Girls’ Activism is Ignored by Scholars

Mainly girls’ media activism in Australia, England and the US is discussed in Next Wave Cultures: Feminism, Subcultures, Activism (2008), edited by Australian Anita Harris. She pointed out in the book’s introduction that, “Very little has been said about either the political participation or nonparticipation of young women in particular,” with the exception of feminist “generation wars” and the less political activism of the third wave.

Taft reported in Rebel Girls that, “Despite their activism, girls are rarely considered and written about as significant political actors. They appear but do not speak.” They’re left out of academic research on girls’ studies and on youth movements. Taft says that the focus is on college students rather than teenagers. Despite the increasing interest in girls’ studies over the last two decades, Emily Bent agarees that “the research on girls and politics is surprisingly incomplete” and invisible.[i] Most of the interest in girls’ studies, youth studies, and children’s rights is in future interest in politics rather than girls’ current activism. However, several international studies cited by Bent found that girls valued political participation as much or more than boys, although some view it as a masculine arena. Girls were more likely to imagine themselves becoming politically involved in the future if the media discussed women politicians. Anita Harris points out that some girls are interested in politics, but consider the traditional form corrupt and not interested in their views.

Bent applies standpoint theory to her research about girls active in the UN Commission on the Status of Women (established in 1946). The approach believes that research should begin with and prioritize the lives of the marginalized and oppressed as they know most about their situation, named “one of the most influential and debated theories to emerge from second-wave feminist thinking.”[ii] The girls told her they didn’t have actual input into policy-making. A teen named Jessica told her when they tried to say something that wasn’t strictly on the agenda, they took the microphone away. I advocate that researchers change the common practice of ignoring youth or presuming to speak for them without including their voices.

[i]Emily Bent, “The Boundaries of Girls’ Political Participation: A Critical Exploration of Girls’ Experiences as Delegates to the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women,” Global Studies of Childhood, Vol. 3, No. 2, 2013, p. 174.

[ii] “Feminist Standpoint Theory,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.


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