The Future is Ms. is an ongoing series of news reports by young feminists. This series is made possible by a grant from SayItForward.org in support of teen journalists and the series editor, Katina Paron.
Jules Spector has never had a problem with speaking out against injustice in the world—but she knows other teenagers have. That’s why the 18-year-old New York City native created Teen FemiList, an online community that gives teen feminists a place to connect.
“No matter how young you are it’s important to speak up,” she says.
With members from the U.S. and abroad, the 2-year-old project provides a space for “rad feminist teenagers of any/no gender to… figure out how to survive high school while simultaneously smashing the patriarchy,” according to the host website, Teen Feminist.
When Liv Moretta, a 17-year-old from Dallas, wrote a post about her troubles facing the security screening in an airport as a person of color with white parents, other members were able to empathize with Moretta and share their own similar experiences. “I find comfort in knowing that my experiences and thoughts can potentially resonate with another person,” she says. “Sharing my story … gave me hope that my voice can establish a sense of community in a world where change is crucial.”
An online community is key to building a network, according to Bernadette Anat and Ruth Ann Harnisch, two (adult) members on the Teen FemiList board. For example, the Women’s March Instagram account has 1 million followers, informing them all of the 2017 and 2018 marches across the nation.
“The internet has made it so that anyone can find a tribe that matches their cause, their voice, their vibe—and activists will draw so much strength from the knowledge that they are not alone,” says Anat, a former producer at Instagram. “This strength will be necessary when a feminist feels tired, defeated, lost.”
Harnisch, a philanthropist, was a member of the feminist mailing list TheLi.st when she met Spector. She credits TheLi.st with contributing to her own feminist network. She’d like to see teens have an opportunity for the kind of networking and mutual support she had. “Almost no one can accomplish their life goals,” she says, “without the support, assistance, connections, finances, emotional labor, actual labor of other people.”
Feminist goals can seem inaccessible to teens when they feel isolated. This was one of the barriers to activism that drew Elena Ampatzi, 16, of Patra, Greece, to FemiList. She posted a message explaining her lack of resources and support of feminist ideals in her community and asked how she could take action despite this. Within a month members of the group shared their ideas, encouraging her to start a chapter of the U.N. organization Girl Up at her school.
From one of Teen FemiList’s first posts by Spector about feminist New Year’s resolutions to empower members through their activism-filled year to talking about the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, the network pushes members to see the injustices they face in a new light. This opportunity quickly became something Brooke Campbell, 15, from Philadelphia, appreciated when she found the website through friends.
As a young black girl, Campbell says she felt “compelled… to stand up for myself and my people. “My gender also makes others see me as weak and fragile,” she says. “Little do they know I’m powerful and outspoken.”