogran & Wainwright, 1996). Results from research show that young girls exposed to Barbie report lower body esteem and an internalized “thin ideal” (Dittmar, et al., 2006). Additional research results demonstrate that teen magazines with slender, enhanced images create high levels of body dissatisfaction in young girls after just 5 minutes of viewing (Monro & Huon, 2005).
- The concept of media literacy, which we defined as viewing the media with a critical and informed attitude. Part of this is challenging the practice of Photoshopping images by explaining the extent of digitally enhanced images in the media and showing before/after images for analysis.
- Exposing the diet industry with particular emphasis on fad diets and providing information on popular fad diets, explaining how to critique the ads and listing the dangers of losing weight in this way. We shared results of studies that found 95% of people who diet gain the weight back within one year (Grodstein et al., 1996, Weinsier et al., 2000).
- Defining negative self-talk and discussing how to combat it and promote positive self-esteem. Promoting the overarching message: “Don’t question why you are different, question why the images are all the same”.
I observed two disturbing trends throughout the series of presentations. First, the narrowness of beauty ideals being taught to our youth was clearly demonstrated when we asked how women are portrayed in the media. At every workshop the very first answer was “skinny”. The only other answer provided was that women in the media are made to look “perfect” with no flaws like acne, moles, scars or wrinkles.