Tanzanian girls discuss early marriage, genital mutilation, and their desire to go to school, with all the power in their father’s, then husband’s hand.
The annual Gender Gap Index by the World Economic Forum reported progress in 2014, with Scandinavians at the top as usual (Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark), while Yemen, Pakistan and Chad were at the bottom.
Transnational feminist theory is challenged by Chandra Talpade Mohanty who was raised in India and teaches university women’s studies in New York. Her 1986 article “Under Western Eyes” generated much discussion about deficits in post- or de-colonial transnational feminist theory, elaborated on in her book Feminism Without Borders, 2003, and in a video interview.[i] As a radical activist, she faults feminists for not doing more to join antiglobalization’s critique of neoliberal capitalism as the main oppressor. She faults US women’s movements for becoming increasingly conservative so that, “much radical, antiracist feminist activism occurs outside the rubric of such movements.”[ii] She aks Western feminists to scrutinize “materialist” (in the Marxist sense of economics and class) local histories from the perspective of gender and race. They should not assume that liberal theories, such as the importance of education for girls, apply universally without understanding the local context. Power should be studied from the bottom up in the lives of marginalized women, called standpoint theory, because women are most of the poor, sweatshop factory workers and refugees exploited by neoliberal capitalism. Western feminists should respectfully form solidarity movements with women globally, not looking at “Third World women” from a Eurocentric orientalist viewpoint as a simple category with similar female characteristics.
In opposition to postmodern relativists’ reluctance to develop general theories that has dominated US academia for the last three decades, she recommends the approach of “postpositivist realism“ doing “systemic analyses” as of patterns of domination, while recognizing local differences. She especially advocates that women of color in the West and women of the Global South make alliances, as she has attempted to do in organizing conferences. She reminds us that “corporatist” universities are not immune from neoliberal control of our thinking and make the mistake of approaching area studies, gender and ethnic studies, and globalization as if the US is the norm, not an “area.” Her main goal is to encourage an “anticapitalist transnational feminist practice” using a “comparative feminist studies model.”[iii] Such a cross-cultural course would include global women’s issues and activism around sex work, the “maid trade,” small-scale farmers, war, environmentalism, human rights, etc., not singling out the West as somehow superior or not part of the neoliberal system, thinking in terms of One-Third World and Two-Thirds World. Criticizing feminists for not being anticapitalists, she also criticizes the antiglobalism movement for matching masculinization of globalization discourse and not including feminist analysis, although it did include some of the feminist organizing processes.
In 2013 Talpade Mohanty identified the main challenge to feminist solidarity is neoliberalism’s normalization of the “so-called post-race/post feminist consumer cultures leading to generation differences” in attitudes. She calls for opposition to the neoliberal nations’ violence, as in the US, India and Israel’s “exercise of militarized and masculinized forms of control, surveillance and dispossession.” She praises resistance movements in Palestine, India’s anti-rape movement,[iv] post-Traynon Martin US, and Canada’s Idle No More indigenous environmental movement as the “key focus” for feminists. A model is the work of Indian feminist environmentalist Vandana Shiva.
[i] Chandra Talpade Mohanty. Feminism Without Borders. Duke University Press, 2003.
Interview by Linda Martin Alcoff, “Feminists We Love: Chandra Talpade Mohanty,” October 4, 2013.
[ii] Chandra Talpade Mohanty. Feminism Without Borders. Duke University, 2003, p. 221.
[iii] Chandra Talpade Mohanty, p. 242.
Young men tend to be more egalitarian than their fathers, comfortable with girls as friends and equals. Feminist actress Emma Watson kicked off a UN campaign called “HeForShe” in 2014 to galvanize boys and men to “be advocates for gender equality,” despite her recognition that feminism is an unpopular word. She pointed out that feminism is not man-hating but equal opportunities: “We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. . . If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled.”[i] Many young men do oppose mistreatment of women. The youngest member of the South African parliament, Mkhuleko Hlengwa, 25, arrived the first day wearing a button stating “No to rape.” He wants to change the high rape rate (64,000 reported cases in 2012), get young people more active in politics
[i] Emma Watson, “Gender Equality is Your Issue Too,” UN Women, September 20, 2014.
Tibetan monk the Venerable Losang Samten spoke at the Yoga Center of Chico on March 26 about how to meditate to wake up mental consciousness and quiet the senses and thoughts. Five minutes a day is fine, but “drowsiness” is not meditation. Different ways to let go and relax are to count your breath, visualize a color or spiritual icon, look at a mandala, or chant a mantra like aum (it means “I got it”). He’s currently creating a sand painting mandala in the CSUC student union.
In her book Not That Kind of Girl, Lena Dunham describes herself, at age 28, as “a girl with a keen interest in having it all.” She concludes with the advice “don’t put yourself in situations you’d like to run away from.” If you have to run, “run back to yourself, like the bunny in Runaway Bunny runs to its mother, but you are the other, and you’ll see that later and be very, very proud.”
Lena Dunham. Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned.” Random House, 2014.
Free universities are found in England, the US, Mexico, etc.
In Youth Rising? (2015) Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock argue that neoliberal interests fed the emphasis on youth empowerment as a way to deflect attention from increasing structural inequality caused by the capitalist system. The authors point to neoliberal institutions like the World Bank (its 2007 development report centered on youth), the World Economic Forum, and the US State Department increasing interest in youth issues as evidence of their nefarious intent aiming “to promote and sell neoliberal ideology and agendas.”[i] Focusing on youth hides the real causes of the economic crisis. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a youth conference in Tunisia, February 2012, “I have fought to put women’s empowerment on the international agenda. I think it’s time to put youth empowerment there as well.” She created an Office of Global Youth Issues, a Global Youth Jobs Alliance, and new youth councils sponsored by US embassies and consulates in order to apply youths’ “entrepreneurial spirit by collaborating to create youth-led responses to concerns they face in their communities.”[ii] The category of youth, Sukarieh and Tannock maintain, is often used “as a universalizing and depoliticizing euphemism” that hides real differences in class, etc..[iii]
The neoliberal emphasis on individuals pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps and newness is reflected in academic youth studies. Sukarieh and Tannock observe that scholars in the last several decades often studied either youth in transition to adulthood in large quantitative studies focusing on the individual (often North American young men) or else on youth sub-cultures using more qualitative and ethnographic approaches. Interest in youth subcultures was acierated by the 1960s student movements and England’s Birmingham Schools’ sub-cultural studies during the 1970s, leading to the disappearance of study of youth political movements.[iv] Both approaches emphasize “individual perspectives over structural ones,” neglecting the economical and political influences constructing concepts of youth by global neoliberal capitalism in “an often exaggerated celebration of individual agency and subjectivity.[v]”
Recent youth studies focuses on culture and consumption, and since the late 1980s on “positive youth development” in a reaction to a century of negative approaches, neglecting macro economic influences such as the use of youth as a reserve labor force. Lawrence Grossberg maintains that a “war on youth” has been waged in the US since the 1990s.[vi] Sukarieh and Tannock argue that youth employment is one of the most neglected topics in youth studies. Academics focused on youth rebellion in the form of their sub-cultures and style rather than political activism until the Arab Spring, which generated interest in youth-led rebellions and sometimes glorification of youth as leaders of a global revolution. This romanticization neglected the role of adults in the uprisings including trainings of youth leaders by US government and other organizations.
Sukarieh and Tannock argue that the youth revolts of the early 20th century, the late 1960s, and the current post-crisis neoliberal era have three characteristics in common.[vii] They reacted to global social and economic changes, exaggerated claims of youth power, and surprise over youth activism after a period when they were accused of being apathetic. Also, these claims of youth leadership ignore the roles of adults and adult-led organizations for youth. Focusing on uprising as a generational issue obscures the foundational problems. The authors suggest that neoliberal interests manipulate this interest in youth to deflect from systemic problems of inequality. They point out the difference in the geography of the demonstrations from organized and formal youth movements, to the university, to the public square with rejection of nationalism and organized political parties and youth organizations.
[i] Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015, p. 8.
[ii] Youth Councils: Empowering Young People as Agents of Change, May 3, 20103. http://www.state.gov/r/ppr/gyi/releases/press/2013/208953.htm
[iii]Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015.
[iv] Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015, p. 100..
[v] Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015, pp. 6-7.
[vi] “Why Does Neo-Liberalism Hate kids?
Review of Education/Pedagogy/Cultural Studies, Vol. 23, No. 2, 2001, pp. 111-136.
[vii] Mayssoun Sukarieh and Stuart Tannock. Youth Rising? The Politics of Youth in the Global Economy. Routledge, 2015, p. 83.
I invite you to critically read chapters of interest to you while the ms. is in draft form. Email for chapters of interest gkimball at csuchico.edu
Brave: The Global Girls’ Revolution
The cover photo is a poster in Tahrir Square, taken by the author July 2011. The protesters’ tents are in the background.
Part 1 Themes
Chapter 1 The Future is Female 30 pages
Meet Young Women Leaders; What Motivates a Youth Activist?; the Future is Female?; Uppity Girls’ Rising Aspirations and Activism; Feminism, the United Nations and Governments Stimulate Equality; Young Men’s Viewpoints
Chapter 2 Global Desire for Equality 32
Equality is Desired Globally, More Females Desire Gender Equality, Girls Want Economic and Social Equality, Claims that Women Leaders are More Peaceful, Feminist Organizing, Inequality Persists in All Countries
Chapter 3 Global Status of Young Women 29
Rural Vs. Urban Sex Roles, Feminization of Poverty, Education, Health, Violence
Chapter 4 Consumerism Targets “Girl Power” 37
Materialistic Consumers of Products and Entertainment?; Teen Identity Through Consumption; Social Unrest from Rising Expectations; How Youth Are Manipulated by Multinational Corporations; Negative Consequences of Consumerism; Youth Views about Getting Rich; Traditional and Modern Beliefs: Moving Towards the Middle
Chapter 5 Global Media Both Helps and Inhibits Girls 30
Global Media is Pervasive, Global Media Provides New Information, Media Exposure Makes Youth Opinionated and Brave, Global Media Sells Consumerism, Media Addiction Creates Dumb Zombies
Part 2 Regions
Chapter 6 Feminist Waves in the West 33
Second Wave Feminists of the 60s, Women’s Studies, Inequality Persists, Generation Gap, Third Wave Response, Rejection of Feminism?, Fourth Wave
Chapter 7 Brave Women in Muslim Countries 37
The Middle East, Women and Islam, Iran, Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, Turkey, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia
Chapter 8 Egyptian Revolutionaries 29
Traditional Male Dominance; Education; A Pioneering Feminist: Dr. Nawal El Saadawi’s Egyptian Union for Women; Young Women in the Revolution; After the Revolution; Sexual Harassment is Common
Chapter 9 Women in Developing and Emerging Countries 35
Women and Development, Latin American Youth Issues, African Issues and Activists
Chapter 10 Feminism in India, the Emerging Superpower 47
Youth Issues, The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor, Hybrid Youth Culture and Attitudes, Youth Activism in Politics, Traditional Sexism, Feminism
Chapter 11 Socialist Countries–China and Russia 43
Part 1: China: The Setting, Traditional Beliefs, Rural vs. Urban Youth, Youth Issues in an Era of Change from Maoism to Capitalism, Current Chinese Issues
Part 2: Russia: History, Attitudes Towards Feminism, Consumerism and Glamour, Putin’s Nationalism and Rebels
382 pages plus intro and appendices
Other Books by the Author
50/50 Marriage (Beacon Press)
50/50 Parenting (Lexington Books)
Ed. Women’s Culture (Scarecrow Press)
Ed. Women’s Culture Revisited. (Scarecrow Press)
The Religious Ideas of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Edwin Mellen Press.
Essential Energy Tools book and 3 videos. (Equality Press)
21st Century Families: Blueprints for Family-Friendly Workplaces,
Schools and Governments. (Equality Press)
How to Create Your Ideal Workplace (Equality Press)
The Teen Trip: The Complete Resource Guide (Equality Press)
Ed. Everything You Need to Know to Succeed After College (Equality
How to Survive Your Parents’ Divorce (Equality Press)
Ed., Quick Healthy Recipes: Literacy Fundraiser Cookbook (Equality Press)
How to Deal with Stress and Achieve Academic Success (in process)
Awesome: How Global Youth Culture Will Transform Our Future
Global Youth Activism: The Horizontal Revolution
© Gayle Kimball 2014
Thanks, Dr. Kimball, for giving us this opportunity to say what we want to say. As the old saying goes, the most ordinary people are the most beautiful.
Spring Grass, 15, f, China
Human future is precarious due to our self-centeredness and shortsightedness. This book explores what’s on the mind of young people from 88 countries to see how they’ll transform our future. Their new style of activism is transforming global culture. My surveys of 4,149 young people indicate that the new generation is uniquely altruistic, committed to peace and collaboration, and interconnected. Brave girls and young women lead uprisings for democracy in developing nations tackling major political issues, while too many young feminists in the West buy into neoliberal individualism to debate “slut shaming,” that is, does entertainer Miley Cyrus show too much skin? Young people are the large majority in developing nations and the largest and best-educated generation in history. Half of the new generation is poor and one fourth live on less than $1 a day. With the power given them by their numbers and their ability to communicate electronically with a global network, and incentives to change inequality, they have already catalyzed global uprisings. The relationship generation tends to defy or ignore bureaucratic institutions including government and religion leading to the charge of being apathetic, focusing instead on direct democracy and family and friends.
The dozen books I’ve written may seem to be on very different topics, but the common theme is exploring the ideas of groups whose ideas are neglected: women, egalitarian couples and youth. I taught Women’s Studies and Sociology Courses such as “Women Internationally” at California State University and struggled to find an interesting supplemental text that wasn’t a disconnected anthology of ethnographies. Doing research on global youth activism, I especially searched for young women activists. Videos shown on TV news usually feature young men protesters on the streets but women led and/or were important partners in fomenting global change. The book includes the sexist and ageist obstacles that girls face and their courage in challenging religious and political authorities.
Young people want to be heard with an open mind; this book provides a forum for the insights of the largest youth generation in history—1.5 billion ages 10 to 24, given various names such as the Millennial Generation or Generation Y and Z. Neil Howe, generations expert, defines Gen Y as born from 1982 to 2004 in his most recent work. The period between childhood and adulthood is expanding as “tweens” are stimulated by media to act like teens, youth enter biological adolescence earlier, spend more time in school and therefore delay job seeking and marriage. The United Nations defines youth as ages 15 to 24 and adolescents as ages 10 to 19; I surveyed and interviewed young people younger than 20 and interviewed activists in their 20s.
To learn how Generations Y and Z are shaping our future, I generated a worldwide network of youth informants. I visited them in their homes and schools in Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, England, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and Tanzania, as well as US states in all regions. Our dialogues ranged from Tahrir Square in Cairo, to Rio slums, to remote villages in Tanzania, India and Indonesia, to posh London and Shanghai homes, and a Japanese high school. The 88 countries are listed in the Appendix, along with the 12 open-ended survey questions, and a summary of the quantitative responses.
Any time I met people from another country, I asked them if they knew youth or their teachers in their country of origin. Over 80 teachers mailed or emailed their students’ responses to the 12 book questions. I met some of them when they came to CSUC for a six-week study program for English teachers for many years. I attended a Global Uprisings conference in Amsterdam in November 2013 where activists, journalists and academics presented their analysis of the upheavals that started with the Arab Spring in 2010. I interviewed activists there and continued discussion with them on email.
Traveling around the world, I experienced drinking yak butter tea in Tibet, eating 100 different kinds of dumplings in China, steamed caterpillar in Korea, many varieties of lentils and flat bread in India, alligator in Louisiana, jelly-like green vegetables in Egypt, and excellent Russian ice cream from a street vendor. I was stranded in airports in Cairo and Dar es Salaam when hosts didn’t pick me up as promised as described in Chapter 8. I got to look at the breath-taking Alps with a young Chinese man in Switzerland, see wild game in Tanzania and snorkel in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean, and view ancient wonders including the great wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, Mogul monuments in India and Stonehenge in England. The best part of globetrotting was talking with young people in places as varied as Tahrir Square, tiny apartments in China, a colorfully painted home in Brazil, and large two-story homes in London and Northern India as well as email and Skype dialogues. Photographs of some of the young people can be seen on our Facebook Global Youth SpeakOut page and videotaped interviews are on YouTube’s “The Global Youth” channel.
Snowball sampling was used when some teachers and students referred others. It’s a convenience sample rather than a random sample, but respondents includes a wide variety of backgrounds: hundreds of rural Chinese students (see photos) village youth from Tanzania and Indonesia, students in a village in Northern India so remote the teacher has to walk an hour up hills to reach his classroom, kids from Rio and Shanghai slums, and demonstrators in Cairo and in my hometown in Chico, California. In Tanzania, for example, a young guide I met there interviewed rural village youngsters in the north and the principal of a Muslim school I visited in Dar es Salaam assigned the questions to some of his students.
Some respondents came from Internet sites such as Sit Diary, youth groups like Students Against Violence Everywhere, and educational organizations like the Yellow Sheep River Foundation that assists poor rural Chinese students. Various friends or language majors at CSUC translated the questions. I posted on all the Facebook pages listed under global youth but only got a few replies, as when Kevin in Trinidad introduced me to Taika in Ethiopia who recruited respondents at her school.
My main contact in China is Yuan whose English teacher (a former student of mine) gave the book questions to her university freshman in Wuhan. His answers were so thoughtful I followed up with more questions. We’ve been in close contact for almost a decade. He and his friends translated hundreds of surveys I got from an educational organization for rural students I found online. A friend of an Indian woman in Chico where I live in Northern California introduced me to a friend who I met in Singapore who gave me the name of his friend, a high school administrator in Southern India. An Indian student responded to an Internet post I made asking for input and he asked his father, a principal in Central India, to assign the book questions. I met principals when I was in Northern India and other principals through them, and got several Indian names from Youth-Leader magazine headquartered in Berlin. The editor of the magazine commented, “This huge study, with elaborate analysis of the early 21st Century youth environment is massive. We have not come across anything like it, before, and–no wonder, considering she quoted voices of 4,000 youth.” Eric Schneider, Youth Leader magazine editor. Each of the 88 countries has a different access story, so this is not a uniform sample of middle-class youth answering multiple-choice questions on the Internet. For those who did have Internet, I was able to follow-up with more questions.
From the quantitative approach, over 4,000 written surveys were coded simply by frequency of response. All of the answers were quantified by creating categories based on frequency of the answer, listed in the book website. The data was analyzed using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences. I did all the coding for consistency. Most answers easily fell into categories. SPSS was used to see differences based on gender, age, and region—more differences showed up in the latter than the other categories.
Staying in family’s homes (England, Egypt, China, Brazil, Switzerland, Japan) can be referred to as ethnographies. Qualitative insights were gained from in-person, Skype, and email interviews with young people as revealed in quotations throughout the book. As Professor Jeffrey Jensen Arnett pointed out, we learn more from interviews than survey questions with determined responses, although current research is “heavily in favor of quantitative methods.” From the point of view of the study of social movements, I examined what resources enable an uprising to succeed and read about the history of recent social movements, including the Global Justice Movement and feminism. From the feminist point of view, I sought out female viewpoints and leadership. “History from the bottom” includes the voices of un-famous young people, rather than famous “great men.” This book includes many quotes in order to communicate the actual voices of youth, as primary sources are the most innovative form of research.
Lack of Other Studies
Other large global studies draw from youth who have access to Internet, as listed in the Appendix. Many are conducted for marketing research (i.e., Don Tapscott surveyed youth from 12 countries but most of his quotes from the Digital Generation are North Americans, mainly his children), Habbo and InSites Consulting virtual world surveys, Martin Lindstrom’s BRANDchild, and Elissa Moses. The lead researcher of a global marketing survey of kids aged six to 12 replied to my question, “The survey was an online study, which means that respondents in all of the countries have sufficient income to have a computer/mobile device and internet service. Also, our research vendor screened out the lowest incomes, because the consumer group we are interested in marketing to is not at poverty level.” In contrast, this book includes slum dwellers and rural youth. Surveys are also conducted by non-government agencies like UNICEF or Fondation Pour L’Innovation Politique whose findings are not available in books. Many of these global youth surveys are about tobacco use or other health issues.
Youth Studies have been published in The Journal of Youth and Adolescence since in 1972, followed by Youth Studies in 1998, the Journal of Youth Studies in 2000, and others. Youth Studies Australia ceased publication in 2013 but back issues are available. Universities like the University of Minnesota offer a major in Youth Studies, but “youth-centered definitions of their lives remain largely absent. Young people have not been enfranchised by the research conducted on their lives.” Youth studies have focused on developmental stages in the transition to adulthood, with the more recent concept of “emerging adulthood,” as young people delay marriage and careers. Australian youth studies professor Anita Harris advocates that youth researchers do “participatory action research” and become less fixated on linear developmental stages, work and employment, when youth are interested in culture, leisure and sexuality.
My scan of the Journal of Youth Studies from 2011to 2014 found only 26 titles on youth activism or political attitudes out of 224 articles and 10 of the titles were about youth attitudes towards traditional politics.  Amazingly, not one article was about the uprisings of 2011 to 2014 discussed in this book. A similar search of the Journal of Adolescence found only one issue on political engagement but not rebellions (June 2012), with no other such articles in other issues. Online journals called Interface: A Journal For and About Social Movements and ROAR do provide current information but not specifically about youth.
Other books describe the characteristics of American youth; many of the books about Generation Y are how to manage them in the US workforce, so this book focuses on other countries where most young people live. However, much of the generational research is done in the US and the UK. Psychologist Jeffrey Jensen Arnett points out that the study of adolescence began in the US early in the 20th century and the study of US adolescents still dominates the field. He reports that most of the scholarly journals devoted to this age group 10 to 25 are mostly from the US with an occasional European researcher. The Journal of Youth Studies includes studies from Canada, Australia, Germany and Sweden, as well as the US and the UK. Girls Studies are described in Chapter 6 including courses, an international association, online faculty discussion group, and Girlhood Studies journal.
Most of the academic books on global youth are anthologies of specialized ethnographies about small groups of young people in various regions without much connection between chapters. For example one such book includes chapters on Thai makeup saleswomen, former child soldiers in Sierra Leone, Latino use of political graphic art, a Sri Lankan refugee, etc. Searching through 15 pages of Amazon.com books listed under “global youth,” I found anthologies, youth ministry, how to market to youth, deviant behavior, by country (such as youth in China), or unemployment, but no overviews of global youth activism. The only books specifically about youth and the recent uprisings are about the Middle East: Maytha Alhassen and Ahmed Shihab-Eldin, editors, Demanding Dignity: Young Voices from the Front Lines of the Arab Revolutions, 2012; Alcinda Honwana, Youth and Revolution in Tunisia, 2013; Juan Cole, The New Arabs: How the Millennial Generation is Changing the Middle East (2014); and Ahmed Tohamy Abdelhay. Youth Activism in Egypt: Islamism, Political Protest and Revolution, 2015 ($104).
Three books published from 2012 to 2014 cover the global uprisings but not with analysis of the role of young people: Paul Mason, Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions; an anthology by Anya Schiffrin and Eamon Kircher-Allen, From Cairo to Wall Street: Voices From the Global Spring including activists in their 20s and 30s; and an Internet ebook by Werner Puschra and Sara Burke, eds., The Future We the People Need: Voices from New Social Movements and their other online book, World Protests 2006-2013. The latest book is They Can’t Represent us! Reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy by Marina Sitrin and Dario Azzellini (2014).
Defending Our Dreams: Global Feminist Voices for a New Generation (2005), is an anthology written by global feminists in their late 20s and early 30s. They emphasize international human rights law as the key to women’s liberation in the only book representing young feminists from many continents. Half the Sky, a book and video by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, tells the story of women activists in Africa and Asia (2010). Three books interviewed urban youth activists in the Americas before the global uprisings: Jessica Taft, Rebel Girls: Youth Activism and Social Change Across the Americas, 2010; Hava Rachel Gordon, We Fight to Win: Inequality and the Politics of Youth Activism (2010); and Maria De Los Angeles Torres, Irene Rizzini, and Norma Del Rio, Citizens in the Present: Youth Civic Engagement in the Americas, 2013. US feminists report on their activism in Mary Trigg, editor, Leading the Way: Young Women’s Activism for Social Change (2010). 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 quieter political activism of the third wave.
Similar to Harris, 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 agrees that “the research on girls and politics is surprisingly incomplete” and invisible. Most of the interest in girls’ studies, youth studies, and children’s rights is in future interest in politics when they can vote 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 forms corrupt and dismissive of their views.
Bent applies standpoint theory to her research about girls active in the UN Commission on the Status of Women (established in 1946). That approach believes that research should begin with and prioritize the lives of the marginalized and oppressed as they know most about their situation, touted as “one of the most influential and debated theories to emerge from second-wave feminist thinking.” The girls told Bent 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, the adults 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, with hopes this book will encourage others that feature the actual voices of individual young people.
This book fits into Women’s Studies, Girls’ Studies, Youth Studies, Global Studies and International Education. My perspective fits with activist academic fields, Women’s Studies (my teaching background), Cultural Studies, Sociology and Political Science’s Social Movement Theory. My interviews with youth are oral history, first-person narratives with people who participated in or observed uprisings. Feminist interest in marginalized people is called standpoint theory. Feminism is seen as “undermining what has been the dominant tendency of academic and organization thought: a strongly objectivist tendency, uncomfortable with the modes of intuitive observation and ambiguous responses.” The pretense of an objective observer is replaced with an activist scholar who aims to be of use to the people she or he studies. Both the study of art and feminism “subvert the very structure of thought.”
Feminist scholarship takes seriously the lives of the undervalued and marginal, such as youth or lower classes and facilitates working for social transformation, creating “history from the bottom up.” Advocacy research or “militant research,” the place where academia and activism meet, is a term first used in Argentina in 2001. Rather than just observe, scholars participate in political movements that create new values and relationships. My research led me to start a literacy program in Pakistan including a fundraiser cookbook, and assisted some of the respondents with college applications, and was a sounding board for personal issues. For example, one young man told me he was gay because he was afraid to tell anyone else and I was able to be a sounding board for his exploration of his first relationship. What motivated me to research for a decade was being on a treasure hunt. With such a paucity of research on youth activism, I relished each discovery and each new activist who shared her experiences with me.
The main theoretical approaches to studying girls and young women are feminism and youth subcultures like punks or hip-hop; both involve resistance to dominant authorities. Youth subcultures were first studied at the University of Chicago starting in the 1920s with a focus on street gangs as a strategy to cope with poverty. Youth subcultures were made famous at the University of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies starting in 1964. Their early studies were criticized by feminist scholars for focusing on class conflict among working class “lads” and their public spaces, ignoring what girls did in more private spaces at home. With the development of global marketing aimed at youth and neoliberal individualization, class became less relevant. Instead, scholars discussed nonactivist neotribes such as club scenes, lifestyles, networks, communities, etc. Anita Harris stated in 2008, “There is no longer any such thing as the truly ‘resistant’ youth subculture, because youth style and cultures have been appropriated by the consumer industries, depoliticized and packaged back to youth.”
Globalization and the Internet changed girls’ way of doing politics starting in the late 1980s with grrrl power media, including zines, music including punk and rap, the Internet and its blogs and webcams, culture jamming of commercial media, and graffiti, thereby creating a “new form of citizenship” and a new form of cultural politics in postmodern subcultures. The editors of Riot Grrl zine wrote in 1992, “We’re tired of being written out–out of history, out of the ‘scene’, out of our bodies … for this reason we have created our zine and scene … be proud of being a grrrl.” Feminist girls around the world created a Third Wave in reaction to the Second Wave, discussed in Chapter 6, based on a more fluid and hybrid notion of gender and resistance to multinational corporations’ power, surpassing national governments as the target to resistance.
In the focus on subcultures, youth social action was left out of the Birmingham School approach. Sociologists have been criticized for neglected the tactics of social movements “with their emphasis upon structural strain, generalized belief, and deprivation.” “Post-subcultural” debates ensued, interested in multinational and cross-generational projects. Since the beginning of the 21st century, youth studies has been interested in transition to adulthood; characteristics of Generations X, Y, and Z; and adolescent brain development’s influence on risk taking, as seen in Andy Furlong’s Youth Studies: An Introduction (2012). Professor Peter Kelly cautions against the influence of “governmentalized” studies of interest to government departments, corporations and NGOs, who are interested in topics like consumption preferences and youth alcohol and drug use. The newer concerns of youth studies are the complexity of the creation of youth identity and culture, international influences with global media and migration, and identifying ways to support positive youth development, as with school-based health centers.
The developmental approach is criticized for a myopic focus on economic transition from school to workplace and for assuming that the process of individualization is similar for adolescents everywhere. Definitions of youth behavior are socially constructed, thus relative. For example, children used to be viewed as little adults and still are in cultures that send children to hard work in mines, construction, sorting landfills and other dangerous jobs. In some cultures children are treated as little animals, as explained by Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her biography Infidel (2007), about growing up in Somalia. The focus on child development that we accept as obvious began in the 19th century, as a spin off of Darwinian theory of evolution. As relativists, recent theorists believe that the writer and reader are subjective rather than objective and concepts change over time. Not just class, but gender, race, ethnicity, and sexual preference shape intersecting hybrid (a frequently used word) youth identities, as well as the influences of an adolescent’s home, school and work. However, Australian Johanna Wyn observes that ideas about youth as a social category are “likely to be at odds with young people’s own perceptions and experiences.” Hence the need to consult with youth about policies that effect them, which seems obvious but an ageist blind spot about youth concerns gets in the way.
The postmodern subcultural approach is more interested in the individual and intersecting categories. For example, Facebook added 50 choices for gender preference for English-speaking users, including categories like androgyny, intersex, transgender, neither, gender questioning and pangender. It’s no longer cool to do binary thinking as in female and male, he or she. “Genderqueer” or “agender” people use pronouns like “ou.” This approach in turn created criticism in a dialectical process. Critical of postmodern or poststructural approaches, UCLA philosophy professor Douglas Kellner faults them for “subjectivism and relativism, often bordering on nihilism,” and advocates instead critical theory associated with the Frankfurt School, a German Marxist-oriented research center. This approach aims to be applicable to social change that can emerge from contradictions and crisis in capitalist societies and faults social theory today for being in “acute crisis” with its “fragmentation, trivialization, and academicization.”
The Positive Youth Development movement counters the old emphasis on youth deficits and delinquency of mainly teenage boys, with community efforts to provide young people with the skills they need to transition into adult life and prevent risky behaviors. Reflecting psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner’s focus on the ecological system, the adolescent (can be ages 10 to 24) is nurtured in a social context including school and youth organizations. Youth identity is shaped by gender, class, ethnicity, sexual preference, etc. Australian professor Johanna Wyn advocates for more interest in youth in the context of their family relationships, which was neglected in the focus on development.
Young people’s own words and thoughts weave through every chapter. My main intent is to facilitate their voices being heard as they requested, to reveal their lived experiences of being female in a patriarchal global culture. To give a feeling for daily life in different countries, since a picture is worth a 1,000 words, I refer to photographs and videos I’ve taken as well as commercial media. A filmography is listed in the Appendix. Each chapter ends with discussion questions to ponder, activities, and films to watch.
Student comments are organized by age, younger ones first. Some of the ages for the same person change throughout the book as we’ve corresponded for years. They’re identified by their first name or nickname, age and gender as in “Chris, 16, f, England.” I corrected spelling and punctuation. Respondents are referred to as SpeakOut youth. They’re divided into “kids” 12 and younger, and “teens” 13 and older. I avoid “American” to describe people from the US, because a teacher from El Salvador pointed out he’s a Central American, Canadians are North Americans, and so on. The youth advisory board critiqued chapters and answered my questions. Anyone I quoted was emailed a copy of how I wrote about their statements, if an email was available.
Khue, a 16-year-old from Vietnam, asked me, “I would love to know your opinion of us, of people from my generation. During your journey did you find any change in/new perspective? Does your journey affect you in some ways?” I told her that traveling and talking to young people face-to-face and establishing relationships touched my heart. Teachers and students around the world are enduring friends who answer my unending questions, including Hassan. He and I started a literacy program where he goes to villages near Peshawar, Pakistan to teach illiterate kids. Maheen, a student at Hassan’s university, started teaching in our Open Doors Literacy Program in 2014. I’m impressed by young people’s wisdom and insights, but there seems to be a gulf between thoughtful caring ones and superficial ones who care about material things too much and ignore critical issues like climate change.
What surprised me was the similarity of urban youth viewpoints. I expected to find major regional differences. Geographical differences did appear, such as concern about pollution in Eastern Europe, violence in US schools, the importance of having children in Sub-Saharan Africa, and anxiety about the college entrance exam in Asia. There’s a large difference in developed and developing nations on a continuum of individuality (valued in the West) and group identity and respect for elders valued in more traditional societies s. I was surprised to talk with highly educated young adults who expect their families to select their spouses, as in India, Pakistan, and Egypt. However, the Internet connects a global youth culture that shares a common slang, clothes, and music such as hip-hop with local variations. Youth activists I interviewed in places as far apart as Egypt, Brazil and California prided themselves on being leaderless, operating with a new model. Influenced by their frequent contact with the decentralized and democratic World Wide Web, the old model of a pyramid with its hierarchy of power is irrelevant. This new more democratic model will no doubt change the world as we know it.
SpeakOut respondents are “green,” concerned about saving the planet from global warming and other human destruction. The exception is village youth like those I talked with in Indonesia and Pakistan who don’t know about climate change. Middle-class youth share being “wired,” in frequent contact using their electronic devices and the Internet. “Sometimes I spend my time in front of laptop from afternoon until night. I really would like to change my bad habit,” reports Annisa in Indonesia (age 16). Some urban youth who can’t afford to buy computers or have access to them in school use Internet cafes and rent inexpensive cell phones with Internet access.
I realized more fully that many people around the world do not share beliefs I accept as given. I assumed marriage should be based on falling in love; in Muslim and Hindu parts of the world, “love marriages,” are not the norm. A Saudi girl told me “they don’t work” and Indian teens said they’re based on lust. I don’t think of women’s hair as indecent, while some Muslim women are harassed if they don’t wear a headscarf. I’d never known an illiterate person, but some rural Chinese and East African students commented about their illiterate parents and a compelling interview with an illiterate village girl is available on the book website. I spoke with a West African who grew up routinely eating only every three days in the dry period of the year, making hunger more than an abstract concept. What SpeakOut young people and I share is a desire to end poverty, protect the environment, and to have peace.
Please respond with your comments and observations to add to the book website, to email@example.com. I’m especially interested in your ideas about solutions to global economic, environmental and social problems for a future solutions book. After researching global youth for a decade, a trilogy emerged: Awesome: How Global Youth Culture is Transforming Our Future and Global Youth Activism: The Horizontal Revolution. Photos mentioned in the text are found on Facebook and the book website and video interviews are on YouTube.
SpeakOut Media Sites
This website lists free videos about girls internationally: http://dayofthegirlsummit.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/DayoftheGirl-resourceguide.pdf
Films about global youths: https://globalyouthbook.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/global-films-about-youths/
*Supplemental information and add comments https://globalyouthbook.wordpress.com/
*Photos of global youth and their homes: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.348956001796264.91437.160382763986923&type=1
*Video interviews with global youth on two YouTube channels: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCt6aoMoQjUIU50Qny_E0LiQ
*Literacy project in Pakistan taught by college student and board member Hassan, joined by Maheen: http://opendoorsliteracyproject.weebly.com.
Abbreviations and Definitions
A Globalization Glossary is available on the Emory University globalization website and other centers for global studies are listed the endnote. Definitions of political terms and social movement theory are found on the book website.
Alterglobalization, also called anti-globalization (but activists say they’re not anti-globalization except for neoliberal capitalism), and global justice movement
Arab Spring: refers to the series of revolutions starting with Tunisia in 2010. Some Arabs consider this a western or “orientalist” term and prefer Arab Awakening or Arab Revolutions
Civil Society: The third sector outside of government and business, including volunteering groups and other NGOs.
Hajib: Muslim women’s hair covering worn in layers of scarfs
Neoliberalism: The dominant global economic policy associated with privatization, deregulation and free trade. It’s associated with Professor Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago who influenced President Ronald Reagan and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It’s criticized by the global justice movement and is the enemy of the global uprisings.
Niqab: Muslim women’s face covering except for the eyes
Sharia: Islamic law governing secular and moral matters. For example, criminal law in Saudi Arabia is based on Sharia law.
EU: European Union of 28 member states
GLBT: Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered sexual preference
GA: General Assembly
GDP: Gross Domestic Product is the value of a country’s production
GMO: Genetically modified food organism
ICT: Information and communication technology including the Internet
IMF: International Monetary Fund
MB: Muslim Brotherhood
MENA: Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa
NEETs: Young people not in education, employment or training
NGO: non-profit, non-governmental organization, part of Civil Society
UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s’ Fund
UNDP: United Nations Development Program
USAID: US Agency for International Development
WHO: World Health Organization
WTO: World Trade Organization
 Geraldine Pratt and Victoria Rosner, eds. The Global and the Intimate: Feminism in Our Time. Columbia University Press, 2012, p. 3.
 Ibid, p. 21.
- Journal of Research on Adolescence
- Journal of Adolescence
- Journal of Adolescent Research
- Youth & Society
- Journal of Youth and Adolescence
- Journal of Youth Development
 Harris, p. 190.
Following are the topics and date posted online: Greek youth’s protests in 2008 (January 2011), theories of youth resistance (June 2012), Canadian youth activism for people with disabilities (June 2012), a student occupation of their university in 2010 (November 2012), University of Ottawa students’ political engagement (June 2012), youth involvement in politics in Scotland (June 2012), how to involve young Canadian women in provincial public police development (August 2012), Peruvian youth activism for sexual health (November 2012), Spanish youths’ attitudes towards politics (November 2012), British youth’s political participation (September 2013), Australian girls’ attitudes towards women leaders (January 2013), youth protests in Africa (March 2013), Australian teens political interests (May 2013), young men’s political participation in an English town (September 2013), influences on British youth’s political participation (September 2013), and theories of youth agency (September 2013).
 Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, ed. Adolescent Psychology Around the World. Psychology Press, 2012, p. IX.
 Shamillah Wilson, Anasuya Sengupta, Kristy Evans, eds. Defending Our Dreams: Global Feminist Voices for a New Generation. Zed Books and AWID, 2005.
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.
 “Feminist Standpoint Theory,” Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
 Shamillah Wilson, Anasuya Sengupta, Kristy Evans, eds. Defending Our Dreams: Global Feminist Voices for a New Generation. Zed Books and AWID, 2005, p. 205..
Anita Harris, ed. Next Wave Cultures: Feminism, Subcultures, Activism. Routledge, 2008, Introduction.
 Mary Bucholtz, “Youth and Cultural Practice, “Annual Review of Anthropology, June 14, 2002, p. 539. 31: 525-552, 2002. http://www.linguistics.ucsb.edu/faculty/bucholtz/node/1
 John McCarthy and Mayer Zald, “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory,” AJS, Vol. 82, No. 6, p. 1212.
 Peter Kelly, “An Untimely Future for Youth Studies,” Youth Studies Australia, 2011, Vol. 30, Issue 3, pp. 47-53.
 Samir Khalaf and Roseanne Saad Khalaf, Arab Youth: Social Mobilization in Times of Risk. Saqi Books, 2011, chapter by Johanna Wyn, p. 45.
 Douglas Kellner, “Critical Theory and the Crisis of Social Theory,” date unknown.
 Johanna Wyn, “The Sociology of Youth,” Youth Studies Australia, 2011, Vol. 30, Issue 3, pp. 34-39.
Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, Yale University
The Globalization Website, Emory University
The Institute for Research on World-Systems (IROWS), University of California at Riverside
New Global History, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
GW Center for the Study of Globalization, George Washington University
Globalization and Democracy Research: Responding to Globalization, Colorado University
Center for Global, International and Regional Studies, University of California Santa Cruz