Feminist youth are thriving, and much of their presence can be felt online. I had the chance to speak with three young bloggers about the work they do and their feelings on the future of feminism.
Carmen Rios is a writer and activist based in Washington, D.C., where she lives with her dog, Eli. She was raised by a single mom and considers herself a feminist from birth. She’s been working in online organizing and community-building for local, national and international feminist causes for five years, and writing became an integral part of her work early on. She is both a professional feminist as well as a writer/editor for Autostraddle, PolicyMic and THE LINE Campaign.
Blog: http://carmenrios.tumblr.com/, where I write about my feelings, my hair and my deep love for pizza. I also post pictures of my dog. A lot.
Location: D.C., via New Jersey
Blogging since: 2009.
Occupation: Online community organizer, Feminist Majority Foundation; character assassin and dog photographer, internet at-large.
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Emily Spangler is a high school sophomore in Illinois. She’s the co-director and blogger for ProgressWomen, a website that promotes progressive politics, empowering women, and getting women involved. She’s passionate about LGBT issues, women’s health and electing Democratic women to public office.
Blogging since: 2013
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Gloria is a freelance writer, public speaker and the creator of TeenMomNYC.com. Gloria’s publication credits and media appearances include The New York Times, The O’Reilly Factor and NPR.
Location: Bronx, N.Y.
Blogging since: 2011
Occupation: Freelance writer and full-time student
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The Femisphere: How did you come to claim a feminist identity at a young age?
Gloria: Because of my life experiences I have to be a feminist. There is just no way around it.
Carmen: I identified as a feminist growing up but didn’t quite know it until middle or high school, when I found myself consistently frustrated with the world-at-large. I was raised by a single mom, who got help from my grandmother and aunt, and so my life definitely painted me this way: I grew up seeing women as survivors, self-sufficient and independent beings, and strong, no-nonsense figureheads. I landed an internship with Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign before I was old enough to vote and I disavowed the “nuclear family” during my childhood; by the time I got to college—where I became a women’s studies major and promised myself I’d commit my life to the movement—I’d already pulled a multitude of people into it with me. I’ve always been vocal, opinionated and political; the idea of identifying as a feminist was merely about learning the right vocabulary to do so. I don’t think I have a ‘click moment;’ I think my entire life has been a series of click moments.
Emily: I’ve always believed in equality for all and never knew how to label myself until I was 10. I came across a Wikipedia page online about feminism. I kept reading and reading, and realized I was a feminist. Not only was I pro-choice, but at a young age I believed in a better world for myself, my generation and generations to come. I was concerned with things like victim blaming, street harassment, women being denied abortions and contraceptives in various parts of the country, body shaming, etc. At a young age, I educated myself (mainly online and places more reliable than Wikipedia) on what a feminist really is. For five years now, I’ve learned one thing about feminism: Women should have the right to make choices. If a woman wants to go to work and hold a 9-to-5 job, fabulous. If a woman wants to stay at home and take care of the kids, fabulous. Same goes to things like abortions or the clothes she wears. Sometimes, as individuals, we disagree with choices people make, but women should always be in charge of themselves, how they carry themselves and their lives in general. There is no one definition of feminism, but I would really hope that feminists can all agree that shaming other women for the way they live their lives isn’t okay.
How and when did you start writing from a feminist perspective?
Carmen: I started calling myself a ‘writer’ in the summer of 2012, which was extremely late into my ‘writing career,’ and I have a ton of feelings about it. I started blogging in 2009 when I got an internship with Nancy Schwartzman of THE LINE Campaign; I helped her launch the social media for the project and also wrote some of our first blog posts. Blogging was something I’d always felt comfortable doing because I’d come of age in a time where professional and personal blogs were commonplace. I’d been writing about my own life on LiveJournal, etc., for friends, and read non-personal blogs when I came to college, like Feministing. I assumed I was being asked to write because I understood social media, blogs included, better than a lot of other folks in the feminist world due mainly to my age, and also figured it was a skill I should work on for the same reason.
And so I wrote. When I couldn’t work for Nancy, I wrote for Nancy, and I realized I liked writing and what it did for the movement—how it could educate, galvanize, spread the word, raise awareness and answer queries. How it could make people feel less alone or less crazy and make noise where there had only been silence. The internet has always seemed crazy to me as a vehicle for social justice because it’s one hell of an equalizer—it’s accessible to so many people, and it’s 100 percent free to put words somewhere on it, even if those places aren’t the most prominent. Fast, easily shareable and conversational: It’s like a consciousness-raising session with a ‘share’ button attached.
Emily: I came to blogging about feminism with a website I launched this year with Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman. She really opened my eyes to the world of blogging and taking my feminist beliefs and writing about them online. Ever since middle school, I’ve been using social media to my advantage and advocating for issues that are near and dear to me, like women’s health, LGBT rights, etc. When I launched ProgressWomen.com with Stacey Newman this year, I found myself writing passionately about feminism and what we’re really fighting for. Social media has always been a part of my life and so has raising my voice for issues I care about. Combining the two resulted in me becoming an activist for reproductive rights, empowering women, etc.
Gloria: I feel like I accidentally started blogging about feminism because of the very nature of my life. As a teen mom I was (and still am) at the nexus of so much terrible public policy, societal stigma and an overwhelming amount of unabashed shaming. I started writing publicly as a way to cope and as a resistance to all things that seek to define me.
As cliche as it sounds people, politics, writing and story-sharing have been my passions, and combining them all in my own way to express my own story has been the best decision I have ever made. All of my experiences and those of my peers are inherently problems that many people face, but because I’m a teen mom [check out #feminismisforteenmomstoo on Twitter] and teen mom is a bad word, society and even some ‘progressives-feminists-leftists’ think I should keep quiet because ‘it’s my fault’ anyways.
Stay tuned for Part II of this Femisphere conversation.
Photos courtesy of the bloggers