This is what I can’t stop thinking about lately. The words coming out of the mouths of young girls. Words like this exchange between Radio and TV Personality Sam Cowen and her 11-year-old daughter …
The 11yo walking around the house with one slipper on…
Me: Where’s the other slipper?
Her: I lost it.
Me: You’re like Cinderella except it’s a slipper.
Her: I’m nothing like Cinderella. I don’t need a man to find my shoes.
It’s just one conversation snippet, from one household, but it’s also a heartening and enlightening example of the empowerment that’s running deep within the spirits of young girls today.
Here’s another. This one between my friend Mathapelo and her 7-year-old.
Me: What do you think makes a girl strong?
Kid: I don’t know.
Me: Okay, what would you say makes YOU strong?
Kid: I am nice and I am kind.
Me: Those are very good, strong qualities to have and I’m proud of you. And what would you say makes ME strong?
Kid: You are yourself …
Kid continues: You’re also strong because you have a mom, 2 brothers and a sister. And a daughter.
Me: Do you know what I think makes YOU strong?
Me: You’re intelligent and you’re kind.
Me: Do you think a woman needs to be married to stay strong?
Me: Do you think that I would be stronger if I get married one day?
Kid: No I don’t think so. I think you’re already strong enough, Mommy.
Me: Do you want to get married one day?
Kid: I don’t know. We’ll see one day.
More than ever before, households, cars, trains, buses, school halls, parks and playgrounds are filled with such chatter.
I think boys can be pink and girls can be trees and any way around we want. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, we all have superpowers. Can presidents wear tiaras? Because I want to be a president with a tiara. Dad, don’t be silly. I don’t want to marry a doctor … I want to be a doctor.
Sure, girls are still learning to cook and bake and sew and dance but they’re also learning to box and build and lead. They know that their gender doesn’t define them, and they’re slaying it in pink tutus as much as they’re rocking Batman suits.
And they’re learning about more and more real-life superheroes of their own. Like the Suffragettes, Coretta Scott King, Amelia Earhart, Frida Kahlo, Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem, Malala Yousafzai, Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Watson, and J.K. Rowling.
They’re aware of issues like the gender gap. They’re aware that there’s still work to be done, and they’re not afraid to grow up to become the ones to do it. Probably not in the way that previous generations did it, but in their own individualised ways, exploring their personal freedoms, embracing inclusiveness, moving boundaries we never thought possible … leading the lives they choose.
I particularly love the new wave feminism piece Betty Friedan to Beyoncé: Today’s generation embraces feminism on its own terms.
The authors talk about how new wave feminism is ‘shaped less by a shared struggle against oppression than by a collective embrace of individual freedoms, concerned less with targeting narrowly defined enemies than with broadening feminism’s reach through inclusiveness, and held together not by a handful of national organizations and charismatic leaders but by the invisible bonds of the Internet and social media.’
Young feminists believe their feminism is more personal, it’s evolving into something that ‘stresses personal freedom as much as it does equality and, when infused with the younger generation’s bent toward inclusion, has the capacity to make room for both Carly Fiorina and Beyoncé — even though older generations might permit neither.’
Not everybody’s going to like it, but the new feminism is definitely far more accessible than ever before, and there’s no doubt that it’s ‘blossoming most vividly’.
Read next: I Am The Woman They Knew We Could Be